Saturday, 17 March 2012

Ethiopia 6 They Just Keep Coming

Another fantastic week. And finally a day. Which means washing, emailing and eventually relaxing.
I've found a hotel that serves Pizza so I've indulged three times. I may only be cheese and mushroom but after five weeks of non-european food it's like a banquet. 
Yesterday I visited the local Jimma museum. Our guide spoke some english and had a stick. She would point to a chair and say "This is a chair". Then a table or a cup and say "This is a table" or "this is a drinking vessel". Quite funny. 
I've had a few problems with a couple of my field assistants but they are back in line now. Unfortunately, one of the best assistants is off work ill. No work no pay here so I'm covering his loss. 
And on to the birds. I thought that I might be luck and catch one or two more species but what a run. There was an owl, a weaver bird, a mannikin, a type of shrike called a Boubou which has a vicious bite and amazing bird called a Cuckoo-shrike. Some of these have not previously been caught by this project in it's six years of ringing.
Then yesterday when checking the nets there was a spectacular jewell hanging there. It was the most colourful and amazing bird I have ever seen. It was an Emerald Cuckoo. My first ever cuckoo! 
WIll next week be so fantastic?

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Ethiopia 5 More Surprises

Well it's been quite another interesting week which included three days in Gera, the trading village 100 kilometres away.
The site I like most is called Gauke 11. It's not because we catch a lot of birds there, because we don't. It's because we are ringing next to a house with three fantastic children. There is a boy of about 9, a girl of about 5 & a baby. The boy carries the baby around all the time. The gig the nets wrl is absolutely hyper & thinks everything is funny. There favourite pastime is looking through my binoculars both ways round. I always give them 1 Bir, about 4p, & they run off to the local shop.
Well this time as we were closing the nets we caught an Abyssinian Oriel. 
The next day, at another site, I saw some Trogon feathers in a net. I was a bit cheesed off that it had got away. But there it was in the next net! And what a bird. So colourful & yet so hard to see in the forest.
So off to Gera. One site is a plantation & is protected by a guard with a rather old, but I am sure deadly, AK47 Russian assault rifle. He was friendly enough though. And we caught another new bird. A wonderful little Brown Wood Warbler. 
We visited Zabiba's cafe after watching Manchester United's victory on satellite TV. First of all a chicken came scratching around. That was followed by sheep that had to be dragged out. And then, & this is absolutely true, a COW walked in to the Cafe & went straight through to the back yard!
The other photo is of a local farmer whose garden I'm going to be ringing in next month. He sold the Swedish researchers I was with a bunch of bananas. The WHOLE BUNCH!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Ethiopia 4 Euro Migrants & More

Well it's been a good few days with several new birds. 
We had a storm on Saturday night which caused a power cut for two days. Luckily it was after the Arsenal match, which I watched live via satellite in the local cinema for 35p. But the rain did get a few birds moving. 
We had a juvenile Brown-throated Wattle-eye followed by a Grey-headed Woodpecker which drilled several holes in my hand while its mug shot was taken.
The following day we had a Chiffchaff followed by a Northern Puffback, a small shrike, which did its best to do one better than the woodpecker. Then we had a flock of Tree Pipits descend on the coffee plantation we were in. We caught SEVEN. I've only ringed one in the UK! And just as we closed the nets we had a juvenile male Redstart! What a day for migrants.
Today's haul may only have been five birds but one of then easily out weighed the rest. It was huge. A Thick-billed Raven. It was well behaved until it grabbed my finger. And what a grip. They may not have sharp talons but boy did it hurt. 
With so many top birds I'm getting the cakes in tomorrow. 

Friday, 2 March 2012

Ethiopia 3 Extraction ticks

I've been having a bit of trouble with the internet here in Jimma so sorry for the delay in posting. I've also been into the real rural parts of Ethiopia with all that brings.
Well the Blackcap are still being caught now and again but today we caught a Reed Warbler. None of the locals had seen one before so it was nice to have one up on them for once. We have also had Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. The latter moulting, which was nice to see, and the former not of course. 
As you can see there are plenty of un-known birds to most of us to handle. Some are breeding and many have just started to moult post breeding. 
I have had two extraction ticks. The first was a female Fruit Bat which had a baby clinging to it! Both were fine and the mother flew off carrying her charge. The other was something else. On the first net round at first light there was a BUSH BABY in the net. Anyone had one of those before! When I took it out it put it's hands, which were very soft, over its eyes. As it was frightened I let it go rather than take it back for a photo. 
The birds have great names such as Wattle-eye, Tinker-bird, Twinspot and Pygmy Kingfisher. The Little Sparrowhawk is a Little Sparrowhawk and the big one is an African Goshawk. The curved billed birds are two species of Sunbird. 

Monday, 13 February 2012

Greetings from Ethiopia

Two hours through customs and then a six hours drive to Jimma in the Western Highlands. On the way we saw a burnt out petrol tanker in the middle of the road, after having tried to demolish a bridge. Goat, sheep and cows wander around everywhere. Including in the road and we eventually came across a freshly mown down goat with a group of people, one with a very big knife, haggling over the price of the carcass. 
Up this morning at 04:20 from my first session. The nets are set up the day before and furled in a coffee plantation. A guard ensures no cattle walk into them. On arrival two of the local team open the nets, still in the dark. Then the kettle is put on a open fire for black tea with lots of sugar. At dawn two of the team start net rounds. 
The birds are brought back and identified. Then everyone watches as I process and ring them with the help of Tifases, girl of about 25 and the only other ringer. So a few Blackcap, a Willow warbler plus four new african resident species for me. These include Rüppell's Robin chat and a family of African Firefinch, shown below. 
The only downer was a local dog tried to extract a Robin chat with its teeth. Luckily I managed to save the bird, somewhat wet and with a few primaries missing! 

Friday, 10 February 2012


I may not have won the Lottery but who cares. I'm going to Ethiopia for three months of ringing! 
It's going to be like walking into Aladdin's cave. It all started with an email four days ago and tomorrow I'll be flying high!  Watch this space...

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

What a great day!

It started off with a terrific Redwing. Then not one but two new female Blackcap! 
Then 3 BLABI, 1 Wren, a re-trap GRETI, a beautiful 6M Starling and a Dunno. 
And the only BLUTI in sight was a Control with a chip on the left leg.  
What a day!