25 September 2011

Ringing on Umzumbe Floodplain

Despite the forecast changing at the last minute we still decided to take a chance and do some ringing, after all how many times is the forecast correct when the predict 10% chance of rain, and to taop it all at 4am there were no clouds to be seen just lots of stars. By 6am the nets were up and 2 Yellow Weavers had already been caught, one of which was a recapture and was ringed on 6th December 2003, making this the longevity record for the species.

male Yellow Weaver

I then put out a few flap traps and went to check the nets again, with a nice assortment of birds that I was expecting to catch including Rufouswinged Cisticola, Fantailed/Redshouldered Widow, Village Weaver and Yellowfronted Canary. Then it started to drizzle so we made a hasty retreat to the vehicles in the hope that it was just a passing shower, not to be so by 7am it was time to take down the nets and make a hasty retreat to shelter under a bridge to ring the birds. As always happens when the nets were down it stopped raining.

Rufouswinged Cisticola

male Fantailed/Redshouldered Widow
note the new feathers coming through on the neck
typical of birds coming into breeding plumage

female Stonechat

18 September 2011

Birds in the Garden Today

Deciding to have a lazy Sunday relaxing in the garden today and spend some time doing some photography was one of the best things I could have done on a hot 33deg heat with high humidity on top of the temperature, it would appear that summer has finally arrived.
The day started with the usual visitors Yellowbilled Kite, Magpie Mannikins etc, then everything scattered and a male African Goshawk landed on the wash line and was looking at one of the rabbits and trying to decide if he could take him away, he decided against it which was a good job as the rabbit weighs in at about 3.5kg. I had previously ringed 2  Goshawks at home and this male was ringed just over 2 years previously.

African Goshawk

Next to sit for photo's was a female Brownhooded Kingfisher.

Brownhooded Kingfisher

This was then followed by a flock of Blackbellied Starlings that had the right idea and cooled off in the bird bath, this bird then sat in the Flat Crown and preened itself.

Blackbellied Starling

Numerous other birds made an appearance including the Lanner Falcon but then royalty arrived in the form of the majestic African Fish Eagle.

Majestic African Fish Eagle

15 September 2011

Vervet Monkey

Vervet Monkey - female

Although claimed to be "cute" by large numbers of the population the Vervet Monkey has undergone a population explosion in recent times, mainly due to peoples urge to feed the monkeys, and a decline in the natural predators, the main predators of Vervet Monkeys are Leopard and Crowned Eagle. Feeding them is possibly the worst thing that you could do as all wild animals, birds and reptiles included only breed according to food availability, if there is no food available then they will not breed as the chance of the babies surviving is slim, the next problem occurs that when food is given to the monkeys they breed throughout the year and their actual breeding season falls away resulting in a population explosion. Another problem that now occurs is that the monkeys so desperate for food remove the eggs and/or chicks from birds nests to provide food, resulting in us losing a generation or two of birds. Even the Village Weavers that have always been common throught the region have shown a decline especially in areas that have high monkey numbers.

Vervet Monkey

I don't have a clear solution to the problem except to say "PLEASE DON"T FEED THE MONKEYS". 

6 September 2011

Cape Vulture Count

During the winter breeding months myself, Mike Neethling and Roger Uys do the Cape Vulture breeding count at Oribi Gorge. The first count of the season was held in June and due to the unavailability of Mike we postponed the 2nd count until vulture Awareness Day on Saturday 3rd September. Andy Ruffle of Birdlife Trogons joined us for the day and hopefully the club will become more involved in the future.

Immature Vultures are the outer 2 birds with adults in the middle

This season has been an exceptionally good season with a record number of 25 chicks at this stage, our previous record was 18 chicks. In addition to this we counted 73 adult birds which is a conservative number and is possibly closer to 85 or 90 birds. Our next step is to try and ring some of chicks either next season or the season afterwards in the hope of finding out where these young birds travel to before they start their breeding and hopefully adding to the worlds population of Cape Vultures which is estimated to be about 2600 birds.

Adult birds flying above the nesting site

Adult bird in effortless flight