Tag Archives: Ngulia

John Gitiri – volunteering with A Rocha Kenya

My name is John Gitiri and my home is the Kinangop plateau in central Kenya and I am currently an intern with the Ornithology Section of the National Museums of Kenya. I have always developed my interest in conservation and in particular I have focused in learning more about birds and wetlands areas.

A Rocha Kenya is a Christian organisation which has been involved with conservation for more than decade in Kenya with its offices in Watamu on the north Kenya coast. I was introduced to ARK through Nature Kenya’s coast manager, Francis Kagema, based at Gede Ruins in October 2011, which after a few weeks they accepted me as an intern and I stayed until April 2012.

I found my internship to be very worthwhile – particularly since I had not much not to do by then. My stay at Mwamba was helpful and wonderful and included activities ranging from Bible study, fieldwork, office work and other volunteer tasks – I liked it!

My goals while interning with ARK were to learn more about birds as a major tool of conservation as well as improve my interaction with different people from different cultures and from different parts of the world – and most of all to grow in my Christian life.

Experience with a well-known Kenyan scientist/ ringer, Colin Jackson, as well as with other experienced ARK staff, volunteers and guests opened mental and physical doors for me. It expanded my knowledge in different working fields.

…me with an Emerald-spotted Wood Dove on my shoulder after it has been ringed

While volunteering I developed a strong interest in bird ringing after watching CJ ring and after sometime he started teaching me more about it.  After getting some ringing exposure at Mwamba, I was blessed to get a sponsorship to do the Introductory Bird Ringing Course that was being run at Mwamba with CJ after my internship ended. With the completion of my internship, I had some time to go back home to the Kinangop and do a couple of things with the conservation site support group back at home (Friends of Kinangop Plateau) before I got another internship opportunity with National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi.

The group of trainee ringers (I’m at the front next to Andrew) in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest on one of the drier days.

At the Nairobi Museum I am involved with bird ringing every Tuesday morning with the Nairobi Ringing Group and I had heard about the annual ringing of thousands of migrants at Ngulia in Tsavo West National Park and I thought of  requesting for a chance to participate and contribute where I could. Through A Rocha Kenya / National Museums of Kenya I got the chance which was very educational and I learnt more about migration as well as meeting with famous author/ ringer David. J. Pearson author of Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania. I am looking forward to do a lot more ringing in future!! I sincerely appreciate ARK for their endless support and following how am doing from what I gained from them. If you have a chance to volunteer with ARK, from my experience, I recommend it’s worth it.

Ecstatic excitement around the ringing table at 4:30am at Ngulia over a small, dull ring

20th Nov. After the couple of hours sleep in the afternoon yesterday, the weather was hazy and the breeze was from the valley and after dinner the sky was overcast and it really felt like the mist was coming in soon. I had to organise a few things so didn’t get to bed till just before 10pm and was in a very deep sleep when the door was knocked and it was Hamisi at just 10:45pm saying the mist had come!! Sure enough it had – but was still not fully down and the moon was still up until midnight and I knew the birds would not be many while there was still moonlight so told him I’d sleep until then. Apparently the generators were switched off at midnight to change the oil and he then came to wake me at 00:20am only for me not to appear and he came and thoroughly woke me (!) at 00:45am at which point there was thick mist rolling in and it was definitely time to get the nets up. Once again the whole team were aroused and we caught steadily with the two nets until finally closing them at 04:15am to give us time to clear the birds we’d caught by dawn.

We set up two tables of ringers and were hammering through them – great diversity with Barred Warblers, Olive-tree Warbler, Iranias, many more Spotted Flycatchers, Willow Warblers, River Warblers etc… I was ringing with Andrew and Malcolm with Alex as scribe and it was about 04:30am that Andrew pulled a Thrush Nightingale out of the bag, was about to put a ring on its left leg and saw it already had one!!! Not only that but it was DULL – always an exciting moment as it isn’t going to be one of your recently ringed birds that has found its way back into the net – and not only that but it said “TBILISI (GE)” on it!!! Yes – a Thrush Nightingale ringed in Georgia (just south of Russia)!!! Our first ever ringed bird from Georgia and a huge exciting moment!! We will write and find out where and when it was ringed, but it was a first year bird going by the plumage so it must have been ringed this year – there will be some Georgian ringer who will be WELL stoked to have his/her bird caught in Kenya!

 The TBILISI ring…

 …showing the (GE) section

 The whole Tbilisi bird – amazing things this bird has seen in its short life!

Dawn was thick with fog and we opened nets not being able to hardly see the end of them – but again the birds just sat still and it wasn’t really ever majorly hectic in terms of numbers of birds in nets. Perhaps with the more open habitat, they don’t move as quickly out of the thicker bush just behind the lights?? We had further highlights in the morning including the first retrap (a bird we have ringed ourselves) migrant from a previous year – a Common Whitethroat – and then in terms of species a beaut of a small Gambaga Flycatcher, an Afrotropical species which appears to migrate as there have been a few caught at Ngulia in the night (this will be the 10th) but for which there is still very little known about it, and a couple of Upcher’s Warblers – a specied from southern central Asia which has really decreased in numbers over the years. Right towards the end of the morning Andrew was doing an awesome job keeping track of the nets and extracting a load of shrikes (very painful to get out of the net as they can seriously draw blood!)…

 A stunning Red-backed Shrike taking Richards fingers apart – that is blood you can see on his finger… 

…when two cuckoos flew into the nets – another Jacobin but then also a smaller, heavily barred cuckoo – an Asian Lesser Cuckoo and a lovely bird at that! Kane ringed that one and Chris (both from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, UK) ringed the Jacobin Cuckoo just before they left to head back to what they’d heard was snow and freezing temperatures back home. We’re down by two ringers therefore which will be a challenge – but David Gitau from the Nairobi Ringing Group is coming tomorrow so that will be a real help.

 Asian Lesser Cuckoo- with a beautiful underwing pattern

Final total for the day… 1,075 migrants and 9 Afrotropical birds – but the moment of the season has to be that one at 4:30am when Andrew produced the Georgian Thrush Nightingale – a real ‘HALLELUJAH!’ moment and the first in three years in fact.

Well Andrew and Alex leave tomorrow and I was to leave but am staying on til the end now – but my computer has been broken for about 3-4 weeks now and only operates in Safe Mode (we just don’t have computer technicians around Watamu who are good enough to deal with major issues… and I’ve not been able to get it to someone who does) which means I don’t have internet access so this will be the last blog before I get back to Watamu at the weekend. So more updates at that point but it’s looking good again tonight and the leopard has had his meat and a Spotted Hyena has just come to the waterhole and wandered off through the net rides – so it’s all looking good again!


Finally a misty night and 1,000s of birds

19th Nov. It has happened at LAST!! After wondering if we’d ever get the mist which is so necessary at Ngulia to bring in the birds, it was looking potentially good at dusk (but then it often does..!) and sure enough I was woken by Hamisi, the night watchman who has really got into the ringing (understandable, as a night watchman job is surely not the most stimulating of tasks!) at 11:55pm saying there was mist! Sure enough, it was rolling in thick and beautifully and birds were popping out of the sky.

 The mist with birds being extracted from nets

 some of the 1,000s of moths attracted to the lights

Andrew and I put up the two nets and immediately we were catching birds, mostly Thrush Nightingales but also a River Warbler and others and it was quickly clear that we needed the rest of the team up to assist. So it was all hands on deck and some frenetic extraction of birds and setting up the table with the night lights to get the ringing going. Mist turned into quite heavy rain at 3:15am and it stayed for an hour or more which was a blessing in disguise as we already had caught over 400 birds and with the one ringing team were being hard-pushed to clear them all.

 Nightwatchman extraordinaire Hamisi watching the night time ringing action

Dawn arrived in still thick mist though the rain had stopped and found us still ploughing through Marsh Warblers and Thrush Nightingales with a great smattering of Olive-tree Warblers, Rufous Bush Robins, quite a lot of Iranias (also known as White-throated Robins) and a couple of Eurasian Nightjars, another Plain Nightjar and towards the end of the catching, a dazzler of a Donaldson-Smith’s Nightjar – tiny and bright rufous with gorgeous white, black and brown spots.

Surprisingly, the bush nets were not nearly as busy as we’d thought they’d be – though the birds were there but just not moving out so much. However it was still plenty busy enough and by the end of the morning we’d caught and ringed just short of 1,400 birds… and there were swallows around in good numbers – so it was up with the swallow nets and one other one in the bush which was still heaving with migrants for a couple of hours of more trapping after lunch resulting in another 80 or so birds. Total for the day: 1,470 migrants and 26 Afrotropical birds!!

Other stars of the day were no less than five Golden Pipits – the brilliantly golden male being the most startling. Also Jacobin Cuckoo and a couple of Basra Reed Warblers.

 Stunning male Golden Pipit


By the time we were done with the swallows we were all totally ‘done’ and it was time to get a couple of hours sleep ready for the next night which promised to be good as well…


Ngulia Safari Lodge as awesome a ringing site as ever

18th Nov. The night started off with a bit of a drama: the main generator for the lodge had broken down and the support machine could not run all night and the news was it was going to be switched off between 2am and 4:30am – exactly the hours when we need it on for the lights to work and attract the migrants! However after a discussion with the lodge manager he very kindly agreed that it could be switched off at 10:30pm and back on at 2am.

However despite this… there was a significant lack of mist once again and whilst the askari (night watchman) banged on our door at 4am saying the mist had come down and sure enough it had done… it only stayed down for 10 minutes and then evaporated again leaving our nets standing proud under the starlight and a very vague thought of mist at high altitude. Result? Night total: 7 birds, full day total: 27. There were no swallows to catch either even with the tape running so our final total was exactly that: 27. 12 Thrush NIghtingales, 13 Marsh Warblers and one Whitethroat – the first day, however that Marsh Warbler has ‘beaten’ Thrush Nightingales.

ONce again the Afrotropical species saved the interest of the day with a second African Green Pigeon making Malcolm puff up the hill at high speed to get it out of the net before it escaped, 2 Red-billed Buffalo Weavers with a very powerful bite, the first Vitelline Masked Weavers and a male Nubian Woodpecker.

The Leopard has come already and also the old porcupine has come for his bread rolls once again – hugely bizarre and ridiculous creatures! We’ll see what the night brings us this time!

The quiet season at Ngulia continues & Thrush Nightingales still dominate

17th Nov. At dinner of the 16th we had an unexpected visitor to the waterhole… the Leopard had come and gone and enjoyed his starter of a leg of goat and the Porcupine had also enjoyed their bread rolls… but then without warning a huge bull elephant rocked up at the waterhole and wandered around a bit, drank some water and then ambled off towards the raptor nets – though he missed them and went off into the bush. Just a reminder that anything can turn up while we are out at the nets…!

However once again there was no mist to speak of in the night, just low cloud that never came down. Tape recordings of the song of the three common Ngulia species were played from 3am in an attempt to encourage some birds down into the catching area and with some lowish cloud around, nets were put up with the vague hope of the low cloud producing birds… which it did just after going up in the form of a real quality bird, an Isabelline Wheatear – the first this year and only the second since 2005. We kept the nets up despite the lack of any real mist and ended up with 20 birds ringed – all others being Thrush Nightingales except for one Marsh Warbler. At dawn (yet again stunning views…) all the ‘bush’ nets were opened but we only managed another 12 migrants giving a grand total of 32 for the day:

Isabelline Wheatear: 1
Thrush Nightingale: 28
Marsh Warbler: 2
Common Whitethroat: 1

 Isabelline Wheatear

The Afrotropicals were more interesting with the 11th ever Green-backed Twinspot ringed (in 44 years), a stunning Diederik Cuckoo with molten bronze colours melting into the stunning deep emerald of its plumage, and then a pair of Rufous Chatterers with their gorgeous light yellow eyes and curiously curved bill. A retrapped Black-backed Puffback and Green-winged Pytilia both from previous years were of real interest to me since you can therefore know for certain that their plumage and soft part colours are those of a definite adult – which really helps when trying to correctly age a new one you might catch.

 A rather grumpy-looking but very smart Rufous Chatterer

Another Accipiter day at Ngulia – the 2nd ever Little Sparrowhawk caught here

16th Nov. A fully ‘dead’ night with no mist and totally clear skies and so no nets put up at night and just the full set of nets opened at dawn. More migrants than yesterday all the same – but still pathetically few: Thrush Nightingale: 9, Common Rock Thrush: 1, River Warbler: 1, Marsh Warbler: 3 and Common Whitethroat: 7. However, once again, things were ‘saved’ from being totally dead by the appearance of a tiny wee raptor in the net – a juvenile Little Sparrowhawk Accipiter minullus with all the fiesty-ness of an accipiter (as Baz found out from the damage it did to his fingers!). This is only the second ever ringed here, the first being in 2005 – and what a stonker of a wee raptor he was! We did do some more swallows and in fact by the end of the day had 115 ringed making a daily total of migrants 136 and the grand total for the season so far: 856.

 Baz’s fingers being punctured by the Little Sparrowhawk

Little else to report other than some more good raptors esp a pair of African Hawk Eagles with one immature bird high over the lodge and, very strangely, an African Fish Eagle – not a lot of fish out here! A female Shikra was hanging around the lodge and netting site but somehow managed to avoid getting trapped and then late afternoon while having a swim a large very dark eagle cruised overhead with very broad wings and a short tail that had to be a Greater Spotted Eagle…

 female Shikra

 part of the 350 nest strong Village Weaver colony by the staff village


A very UNwelcome large guest to Ngulia… and a new species for East African ringing list: Levant Sparrowhawk

So… I left off yesterday with having seen a Eurasian Sparrowhawk (more on this below)… but later that evening after dinner and just as some were heading to bed there was a commotion near the gents toilets from the night watchman and no, it was not one of the ringers causing trouble!, but an enormous Puff Adder creeping along the corner of the wall near the gents! Now what?! Well, thankfully Malcolm Wilson, one of the ringers who’d just arrived and who lives in Johannesburg has done a fair bit of snake handling and he grabbed the wooden ‘spear’ from the model Masai next to the gents and used it to ‘encourage’ the snake out of the lodge. Only problem was it was in no mood to leave and instead resolutely continued onto the patio where all the tourists sit and where we ring at night. Malcolm then managed to hold the head down with the spear and grab the snake behind the head and pick it up… much to the horror of some of the lodge staff – and we walked out behind the lodge and released it in the long grass that side – hoping it would not come around to the ringing site in front of the lodge…

 the not so welcome hotel guest!!

 Malcolm proudly displaying the puffer…

So to today and the ringing: Well… yet again no mist at night – some “high mist” / low cloud at 2:30am which made Niko put the nets up but then a cold westerly wind and stars till dawn – which was stunning as ever but frustratingly bird-less. Total for the night was just 12 Thrush Nightingales and 8 Whitethroats – oh, and another Singing Bush Lark which was the most interesting. The morning total from the 19 nets in the bush for usual Palearctic migrants was even worse – just 2 Thrush Nightingales, 1 Whitethroat and 2 Marsh Warblers making a grand total for the day of:

Thrush Nightingale: 14
Marsh Warbler: 2
Common Whitethroat: 9

!!! (tho we did manage to catch a few Barn Swallows later – 68 – to get a daily total of 94 migrants ringed).

However everything changed at around 8:30am when Dephense came up from the nets carrying a bag to me having my breakfast and said “Scopus says here’s an Accipiter for you”… Gingerly opening the bag I was met by the sight of a small sparrowhawk with its head down so all I could see was its long tail, bright yellow feet and a very heavily spotted underparts and long, pointed wings. Hmmm… juvenile African Goshawk?? but seemed too small and the wings were surely too pointed for that. Malcolm wandered up at that point and he promptly removed the bird (as he wasn’t halfway through a sausage…) and we took another double take – what was it?? M said “Af Gos” – but it had a strong supercilium and a bright yellow cere… and Af Goshawks have grey or murky yellow ceres… So he took it up to the ringing station to check the books while I stuffed the rest of the sausage and great Ngulia breakfast down and hurried after him. “It’s a Levant!!” Malcolm said triumphantly as I got there but there was still some discussion as Levant is NOT a common bird in Kenya (up til a few years ago there had only ever been 6 records though it’s true in recent years for some reason there have been a flurry of observations – suggesting the species is expanding its wintering range southwards perhaps?? Looking through a raptor-in-the-hand guide from Israel where they ring a lot of raptors, there was a photo of a young female Levant that exactly matched the bird we were holding – it just had to be! This is therefore the first Levant Sparrowhawk to be ringed in East Africa and hugely made up for the dire catch of passerine migrants!

 Miss Levant Sparrowhawk

A PS at the end of this is that having seen this bird in the hand I realised that the Euro Sparrowhawk I’d seen yesterday was in fact this very same bird – only I’d not seen the underparts but just the clear supercilium and more pointed wings… An even better record! Furthermore there was another Levant, an adult male, seen during the day around the lodge and a number of other raptors including c.6 Steppe Eagles, a Steppe Buzzard, a Greater Spotted Eagle and a Eurasian Hobby.


Clear night at Ngulia… and only 3 migrant birds ringed

Yes. It has happened – the dreaded totally clear, star-lit night at Ngulia when one wakes up every 1-2 hours and looks out of the window in the hope of seeing wisps of mist appearing from up the escarpment, the forerunner to thick mist and 100s of birds dropping out of the sky… but instead every time a crystal clear sky with the stars twinkling at you from the inky darknes. So at dawn (which, however is always stunning at Ngulia and almost more so on a clear night as the dark of night fades away from over the Yatta Plateau to the east) we opened the full compliment of nets – 19 to be precise equalling 267m of netting – but by 7a.m. had only caught 1 (yes, one) migrant – a Sprosser and in the hour between 7am and 8am just another two… This must be one of the quietest mornings I’ve had at Ngulia that I can remember!

 Ngulia dawn…

...And again…

 Extracting one of the Afros in front of the lodge in the dawn light

However we were saved by Barn Swallows… At 6:30am I noticed small flocks of 5-6 birds hacking fast and direct to the south and during our earlier-than-usual breakfast there were a number swooping around over the short grass in front of the dining room feeding on the mass of moths that had been attracted by the lights in the night. So we duely switched on the cassette (yes, not MP3 player… the old endless cassette still holds its own at Ngulia!) with the song of Barn Swallow and put up the superfine nets in the night net rides and just three other single panels… and by lunch time we had ringed 213 swallows! Total for the day… 216 birds of two species.

 Barn Swallows in the net waiting to be extracted

 Andrew with an Emerald-spotted Wood Dove on his shoulder – it’s amazing how these will very often just sit on wherever you place them before flying happily away!

We also caught a few nice Afrotropical species – the 8th White-browed Sparrow Weaver for Ngulia which is a species we will expect to catch a lot more of in the future as it has recently arrived as a breeding bird at Ngulia the past few years. The first one ringed was an odd wanderer in 1994 and no more until 2009 when three were caught, one in 2010 and two last year. Also a young African Paradise Flycatcher – which I had heard one calling around 4:30am out near the nets yesterday morning and is a well-known Afrotropical migrant.

Am sitting in the dining room in the afternoon typing this and keeping the baboons off our so(und equipment and just had a Eurasian Sparrowhawk zip past and land in the large Acacia in front of the lodge and then try for a weaver on the ‘owl’ tree before swooping off towards the back line. Otherwise very very few migrant raptors so far this year – a handful of Stepped Eagles and that’s it.

Graeme Backhurst (who started the ringing at Ngulia in 1969 but who has not been for the past 4 years) has just arrived which is great – with the boistrous British ringers who will make life more colourful yet(!) so the team will be up to its full compliment what with Bernard ‘Scopus’ Amakobe arriving later on the staff bus… Hopefully we’ll have mist tonight to keep them all busy…!

Thrush Nightingale dominates catch at Ngulia, Tsavo West National Park

Day 2 of 2012 season and the mist only came in at around 3:30am giving us just 1 1/2 hours of birds coming in – but whilst the mist seemed quite good once again, the comparative number of birds was very few. However by the time we closed nets at 5:15am we had caught 123 birds of which 88% were Thrush Nightingales (Sprossers) whilst only 4 birds were Marsh Warblers which normally are the most numerous – though we’re still early in the season for the large numbers of these. We also had our first Spotted Flycatcher (5 birds), Willow Warbler (1), Common Rock Thrush (1), Upcher’s Warbler (1) and the Barn Swallows have arrived though we only caught 38 by lunch time even with the tape lure going.

 Common Rock Thrush

From recent analysis of the data over the past 43 years, it has become clear that there has been a real drop in the numbers of certain species passing through Ngulia – Common Whitethroat used to form about 35% of the catch… but now is less than 10%; Upcher’s Warbler has also dropped as has Isabelline Shrike (which, by the way, we caught one bird today – a beaut of an adult male of the stunning phoenicuroides race from as far east as Mongolia). This sort of bird ringing that manages to catch large numbers of birds and is repeated annually can really give some critical insights to the status of populations of birds even the other side of the world.

Afrotropical birds today were also more varied and numerous – highlights being two Green-backed Twinspots (10th & 11th ringed at Ngulia), a Black Cuckoo (only the 4th), two retrap woodpeckers (Nubian and Cardinal), two very fierce Grey-headed Bush-shrikes (14th & 15th) and a Northern White-crowned Shrike. The most striking and stunning bird of all, however was the African Green Pigeon – I mean… what a stunner – God had a lot of fun designing this one!:

 UNbelievable colour combinations!

 the twinspot are not bad either!

The leopard has come already tonight, though the sky is still clear and the stars all showing beautifully (or horribly if you’re an Ngulia ringer waiting for mist…!). We’ll see what the night has for us. Time to sleep…

 Post-script… a crazy half-naked German chasing off the baboons from the netting area – baboon hard to see…!


Tsavo West shimmering green & news of mist & migrant birds for the 44th year of monitoring at Ngulia

The 2012 season for the Ngulia Bird Migration Project – the 44th since it started in 1969 – has begun! Yesterday I arrived at the lodge in the heart of Tsavo West Nat. Park together with Andrew Kinzer, Silas Ekesa and Niko Gerhard and his niece Samina – Niko looking as much the pirate as ever and full of energy and keen to get nets up. Tsavo is green – and there is sign of recent rain including large pools along the road – though only a surface green with the grey of the dry bush and brown earth through the thin grass still evident. Give it a week and some more rain and this will be gone under a thick carpet of lush vegetation…

 Wet conditions along the road to Ngulia in Tsavo

However en route along the 48kms to the lodge we saw very few migrants – in fact just 1 Eurasian Cuckoo, 1 wheatear (probably Northern) and 1 Red-backed Shrike. None of the swarms of Barn Swallows we are often greeted by, no migrant raptors nor warblers or thrushes flushing out of the bush along the road as we passed…

 Looking up the valley towards Ngulia

It was great to arrive at Ngulia and be welcomed by the “Ngulia Faithful” – the staff who know us well now, several having been at the lodge for over 2 decades. On arrival at the lodge we focussed on important things first which was to get the main nets up before it got dark. All the equipment was perfectly put away by David at the end of last season so it was easy to identify the correct nets and we set to on the ‘L’ in front of the lodge. Due to the lack of bush and vegetation there was next to no cutting and clearing needed which speeded it up and we managed to erect the whole ‘L’ + the single 12m ‘Niko’ net up the slope near the lodge before having to head in as leopard time was nearing. Again few birds of note at this point – other than a flock or two of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters moving south quite high overhead.

 Looking down the valley from Ngulia – just turning green

 Not a lot of bush in front of the lodge

The Leopard behaved very nicely and came in very soon after the meat was put out for him – and by 7pm was cracking bones and demolishing the goat leg tied up for him just 25m behind Andrew & I who were fixing one of the spot lights on the steps down from the lodge. This meant that after dinner, the 10 or so tourists in the lodge didn’t stay up but headed for bed by 10:30pm leaving the floor clear for us to put nets up when we wanted. There was a thin, high mist by that time and while I went to bed for a couple of hours, Niko, Andrew & Silas put up the 2 night nets at 11pm and started catching a handful of birds – actually, just 10 by midnight and by 00:00hrs the mist cleared completely and stars came out such that at 01:30hrs we packed up and went to bed…

I woke at 03:00hrs to check if there was mist only to find Niko was already up and the nets up! There was good, thick mist and conditions looked perfect – only that the moon was going to be coming out soon which reduces the catch. It wasn’t busy as such, but we caught fairly steadily and by the end of the night we had 126 birds ringed – as well as a Striped Kingfisher (only the 8th ever ringed here and the first since 1984!) and a Singing Bush Lark (16th ringed & first since 2007 – though am trying to ‘turn it into’ a Friedmann’s Lark…!). At dawn we opened the full ‘L’ and caught a few birds though not many until 8am when we closed as it had gone quiet… and by now Niko really needed his sleep! The mist had faded away to a thin high cover at around 4am and so probably a lot of the birds grounded earlier in the night had headed off before dawn and continued their journey south.


 A study of the Ngulia spot light soon after dawn…

On clearing the nets and heading up to the swimming pool area to where we ring during the day, we had a real shock – the small banda / shaded area along the side of the pool has been demolished and a railway siding type shed cover has been built behind where it was over the grass instead. Whilst far from the most beautiful poolside shelter I’ve seen, it actually might work very well for the ringing, particularly in that a) it won’t leak, b) it has a hugely high roof which therefore both lets in lots of light and also provides a better view of the sky to watch for raptors and c) there are no low-lying beams to take unsuspecting ringers heads off… We have yet to experience it in the rain, however, to see just how much rain will come in from the side…

 The new pool side shed

 Niko & Samina cleaning bird bags in front of the shed

 Not bad for raptor watching from inside the shed

Totals for the day therefore stand at the following:

184 Palearctics ringed:

Red-backed Shrike          6

Isabelline Shrike               2

River Warbler                    4

Marsh Warbler                  6

Olive-tree Warbler          1

Barred Warbler                 1

Common Whitethroat   10

Thrush Nightingale          149

Nightingale                         3

Irania                                     1

Rufous Bush Robin          1

…and 12 Afrotropical birds caught including two Plain Nightjars

Once again KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) have been fantastic in their support of this really important and unique migrant monitoring project and the officers at the gate were very friendly and remembered us from last year and welcomed us in as old friends. We are very grateful to them for the support and hope that a few staff members will be able to drop by to join in the ringing at some point this week.

 Kinzer at breakfast – one of the joys of Ngulia!