Barberspan ringing conference and more, 11-22 March 2010

A Ringers Conference was held at Barberspan Bird Sanctuary, a reserve of the North West Parks and Tourism Board, from 11-15 March. Over 1600 birds of at least 82 species were caught.

Two weaver projects were conducted at the conference, one with quelea and one with sparrow-weavers.

Barberspan Red-billed Quelea project

Adult male Red-billed Quelea with orange ring

Red-billed Quelea flock leaving their roost
Farmers around Barberspan complain that quelea roosting in the extensive reeds at Barberspan destroy their crops, and they would like to destroy all the reeds. However, these reeds are ecological important, eg as roost sites for resident and migrant warblers and other birds, in helping purify the water, etc. North-West Parks sponsored 2000 metal and 2000 colour rings to ring the quelea at Barberspan. If farmers find these quelea, then there is proof that 'their' quelea roost at Barberspan. However, we caught less than 200 quelea compared to over 400 Red Bishops. This indicates that there are no longer enormous flocks of quelea (Prozeski 1951 estimated 100 000 quelea roosting at Barberspan) but only a few thousand individuals at the most currently. Colour ringing of the quelea will continue by ringers visiting Barberspan.

Barberspan White-browed Sparrow-weaver project

Sparrow-weaver colony at Barberspan

Sparrow-weaver CC15703 at Barberspan
Farkas 1966 counted 24 nests of this species in the 1963 1964 season. On the Ringers Conference weekend, three colonies were found around the office and camping area. The number of nests were 5, 25 and 21 per colony, indicating a slight increase since 1964. Most Sparrow-weaver ringing was in front of the office where 8 were caught (1 retrap) - this is also the biggest colony. Two birds were caught in the camp area (1 retrap, smallest colony). 5 birds were caught at the Far colony (3 retraps, 2nd biggest colony). Additionally, 3 birds (2 retraps) were caught in the garden and could have belonged to any colony. All retraps were ringed in 2008 or 2009.

Incidentally, the greatest longevity for the species is a retrap at Barberspan: 10y 2m 26d (50205781, Milstein 1975)

Boschenvaal, 16 March

Thick-billed Weaver wing

Thick-billed Weaver, bill mostly yellow in juvs
After Barberspan I joined Kobie, Shonie and Tony Raijmakers for a ringing session at Boschenvaal on the Vaal River. A total of 204 birds were caught (23 were retraps). The top species was Southern Masked Weaver with many juveniles. Juvenile Thick-billed Weavers were also caught.

Bird club talks, 20-21 March

Deneysville, 16-17 March

Talk, 16 March: BirdLife Vaaldam, Deneysville Aquatic Club, Deneysville: 18h30: Dieter Oschadleus "Unmasking the South Masked Weaver"

29 birds were ringed in the garden of Rosemary Girard, mainly Cape Sparrows but also Southern Masked Weavers, a pair of White-browed Sparrow-weavers, and others.

Newcastle, 18 March

Talk, 17 March Newcastle Bird Club, Newcastle Club, corner of Scott and Bird Streets, Newcastle: 18h30: Dieter Oschadleus "Africa's feathered locust: the Red-billed Quelea"

Wakkerstroom, BLSA AGM, 20-21 March

Ringers and birders

Male Little Bittern
Bird ringing demonstrations were held at the BirdLife South Africa AGM in Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga and many birders were enthralled by the specials that were caught - Little Bittern, Half-collared and Malachite and Pygmy Kingfisher, European Sedge Warbler and others. Top species caught were Southern Masked Weavers and Southern Red Bishops. Ringers that helped with the ringing were Rina Pretorius, Sylva Francis, Yahkat Barshep, and Doug Harebottle.

Thanks to everyone that helped for this trip!
Shonie Raijmakers donated many flap traps to SAFRING
Accommodation was provided by Kobie & Edith Raijmakers, and Rosemary & Julian Girard
North West Parks and Tourism Board sponsored 2000 metal and 2000 colour rings for quelea
See also News Item on 2010-03-16

Fantastic sunrises at Barberspan Bird Sanctuary