You would never say the summer of 2017/18 will go down as one of the driest in recent years. First, Birdlife Polokwane's annual Summer Bird Ringing Day on 24th February was cancelled due to heavy rains in the week preceding the ringing day, forcing the management of the Polokwane Game Reserve to close the reserve to avoid damage to the roads.
We postponed this popular event to the 17th March. As luck would have it, there were clear skies until the day before, but when Billy Attard and I arrived at the Polokwane Game Reserve at 3:30 am on the day, a misty rain had started to settle in. Not deterred by the rain, we decided to go ahead and get the nets up – they are called mist nets after all. It started raining harder, however, and we were forced to keep the nets closed until about 8 am. This gave us time to have some well deserved coffee and a breakfast bite while waiting for the rain to subside. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to us, the reserve management once again closed the reserve due to the wet roads and some of the early birders were not allowed entry into the reserve.
At around 8 am the rain had subsided sufficiently to allow us to open the nets and start catching birds. Trainee ringer, Marianne McKenzie, had joined us at this stage and was eager to up her numbers. The nets were barely open before we had our first birds of the day: Red-backed Shrike and Green-winged Pytilia. It turned out to be a very nice day for ringing as there was hardly a breath of wind and it remained cool and overcast throughout the day. We had a constant stream of birds in the nets, but never too many, which allowed us sufficient time to process the caught birds and assist Marianne with her training. In the end, we ringed 44 birds representing 18 species. One of the highlights of the day was the first Common Waxbill ringed in the reserve. Southern Masked Weavers dominated the catch with no fewer than 15 birds ringed, followed by Red-backed Shrikes (5) and a group of Arrow-marked Babblers (4 and a retrap).
The retrapped Arrow-marked Babbler was ringed by Billy 4 years and 17 days earlier (1st March 2014) as an adult at exactly the same site. The Olive-tree Warbler was ringed by me on the 4th March 2017 during the 2017 Summer Bird Ringing Day, making it 1 year and 13 days between ringing and recapture. This record also provides some evidence that Olive-tree Warblers show some site fidelity on their wintering grounds.
The other two retraps, a Green-winged Pytilia and Blue Waxbill, were both ringed during the 2017 Spring Ring on the 9th September 2017 at the same site, making the time elapsed between ringing and recapture for these two birds 6 months and 6 days.
Catch of the day? There were several contenders such as the Olive-tree Warbler, and the female Long-tailed Paradise Whydah, but we decided the Natal Spurfowl ringed by Billy was the Catch of the Day as they are seldom caught in mist nets. A summary of the birds ringed is presented below.
We wish to acknowledge the management of the Polokwane Game Re-serve for their assistance and support of this event.