11 September 2012

10 Years of Bird Ringing on the Umzumbe river Floodplain

Since I started ringing Just over 10 years ago I have been ringing at the Umzumbe River Floodplain, in fact my first session as a qualified ringer was at this location and has been a firm favorite ever since. The floodplain is a large area surrounded by hills on all sides except for the southern side which is bordered by the Umzumbe River, I have on occasion used 2 shelve Taiwanese nets on the river to catch waders, the hills on the other sides are planted with sugar cane except for one section which consists of indigenous coastal forest/bush. Most people will tell you that sugar cane is not a good habitat for birds, however my ringing success here has proven otherwise. Wherever possible I try to use the drainage streams as fly through zones for the birds, and this has proven successful, but nets erected between cane fields is also very productive.

The Floodplain showing my ringing sites

In total to date I have ringed 4474 birds of 117 species, this is not including birds ringed by visiting ringers, this figure would easily add another 300 to 400 birds to the list. My ringing site for the massive Barn Swallow Roost is actually on the floodplain although it is about 900m from the roosting spot at the reedbed, so this does account for a large number of the total birds ringed, with 2108 Barn Swallows being ringed here to date, it has however accounted for 2 recaptures, one a bird ringed in England and another was a bird I ringed on the Floodplain and recaptured just short of 2 years later.

Male Yellow Weaver
The next most common bird is the Yellow Weaver with 274 birds being ringed here, and a host of recaptures including the 2 longevity records for the species. As can be expected the most common birds are definitely Weavers with Spectacled being the third most ringed at 190 birds, both adults and immatures are caught this can prove interesting when people battle to identify the immature birds, with Village, Thickbilled, and Cape also being caught, along with Fantailed Widowbird (145). Something that would not be expected here would be the Darkbacked (Forest) Weaver but a few have been caught here in the middle of the sugarcane.

Cape White-eyes also feature strongly coming in ranked as the fifth most ringed with 125 birds being caught. Another very common bird is the Sombre Greenbul with 89 birds being ringed ranging from very young birds just having left the nest to adults. Four species of Robins have been caught, surprisingly the most common is the Cape Robinchat with 65 birds being caught followed by the Redcapped (Natal) Robinchat with 54 birds, the other 2 species are Brown Scrubrobin and Whitebrowed Scrubrobin in that order.

This habitat is possibly the best place on the KZN South Coast for Warblers with no less than 11 species being ringed, recently local birders have been joining in at this location and are now honing their Warbler ID skills, they are all finding it much easier in the field now than before. The Warbler list is as follows

African Reed (African Marsh) Warbler            73
Little Rush (African Sedge) Warbler                55
Great Reed Warbler                                        41
Marsh (European Marsh) Warbler                   27
Lesser Swamp (Cape Reed) Warbler              21
Darkcapped (Yellow) Warbler                          9
Eurasian Reed Warbler                                     5
Sedge (European) Warbler                               4
Willow Warbler                                                3
Knysna Warbler                                               1
Garden Warbler                                               1

As you can see it is “Warbler Heaven” and anyone interested in learning more about these little birds are welcome to join the ringing sessions at this location, November to January are the best times but anytime from October to March can be productive. In addition to the Warblers other LBJ”s include Rufouswinged Cisticola (58 birds), Tawnyflanked Prinia (10 birds), Neddicky (6 birds), Rattling Cisticola (3 birds), Croaking Cisticola (3 birds), Redfaced Cisticola (2 birds), Le Veillants Cisticola (2 birds), Plainbacked Pipit (2 birds), Grassveld Pipit (1 bird) and Buffy Pipit (1 bird).

Little Bittern
Unfortunately some of the other species have only produced 1 or 2 birds but these are wonderful to see and they are known to be in the area at all times it is just that we don’t always get them in the net, these include Little Bittern, Redbacked Shrike, Redfaced Mousebird, Blackthroasted Wattle-eye, Southern Tchagra, Fiscal Flycatcher, Little Swift, Eurasian Nightjar, Fierynecked Nightjar, Water Thick-knee, Harlequin Quail (KZN Rarity), Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Threebanded Plover, Blacksmith Plover, Spotted Thrush (in winter at the forest edge), Grey Waxbill, Orangebreasted Waxbill, Little bee-eater, Malachite Kingfisher, Pygmy Kingfisher and Redheaded Quelea to name a few.

Orangebreasted Waxbill
In addition to this the area can produce some great birding with Crowned Cranes being seen early on most mornings, Redchested Flufftails can be heard, Greater Flamingo can rarely be seen on the river, waterfowl are often seen flying overhead as are raptors in the form of African Fish Eagle, Longcrested Eagle, Black Sparrowhawk and African Goshawk.

In closing here’s to the next 10 years of ringing at this site and an open invitation to anybody to join the ringing sessions at this, one of the special birding spots on the coast.

A full listing of birds that I have ringed at the site

Little Bittern                             1                             Bar-throated Apalis                           1
African Goshawk                   1                             Green-backed Camaroptera            28
Natal Spurfowl                        2                             Neddicky                                           6
Harlequin Quail                        1                             Rufous-winged Cisticola                 58
Ringed Plover                          1                             Rattling Cisticola                                3
Three-banded Plover              9                             Red-faced Cisticola                           2
Blacksmith Lapwing                4                             Le Vaillant's Cisticola                        2
Little Stint                                 2                            Croaking Cisticola                              3
Common Sandpiper                 2                             Lazy Cisticola                                   1
Common Greenshank              2                            Tawny-flanked Prinia                      10
Wood Sandpiper                      6                            African Dusky Flycatcher                 3
Red-eyed Dove                       1                             Black Flycatcher                               1
Water Thick-knee                    1                             Fiscal Flycatcher                              1
Tambourine Dove                    30                           Dark-capped Yellow Warbler           9
Diederik Cuckoo                      2                             Black-throated Wattle-eye                1
Burchell's Coucal                    9                             African Paradise-Flycatcher            3
European Nightjar                    1                            Cape Wagtail                                     9
Little Swift                               1                             African Pipit                                      1
Speckled Mousebird                27                           Plain-backed Pipit                              2
Red-faced Mousebird               8                            Buffy Pipit                                         1
Pied Kingfisher                        1                             Olive Thrush                                      7
Malachite Kingfisher                33                           Yellow-throated Longclaw               5
African Pygmy-Kingfisher       12                           Common Fiscal                                 3
Brown-hooded Kingfisher        2                            Red-backed Shrike                           3
Little Bee-eater                        23                           Southern Boubou                              7
Black-collared Barbet               3                            Southern Tchagra                             1
Yellow-rumped  Tinkerbird      23                           Olive Bush-Shrike                            11
Lesser Honeyguide                 5                             Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike          4
Cardinal Woodpecker              1                             Black-bellied Starling                         4
Rufous-naped Lark                 1                             White-bellied Sunbird                       19
White-throated Swallow          6                            Grey Sunbird                                   57
Barn (European) Swallow   2108                          Olive Sunbird                                   65
Lesser Striped-Swallow         40                           Collared Sunbird                             11
Brown-throated  Martin            5                            Amethyst Sunbird                           13
Black Saw-wing                       9                            Cape White-eye                            125
Black Cuckooshrike                 10                           Dark-backed Weaver                        4
Fork-tailed Drongo                     1                           Spectacled Weaver                       190
Square-tailed Drongo                1                           Lesser Masked Weaver                    3
Black-headed Oriole                  1                           Village Weaver                               104
Dark-capped Bulbul                  74                          Cape Weaver                                   21
Terrestrial Brownbul                10                          Yellow Weaver                              274
Sombre Greenbul                     89                          Southern Masked-Weaver                 1
Spotted Ground-Thrush            3                           Thick-billed Weaver                          15
African Stonechat                   28                           Red-billed Quelea                               7
Natal Robin-Chat                     54                           Red-headed Quelea                            8
Cape Robin-Chat                     65                           Southern Red Bishop                        23
Brown Scrub-Robin                  7                           Red-collared Widowbird                   26
White-browed Scrub-Robin      6                           Fan-tailed Widowbird                      145
Garden Warbler                        1                           Magpie (Pied) Mannikin                        1
Willow Warbler                          3                          Bronze Mannikin                                26
Great Reed-Warbler                 41                         Red-backed Mannikin                          6
Lesser Swamp Warbler           21                         African (Blue-billed) Firefinch           34
African Reed-Warbler              73                         Red-billed Firefinch                             1
European Marsh Warbler         27                         Orange-breasted Waxbill                    6
Eurasian Reed-Warbler             5                          Grey Waxbill                                     10
Eurasian Sedge Warbler           4                          Common Waxbill                                48
Little Rush Warbler                  55                          Pin-tailed Whydah                               4
Knysna Warbler                        1                          Yellow-fronted Canary                     63
                                                           Brimstone (Bully) Canary                 10

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