Bird ringing course, Zambia

29 March - 6 April 2012

Victoria Falls from my 1time flight, en route to Livingstone Airport

The Zambian Ornithological Society invited me to run a bird ringing course on Bovu Island, on the Zambezi River, about 60 km upstream of Victoria Falls. Selected photos are shown from each ringing session, and species totals caught are shown in the Table at the end.

PHOWN records from this trip may be viewed here. Also read about the first White-browed Sparrow-Weaver PHOWN records from Zambia here.

Livingstone Museum, 29 Mar

While waiting for my transfer to Bovu Island, I had time to visit the Livingstone Museum and look at some weaver specimens. The most unusual specimen was a leucistic Yellow Bishop.

In front of the museum

Leucistic Yellow Bishop

Bovu Island, 30 Mar

The first day was spent ringing on Bovu Island, a well wooded island, with a species list of x species. Species caught were Pygmy Kingfisher, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Terrestrial Bulbul, Bearded Robin, African Reed Warbler, Grey-backed Warbler, Paradise Flycatcher, Puffback, Melba Finch, Red-billed Firefinch and Blue Waxbill.

Bearded Robin

Pygmy Kingfisher

Village near Bovu Island, 31 Mar, 1 + 3 April

Three days were spent ringing in the village on the mainland next to Bovu Island. The village sorghum fields attracted flocks of quelea and bishops. The Red-billed Quelea were mostly juveniles, although a few adult males were also caught. Several of the Southern Red Bishops were breeding females. A male and female White-winged Widow were caught, also in the sorghum fields. A Village Weaver male and female of the northern race were ringed. Thickets next to the village and Zambezi River produced birds like Heuglin's Robin and Red-backed Shrike.

Juvenile Red-billed Quelea

Female Southern Red Bishop

Female White-winged Widow

Male Village Weaver

White-fronted Bee-eater

Female Red-backed Shrike

Outing to Maluku reeds, 2 April

We left very early on Monday to ring at a large reed bed near Katombora on the Zambezi about 20 km north of Bovu. The nets were between reeds and thickets. The most caught species was Green-spotted Dove, which came to drink at the water next to the nets. This was followed by 10 Blue Waxbills and seven Little Bee-eaters. European Marsh Warbler and European Reed Warblers were carefully studied and identified in the hand.

Green-spotted Dove

Little Bee-eater

Coppery Sunbird

Spectacled Weaver

Sunset cruise, 3 April

Bovu Island treated us to a sunset cruise in mokoros (dug-out canoes).

Sundowners on the mokoros

Sunset on the Zambezi

Life on Bovu Island

We were treated to wonderful meals by the Bovu staff, so that we could maximise our time ringing. Evenings we could relax in the bar, watching the sunset on the Zambezi. Cameras, laptops and cell phones were recharged using solar power. To read more see the Bovu Island webpage.

Crossing the Zambezi

Fisherman's hut on Bovu

The bar on Bovu Island

Sunset on the Zambezi, from bar

Course attendees

Group photo from BirdWatch Zambia 42(5)

Kabuku Likando, ZOS office
Kelvin Mkandawire, ZOS office
Daniel Mwizabi
Pete Chalcraft
Rory McDougal
Janet Peterson
Leslie Reynolds
Griffin Shanungu, ZAWA
Bob Stjernstedt
Annette Willemen

Congratulations to Rory who qualified as a ringer, since he had sufficient previous experience.

Species totals ringed

A total of 327 birds of 45 different species were ringed during the week of ringing. Four species I had not handled before were Tropical Boubou, Coppery Sunbird, White-fronted Bee-eater, Steelblue Widowfinch (Village Indigobird), and Yellow-bellied Sunbird. Some birds were migrants, probably en route north: Pygmy Kingfisher, Red-backed Shrike, European Marsh Warbler, European Reed Warbler (care was taken by the attendees to identify the latter 2 species!). Two birds were recaptured (retraps not included in totals below):
A Terrestrial Brownbul (1B1741 Livigstone Museum) was recaptured on Bovu Island;
A Black-collared Barbet (CC15728) ringed in the Village was recaptured 4 days later on Bovu Island.

SAFRING Species Bovu Island Maluku Village Field
321 Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove 1 13 2  
398 African Pygmy-Kingfisher 1   1  
402 Brown-hooded Kingfisher 1 1    
409 White-fronted Bee-eater 1   1  
410 Little Bee-eater 2 7    
431 Black-collared Barbet     2  
440 Greater Honeyguide 1      
545 Dark-capped (Black-eyed) Bulbul 1 5 3  
546 Terrestrial Brownbul (Bulbul) 2 1 4  
580 White-browed (Heuglin's) Robin-Chat 1 2 2  
585 (Eastern) Bearded Scrub-Robin 2      
606 African Reed (Marsh) Warbler 1   1  
607 European Marsh Warbler 1   1  
621 Long-billed Crombec     3  
628 Grey-backed Camaroptera 2   2  
644 Red-faced Cisticola     2  
649 Tawny-flanked Prinia   1 5  
682 African Paradise Flycatcher 1      
708 Red-backed Shrike     1  
712 Black-backed (Southern) Puffback 1   1  
754 Coppery Sunbird   1    
755 Marico Sunbird   1    
762 Variable (Yellow-bellied) Sunbird     1  
771 Collared Sunbird     1  
774 Scarlet-chested Sunbird     2  
787 Southern Grey-headed Sparrow       1
791 Spectacled Weaver   1    
797 Village Weaver 1   2  
803 Southern Masked Weaver     1 2
805 Red-billed Quelea     127 1
808 Southern Red Bishop     32 1
814 White-winged Widow     9  
823 Bronze Mannikin   2 4  
830 Green-winged Pytilia (Melba Finch) 1   4  
835 Jameson's Firefinch     3  
836 Brown Firefinch     8  
837 Red-billed Firefinch 5 2 5  
839 Blue Waxbill 4 8 6 2
843 Common Waxbill 1      
847 Shaft-tailed Whydah   1    
851 Steelblue Widowfinch (Village Indigobird)     2  
860 Black-throated Canary     2  
911 European Reed Warbler   1 1  
911 European Reed Warbler        
977 Tropical Boubou 1      
  Totals 32 47 241 7

Victoria Falls

I spent one night at Maramba to bird on the property and to explore Victoria Falls on the Zambian side.

Maramba River in front of the restaurant

Victoria Falls at its fullest


Articles published about the bird ringing course:
Stjernstedt B. 2012. Bird Ringing at Bovu Island (29th March - 5th April 2012). Zambian Ornithological Society Newsletter 42(4): 3
Oschadleus D. 2012. Bird ringing course, Zambia 29 March - 5 April 2012. Zambian Ornithological Society Newsletter 42(4): 4-6
Willemen A. 2012. Some more facts about the Bird Ringing week at Bovu Island. BirdWatch Zambia 42(5): 3-4


Many thanks to Brett Saunders and Evelyn Roe for hosting the course (although Brett could not be present)
Thanks to the Bovu staff for their amazing meals and help - Alice, Sister Di, Godfree Kalemba (a guide on Bovu Island), Brighton Nyambe (a trainee guide)
Thanks to ZOS for inviting me and sposoring my flight - ZOS also sposored some attendees.
Thanks to Clare Mateke, for access to Livingstone Museum specimens