Tag Archives: Endangered species

Gede Ruins Forest Regeneration Study is Under Way

In April of this year we at A Rocha Kenya have had the opportunity to resume/restart an exciting project in the Gede Ruins, a thirteenth-seventeenth century stone city, which is surrounded by a 44 hectare patch of forest (Robertson et al 2002). In the 1980’s the Gede village, surrounding the ruins, was expanding, and the forest surrounding the ruins was being cleared for cultivation, poles, and firewood (Robertson et al 2002), which stopped in 1991 once the Museum constructed a fence around the forest to protect it. A botanist living in Malinidi, Ann Robertson, worked with a curator at the museum, Mathias Ngonyo to replant a 5 hectare patch of the heavily degraded land with indigenous trees, with the end goal of restoring the land back to a healthy tropical dry forest.

After planting, the heights of the trees and the diameter at breast height of trees where d > 1 cm, were measured with the idea of obtaining valuable growth rate data, as nobody had previously studied growth rates of indigenous tropical dry forest tree species. These measurements were gathered annually each year after planting, starting in 1992  up through 1997.

Enter A Rocha Kenya….The project we are now involved in is a continuation of the project started by Ann and Mathias 20 years ago. The location of each planted tree was mapped, and with Mathias’ help a team from ARK has been able to go back through and re-label all of the trees, and thanks to Professor David MacFarlane (Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution from Rutgers University 2001, and current Associate Professor of Foresty at Michigan State University) take tree height and DBH measurements for all of the surviving trees which were planted.  With support from the National Museums of Kenya, partnering with KEFRI (Kenya Forestry Research Institute), a team of entomologists led by Professor John Banks Ph.D. (Director of international programs and Director, Office of Undergraduate Education) and Professor David MacFarlane, we are hoping to gain a valuable data set on tropical dry forest growth rates, regrowth, and recruitment success of the trees, as well as examining the insect and bird species richness and biodiversity. It is an exciting project to be involved in, as nothing like his has been been done in tropical dry forests at least in Kenya, possibly all of East Africa. In the immediate are we have traditional slash and burn farms, we have our plot of regenerated forest, and we have the 400 year old forest surrounding the ruins to compare with each other.

Currently, Phase I of the project has been completed, basically re-labeling, recording, and measuring the status, height, and DBH of all the planted trees. The next phase, Phase II is going to be going back through the plot and measuring the recruits which have come in naturally, as well as assigning a competition index to each tree, both planted and recruit, to gain a better understanding of what could potentially be affecting growth rates across the study site.

 

It is true that when you plant a tree, you are blessing generations to come. Thanks to Ann and Mathias and their hard work we regularly encounter Suni, Fischer’s Turaco, Hadada Ibis, African Goshawks, Little Sparrowhawks, the occasional Bush-buck, and the endangered Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew while doing field work in the regenerated plot. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now…

Ann and her husband, Ian, came and visited the plot last month for the first time in close to 15 years. It was incredibly special to see her eyes light up, and listen to her tell stories about how the plot used to be, and to see her stand next to trees she planted years ago, enjoying their shade and relaxing out of the hot sun. Their way of saying “Thank You” to a woman with vision and conviction.

 

 

Robertson, A. Hankamer, C. Ngonyo, M. “Restoration of a Small Tropical Coastal Forest in Kenya: Gede National Monument Forest Restoration Project.” in: Plant Conservation in the Tropics: perspectives and practice. The Royal Botanical Gardens. 2002.

 

 

 

 

Dakatcha Woodlands jatropha biofuel threat continues

This threat to the Globally Important Dakatcha Woodlands continues unabated from all accounts we hear. From what we hear, the local Administration are trying to get a title deed to now c.30,000 ha of the proposed 50,000 ha in a bid to ‘satisfy’ the conservationists that the forest will be excluded from the project. However we are fully aware that putting in a 30,000 ha of jatropha plantation which has been shown to not work in East Africa will only bring massive pressure on all adjacent habitats from the large influx of human population from elsewhere and will very likely bring about the degradation of the sensitive woodlands through additional charcoal burning and tree cutting. There is still no clear-cut map from the project that we have seen that outlays where exactly the project is proposed – and certainly if there are 30,000 ha being set aside for the project.

I’ve heard today too that Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd are today employing more staff to work on the plantation – this is before any clearance has been given from NEMA and before the EIA has been approved (as far as we are know… and by law it should be a public announcement, I believe). This implies that either the company is going ahead in direct indifference to the laws of Kenya or that NEMA has given a go ahead in some other way than publically.

It is also said that those employed at the project are not from within the proposed area of the project but come from outside it – and will therefore be quite positive about it since they are not going to be losing land to it.

Word has it also that the President himself has requested that the Intelligence dept (CID) make an in-depth enquiry and produce a report for him on the issue. This may be a good thing for the protection of the forest if indeed those making the enquiry are not corrupted by the someone with interests in the project as well.

All of these news items would need to be fully substantiated, but from our experience, these sorts of items tend to have a strong element of truth in them.

If you are at all concerned about it, please do write letters of concern to those listed on one of our earlier blogs found at this link.

Public hearing for jatropha biofuel project that threatens to destroy globally important Dakatcha Woodlands

The Dakatcha Woodland fiasco continues unabated. As an internationally important forest for biodiversity conservation and as an area that is a marginal agricultural area due to poor soils and low rainfall, you would have thought it a no-brainer for the Government to put its money where its mouth is when it has talked very eloquently about both conserving biodiversity and, (take note of this) increase forest cover in Kenya from where it stands currently at c.1.5% cover to “over 10%” – and therefore set aside this area of existing forest for conservation rather than clear fell 50,000ha of forest, woodland and scrub that holds globally important populations of threatened wildlife let alone is a major water catchment area and carbon sink.

However that is not the case and instead the Government is prepared to:

# Give away c.1/3 of Marafa Divisions land surface to a foreign company (Italian, called ‘Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd’ here, but according the EIA, “100% owned by Nouve Iniziative Industriali sri (NIIsri) of Italy”), an area of land that according to the EIA is 40% an Important Bird Area (Dakatcha Woodlands) and 70% occupied by local communities

# Allow 500 square kms (that is 20% larger than Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, mainland Africa’s 2nd most important forest for bird conservation that lies only 15kms south and with which Dakatcha shares much of its biodiversity) to be clear felled

# licence a project that has broken the law and continues to do so

# support a project that has evidence showing that it will impoverish the existing communities living in the area

# approve a project for which the EIA is scanty, was carried out in a very flawed, non-transparent procedure with none of the major stakeholders consulted including the majority of the community living in the area

# approve a project which has never been discussed and passed by the District Environmental Committee – where all and any projects of any significance must be passed by first.

# The EIA once finally produced was then not easily available to the public. People we know who went to the NEMA offices in Nairobi to get a copy were refused the chance of copying it and told if they wanted to read it they had to stay there and read it. No soft copy was made available and only through some other means did NatureKenya manage to get hold of a pdf of the EIA and circulate it some days after the notice was put in the newspaper as required by law.

# approve a project for which not even the government’s own local conservation and forest management authorities were consulted – and in fact to date have yet to receive any official communication regarding the project: the Malindi Zonal Manager (previously known as the District Forest Officer until government madness split the country into too many districts to make it viable to govern… but that’s another story!) for the Kenya Forest Service said today that he had only heard rumours and through information in the public domain regarding the project and had been waiting to receive a communication from the project proponents or at least the County Council in Malindi but did not get anything. It was when he heard that the forest was now being bulldozed that he then wrote to the County Clerk in the Council requesting clarification – but has yet to have a reply from him. KEFRI (Kenya Forest Research Institute), Kenya Wildlife Service and National Museums of Kenya furthermore had not been consulted during the EIA process, institutes in whose hands the welfare of our environment has been placed for management on the ground.

# Allow this destruction for a commercial plantation of a crop which:

  • has now been shown categorically to be completely uneconomical to grow in commercially (see next blog)
  • where the carbon cycle balance for the project is actually negative (i.e. it will release more carbon in the making of the biodiesel than will be saved through the mitigating effect of the fuel being used as opposed to normal fossil fuels)
  • not a single large plantation of jatropha has been shown to be viable in East Africa
  • in Tanzania a jatropha biofuel project by Bioshape, a Dutch biofuel company, has just gone bust (reported in our meeting today by WWF rep) and in so doing has destroyed a significant area of hardwood forest

To underscore all of this, reports have it that our Minister for Environment apparently has stated that “so far he has not seen one good
reason not to give the project the full green light”…

Early in 2010, therefore, bulldozers were brought in (as previously reported on a blog) and an area of c.10ha have been clear felled of trees. Apparently the project proponents had told the villagers that they wanted to open up the road to their project site, but once they got going, the breadth and scale of the clearing was clearly more than a road and the community members insisted the destruction stop. Thankfully no more has happened since then but this public hearing would appear to be an attempt to ‘open the way’ again and given Mr Michuki’s comments about green lights, there is a serious need to make it very clear that there are many very good reasons why the project should get the full red light.

So tomorrow (Thursday 20th May 2010) the County Council are organising a Public Hearing where in theory all and any stakeholders can attend and give their opinion and where majority concensus should lead the day. It was very interesting today to learn that members of the County Council had admitted to the NatureKenya manager that they were not calling people to the public hearing because they were afraid of too many stakeholders coming to the meeting and being the majority and thus able to do more to stop it. They are basically planning to threaten and intimidate stakeholders into agreeing on the project. However they hadn’t reckoned on the NatureKenya manager who is a tough fighter and a good man and who has garnered a lot of support to fight this project!

We (A Rocha Kenya) are going to take a good crowd of our team to attend the meeting as many of them are passionate and concerned about the outrage of this project and want to lodge their outrage. It’s crucial that we have as many people there as possible so since our landcruiser is currently dead in the garage waiting for a new ‘heart and lungs’ which we’re trying to find US$2,500 to fix, we are having to hire a matatu minibus. The trip is going to cost us about Ksh 7,000 (c.$95) – if any reader feels able to assist towards the cost of this, we would really appreciate it as we don’t have a budget at all for it. If so, please donate via the A Rocha International website and where it gives ‘Designation’ select ‘Kenya general fund’. If possible put a remark so we know what the gift was for. This will make a real difference. Any additional funding to what the trip costs will be put towards other costs for the Dakatcha work and campaign. THANK YOU in advance.

Today we had an Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Management Team (ASFMT) meeting with a particular focus on the public hearing tomorrow but also to bring all the government partners up to scratch on what is happening in Dakatcha. In the meeting it was pointed out that the Dakatcha land has apparently already been leased to the Italian company for a period of 33 years. Strictly speaking, if a company leases the land, they become the ‘owner’ of it meaning all people living there will legally be ‘squatters’. They are planning to ‘buy out’ the land owners but many are not / will not be interested to sell. They are therefore going to try and have them as ‘out growers’ of jatropha but legally speaking they will be squatters… It all sounds very messy.

ASFMT meeting at Kipepeo offices earlier today

Overall, with the increasing evidence that Jatropha is not a viable crop for plantations (I’ll write more in the next blog on this), then the project is doomed to fail from the start. And yet it continues. Why? Word on the ground has it that the proponents of the project are after the extremely valuable timber in the form of Brachystegia spiciformis which is already used hugely (and 100% illegally) in Malindi by mainly the Italian market for furniture production.

It will be very interesting to see how the public hearing goes tomorrow and I’ll try my best to blog a report on it for those of you who are interested. I promised to put up a template letter to assist people to write and complain – and still plan to do so. Please write anyway. Whatever noise can be made to stop this madness is necessary and very appreciated.

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Dakatcha Clarke’s Weaver Search

The past week has seen a team of intrepid bird-watchers and guides scouring the Dakatcha Forest for the endangered and elusive Clarke’s Weaver.  This bird is a great unknown, without any information recorded on its breeding habits, habitat or breeding season, so finding it presented a great challenge!

I was representing A Rocha on the trip, after over-stretched leader Colin was forced to withdraw due to meetings and lack of vehicle (another story entirely!) so I was the highest ranking (and only) A Rocha member present.  The team was led by Fleur Ng’weno, a veteran and well-known birder from Nairobi, accompanied by myself and half a dozen local guides and birdwatchers.

We set off Monday afternoon from Malindi, after stocking up on provisions and gear, to Marafa, at the edge of the Dakatcha Woodland to meet the District Officer and let him know what we were up to, as well as visiting the local Woodland Support Group, volunteers supporting conservation of the forest and wildlife.  We continued on to Adu, a village on the far northern edge of the woodland, home to many of our party.  Near the town, we found an ideal campsite and pitched tents in a hurry to beat the sunset.  After dinner, everyone was eager to turn in early, in anticipation of a pre-dawn start the next day.

The Dakatcha Woodland is a unique area of forest populated mostly by majestic Brachystegia trees and an abundance of grasses and shrubs and is home to many rare birds and animals, and made a stunning place to camp, surrounded by owls, nightjars and frogs.

Tuesday morning, and the 8-strong group was setting off at 5.30am after hot chai and buttered bread, optimistic and excited about discovering the first known breeding site of the Clarke’s Weaver.  However, it was not be, though we did record many bird species, as well as some unidentified flowers and shrubs.  After a morning of walking, we returned to camp for lunch, then repeated the exercise in the afternoon, with a similar result.

The next 3 days looked much the same.  Though we searched different habitats, areas of the forest and farmland, from before dawn till after dark, the Clarke’s Weavers continued to escape us.  On previous surveys, a few birds have been spotted flying overhead, but this month not a single one was seen, a bit disappointing.

However, we did have some exciting finds.  5 new species were added to the list for Dakatcha, including the Spotted Thick-Knee and the Booted Eagle, which felt like a bit of a consolation prize!  The local guides (and myself!) also received some very valuable training from Fleur, and had plenty of time to appreciate the beauty of such a timeless forest.

Of great concern to the area is the highly destructive industry of charcoal.  Charcoal production and use is extremely inefficient, polluting and requires the cutting of ancient and precious trees for burning.  We saw a worrying number of charcoal kilns and timber harvesting sites deep in the woodland, far from any settlement.  Up to 7 lorries filled with charcoal are leaving the area each day, destined for Mombasa and Nairobi, taking invaluable material from the ecosystem and habitats from the wildlife.  If Clarke’s Weaver breeding sites are discovered, it will go a long way to protecting the area, as sanctuaries for the birds can be installed and monitored.

Friday, the final day of the search, and we had moved camp to a site in which a possible Clarke’s Weaver nest has been sighted in the past for one final look.  All week we had avoided the rain, with only a few showers while we had ben driving, but during our last effort, the forest decided to send us off with a drenching.  Half an hour into our walk, we were soaked to the bone, and dashed back to the car trying to shield binoculars and notebooks from the rain with our bodies, to little avail.

So, we left the forest wet, tired and Clarke’s Weaver-less, but still happy to have added new birds to the list, trained guides and witnessed some amazing countryside, and eager to renew the search!

Sam Oldland (A Rocha Kenya volunteer)

Dakatcha Woodlands under threat of ‘eco-(un)friendly’ jatropha biodiesel project

The Dakatcha Woodlands form one of the 61 internationally important sites in Kenya for bird conservation (and therefore by assumption other biodiversity as well) – known as an ‘IBA’ (Important Bird Area).

a view of the Brachystegia woodland in Marafa – a few years ago before it was hit with charcoaling

It is the only other place on the planet that Clarke’s Weaver Ploceus golandii can be found apart from Arabuko-Sokoke Forest 30kms to the south and it also holds several other Threatened species such as Sokoke Pipit and more recently we discovered a population of Sokoke Scops Owls Otus irenae there. We have been working with NatureKenya to have the woodlands protected, to encourage the local community to stop cutting trees for charcoal and timber and instead to use it sustainably.

Endemic Clarke’s Weaver Ploceus golandii (by Steve Garvie)

NatureKenya has been doing a great work with local groups of young people to encourage them to take up birding and other conservation activities. This is one of the groups with Dominic Mumbu, the NK manager 4th from the left.

This year, however, an even more devastating threat is looming – one that is masquerading as an ‘eco-friendly project’… for bio-diesel. The Malindi County Council has welcomed a proposal by an investor, Kenya Jatropha Energy Limited, to clear large tracts of land for growing Jatropha curcas.  This South American bush has been aggressively promoted in Kenya for the ‘biodiesel’ extracted from the oil in its seeds. It is now being tried in localities that range from rainfall-rich Western Kenya to desert-like Magadi area. Yet little is currently known of the plant’s suitability, its yield under different conditions, and the market capacity. Talking to Ann and Ian Robertson in Malindi – Ian being an experienced farmer and agriculturalist and Ann one of East Africa’s leading botanists – who have planted some jatropha in their garden out of interest, they report that the yield from jatropha is hugely unpredictable, some years it can be good and others it can be dire – and with no apparent reason. As a result it is highly unlikely to be suitable crop to grow on a large commercial scale and much better to be grown by small holders who can exploit the good years and get something out of it and make ends meet on the bad years with the other crops they are growing.

The jatropha / biodiesel issue is going to be one of the hottest debates going in East Africa environmentally in the next few years. A lot of businessmen are likely to jump on the band wagon where they can see big funding coming from the West to fund what some see as effectively covering up the West’s guilt complex for the vast amounts of carbon pollution it is producing – i.e. “give money to developing countries to produce biodiesel so that we can maintain our lifestyles and claim to have reduced carbon emissions – oh, and shame about that priceless forest or wetland that was cleared to grow an alien monoculture, but it’s all for the greater benefit of the planet…”

Anyway – this debate could go on quite a long time here! The point is Dakatcha Woodlands really are under threat of disappearing under an alien monoculture – and thus causing probably at least one species to go extinct.

As A Rocha Kenya we are committed to finding lasting, long-term solutions for conserving such habitats and sites whilst at the same time ensuring that local communities can improve their lifestyles and living standards but reduce their ecological footprint. We have already started working with churches in the Dakatcha Woodlands to introduce them to Conservation Agriculture, a form of farming that hugely improves productivity whilst conserving the soil and in fact improving the soil such that farms become more productive over the years and not less (as they do using the traditional farming methods). This is just one way of seeking to improve the lot of the local communities while teaching them the importance of caring for the environment – God’s creation.


Conservation Agriculture training by Paul Simpson in Marafa, Nov ’08 for church leaders

We’ve employed Gabriel Katana to work alongside the NatureKenya manager in Dakatcha and to also follow up on the Conservation Agriculture workshops we’ve held with church leaders there.

Katana – our right hand man in Dakatcha and doing a great job.
He’s also assisting in bird surveys and done some excellent work on finding how far the Sokoke Scops Owl is found as well as looking out for Clarke’s Weavers and keeping an eye open for where they might breed. The area is quite large however and currently he’s trying to do all this on just a bicycle or sometimes borrowing the piki (motorbike) that the NK manager uses. For him to be really effective we desperately need a piki for him – and then funds to cover its running. Katana’s salary has kindly been covered by a church in the UK, but any assistance towards purchasing a piki would be hugely appreciated.

More to follow…

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Finally! …an SGT!!!

YES!! We got one! We had to get up earlier this morning – 4:30am so as to get into the forest in time to open the nets before dawn since you catch most birds as they come out of roost and start moving about in the first hour of daylight (especially here on the coast as bird activity drops very quickly in the mornings, presumably because of it being so much hotter and more humid than inland). We had a rumple at the Kenya Wildlife Service office where we were to sign in and get a key for the barrier into the forest – even though we’d told them the day before we were coming, the key and book hadn’t been left out… so we had to go and wake the ranger to open the office to get the key. Albert leapt into action and found the guy and was back within 5 mins so we still made it to the barrier in time. As we drove the 3kms into the forest where we’d left the nets, there was a LOT of fresh elephant activity – they’d been ploughing up the road again during the night and the signs continued all the way to where we parked and started walking the last 100m to the nets! One set of dung looked very fresh but was cold so we knew it was probably 2-3 hours old but all the same we figured we’d not split up to open the nets and worked on them together – Albert, Mercy and me. At the second set of nets which were a little way into the forest, we ran into ‘siafu’ – ‘safari ants’ which some would say are to be more feared more than elephants… As we were trying to avoid the ants whilst open the nets there was a loud ‘crash’ not that far away – an ele breaking a branch off for breakfast. There was immediately a “CJ!… CJ! Ndovu! Twende!!” (CJ… elephant! Let’s get out of here!!) from Albert – so I finished opening the net I was at and we bundled for the road where we could run more easily!

First round of the nets is always the most interesting since you catch the most birds and particularly in a new site as you never quite know what you’re going to get – it’s a bit like Christmas and opening presents… it’s always a surprise! Sure enough, the first nets 45mins later were a surprise – just 1 bird in 5 nets in what looked like great habitat. But then we hit the net where we’d heard the ele earlier on and had Red-tailed Ant Thrush and Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher – beautiful forest specialists… but no SGT. It wasn’t until we reached the penultimate net that Alba let a hoot of ecstasty and dashed forward to a large, spotted bird in the second panel – a Spotted Ground Thrush!

A happy Albert extracting a Spotted Ground Thrush from a mist net

Back at the ringing table we began ringing and processing all the birds (taking biometric measurements & recording moult etc) and releasing them again.

Albert holding Spotted Ground Thrush A very happy Albert with the SGT

Spotted Ground Thrush caught for ringing

The SGT came out of the bag and was ringed and measured just when a group of community members came passed on their way to clear the track further into the forest. It was an excellent opportunity to show them this rare bird and explain about the importance of the forest for conservation and particularly this species. This is such a critical part of the work – talking to and engaging with the local community members, both adults and children to explain about caring for the environment – God’s world.

Colin explaining to community members about the Spotte Ground Thrush

The SGT was identified as an adult due to the lack of any brown juvenile feathers amongst the white spots on its wings and we released it. The concern is that in six intensive days of ringing in prime Ground Thrush habitat, we’ve only caught the one bird. 15 years ago it was a different picture with thrushes being seen and caught quite frequently. The challenge is to work out what has gone wrong and the even greater challenge is to address the problem and turn it around – if indeed it is possible. The likely cause is destruction of the forests in southern Tanzania where the thrush breeds since Arabuko-Sokoke is pretty much as it has been for the past 20 years.

In total we caught 33 birds of 10 species which is quite reasonable for 12 nets in a coastal forest where bird densities are not very high – just what you catch is very special!

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Spotted Ground Thrush surveys

One of the main reasons for coming back to Watamu from my sabbatical in Cape Town has been to help Albert, the A Rocha Kenya Research Assistant, with ringing (bird banding) surveys for the Globally Endangered Spotted Ground Thrush Zoothera guttata. This handsome and enigmatic bird exists in a few populations in Africa but numbers are seriously dwindling and we are really concerned for it’s future. Here in Kenya it is a non-breeding visitor from southern Tanzania and probably northern Mozambique (tho’ relatively little ornithological work has been done there to look for it). We know it comes from Tanzania as about eight years ago one was found in Mombasa (in the Tamarind Resraurant gardens in fact!) with a ring that had been put on it by Neil & Liz Baker in the forests in southern Tz.
A beaut of a shot of an “SGT” by Steffen Forster taken in Gede Ruins forest.

Since the early ’90s survey work has shown an 80% decrease in the numbers of birds occuring in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Gede Ruins forest – the main sites for the species in Kenya. These forests, whilst having suffered quite a lot of illegal logging (esp ASF), are basically still intact and it’s unlikely that the decrease has been due to problems here. Much more likely is the forests where the bird breeds in southern Tanzania are getting flattened… A Rocha Kenya has been given a small grant from the Critical Ecosystem Profile Fund (CEPF) through NatureKenya to do 18 months of more thorough survey of the species in Arabuko-Sokoke. Albert has been doing the main observation transects – walking quietly and slowly through the forest on a path and stopping every 100m to listen and record all he sees, but so far in over 25kms of transect has only seen two birds. We also want to do several sessions of ringing in different sites to try and pick up the bird – but Albert can’t do it on his own, hence why I’m here to help.

So the past two mornings we’ve had nets up on the Nature Trail near the Gede forest station – the main station for Arabuko-Sokoke – which is known to be the best site to try and see the thrush. I’ve been ringing there since 1998 and there were others before that and we sometimes catch birds that were ringed way back. Yesterday we caught 23 birds including a couple of East Coast Akalats which is another Globally Threathened species that we get in the forest and otherwise a lot of greenbuls, some sunbirds, thrushes and flycatchers. The star of the show was, however, a Sokoke Pipit Anthus sokokensis which is the first I’ve caught for a very long time and the first for this site – and what a beaut of a tiny pipit it is!

On the second day you always catch fewer birds – 14 today – with three African Pygmy Kingfishers Ispidina picta which are stunning little blue jewels. Sam was the photographer and got a shot of one hanging in the net before we carefully extracted it – and it shows off its colours superbly!

The blue fire of the forest – an African Pygmy Kingfisher caught in a mist net

Albert carefully extracting the kingfisher – these are
migrants from Tanzania and Mozambique as well as the ground thrush
though we’ve not yet had a ringed one found to know exactly where they
go.

This sort of work is so important for keeping track on what the bird populations are doing, how long birds are surviving, if there are young birds around to tell you the species is successfully breeding still etc. We’ve got a bit of funding from CEPF to cover the transport and salary costs to do the surveys, but I’m realising just how hammered our mist nets are becoming after 10 years of use for some of them! There are a few holes that an ostrich would fit through and which are not easy to mend. These are not cheap – $100-$140 each depending on the length – and is something that would hugely useful to replace.