I’m actually a day behind on the blog – the post for the 8th was done at midnight last night (9th) in the face of a bitterly cold westerly wind (ok, ok – I know that might be a relative term for Europeans & north Americans, but for the likes of us coastal Kenyans, it really was bitter…!). Anyone who knows Ngulia will know that a westerly wind
spells a full nights sleep as the mist which brings the birds comes from the east, up the escarpment. This is exactly what we’re not there for – sleep-filled nights. What we pray for is a gentle, warm moisture-filled wind from the east that as it cools with the on-set of evening, forms a thick swirling mist (fog, actually) around the lodges spotlights and within five minutes you have piles of birds humming around the bushes and lights leading to large numbers caught and ringed and hopefully one with a dull ring from Slovenia or Kazakstan or somewhere like that!
Anyway to back track… There was no mist yesterday morning (9th) & so we started in putting up nets at a relaxed 6.30am, starting on the main ‘L’ while David & Ian did a complete re-sort of the nets as some have started to show some wear & tear. We left them open as we put up the next nets & caught a smattering of birds through the morning including several River Warblers but in fact more Afrotropical birds than migrants of which several
were Chestnut Weavers – one of the only two Afrotropical birds ever ringed at Ngulia in almost 40 years to be recovered anywhere away from the lodge. It was found in Kitui some 300kms north & west of Ngulia. The other was a Harlequin Quail that was found in Uganda of all places!
So it wasn’t a very noteworthy day as regards birds caught – a Black-&-white Cuckoo was the first bird ringed & there was also a Diederick Cuckoo. The most noteworthy thing of the day was an awesome fly-by at almost eye-level along the escarpment of no less that 42 Ruppell’s Griffon Vultures that then spiralled & ‘kettled’ above
the hill in front of the lodge to gain height before moving off northwards! There was another 21 today (10th) all of which is excelllent news given the current plight of vultures worldwide with hundreds being poisoned and populations significantly decreasing.
42 Ruppell’s Griffons over hill in front of Ngulia
Close-up shot of some of them…
Not many raptors around during the day – no Steppe Eagles though a beaut display by one of the local Verreaux’s Eagles at one point & a male Eurasian Marsh Harrier quartering the grass in the valley.
Ian slept the afternoon off (as he’d not only driven for c.11 hours but had then stayed up all night to keep an eye open for mist!) & one or two others of us also had a kip before putting up more nets at c.5pm (waiting, of course, for just when it started to rain!). So it was after dinner that I sat to do the blog with Ian & trying to get a good enough mobile signal to connect to the internet.
I left Ian at about 00.30hrs to hit the sack & apparently he had some action of a rhino & an elephant appear out of where the nets were & have a stand off over the water hole followed by a second leopard looking for scraps of meat left over from the first during dinner! However the main point was the lack of mist and it was a rather déjà vu experience as per November opening nets with a clear sky & stunning sunrise & clumps of eager ringers standing around idly chatting & discussing the 2-3 birds we’d caught in the past half hour! But there were a few & by the time I hitched a lift with Alain & Hendrick to Mtito Andei to catch the bus we’d ringed c.30 migrants and had some unusual Afro species – particularly Pygmy Batis & a male Red-billed Buffalo Weaver.
Idle chatting around the end of the net with clear skies..
David & I had a good chat with Stephen, the lodge Assistant Manager who is doing an excelllent job in trying to make Ngulia more competitive & improve especially in a climate of generally reduced tourists.
We left for Mtito at c.11am to do a Eurasian Roller survey combined with a raptor count along the 40kms to the gate. Incredibly few rollers (2, to be precise) and not as many raptors as in Nov, but a pale phase Booted Eagle was v nice; also more vultures, a pair of Long-crested Eagles & two Grasshopper Buzzards.
Grasshopper Buzzard near Mtito Andei
The best bird, however was a small bird displaying wit wings being raised high above it in a deep ‘V’ while making a loud “tyee-oo-wee!” – the rare & little-known Friedmann’s Lark! Hendrick got some excelllent video clips through his scope (will try & post it sometime perhaps) & I got the following not-so-hot shot, but a record at least!
So that’s the end of my involvement with Ngulia for this year. I hope to get some updates from Ian / David and put it up on the blog or at least a final result. Apparently the total for the first session didn’t even quite make 5,000 birds – the lowest catch for a long time. It should be better this time as there’s plenty of rain around and that should bring mist. We’ll see…!