Bird Ringing at Edith Stephens Nature Reserve.

Bird ringing at Edith Stephens Nature Reserve on 02 May 2015 photographs also by Gavin Lawson.


On a dark, very cloudy early morning we arrived at the gates of the Edith Stephens Nature Reserve to set up the nets for the bird ringing activity. LEAP High School pupils were expected later, along with some University of Cape Town students belonging to ZooBots. Sam Hamer has organised for these groups to meet us, as part of a project he has initiated engaging urban communities of youth in birding and citizen science.

Dr Doug Harebottle was here to demonstrate and hopefully enthuse the students to further their interest in the study of birds at this very interesting little urban, almost suburban Nature Reserve in Cape Town.

An aerial view taken in June 2008 shows this little Reserve jammed between 2 very busy urban double carriage highways. Even more so in 2015. The information board at the Reserve about who and what Edith believed was important.

We started to put up the nets in the dark, but Doug was not happy with the placement and we moved and added some. It became light quite quickly and the vehicle activity steadily increased along the roads nearby. Some as close as 20 metres from the nets with taxis and buses dropping people off.  The bus and taxi stop right outside the Reserve near the entrance gates on the Lansdowne Road (M9).

It was not long and there were 3 Red-eyed Doves in the net. Just as it became light a Black Sparrowhawk came through the trees scattering the doves in all directions. Doug was soon busy capturing all the data whilst ringing the birds and setting them free again.

On the island in the waterbody was an African Fish Eagle framed by the overhead construction cranes. Buses and cars zooming along the Vanguard Drive (M7) highway in the background.  I did note there were some fair size carp in the water.

The UCT BotZoo students signed the Reserve register after they arrived. Sam Hamer with the pupils from LEAP School who have arrived.

So Doug got everybody to come and see the nets and he gave them an overview of what bird ringing is about and how it is done. He mentioned that there are only about 500 registered ringers in South Africa.
He  showed  them it is not easy to see the net especially against a dark background. All the questions were answered and everyone was invited to have a look at the net material. Doug related that the birds possibly cant see the netting, as sometimes the same bird is retrapped
up the twice more on the same day after being processed and released.

There was a new species for the Reserve and all were asked what it is. Bar-throated Apalis and a female judging from the throat bar size.All were intrigued and enthralled at all the tools on the table. They had not considered so much information is gathered while ringing a bird. The ringers book which has all the codes for the species which have to be logged with the Roberts numbers. The ringers register with all the data taken for each bird.

So the group was taken on a walk about to see what they could see. The nets had produced a number of birds as the sun broke through the odd patch of clear sky. Doug has little bags with birds inside, which have been removed from the nets and brought to the processing table area.

Next one up is a young female Common Fiscal. Note the beak and the notch near the tip. Also note the bite marks on his fingers, all this birds doing.
“Yes, yes, me I am going to release it”. A split second after this photo and before she let go, the beak found another victim.

“Next one up, what is it everybody?” “LBJ” said someone.

This is called the “ringers grip”. The head is held between the index and middle fingers. This shows how small it really is. It is quite comfortable and appears not too stressed. Recording the ring number into the register. It is a Levailliant’s Cisticola. Next one out the bag is a Karoo or Spotted Prinia. The Lesser Reed Warbler has had its ring fitted, now having is primary wing feathers length measured.

What fascinating stuff. They have been taking photos and taking notes. Then there was a break to check and clear the nets again. So they went to see what else they could add to their list of birds.

Siphelele Mdlulwa showing the girls this area of the waterbody. Staff from the Reserve were on hand to answer any questions.

Julian Hare a CBC member on the right, “first time I have been to a bird ringing session” he said.

Doug holding the kingfisher up for us all to see the colouring on the back. The sun came through the slats above and lit up the colours. Wow!
“Who wants to let it go?”  “Me please”.

A group photo was taken before they all left.

LEAP High School is a Maths and Science school. Doug gave them a good idea what can be done with data collected from a ringing outing. The data will be submitted the ADU. Thank you to all who came today. An enjoyable, morning was had by all and we learned a lot of new things today.

We collaborated a bird-list afterwards and just short of 40 species were seen.