Wednesday 29 February 2012

The Magic Garden

An unbeatable view of Lake Victoria from the ringing table!
We were privileged to spend some time at the beginning and end of our journey at this special garden warmly welcomed by Roger and Kathy.

Not many gardens can boast thirteen species of sunbirds like this Collared Sunbird
and Green-headed Sunbirds.
Not just small birds either - African and Eurasian Hobbies were overhead with numerous Black Kites. Both Shikra and African Goshawk were caught.
Splendid Glossy Starlings were coming to the bird bath but were far more challenging to catch.
but we did!Although we caught lots of colourful birds like this Brown Twinspot
even more fascinating was finding out that a recaptured Reed Warbler was ringed in the same garden in January 2011. The oldest retrap though was a Dark-capped Bulbul which Malcolm ringed in the garden in October 1997. Over 14 years old!
Reluctantly we came to the end of our trip but not without a couple of nets being put up in another garden on the way to the airport.
The poles being unloaded for the last time ......until next year??
This Woodland Kingfisher was nearly our last bird ringed but was not interested in the mealworm on our springtrap. We could have waited a bit longer but Richard had to pack the springtraps in his luggage clean and tidy for the benefit of customs!

If our recent postings from this three week ringing and birding expedition into the heart of Uganda has excited you then contact Malcolm Wilson ( about future trips. Also have a look at his blog, African Affinity, for trip reports.

Friday 24 February 2012

Whose claws are these??

Leaving Bwindi early we headed back up to Queen Elizabeth Park to look for raptors again.
We caught Western-banded Snake Eagles
and Long-crested Eagles. Note that one of the crest feathers is still in pin.
While those ringing are focussed on the bird, one of us always had an eye out for wild animals like approaching buffalo.
There was plenty to see as we drove around. This Topi was probably a lion kill with a Ruppell's Griffon Vulture and White-backed vultures fighting over the carcass.
The highlight of the day was, without doubt, a stunning young Martial Eagle. That is the bird who the massive claws belong to in the top picture. Those feet definitely needed a firm grip on them!
The sight of it flying off was one we will all remember.
It was dark by the time we headed back to Ishasha Wilderness camp after enjoying a stunning sunset over the Savannah.
No time for mist nets here but Richard and Nathan were up for a 4am dazzle. They caught some Square-tailed Nightjars.
With the chance of lions nearby, dazzling had to be from the vehicle, no wandering about at night on foot in this part of the country.
Back to the real world and our nights of lamping are continuing in wet and windy Pembrokeshire. This week we have caught Snipe, Golden Plover, Fieldfare, Redwing, Meadow Pipit and last night, our 70th Woodcock of the season.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

More Gorillas than birds!

Reluctantly leaving the forest, we set off south for Queen Elizabeth National Park, crossing the equator on the way. As always, the raptor traps were ready to stop at any moment for a hungry bird along the road.
This juvenile Bateleur frustrated us for an agonising half an hour as it sat next to the trap looking at the mouse but eventually flew off!
Our overnight stop in the park on the Kazinga channel was too brief to get rides cut and nets up although we were tempted as there were numerous Reed Warblers singing from the scrub.
Another early start to target Long-crested Eagles on the way to our next stop in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. We soon had a net up in the Buhoma Lodge garden and ringed the birds in luxury from the bar with an interested audience!
Birds ringed included White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher - the race in Western Uganda doesn't have an eye ring!
Black-necked Weaversand Chubbs's CisticolaAlso Olive-bellied Sunbird, Veillot's Black Weavers and an African Pied Wagtail.
Our main purpose here though was to hike through the rain forest to see Mountain Gorillas.
We spent a fascinating hour with them and returned exhilarated and ready to set off on the road again. Not exactly ringing but the blog wouldn't be complete without paying respect to our closest relatives. Some more gorilla pictures here and a short video of a heart stopping moment.

Next in the story, more raptors in the park and how to dazzle Nightjars in lion country!.

Friday 17 February 2012

Green Mamba to Black Bee-eaters !!

Back to forest birds again at our next destination, Kibale Forest National Park.
This Blue-breasted Kingfisher was one of the highlights.
We had a wonderful welcome at the home of Julia Lloyd, a primatologist researching the effects of tourism on Chimpanzees. She owns land on the forest edge so ringing over the years here will be important to look at species change as the land reverts to forest from farmland.
As at other locations, a lot of interest was shown in what we were doing from all ages.
Even baby Dylan enjoyed the birds
This forest edge net ride will be remembered for the Green Mamba coiled up on a branch that was about to be lopped!
A good variety of birds were caught including Klaas's cuckoo Ashy FlycatcherGreen TwinspotSlender-billed WeaverAnd Marsh TchagraOff on the road again but one last stunning new bird for us at Kibale as we left - Black Bee-eater.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Uganda trip report

Malcolm has finished compiling the full trip report of our 3 weeks of incredible ringing and birding...we did record c450 species as well as ringing 149 species.
See African Affinity Birding for the report...and more !!
Or contact Malcolm

Saturday 11 February 2012

Bee-eaters,Buzzards and more....

After leaving Budongo forest, we headed north where we set up camp on the banks of the Nile in Murchsion Falls National Park.
With the totally different habitat we were soon catching new species including Sulphur-breasted Bush Shrike,
White-browed Coucal (the smelliest bird I have ever handled)
White morph African Paradise Flycatcher
And particularly exciting, Northern Carmine Bee-eaters.
The days settled into a pattern of early morning mist nets around the camp then heading across the Nile in the precarious looking ferry to target raptors.
As part of ongoing work looking into the effects of burning the grassland, Malc was pleased to catch 8 Grasshopper buzzards which are migrants. They often follow fires where they prey on insects being driven out. It was amazing to watch this first hand as we drove through a burn.
One evening we indulged in some birding and went on a boat down The Nile in search of the rare and elusive Shoebill. Our hour off from ringing was rewarded with superb views of this huge bird.
And the day didn't finish with dusk either - there were Nightjar to be dazzled! With the sound of hippos grunting in the background it was rather different to catching Woodcock in the rain in Wales!This was a Plain Nightjar but Long-tailed were also caught here.
With the waning moon we are back to wandering the hills at home with the lamp despite the excitement of our trip and tonight caught 3 Golden Plover.