Sunday, 29 December 2013

Lesser Moorhen

Gallinula angulata

Culley's Dam, Port Edward, 29 December 2013
Culley's Dam, Port Edward, 29 December 2013
Culley's Dam, Port Edward, 29 December 2013

Photos: copyright of photographer

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Concern over migrant birds prompts international response

In recent months, the indiscriminate and unsustainable killing of migrant birds in North Africa has become an issue of public concern in a growing number of countries.  There has been widespread hunting and trapping of migratory birds in Egypt and also Libya, especially through the use of mist nets along large stretches of the Mediterranean coast. In response, the BirdLife Partnership, Government Agencies, the Convention on Migratory Species and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds have rapidly moved to address the situation.

“Bird trapping in these countries is an ancient tradition. The main target species, Common Quail, is a local delicacy”, said Marcus Kohler, BirdLife’s Senior Programme Manager for Flyways.

“It’s a legitimate way for local people to supplement their diet. However, the indiscriminate nature and scale of the trapping has now reached worrying proportions and is having an impact upon other species.”

It’s not only Quail that are caught; many other species, such as European Turtle-dove and Red-backed Shrike, are also trapped as ‘bycatch’ in significant numbers. The increasing use and magnitude of mist net trapping is a new and worrying development.

Current estimates are that millions of birds are caught each autumn as they leave Europe and Asia for their wintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa.

To read the full Birdlife International article with videos click here.

Southbroom African Crowned Eagle chick ringed 1st December 2013

Text & photos by Andy Ruffle (unless otherwise credited)

This morning’s visit to watch a juvenile African Crowned Eagle being ringed, by Shane McPherson, was certainly one of those once in a lifetime experiences.

Shane McPherson
  Shane, an MSc student from UKZN’s School of Life Sciences in Pietermaritzburg, is undertaking research to determine why Crowned Eagles appear to be doing so well in the urban open spaces around Durban.  His research project is titled, the ‘Breeding Ecology of Peri-urban Crowned Eagles (Stephanoaetus coronatus) in KwaZulu-Natal.’
  Eileen Brannigan, Doug Butcher, Janet Dalton, Margaret Jones, Andrew Pickles, Andy Ruffle, Jacques Sellschop and Irma Smook, met up with Shane and his three assistants at 0700. He gave us a 'brief' on his project, with some eye opening information about the breeding habits of this sometimes misunderstood bird.
  It is often perceived that these eagles prey on small domestics pets, but Shane's research, so far, actually disproves this belief. Although a cat has been observed being brought to a nest, the percentage is extremely low. Dassies are the predominant food source.

Shane gives us some insight into his research

  Shane and his team then set about the gruelling task of retrieving the chick from the nest, located some 30m or more up in a gum tree.

''high climb to retrieval''
Fishing for eagles
  Firstly, a weighted line was cast over a high branch, using a fishing rod (photo above left). The climbing rope was then attached to the end of the fishing line and hoisted up and over the branch. Once the line was safely secured, Shane 'kitted up' and commenced his ascent to the nest.
'Kitted up' and ready to go
Up, up and away

  On reaching the nest, Shane carefully maneuvered to retrieve the chick and placed it in a bag to be lowered down to the team waiting below.

Shane retrieves the chick
and lowers it in a bag

  With our chick safely on the ground, the important data collection and ringing process began.

Tomas takes the chick to the work station
The chick is prepped for the data collection
Not very attractive, but the hood keeps the chick calm

Shane fits the metal ring on the left leg
  Shane quickly identified the chick as a female, from the size of her feet. 
  A metal numbered ring was placed on the left leg, followed by a yellow plastic numbered ring on the right leg. The plastic ring has the number T1, which Shane says indicates Trogons 1.
  Beak, head, tail and wing measurements were then taken.
  A small sample of blood was drawn for analysis.
  Finally she was weighed, coming in at 3.115kg.

  After a short spell to allow her to stretch her wings, she was promptly returned to the nest.

A yellow plastic ring T1 for Trogons 1 for the right leg
Shane takes beak measurements
Measuring the head
The tail feathers only develop properly once the bird can fly
Beautiful under wing pattern
Small blood sample being drawn
Weighing the chick (priceless/kg)
The lucky onlookers enthralled throughout the process
'Trogons 1' takes the opportunity to spread her wings
  'Trogons 1' is estimated to be about 75 days old, which means she will probably leave the nest in another 30 days or so. Please be on the lookout for her with her trendy yellow bracelet. If you do see her, we ask that you note the day, time and precise location if possible. You can either contact Andy ( or Shane (
If you are able to take a photo, even better.
Shane is also interested in any other nests in our area, so please do let us know.

We can't thank Shane enough for the work he is doing and giving us the opportunity to experience such a magnificent bird at close range.

To learn more about Shane's project click here.