As a lead instructor and resident ‘bird nerd’, I took the students at NJ MORE Field College on a birding campout with an exciting programme in store for them. We were joined by Dr Derek Engelbrecht, a well-known ornithologist and lecturer at the University of Limpopo, who was accompanied by his family.
Over the course of four days, with rain keeping us there an extra day, we managed to do several activities and present lectures. One of the most practical, was a bird-ringing presentation, with birds caught on a single morning next to the Marataba Reserve. We had a small but good selection of six birds from a few hours of waiting with soft, loose nets in position: the endemic African White-throated Robin-Chat, the Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Arrow-marked Babbler, Grey-backed Camaroptera and Brown-hooded Kingfisher.
Students were able to see the birds close-up; their plumage, as well as finer details, such as the intensity of the eye. Another advantage was being able to see how the wing feathers are constructed, finding out how they are measured and how they are used in field identification.
Bird ringing is done under permit by SAFRING (at the University of Cape Town) and is a specialised skill carried out by trained professionals. The fitting of birds with coded leg bands, adds substantial value to species research and conservation.
(Bird species identified during April 2022)
Words – Mike Meidlinger