Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Raptor Bonanza!! 
Carly Peggie and Adam Wentworth 
February - March

Both Carly and Adam were trainees and their first time to Africa, and what a trip it turned out to be!
Mainly focusing on birds of prey, we only mist-netted at certain sites when conditions were favourable.
 Lesser Kestrel
Again we made the journey to the Amur Falcon roost site in Newcastle in northern Zulu-land. En route we got a cracking adult male Lesser Kestrel followed by an adult Greater Kestrel. Steppe Buzzards were plentiful, but not playing with our rodents and traps!   But did get an immature Jackal Buzzard.
Adam with a young Jackal Buzzard
At the Amur roost the the wind had picked up with thunderstorms on both nights so we only managed to get a total of three birds. We also bounced a large female Black Sparrowhawk in the nets!

Next day we toured the area between KZN and the Freestate Provinces, such breathtaking scenery and fields with flocks of Blue and Grey-crowned Cranes, Secretary birds and all kinds of other fauna.
We did well on the first morning getting 3 Steppe and 3 Jackal Buzzards, one of the latter out of the sky! Dropped the trap as it was quartering the hillside, when suddenly it spotted our trap and came in like a rocket! Also got one Black-shouldered Kite.


Woodland Kingfisher
here we set nets in the lodge grounds and got a lovely selection of birds. This was the Olive-tree Warbler site from last month and we managed to get another 3 including a retrap from 
S Carmine Bee-eater
 month. Got a few Red-backed Shrikes, Marsh and Willow Warblers. There were a few Southern Carmine Bee-eaters around and so I put the call on under the net, got one bird to perch on the top shelf string! Eventually we got 2 birds, this was a tick for me! Out on a raptor run, we got a Black-chested Snake-eagle and a Lizard Buzzard, Lilac-breasted Roller and a Woodland Kingfisher. Seeing lots of raptors here, must be the late rains bringing birds in, but everywhere so dry still. Great movement of European Rollers and Eurasian Golden Orioles.

5.7kgs of big eagle!
Setting off to the mountains to our next site we drove through some remote bush in conservancy land and after catching another Lizard Buzzard, came across a huge juvenile Martial Eagle on a pole. Got a trap down and waited. after 5 mins the bird came in, not overly enthusiastic and a bit wary of the trap, but after an agonising hour of the bird walking round the trap we eventually got it! What a bird, 5.7kg’s!! A huge female. We processed it as fast as possible and released it.

business end of the young Martial
After a post euphoric couple of Steppe Buzzards, we then got into the mountains and caught an adult Long-crested Eagle, one of the common birds of the area. Rain curtailed netting in the mountains, but we saw and tried for 4 Long-crested Eagles and 2 Jackal Buzzards, and one bizarre sight of 6 Lesser-spotted Eagles feeding on termites with a load of Steppe Buzzards and Wooly-necked Storks! These mountains a very odd place for LS Eagle. All the birds were far too focused on the termites to bother with mice in a trap! 

We made our way back down to the savanna and north the following day and what a day, we got 9 raptors, 6 Steppe Buzzards and 3 Black-chested Snake Eagles on the way to the next camp!

Carly and a juv BC Snake-eagle
With hundreds of Steppe Buzzards around, all mustering for the northern migration, we were in the zone! Next day we got 10 more raptors, 1 Black-chested Snake-eagle, 7 Steppes and 2 Pale-chanting Goshawks. Also finally caught a European Roller in the mouse baited spring trap, I have tried so many times with this species which never show any interest, but perseverance pays, and we got one!
One of the Steppes this day had a ring on, very frustrating not to have caught it, it looked like a lock on ring, not a SAFRING ring, so possibly Russian, Kazakistan or Israeli??

Returning to camp late afternoon we spotted a Wahlberg’s Eagle in a thorn tree and dropped for it. Bird came in and for the next hour, proceeded to walk around, and occasionally kick the trap, fly off and back again, caught briefly, off, agonising in the extreme! Eventually it got dark and the bird disappeared. 

Euro Roller
The next morning in in exactly the same spot we tried for the Wahlberg’s, the night before, we saw another bird, different individual, and got a trap down for it, bang! Straight on!! We had our first Wahlberg’s Eagle, an adult male.

Fired up with this success for the day, we dropped for and got a second one not 30mins later!! This time an adult female, by the way, this is a species I rarely ever catch on these trips, there just seemed to be plenty around and, like the Steppe Buzzards gearing up to return to the Palearctic, Wahlberg’s having bred here are now mustering for the northern journey up into Africa.
The rest of the day saw us get another 3 Steppe Buzzards and a Dark-chanting Goshawk.

Now we were really in ‘raptor country’! Mpangubwe National park, a big wide valley of ancient Baobabs and rocky outcrops with the Limpopo River just to the north forming the Botswana and Zimbabwe borders. one early morning we spotted a Wahlberg’s Eagle some 300m off sitting on top of a Baobab, we dropped a trap and backed off and the bird reacted immediately and we had our 3rd Wahlberg’s Eagle another adult female! Interestingly whilst the female was on the trap a male came in and also tried to get in on the action!

For some reason we were not having particularly good results with brown Snake Eagles, we have so far dropped for several of these birds which are usually more obliging. Here again we dropped for one, for it to come into trap but then to get chased away by a rare vehicle coming from the other direction.
But then we got another European Roller!! This is peculiar, is it the weather? timing? Just doing what I have always tried to do with this species, same system, but now 2 birds!

We came round a bend where the rocky outcrops formed a pass either side of the road, and there sitting in a tree was a huge adult female Martial Eagle. No surely not!! With the adrenalin coursing, we got a trap down and soon the bird came in, massive beast! We waited and this time the mouse was doing its thing and the bird worked the trap wonderfully. then it was on! I drove in and took a running dive at the bird as it was moving with the trap! and got it!
business end of a Martial!
This bird was a handful, lots of attitude, not unlike trying to subdue a recalcitrant Rottweiler! not as heavy as the last juvenile, but at 4.5kg’s gave a very good account of itself!
Then not an hour later, en route to the next camp, we spot another adult Martial Eagle on top of another Baobab! Whats going on!! We got trap down and waited 30 minutes for the bird, but whilst it did show considerable interest, it just wouldn't commit to coming in. 3 Martials in one trip would have been unheard-of!

Leaving the area, we headed west through some very dry and unproductive country, but did get two Steppe Buzzards on the way. 
Next day we did a drive through one of the most productive areas I have ever sought raptors in and were first rewarded with a sub adult African Hawk Eagle, such spectacular birds, both in appearance as well as in action. Shortly after this we came across a black morph Gabar Goshawk. It was a young bird calling for all its worth to is absent parents who were probably out trying to get food for it. We got a trap down for it, but it was so busy calling, it never spotted the trap until I drove up to it and beeped the horn, which made it look at us, then saw the trap and came in like a rocket and onto the trap, not 2 m away from the vehicle!
The rest of the day produced another Black-shouldered Kite, a Steppe Buzzard a Black-chested Snake Eagle and last thing our 4th Wahlberg’s Eagle. The bird had been watching a few Carmine Bee-eaters feasting on an emergence of termites, and was about to join them, when we got a trap down first and caught it! After 30 minutes of checking out another area we drove back past the spot and what a site! Hundreds of Carmine and White-fronted Bee-eaters were feasting on the termites as was our Wahlberg’s, running around on the ground sporting its new ring and stuffing termites down its throat for all it was worth! Always nice to see how undisturbed birds are from having been ringed.

Carly and Brown Snake-eagle
Wahlberg's Eagle adf
Next day were were out early and were finally rewarded with a Brown Snake Eagle. I have been trying for several of these birds in this area but have not had any come into trap. This one was just over 2kgs. Also got another Black-chested Snake-eagle, an juvenile African Hawk Eagle and 2 Steppe Buzzards.

Moving south now, we headed to the Springbok Flats area, a wonderful interface of farmland and bush. But not before getting another African Hawk Eagle and Black-chested Snake Eagle. The latter bird had a wound on its thigh, quite a nasty gash, maybe from a fence, or a mongoose? But at 1.6kg’s it was a healthy weight.

In the Flats, we got 3 more Steppe Buzzards, and an adult male Lesser Kestrel, before getting to our last site. Here we set a few nets and got a few straggling Willow Warblers and at dusk put nightjar call on and got a Rufous-cheeked Nightjar.

Last day and heading back to the big smoke, we struggled to find any birds, but finally found a Brown Snake Eagle, which was so not interested in our trap! But a bit later found a juvenile female Lanner on a pylon and got a trap down with a Zebra Finch lure and mouse combined. It did the trick, she came in immediately and we had her, all 700g of her.

And that was it, a record breaking trip of 68 Birds of prey ringed of 17 species!

Martial Eagle 2
Brown Snake Eagle 1
Black-chested SE 8
African Hawk Eagle 3
Wahlberg’s Eagle 4
Long-crested Eagle 1
Steppe Buzzard 29
Jackal Buzzard 5
Lizard Buzzard 2
Pale-chanting Goshawk 2
Dark-chanting Goshawk 1
Gabar Goshawk 1
Lanner 1
Greater Kestrel 2
Lesser Kestrel 2
Amur Falcon 3
Wattled Starling
Black-shouldered Kite 2

ad male Red-backed Shirke
Carly with an Af Hawk Eagle

Olive-tree Warbler
Juv Lanner

adult Martial

black morph Gabar Goshawk

No comments: