Quirimbas National Park Wader Ringing expedition Mozambique
November 14th to 28th 2009
The focus of this trip was to spend most of the time ringing waders but to start with a bit of bush ringing to acclimatise the group was in order.
Pemba 14th to 16th
After settling into the chalet under an enormous Baobab tree, we set a line of nets through the coastal thicket and started catching. Most common were Sombre Greenbuls others included Terrestrial Brownbul, Tropical Boubou, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Black-throated Wattle-eye, White-browed Robinchat, Square-tailed Drongo, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Burchell’s Coucal, Forest Weaver, Red-billed Firefinch, Red-winged Warbler and a Basra Reed Warbler.
Several retraps of over a year were caught of Red-throated Twinspot, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Green-winged Pytilia, Emerald-spotted Wood-dove, Pygmy Kingfisher and Olive Sunbird. Sitting in the beach-bar restaurant in the evenings we could hear lots of Whimbrel and other waders calling from the beach.
Mareja 17th and 18th
Mareja was an old renovated colonial farm house, set on a hill with commanding views across unspoilt Miombo forest and woodland. Our host was a German Count who had found the old house by driving into the front step with his landcruiser when exploring in the area 20 years ago and never left!
We arrived too late to set nets and as a pride of Lions had been in the area decided to wait for the rangers to assist us in the morning!
Set a line of 60’ nets at 0400hrs to the distant and mournful cries of a Southern Ground Hornbill and were out at 0500hrs just as a male African Broadbill started displaying deep in the woodland, such an odd sound as the bird flies from its perch in a circle rapidly clapping its wings together creating a manic buzzing sound.
Well its displaying worked as it wasn’t long before we caught the incoming female African Broadbill, a great result, such an interesting looking bird.
Netting in woodland is always slow but the species caught make up for this as we caught Pygmy Kingfisher, Little and Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, Eastern Nicator, Pale Batis (a coastal endemic) and a real treat, Mangrove Kingfisher. A tail feather was taken from the latter species for stable isotope analysis to see if this bird was of the more southern migratory populations or had moved from the coastal mangroves to breed here in Miombo woodland.
During the heat of the day we had a net set in front of the accommodation and caught a few Little Swifts and Lesser-striped Swallows. One afternoon I was doing a net-round and looked down the line and about 4 nets down saw a big bird bouncing about in the net! Legging it I was fortunate to get hold of a very outraged male African Goshawk! During the day we were in a good spot for raptor watching and saw a very high fast moving European Marsh Harrier, several Bateleur, and a family party of 3 African Hawk Eagles. But best were a pair of pale morph Elenora’s Falcons heading south.
On the last day we got a pair of Ashy Flycatchers and 2 more African Broadbills! Also bounced a few Red-chested Cuckoo which were responding to the ipod and speaker. Sightings here included a pair of Livingstone’s Flycatchers which we somehow missed!
Nick and Jill as the trip Bat experts, caught a few specimens of the huge roost in the accommodation roof and painstakingly identified them as Small Free-tail Bats.
Leaving the site we saw a few Dark-chanting Goshawk and lots of Broad-billed Rollers before heading for the landing site to the archipelago.
We met our motorised dhow which we were to have for the next 10 days at our disposal and set off at high tide for Ibo Island with thousands of waders flying about trying to find suitable roosting sites.
Landing on Ibo we met our team of trainees, Omar, Abdulla, Sufo, and Sufo Ibo who were all keen and ready to go.
We were not able to set nets this evening as a fierce wind had got up and so we relaxed on the terrace overlooking the bay and mangroves watching for Bat Hawks and enjoying the hospitality of our hosts.
Early next morning we set a few nets in the thickets around the ancient slave fort and started picking up a variety of birds including Little Bee-eater, Red-capped Robin-chat, Black-backed Puffback, and Brimstone Canary.
Sightings here included another pair of Elenora’s Falcons going over and at least 3 Osprey in residence.
The wind had dropped enough for us to get two lines of nets up on the flats on Ibo Point. The method here is for the tide to recede at dusk for birds to start dropping back in from roost and especially the Crab Plovers which come in once it is fully dark to feed on the abundant Ghost Crabs.
Just before dark there were a lot of birds dropping back in and we started picking off the odd individual including a surprise of 5 Common Terns.
We finished the evening at 2230hrs with 30 Crab Plover, 3 Greenshank, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Terek Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Sandplover White-fronted and Ringed Plover.
We had a group of tourists come to watch us from the Lodge which was a great opportunity for our trainees to see how interested their visitors were.
We only had the one night on Ibo as we had to get to Quirimba Island to get the right tide for the big roost where I had counted previously over 4,000 waders. Setting off at dawn we navigated the narrow winding channels through a vast swathe of mangrove forest eventually getting to Quirimba at 0700hrs. on the way we were lucky to have seen a pair of Humpback Dolphins and a single Elenora’s Falcon.
At the landing we were met by Kurt, one of a family of palm oil farmers who had been on the Island since the early part of last century and were taken to our very nice accommodation looking west out to sea.
The first thing we noticed was that we were surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of Madagascar Bee-eater burrows, mostly occupied! In no time we had a few 2 panel nets up and started catching these large and beautiful birds.
That afternoon we set off for the big roost only to find it was just too dangerous to work at night, too deep and very treacherous rocks made it impossible to take a catch safely.
Undeterred by this we set nets in the coastal thickets around the accommodation and had fun over the next two days catching a variety of new birds. Furling on the first day at dusk a small and very fast falcon came screaming along the beach and swooped just before the half furled net actually passing under it!!! Talk about bad timing!
Across the bay and on the low tide line we could see countless waders flying up and down as well as Swift Terns, Lesser Flamingo flocks and always the ubiquitous Osprey and Black Kites. At night we could hear the yapping calls of Crab Plovers moving with the tide.
The beach bush nets caught well with some surprises including Golden-tailed Woodpeckers, Brown-hooded, Malachite and Pygmy Kingfishers, Brown-breasted Barbet (a coastal endemic) Grey Sunbird (also) and African Paradise Flycatcher.
We decided to head back to Ibo as wader netting was not an option here ad so caught the early morning tide and set off back to Ibo spotting another pair of Humpback Dolphin on the way.
That afternoon we set nets again on the flats and caught another 30 Crab Plovers, with Whimbrel, Greenshank, Grey Plover, Greater Sandplover, Terek Sandpiper and a Pied Kingfisher!
Set off early on a mirror calm sea on the 2hr crossing to Matemo Island watching Common and Lesser-crested Terns feed above Skipjack Tuna crashing into bait-balls of smaller fish.
Wading ashore through the aquamarine sea, we saw at once the roost was good as birds began to congregate in the day. I had caught well here in the past and hoped to do so again.
We set up base at the ranger post for the island and in the afternoon set two lines of nets and waited for the tide. Over the next two nights we got 30 Whimbrel, Sanderling, Terek and Curlew Sandpiper, Lesser Sandplover and a Crab Plover. Unfortunately the tide had gone against us, not we were 3 days going into Neap tide from Spring tide so couldn’t get the concentration in the netting area.
Back on Ibo we set the nets on the flat again and that night took a catch of mostly smaller waders a Whimbrel, Crab Plover and a Lesser-crested Tern.
Spent a pleasant morning during the heat of the day round the pool at the lodge and watched the waders out the front as well as Dimorphic Egrets, Black and Western Reef Herons working the exposed pools, the Black Herons employing their ‘umbrellas’.
That evening we took another catch, Whimbrel mostly, 2 Crab Plover and the usual smaller waders.
The rains were expected and this morning as we set off on the Dhow as rain clouds gathered. We drove back to Pemba, counting no less than 25 Bateleur Eagles on the way as well as another 3 Elenora’s Falcons, a pair of Lanner and Wahlberg’s Eagles.
The rain now looked like it was serious, but we managed to get a few sessions in at the site in Pemba catching Red-winged Warbler, African Paradise Flycatcher, Grey and Blue Waxbills, a Garden Warbler and Yellow-breasted Apalis.
All in all a thoroughly enjoyable fortnight with ample species and time to look at them, spent at some very relaxing and conveniently situated sites.
See blow the species totals sheet
African Goshawk 1
Crab Plover 56
Common Ringed Plover 5
White-fronted Plover 5
Mongolian Sand Plover 3
Greater Sand Plover 12
Grey Plover 8
Terek Sandpiper 33
Common Greenshank 4
Bar-tailed Godwit 2
Common Whimbrel 30
Lesser-crested Tern 1
Common Tern 6
Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove 5
Burchell’s Coucal 1
White-rumped Swift 6
Malachite Kingfisher 1
Mangrove Kingfisher 1
Brown-hooded Kingfisher 1
African Pygmy-Kingfisher 4
Pied Kingfisher 1
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater 2
Madagascar Bee-eater 83
Brown - breasted Barbet 1
Golden-tailed Woodpecker 3
Cardinal Woodpecker 1
African Broadbill 3
Lesser Striped Swallow 3
Square-tailed Drongo 3
Dark-capped Bulbul 9
Terrestrial Brownbul 2
Sombre Greenbul 35
Yellow-bellied Greenbul 1
Eastern Nicator 2
Red-capped Robin-Chat 3
White-browed Robin-Chat 1
Bearded Scrub-Robin 1
Basra Reed Warbler 1
Garden Warbler 1
Red-faced Cisticola 1
Red-winged Warbler 2
Yellow-breasted Apalis 1
Green-backed Camaroptera 4
Ashy Flycatcher 2
African Paradise-Flycatcher 3
Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher 2
Pale Batis 2
Black-throated Wattle-eye 2
Black-backed Puffback 6
Brown-crowned Tchagra 1
Tropical Boubou 1
Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike 1
Eastern Olive Sunbird 1
Grey Sunbird 2
Collared Sunbird 1
White-bellied Sunbird 1
Purple-banded Sunbird 5
Southern Grey-headed Sparrow 1
Spectacled Weaver 3
Village Weaver 2
Lesser Masked-Weaver 1
Dark-backed Weaver 4
Yellow Weaver 1
Yellow Bishop 2
Green-winged Pytilia 3
Red-billed Firefinch 7
Blue Waxbill 7
Grey Waxbill 1
Yellow-fronted Canary 3
Brimstone Canary 2
Golden-breasted Bunting 1