The club's annual 'Spring Ring' took place on Saturday 9th September 2017. Fellow bird ringer, Billy Attard, and I arrived at the Aloe Ridge Dam in the Polokwane Nature Reserve at 4 am and immediately set off to get our nets up and open before dawn. We managed it with a few minutes to spare and decided to treat ourselves to a cup of coffee while waiting for the morning traffic (i.e. the feathered kind) to pick up. Trainee ringers, Leoni Kellerman, joined us soon afterwards and Abigail Ramudzuli and Therminah Mashau a little later.
We had barely taken our first sips, when we had our first catch of the day - a female Brown-hooded Kingfisher. She happened to be a retrap - the only one for the day - ringed on the 7th March 2015 at the same spot. This was soon followed by a suite of nice critters such as Burnt-necked Eremomela, Chinspot Batis, Marico Flycatcher, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Barred Wren-warbler, Brown-crowned Tchagra and Chestnut-vented Warbler (Tit-babbler). While removing some of these birds from the nets, we were treated to a small flock of African Green Pigeons arriving for a drink at the waterhole. These stunning birds are uncommon in the Polokwane area and it is always a delight to see them in our neck of the woods.
The day was turning out to be another scorcher with temperatures approaching the low 30degs and we started noticing more and more birds arriving at the waterhole. September is pretty much the height of the dry season in our area and with little or no surface water available in the veld, most of the birds (and mammals) have to visit the few available waterholes to quench their thirst. Soon we not only had our hands full removing birds from the nets, but Billy also had to gently direct the procession of Blue Wildebeest, Zebra, Impala, Warthog, Sable and Tsessebe away from his mist nets towards the open area of the waterhole where they could drink.
We caught beauties such as Blue, Black-faced and Violet-eared Waxbills, Green-winged Pytilias, Golden-breasted Bunting and Scaly-feathered Finches, while good numbers of White-browed Sparrow-weavers, Southern Masked Weavers, Southern Grey-headed Sparrows, and Laughing, Cape Turtle and Red-eyed Doves, helped to boost our tally for the day. An opportunistic immature Gabar Goshawk's attempt at an easy catch in the mist nets turned out to be our 'Catch of the Day'. After Billy ringed it, we had a quick 'ooh and aah' session for those present to have a closer look at this remarkable little accipiter.
The rising temperatures meant more and more birds arriving at the waterhole and as we were only two qualified bird ringers, we made the call at 9:30 am to close some of the nets at the waterhole to allow us time to process the birds we had already caught. This was the pattern for the remainder of the day - opening and closing the nets at the waterhole - as and when we could handle more or fewer birds. We called it a day at around 3 pm.
We caught 94 birds representing 22 species on the day. Blue Waxbills dominated the catch numerically with 32 individuals ringed. We also caught good numbers of Green-winged Pytilia (10) and Scaly-feathered Finches (6). Our 'Catch of the Day' was the Gabar Goshawk but the skulking Barred Wren-warbler and a few diminutive Burnt-necked Eremomelas deserve an honourable mention.
On behalf of Birdlife Polokwane, we wish to express our gratitude to the management of the Polokwane Nature Reserve, in particular Mr. Maxwell Ledwaba and Ms. Jane Mabaso, for allowing us early access to the reserve and for clearing the ringing station for us.
Above: A collage of some of the birds ringed during Spring Ring 2017. From left to right, top to bottom: Green-winged Pytilia; Golden-breasted Bunting; Crimson-breasted Shrike; Blue Waxbill; Violet-eared Waxbill; Gabar Goshawk (immature).