The tide was about right for another night on Mida Creek catching and ringing waders – 2.6m at 03:40 hrs… a bit late in the night, but not impossible to work and I’ve ringed over a 2.7m tide before and done pretty well, so figured we’d go for it. I’ve never ringed waders in Kenya in early August and I don’t think anyone else has on the coast either and I was keen to get some weight and moult data on birds which had either just arrived back from breeding in Asia or had stayed over the breeding season as first year non-breeders.
We had a two lots of visitors at the centre – the Van den Bosch siblings (& cousin Mike), and Sarah & Liz – medical students from the UK in Kenya for some work experience and now on R&R – who were keen to join us. Said from Kenya Wildlife Service (Watamu Marine Park) was also very keen to spend the night on the creek together with Tony from our ASSETS team and Rahema who’s volunteering with us currently. So we had a pretty good team to work with and headed out with gusto to put nets up before dark as per usual… only to get there and find the whole area flooded with the high tide from the afternoon! I don’t think I’ve ever ringed on such a late tide before and just hadn’t thought that of course it would be high in the afternoon just when we would be putting nets up! So it was back to Mwamba for dinner and out again at 9pm in the moonlight – which was just as well as putting nets up in pitch dark is really not very nice.
mist nets set for waders on Mida Creek – the tide has come in under the nets and we were coming to take them down at dawn
I knew it was going to be a long night as we don’t usually catch much when the tide is low and with High Tide being 3:40am we were unlikely to catch a lot – though most times we catch one or two every hour or so. Six hours later we had caught… nothing! The tide was coming in nicely however and I was confident we’d catch at least 20 maybe 30 birds… Once the water was up under the nets we headed out and sure enough there was a bird in the net… (a Greater Sandplover) and another… (Terek Sandpiper) and another… (Greenshank – yes! we catch very few of those) and another… (Terek again)… but… that was it!! Just four birds – and by now the beauty of a Mida dawn was beginning to lighten the sky and there was no chance we would catch any more.
Terek Sandpiper at Mida – by Tasso Leventis
Four birds for a whole night’s work is pretty dire… but all the same very good to have caught a Greenshank and also excellent to have even the little data on some non-breeding birds which had stayed the northern summer with us. The sandplover had fresh primaries but had also started moulting its inner primaries again and so could have been an early returning adult. The other three had ‘classic’ 1st year moult patterns of new outer primaries, freshly growing inners and old worn feathers in between.
Why had we caught so few? I realise I hadn’t taken into account that of course in August there are very few waders around yet, most not having returned from breeding grounds and so with the relatively few nets we put up (10) in a vast open space they only cover a very small percentage of area. We could have put up a lot more and thus had a greater chance of catching more. Also the late tide meant that by the time the water receded (which is when you can catch a lot of birds as they come back in to forage) it had already got light so birds could see the nets. All in all we were only ever going to catch a small number… but four?!!!
Taking nets down at dawn – from left: Mike, Tony’s arm, Peter, Said, me, Sarah – and the bird hide in the distance
It was excellent to have Said with us from KWS – dressed to kill in his lumo bright orange railway worker outfit with flourescent bands and all! – and I hope he’ll be able to come more often and I can train him in extracting birds from nets and then in ringing. The rest of the crew were great company for the long night (actually most of them slept much of the night!) and were good fun to have along as well as a help to get the nets up and take them down. Kate was wielding the camera and kindly gave me these shots for the blog which give a taste of the early morning…
The bird hide at high tide set amongst the mangroves
the team… ready for breakfast after a long 4-bird night! From left: Kate, Mike, Peter, Albert, Tony, Saran, Rehema, Liz (Said’s in front with me…)
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