Karoo garden ringing, Vanrhynsdorp, January 2020

European Bee-eater

Not many gardens boast Karoo specials like European Bee-eater, Namaqua Warbler, and Lark-like Bunting. All these were ringed in a long weekend, as well as many other special species, by Dieter, Salome, Les, Karis and Itxaso.

Top numbers ringed by species were Cape Weaver, Cape Sparrow and Southern Masked-Weaver, birds that breed in the garden. A Namaqua Warbler pair also breed in the garden, and daily they were heard calling their pleasant and unique call.

Namaqua Warbler
Namaqua Warbler

 

European Bee-eaters perched on the telephone wires, and a fine net was put high – this net failed to catch any, but it did catch a Rock Martin and other birds. Unexpectedly, another net caught 10 European Bee-eaters – 3 adults and 7 juveniles. Karoo Scrub-Robins were only caught in spring-traps.

Karoo Scrub-Robin
Karoo Scrub-Robin

 

The total birds caught was 229 birds (215 ringed) of 26 species. Recaptures were relatively low at 14, indicating a high number of birds present overall. As to be expected at this time of year, many birds were moulting.

Portfolio
Portfolio – African Hoopoe, Lark-like Bunting, Fairy Flycatcher, Southern Double-collared Sunbird

 

Table. Birds ringed and recaptured in Vanrhynsdorp garden, January 2020

  Sp no  Species   Latin  n
  317  Laughing Dove   Streptopelia senegalensis  11
  318  Namaqua Dove   Oena capensis  3
  391  White-backed Mousebird   Colius colius  1
  392  Red-faced Mousebird   Urocolius indicus  3
  404  European Bee-eater   Merops apiaster  10
  418  African Hoopoe   Upupa africana  1
  506  Rock Martin   Hirundo fuligula  1
  544  African Red-eyed Bulbul   Pycnonotus nigricans  3
  570  Familiar Chat   Cercomela familiaris  2
  581  Cape Robin-Chat   Cossypha caffra  2
  583  Karoo Scrub-Robin   Cercotrichas coryphoeus  7
  606  African Reed-Warbler   Acrocephalus baeticatus  3
  653  Namaqua Warbler   Phragmacia substriata  2
  665  Fiscal Flycatcher   Sigelus silens  4
  678  Fairy Flycatcher   Stenostira scita  1
  686  Cape Wagtail   Motacilla capensis  2
  760  Southern Double-collared Sunbird   Cinnyris chalybeus  7
  784  House Sparrow   Passer domesticus  2
  786  Cape Sparrow   Passer melanurus  48
  799  Cape Weaver   Ploceus capensis  54
  803  Southern Masked-Weaver   Ploceus velatus  24
  808  Southern Red Bishop   Euplectes orix  12
  865  White-throated Canary   Crithagra albogularis  4
  867  Streaky-headed Seedeater   Crithagra gularis  1
  871  Lark-like Bunting   Emberiza impetuani  6
  1172  Cape White-eye   Zosterops virens  15
 TOTAL  229

Thanks to Salome for hosting us!

Would you like to ring birds in the Karoo? Book a trip with African Ringing Expeditions!

BDInsight January 2020

Happy New Year and Century! We hope you all had a lovely festive season and that 2020 will be a fantastic year. Why not kick-start the year by joining us at our Citizen Science Conference in the Karoo in February? It is an event not to miss!Come and join the Biodiversity and Development Institute at New Holme Guest Farm (Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve) for our Citizen Science Conference. The core period is Friday evening, 14 February, to lunch time on Sunday, 16 February 2020. We encourage you to stay a few nights extra before and/or after the event too. The extra nights will also be at a discount rate. The theme for the conference is “Citizen Scientists: Ambassadors for Awareness”

The Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve is half way between Cape Town and Johannesburg on the N1 between Colesberg and Hanover. It truly is a wonderful place in the heart of the Karoo.

We will kick-start the conference on Friday evening with some awesome presentations. The early morning programme will consist of BioMAPping and bird ringing. This will be followed by brunch and then the programme of presentations and discussions until mid afternoon on the Saturday and until midday on the Sunday. And lots of free time too to enjoy the serenity of the Karoo.

Free night drives to go look for the illusive Shy Five (Aardwolf, Aardvark, Black-footed Cat, Porcupine and Bat-eared Fox) — only 9 spots available for the night drives each night so make sure to book your spot! We encourage you to stay an extra night to not miss out on this special opportunity.

Conference fee: R250 pp (excluding accommodation)

Accommodation options (PLEASE NOTE all rates include breakfast and dinner):
1) Luxury rooms (R660 pp per night during the core weekend period and R600 pp per night for week days before/after core conference period)
2) Tented rooms (R525 pp per night during the core weekend period and R480 pp per night for week days before/after core conference period)
3) Self-camping (R395 pp per night during the core weekend period and R360 pp per night for week days before/after core conference period)

Please book your dates and accommodation with Megan Loftie-Eaton at megan@thebdi.org

African Black Oystercatcher Monitoring 

Is the timing of the breeding season of African Black Oystercatchers changing through time? Is this climate change related? Careful monitoring of the breeding of the oystercatchers on Robben Island started in the breeding season of 2001/02, and has been done in most subsequent summers. There’s a team of three people doing the monitoring this summer, and two of us hike the 10 km round the island every six days. The sixth trip was done on 28 December, and the number of nests discovered so far is 85!

Here is Itxaso measuring an egg. From the measurements we can reconstruct the fresh weight. An egg loses about 17% of its mass during incubation, so from the weight at the time we find the nest, we can estimate how many days it has been incubated for. This enables us to do pretty accurate statistics on the timing of breeding each year. The answers to the questions at the start of the first paragraph are both “Yes”, but the details are still in progress.

We are grateful for the support of the Robben Island Museum. The research is done with the appropriate permits.

Virtual Museum

The Virtual Museum reached a wonderful milestone for 2019, with 100,000 records on African biodiversity submitted through the VM website portal. We also reached the amazing total of more than half a million records submitted via the VM. Thank you to all the awesome citizen scientists out there for your continued efforts and enthusiasm.

OdonataMAP

For the Christmas Shoot The Dragons Week OdonataMAPpers snapped and mapped an incredible 1999 dragonflies and damselflies from nine African countries (Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe). The species most often recorded over the holiday season was the Red-veined Dropwing Trithemis arteriosa with 116 records submitted to OdonataMAP. There were also lots of records for many others including Tropical Bluetails, Broad Scarlets and Common Citrils.

Diana Russell was the Dragon Mapping Queen for the Week with an amazing 239 records! Followed by Pieter La Grange on 159 and Gert Bensch and Juan-Pierre Antunes with 141.

The fifth Shoot The Dragons Week ran from 11 to 19 January 2020. OdonataMAPpers managed to snap and map 870 dragonflies and damselflies from five countries (Ivory Coast, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia), like this stunning Bluebolt Cyanothemis simpsoni (below) mapped by Russell Tate in San Pedro, Ivory Coast: http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=OdonataMAP-83936

Bluebolt Cyanothemis simpsoni

Andries and Joey de Vries mapped the most dragonflies and damselflies with 79 records, followed by Corrie du Toit (68 records) and Jean Hirons (63 records). Absolutely fantastic!

Thank you to each and everyone of you that uploaded records to OdonataMAP over the Christmas and New Years Shoot The Dragons Weeks. You are awesome! 

BirdPix

The BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum is taking on an unexpected importance. We are using the data to do “species distribution modelling”, i.e. the application of statistical methods to try to model the “full distribution” of each species from the somewhat scattered records generated by the Virtual Museum. We are trying to find methods which replicate the “true” distributions which are obtained by the bird atlas. If we can get it right for birds, we can then we can use these methods to generate “full distributions” for dragonflies, butterflies, frogs, reptiles, etc, from the Virtual Museum records.

Right now, we are working hard to boost the size of the BirdPix database. BirdPixers have added 30,000 records in 2019. At current submission rates, the database is about three weeks away from 100,000 records.


This is the BirdPix coverage map for Limpopo. The number in each quarter degree grid cell is the species richness for that grid cell. Please help boost these numbers. Every grid cell here must be home to at least 100 species. Many grid cells in Limpopo ought to have more than 200 species. Opportunities abound almost everywhere.

It is not difficult to find the code for a specific quarter degree grid cell. The degree squares are outlined with thicker lines. Go the top-left corner (north-west!) of the degree square to find the digits for the degree square. The first two digits are in the left hand margin of the map the the third and fourth digits are at the bottom. There are then 16 quarter degree grid cells in the degree square, and each one is given two letters according to the pattern in the insert.

The grid cell with the most species in Limpopo has 137 species. It is the bright red grid cell on the eastern edge in the Kruger National Park. This grid cell is in the 2331 degree square. It is in the fourth row and third column, the DC position in the little diagram, so its six-digit code is 2331DC. To get the species list, and to see a map of the grid cell, go to http://vmus.adu.org.za/vm_locus_map.php?vm=birdpix&locus=2331DC. It includes the Letaba Rest Camp. To find the list and the map for for any other grid cell, all you need to do is to change the code for the “locus=” at the end of the URL.

Please upload your photos of birds to the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum, and help us get way beyond 100,000 records as fast as possible!

Bird Ringing

Following a successful 10 day BDI bird ringing expedition earlier in 2019, another was held at Fynbos Estate in December. It was hot and windy but the days were long, and the birds plentiful!

Cape Sugarbird
Cape Sugarbird Promerops cafer

The top species was Cape Weaver, followed by Southern Red Bishop and Southern Masked Weaver. The large numbers caught were due to large numbers of juveniles foraging in flocks. These were usually caught in small flocks of 20-30 birds at a time. Most of the weavers had completed breeding, but for the Southern Masked Weaver two nests were found with chicks large enough to ring.

The adult weavers had started primary moult, and males were moulting into non-breeding plumage. Recent juveniles had not started moult, while some older juveniles were starting their post-juvenile moult.

For the full ringing report see: http://thebdi.org/2019/12/13/fynbos-estate-expedition-3-12-december/

Crimson-speckled footman (Utetheisa pulchella)

Utetheisa pulchella Crimson-speckled footman

Utetheisa pulchella is a day-flying moth.

Link to the LepiMAP record which contains the above photograph of aCrimson-speckled Footman. The map below shows the distribution of records for Utetheisa pulchella in the LepiMAP database, as at January 2020.
Use this link to embed this map of distribution records in LepiMAP: http://thebdi.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/517850-Utetheisa-pulchella-actual-records-700×700.png

The map below is an imputed map,  produced by an interpolation algorithm, which  attempts to generate a full distribution map from the partial information in the map above. This map will be improved by the submission of records to the LepiMAP section of the Virtual Museum.Use this link to embed this imputed distribution map: http://thebdi.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/517850-Utetheisa-pulchella-5-colours-700×700.png.

Hippo cannibalism

de Castro JJ, de Castro M, de Castro JA, and Ruiz Teixidor P. 2019. Hippo cannibalism. Biodiversity Observations 10.14:1-3

Biodiversity Observations is an open access electronic journal published by the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. This HTML version of this manuscript is hosted by the Biodiversity and Development Institute. Further details for this manuscript can be found at the journal page, and the manuscript page, along with the original PDF.


Hippo cannibalism

Julio J. de Castro

34 Hedsor Drive, Harare, Zimbabwe

Mabel de Castro

34 Hedsor Drive, Harare, Zimbabwe

Julio A. de Castro

Plaza de Magallanes, Portal 5, Bajo Izquierda, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain

Patricia Ruiz Teixidor

Calle San Miguel 72, 38001, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain

Carnivory in the common hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius (‘hippo’) was observed in Masuma Dam by Dudley (1993) and by de Castro (2015 and 2016). More recently Dudley et al. (2016) has compiled several observed incidents of carnivory in central, east and southern Africa.

Dudley et al. (2016) argue about the importance of carnivory and particularly the observed cannibalism in the transmission of anthrax among hippo populations.

In 2018-19 Zimbabwe had the lowest rainfall in nearly four decades (The Herald, 2019) and Hwange National Park was no exception, receiving much less than its 576mm yearly average,

During a visit in mid September 2019 the park was very dry and several of the pans were drying or already dry. This situation was also severely affecting some of the dams that require pumped water to keep an acceptable water level. Both Nyamandhlovu and Masuma Dams’ water levels were very low despite efforts to pump water day and night.

Large numbers of animals such as elephants, buffalo, greater kudu and impala were coming to drink daily and water levels were seen declining slowly but steadily on a daily basis, more than previously seen.

The hippo population normally observed at Masuma Dam was estimated at about 16 individuals (de Castro 2015b) and only one was seen at the dam part of the time, apparently commuting between Masuma and Mandavu reservoir, a much larger water body situated 15km away.

While spending an afternoon at Mandavu we noted a dead hippo floating close to the shore opposite to the picnic site. There were a number of crocodiles and a couple of hippos feeding on it (Figs 1 & 2).

Figure 1. Hippos and crocodiles around the dead hippo carcass. Credit: Julio A. de Castro.
Figure 1. Hippos and crocodiles around the dead hippo carcass. Credit: Julio A. de Castro.

It is believed (Dudley, 2018) that hippos are not able to open up a carcass and that they depend on natural fermentation or on other carnivores to do so in order for them to feed. It is likely that the crocodiles had eaten part of the carcass so the hippos were able to feed on it. The hippos were seen pushing the carcass and submerging. They would later emerge chewing and swallowing.

Figure 2. Hippo feeding on the carcass. Credit: Julio J. de Castro.
Figure 2. Hippo feeding on the carcass. Credit: Julio J. de Castro.

After about one hour the wind started blowing the carcass towards the centre of the lake and the hippos did not pursue it, staying at the opposite shore with their pod. Hippo cannibalism has been reported earlier (Dorward, 2015; Dudley et al., 2016) and the present observation adds Mandavu reservoir to other areas in Africa where this phenomenon has been reported.

References

de Castro J 2015a. https://bushsnob.com/2015/12/10/a-new-hippo/.

de Castro J 2015b. https://bushsnob.com/2015/02/22/hippos-from-hell/.

de Castro J 2016. https://bushsnob.com/2016/01/21/naughty-hippo-again/.

Dorward LJ 2015. New record of cannibalism in the common hippo, Hippopotamus amphibius (Linnaeus, 1758). African Journal of Ecology 53: 385-387.

Dudley JP 1996. Record of carnivory, scavenging and predation for Hippopotamus amphibius in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Mammalia 60(3): 486-490.

Dudley JP 2018. Personal communication.

Dudley JP, Hang’Ombe BM, Leendertz FH, Dorward LJ, de Castro J, Subalusky AL, and Clauss M. 2016, Carnivory in the common hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius: implications for the ecology and epidemiology of anthrax in African landscapes. Mammal Review 46: 191-203.

The Herald 2019. https://www.herald.co.zw/sadc-records-lowest-rainfall-in-38-years/ Consulted on 23/9/19.

Elegant/Sandwich tern hybrid

O’Connell B. 2019. Elegant/Sandwich tern hybrid – Cape Recife, Port Elizabeth (The French Connection). Biodiversity Observations 10.13:1-5

Biodiversity Observations is an open access electronic journal published by the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. This HTML version of this manuscript is hosted by the Biodiversity and Development Institute. Further details for this manuscript can be found at the journal page, and the manuscript page, along with the original PDF.


Elegant/Sandwich tern hybrid – Cape Recife, Port Elizabeth (The French Connection)

Brendan O’Connell

Abstract

Researchers studying global migrants, such as the elegant tern (Thalasseus elegans) and Sandwich tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis), are dependent on feedback. This can be as result of recapture by a fellow ringer or the public reporting on dead birds. This case is an example of how colour-ringing methods have the potential to provide a research team with additional information during the life-span of the bird, whilst providing opportunity for birders globally to contribute as Citizen Scientists. These ‘Sea Swallows’, as they cross continents, provide a vital link for us, and illustrate the need for us to work together by highlighting our global inter-connectivity.


On the 21st December 2018, whilst observing a group of terns at Cape Recife, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, I noticed that one of the Sandwich terns (Thalasseus sandvicensis) had a large down-curved bill, predominantly yellow in colour with a mid-section of both upper and lower mandibles showing a dark blackish/grey smudge.

The “Mystery Tern” had joined a group of terns at low tide in the intertidal zone in front of Cape Recife Lighthouse (34.028979°S, 25.700626°E) comprising of a mix of Sandwich, roseate (Sterna dougalli), swift (greater crested) (Thalasseus bergii) and common (Sterna hirundo) terns and as I watched them, my focus shifted to another tern – with an all yellow bill – as it slowly frog-marched to the front of the group. The bird was almost half the size of its swift tern neighbours and I quickly concluded that this tern could be a lesser crested tern (Thalasseus bengalensis) – uncommon for this part of the Eastern Cape but far less interesting in comparison to its travel companion – the mystery tern.

With my focus firmly back on the mystery bird, I noticed that the bird had a white ring on the lower right leg and two rings on the lower left leg – comprising a red ring on top of a blue ring. I concluded this must be someone’s project – leaving me some hope of finding the real identity of my mystery tern.

I shot off some cell phone shots, but these were inconclusive owing to the lack of clarity on the zoom mode. Fortunately, despite the lack of good photographic evidence, I made sure I had detailed field notes (Fig 1) – describing key features such as the bill, the GIZZ of the bird, with comparisons with the other species of terns with it, and most importantly, the correct colour-ring configuration. Armed with these I started my quest for identity (the birds, not mine) and turned to SAFRING who indicated that one needs the inscription on the silver ring to be sure of a bird’s ID. To my dismay, I realised that I had not observed a silver ring, which I discovered almost disqualifies the bird, as it points to an amateur ringer.

Figure 1. Field notes - elegant/Sandwich tern hybrid?
Figure 1. Field notes – elegant/Sandwich tern hybrid?

And so I turned to the mighty solver of all riddles – namely the internet and started searching – fortunately Ryan (2017) mentions that elegant tern hybrids can have dark markings on their otherwise orange/yellow bill? Following this lead, I started to find pictures of birds thought to be elegant/Sandwich hybrids from America that compared closely with what I had seen. I also remembered hearing of an elegant tern that had been seen recently in the Western Cape and on investigating this, was excited to see a similar methodology of colour ringing used – although with a different colour configuration.

I eventually found a site that lists much of the bird ringing details and research programmes of various European countries – known as EURING. Although there were no details of any elegant terns ringed, there were many Sandwich tern projects. A search through these, revealed a French-based team that used the same ringing methodology. In hope, I sent them (and many others) the details of the bird and the field-notes that I had made.

My summer break was punctuated by daily trips to Cape Recife in search of my mystery bird, which sometimes involved checking hundreds of Sandwich terns – bills and legs – and often a few times in one morning as the tern roost would do their frequent shuffling of the pack! Despite intensive searching on many wind-swept days, the bird did not re-appear!

On getting back to work, good news awaited me, a reply e-mail from France (Fig 2), from Julien Gernigon doing research on elegant/Sandwich tern hybrids off the coast of France – Julien had intimate knowledge of the bird and had ringed it in 2015. He sent a life history and even knew the father of the bird who had also visited the Western Cape, South Africa.

Fig 2. Researcher communication and ring history of elegant/Sandwich tern hybrid
Fig 2. Researcher communication and ring history of elegant/Sandwich tern hybrid

The ringer identified the bird by the ring configuration (and I would assume the bill colour) and added that there was indeed a silver ring but on the upper right leg of the bird, above the knee, a practise that eludes me as been considered a field characteristic, when one takes into consideration the relative size of the bird’s legs and its habits of sitting in wet sand and shallow water and with part of the upper leg covered by leg feathering. But this at least solved the mystery of the “lacking” silver ring.

According to the life history from Julien (Table 1), the bird was ringed off the coast of France on Banc d’Arguin – a permanent island/sand bar, off Tete-de-Buch on 16 June 2015. Later that year on 31 August 2015, the bird was seen in Spain off Palmones, Los-Barrios, and now four years later, on the southern coast of the African Continent in South Africa!

Table 1. Ring history of elegant/Sandwich tern hybrid, ring number M63272.

DateAgeLatitudeLongitudeLocalityCountryObserver
16/06/2015Pullus44.582674-1.23963Reserve Naturelle du Banc d’ArguinFranceJulien Gernigon
31/08/2015Juvenile36.173114-5.430284PalmonesSpainAlex Colorado
21/12/2018Adult-34.02897925.700626Cape RecifeSouth AfricaBrendan O’Connell

The simplicity of the ringing method used led to the positive ID of the tern and also provides the average birder with a way to make a contribution to the field of birding that they enjoy. Nowadays, with better technology and digital cameras there is much potential for good data to be received almost instantaneously by those conducting research and forums such as the Euring color-ringing database provide an essential link between birder and researcher.

Social media appears to be playing an increasing role in research, with users that are essentially demand-driven and expecting instant feedback. This can be achieved, and a good example of this is that during my search for the identity of the tern, I requested and kindly received assistance from fellow members of the Eastern Cape birding Facebook forum and from experts further afield in South Africa. One of the members, following the thread, then posted a picture of a Sandwich tern with a lime colour-ring and with 3 black letters clearly inscribed on it. Within hours the social network had linked him with the ringer in Israel, and they had exchanged pictures and the full details of the bird – with a map highlighting the bird’s probable journey from Israel to South Africa!

My “discovery” of a ringing system that is user friendly has greatly enhanced my bird watching experience and my hope is that more programmes will adopt the same methodology.

On the 19th of January 2019 I was sitting looking at a large group of mixed terns – with probably close to a thousand birds – resting on the Cape Recife wave-cut platform. It was early evening and I found myself doing my now habitual look for rings. Suddenly, I recognised the “tri-color socks” (red white and blue rings!) and sure enough as the bird stopped preening itself – there was that wonderful banana-shaped bill with the distinctive dark smudge in the mid-section – this time no longer a mystery bird. I took the liberty to call out a good South African “howzit Monseur Jules” – eliciting a few nervous stares from the blushing roseate terns nearest to me!

Acknowledgements

Julien Gernigon (Fr), EURING color-ringing data-base.

References

Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ, Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts VII Multimedia, Birds of Southern Africa. Guy Gibbon. John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.

Ryan P 2017 Guide to Seabirds of Southern Africa (Penguin/Random House).

Editor’s note

For further reading on this topic, the researcher, Julien Gernigon (mentioned above), was co-author on a paper touching on this topic (Dufour et al. 2017) and contributed to an article discussing the topic of elegant terns, their extralimital occurrence, and their possible hybridisation with other species (Dufour et al. 2016).

Dufour P, Jones J & Crochet P-A. 2016. Occurrence of multiple Elegant Terns confirmed in Western Europe. Bird Guides. (https://www.birdguides.com/articles/occurrence-of-multiple-elegant-terns-confirmed-in-western-europe/)

Dufour P, Pons J-M, Collinson JM, Gernigon J, Dies JI, Sourrouille P, Crochet P-A. 2017. Multilocus barcoding confirms the occurrence of Elegant Terns in Western Europe. Journal of Ornithology 158: 351. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-016-1380-0

Leopard tortoise road mortality

Figure 2. A live adult female leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) removed from a dirt road near Lambert’s Bay, Western Cape, South Africa; well outside of the species presumed native range.

Baxter-Gilbert J, and Riley JL. 2019. Leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) road mortality and extralimital occurrence in Western Cape, South Africa. Biodiversity Observations 10.12:1-4

Biodiversity Observations is an open access electronic journal published by the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. This HTML version of this manuscript is hosted by the Biodiversity and Development Institute. Further details for this manuscript can be found at the journal page, and the manuscript page, along with the original PDF.


Leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) road mortality and extralimital occurrence in Western Cape, South Africa.

James Baxter-Gilbert

Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 7600, ORCID ID 0000-0002-1283-8893

Julia L. Riley

Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 7600, ORCID ID 0000-0001-7691-691

On 8 October 2018 at 16:10 h, while driving along the R364 Highway 6 km west of Lambert’s Bay, Western Cape, South Africa (32.0978°S, 18.3267°E), we observed a deceased leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) on the side of the road. The tortoise had been struck by a vehicle, with the carapace split along the spine and both bridges of the shell fractured (Fig. 1). The specimen we observed was a medium-sized female (straight-line plastron length of 310 mm and a reconstructed straight-line carapace length of approximately 390 mm). Tortoise and turtle road mortality is not uncommon, and is often cited as a major contributor to population declines for many species across the globe (Gibbs and Shriver 2002; Aresco 2005; Andrews et al. 2008). Yet, for the leopard tortoise, road mortality is considerably under-reported (but see Dean and Milton 2003). We later observed a second adult female leopard tortoise crossing a nearby dirt road 3 km west of Lambert’s Bay (Fig. 2) on 13 November 2018 at 16:35 h. This individual was moved off the road in the direction it was travelling to prevent it suffering the same fate as the previous individual we observed.

Figure 1. A medium-sized adult, female leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) found dead on the road near Lambert’s Bay, Western Cape, South Africa.
Figure 1. A medium-sized adult, female leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) found dead on the road near Lambert’s Bay, Western Cape, South Africa.

Figure 2. A live adult female leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) removed from a dirt road near Lambert’s Bay, Western Cape, South Africa; well outside of the species presumed native range.
Figure 2. A live adult female leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) removed from a dirt road near Lambert’s Bay, Western Cape, South Africa; well outside of the species presumed native range.

A study assessing driver attitudes on animal-vehicle collisions in Northern Tanzania, found that drivers said they were least likely to hit leopard tortoises due to the perceived damage it could cause to their vehicles (Kioko et al. 2015), as they are one of the largest species of tortoise on the continent (Boycott and Bourquin 2000). However, as our observation notes, vehicle collisions with leopard tortoises do occur. The direct effect of road mortality has a high likelihood of effecting many African reptile populations, especially for long-lived species with low recruitment rates that are negatively impacted over the long-term by small increases in adult mortality (e.g., turtles and tortoises, Gibbs and Shriver 2002; Keevil et al. 2018). There may also be indirect impacts of roads on leopard tortoises. For example, poaching rates may be increased by tortoises’ proclivity for crossing roads, with some drivers reporting they would remove live tortoises from the roads to take home or to sell (Kioko et al. 2015). Also, it is known that the opportunity roads present for foraging my actually increase predator population size which can, in turn, negatively impact tortoise population size due to increased predation pressure (Loehr 2017). Thus, African tortoise populations are likely directly and indirectly threatened by roads and it remains uncertain whether certain tortoise species can sustain their populations into the future as road networks increase in density.

Interestingly, both of our observations of leopard tortoises on roads are well outside the species’ presumed native range in the Western Cape, which ends at the Breede River (180 km to the east of these observations), and over 200 km north of the identified introduced range (Hofmeyr and Baard 2014). It is important to note, this species is a popular pet, with escapes common, however specimens have been captured free roaming within their introduced range for the last 200 years (Hofmeyr and Baard 2014). Due to the lack of consensus as to the specific boundary line between where this species is native and where it is a domestic invasive, these observations should secondarily serve as a prompt for research into the genetic structure of leopard tortoises across their range, particularly while the species is considered widespread, common, and of low conservation concern (Hofmeyr and Baard 2014).

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Dr. Michael Cherry for supporting the fieldtrips on which these observations were made. JBG is supported by a Centre for Invasion Biology Postdoctoral Fellowship at Stellenbosch University and JLR is supported by a Claude Leon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship also at Stellenbosch University.

References

Andrews KM, Gibbons JW, Jochimsen DM 2008. Ecological effects of roads on amphibians and reptiles: a literature review. In: Urban Herpetology. Mitchell JC, Brown REJ, Bartholomew B (eds). Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, USA: 121-143

Aresco MJ 2005. Mitigation measures to reduce highway mortality of turtles and other herpetofauna at a north Florida lake. The Journal of Wildlife Management 69: 549-560. DOI: 10.2193/0022-541X(2005)069[0549:MMTRHM]2.0.CO;2

Boycott RC, Bourquin O 2000. The Southern African Tortoise Book. Revised edition. O Bourquin, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Dean WRJ, Milton SJ 2003. The importance of roads and road verges for raptors and crows in the Succulent and Nama-Karoo, South Africa. Ostrich-Journal of African Ornithology 74: 181-186. DOI: 10.2989/00306520309485391

Gibbs JP, Shriver WG 2002. Estimating the effects of road mortality on turtle populations. Conservation Biology 16: 1647-1652. DOI:10.1046/j.1523-1739.2002.01215.x

Hofmeyr MD, Baard EHW 2014. Stigmochelys pardalis (Bell, 1828). In: Atlas and Red List of Reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Bates MF, Branch WR, Bauer AM, Burger M, Marais J, Alexander GJ, Villiers (eds). South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, South Africa

Keevil MG, Brooks RJ, Litzgus JD 2018. Post-catastrophe patterns of abundance and survival reveal no evidence of population recovery in a long-lived animal. Ecosphere 9:e02396. DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.2396

Kioko J, Kiffner C, Phillips P, Patterson-Abrolat C, Collinson W, Katers S 2015. Driver Knowledge and Attitudes on Animal Vehicle Collisions in Northern Tanzania. Tropical Conservation Science 8: 352-366. DOI: 10.1177/194008291500800206

Loehr VJ 2017. Unexpected decline in a population of speckled tortoises. The Journal of Wildlife Management 81: 470-476.

SAFRING Ringing Report for 2017

Figure 1: Trend in ringing effort over fifteen years from 2003 to 2017

Paijmans DM, Rose S, Oschadleus HD, and Thomson RL. 2019. SAFRING Ringing Report for 2017. Biodiversity Observations 10.11:1-11

Biodiversity Observations is an open access electronic journal published by the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. This HTML version of this manuscript is hosted by the Biodiversity and Development Institute. Further details for this manuscript can be found at the journal page, and the manuscript page, along with the original PDF.


SAFRING Ringing Report for 2017

Dane M. Paijmans

FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701, South Africa

Sanjo Rose

FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701, South Africa

H. Dieter Oschadleus

School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, P/Bag X01, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Robert L. Thomson

FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701, South Africa

Following on from the 2016 SAFRING ringing summary (Paijmans et al. 2017), the SAFRING database has grown to 2,677,367 ringing records (initial, retrap, resightings and recoveries). This number is increased to 2,698,821 records when foreign scheme records stored in the database are included.

Ringing effort

In 2017 (1 January 2017 to 31 December 2017) SAFRING received 65,196 ringing records (54,018 birds ringed; 8,652 recaptured; 1,973 resighted; 553 recoveries) relating to 726 species (Figure 1). There was a notable decrease in record totals since 2016, with the greatest change being seen in the resighting count (colour ringed/tagged birds sighted in the field). As some records are still outstanding these values may differ in future summaries.

Figure 1: Trend in ringing effort over fifteen years from 2003 to 2017
Figure 1: Trend in ringing effort over fifteen years from 2003 to 2017

 

During 2017, 253 active ringers submitted records to SAFRING and thirty-one new ringers qualified (Figure 2). 103 ringers ringed over 100 birds, with 12 of these ringing more than 1,000 birds (Table 1). Most ringers ringed a variety of species distributed across southern Africa (Figure 3). The top ringer, Dr Ursula Franke-Bryson (ringer: 1240), ringed 3,761 birds and produced a total of 3,875 records. Dirk Heinrich (ringer: 573) had the greatest overall record count (4,375 records) and produced the most retraps (799 retraps) of any of the individual ringers. Dr Ursula Franke-Bryson ringed the most species during 2017 (215 species) followed by James Rawdon (ringer: 1607, 190 species) (Table 1).

Figure 2: Number of active and new registered SAFRING ringers over fifteen years from 2003 to 2017
Figure 2: Number of active and new registered SAFRING ringers over fifteen years from 2003 to 2017

 

Figure 3:  Distribution of ringing effort across southern Africa per quarter degree grid cell for the 2017 ringing period. The colour coding of the grid cell indicates numbers of birds ringed in it
Figure 3: Distribution of ringing effort across southern Africa per quarter degree grid cell for the 2017 ringing period. The colour coding of the grid cell indicates numbers of birds ringed in it

 

Table 1: Top 20 ringers/groups over the 2017 ringing year: Most bird records (ringed/ retrapped and recovered). Code 1 = ringed birds, 2 = retraps, 4 = resightings, X = dead birds. DEA=Dept. of Environmental Affairs

Name 1 2&4 X Species Total
U Franke-Bryson (1240) 3761 112 2 215 3875
D Heinrich (573) 3562 799 14 116 4375
M Brown (1089) 1892 396 22 117 2310
J. Rawdon (1607) 1871 200 0 190 2071
DEA (870) 1603 0 0 2 1603
J Mulvaney (1622) 1487 22 0 75 1509
HD Oschadleus (32) 1431 197 0 109 1628
K Nelson (1540) 1400 186 2 151 1588
K Dixon (1278) 1087 134 2 71 1223
ML Marais (740) 1074 52 0 53 1126
M Pienaar (14997) 1054 228 1 115 1283
N Thomson (1476) 1045 498 1 51 1544
M Remisiewicz (1454) 996 302 23 105 1321
M McCall (266) 959 100 0 41 1059
H Bantjes (180) 766 56 2 91 824
C du Plooy (1120) 745 59 0 99 804
J Raijmakers (162) 741 50 0 118 791
D Engelbrecht (1245) 703 27 0 115 730
C Williams (1340) 619 34 0 105 653
R Covas (1007) 604 592 227 1 1423

The ringing effort has been well distributed across southern Africa (Figure 3), with most records (initial, retrap, resighting, recovery) originating from South African provinces and Namibia (Table 2). The South African province to produce the most ring records was Gauteng (9,850 records; Table 2), while KwaZulu-Natal had the most species records (279 species; Table 3).

Table 2: Regional ringing effort (number of records) in the 2017 ringing year (all regions with over 100 SAFRING records)

Region No. of initial records No. of retrap/resight records No. of recovery records Total records Percentage of total records
South Africa (total) 36178 4784 454 41416 65.4
– Gauteng 8593 1212 45 9850 15.6
– Western Cape 7981 1025 95 9101 14.4
– KwaZulu-Natal 5852 919 21 6792 10.7
– Limpopo 3461 200 8 3669 5.8
– Eastern Cape 3121 215 15 3351 5.3
– North West 2951 400 11 3362 5.3
– Mpumalanga 2227 115 23 2365 3.7
– Northern Cape 1141 653 231 2025 3.2
– Free State 851 45 5 901 1.4
Namibia 8780 2397 38 11215 17.7
Seychelles 1380 296 5 1681 2.7
Zambia 835 12 2 849 1.3
Oceanic Islands 500 1848 13 2361 3.7
Botswana 265 39 0 304 0.5
Cameroon 194 21 0 215 0.3

Table 3: Regional ringing effort in the 2017 ringing year (all regions with over 100 SAFRING records). Percentages of the total number of species do not not total 100 due to representation of certain species in multiple regions.

Region No. of ringers No. of species Avg. no. of species per ringer Avg. no. of birds per ringer Percentage of total species
South Africa (total) 185 504 31 195.6 68
– Gauteng 63 204 24 136.4 28
– Western Cape 76 214 33 105.0 29
– KwaZulu-Natal 54 279 21 108.4 38
– Limpopo 50 253 23 69.2 35
– Eastern Cape 23 156 14 135.7 21
– North West 32 161 13 92.2 22
– Mpumalanga 46 232 18 48.4 32
– Northern Cape 22 56 4 51.9 8
– Free State 22 96 10 38.7 13
Namibia 33 190 14 266.0 26
Seychelles 12 20 7 115.0 3
Zambia 3 118 43 278.3 16
Oceanic Islands 6 11 4 83.3 2
Botswana 4 69 21 66.3 10
Cameroon 2 39 20 97.0 5

Of the 54,018 initial records for 2017, most (97.7 %) had age categories assigned. 46,142 (87.4 %) of these were reported as adults and immatures with the remainder, 6,630 (12.6 %), being reported as pullus (chicks) and juveniles. This difference is a result of most ringers favouring trapping (mist nets, snap traps etc) over ringing nestlings.

Several ongoing targeted research projects were undertaken in 2017, for example: sociable weavers (Philetairus socius) – Sociable Weaver Research Project, Cape gannets (Morus capensis)- Department of Environmental Affairs Republic of South Africa, albatross species – various island projects (Anonymous 2019), and vulture species – Vulpro. These inflated numbers were still surpassed by common species caught by Citizen Scientist ringers (Table 4).

Table 4: The most frequently ringed species over the 2017 ringing year. Code 1 = ringed birds, 2 = retraps, 4 = resightings, X = dead birds

Species 1 2&4 X Total
Terrestrial
southern masked-Weaver (Ploceus velatus) 4586 406 20 5012
red-billed quelea (Quelea quelea) 3112 14 0 3126
red-headed finch (Amadina erythrocephala) 2474 604 6 3084
Cape white-eye (Zosterops virens) 2211 210 9 2430
southern red bishop (Euplectes orix) 1993 235 4 2232
laughing dove (Spilopelia senegalensis) 1319 523 18 1860
Cape weaver (Ploceus capensis) 1223 118 5 1346
dark-capped bulbul (Pycnonotus tricolor) 1171 101 4 1276
blue waxbill (Uraeginthus angolensis) 830 133 1 964
Cape sparrow (Passer melanurus) 734 48 0 782
sociable weaver (Philetairus socius) 632 596 227 1455
Cape robin-chat (Cossypha caffra) 626 214 9 849
violet-eared waxbill (Uraeginthus granatinus) 601 18 0 619
village weaver (Ploceus cucullatus) 580 33 2 615
African reed-warbler (Acrocephalus baeticatus) 559 74 2 635
Marine
Cape gannet (Morus capensis) 1614 2 24 1640
Hartlaub’s gull (Chroicocephalus hartlaubii) 380 3 0 383
kelp gull (Larus dominicanus) 347 34 21 402
wedge-tailed shearwater (Ardenna pacifica) 273 65 0 338
Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross (Thalassarche chlororhynchos) 151 851 3 1005
white-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus) 142 41 2 185
sooty tern (Onychoprion fuscatus) 79 0 0 79
Kittlitz’s plover (Charadrius pecuarius) 72 12 0 84
sandwich tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis) 70 525 2 597
southern giant-petrel (Macronectes giganteus) 66 553 1 620
Raptor
barn owl (Tyto alba) 316 33 8 357
southern pale chanting goshawk (Melierax canorus) 310 19 1 330
white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus) 267 56 0 323
jackal buzzard (Buteo rufofuscus) 134 9 3 146
spotted eagle-owl (Bubo africanus) 124 48 4 176

Retrap/Resighting/Recovery Effort

Resightings of colour ringed birds increased the overall subsequent (retrap/resighting) numbers (Table 5). Foreign ringed birds sighted in southern Africa were predominantly common terns (Sterna hirundo) (27 reports) and Sandwich terns (Thalasseus sandvicensis) (61 reports), with several other interesting migrants being resighted in South Africa (Table 6). Most of the foreign tern sightings were reported by Mark Boorman (ringer: 572) in Namibia (Figure 4).

Table 5: Conditions of retrap/resighting for the 2017 ringing year

Condition Total
No other information 9069
Sighting: from camera trap 642
Sighting: of colour ringed bird 576
Sighting: of patagial tags 240
Sighting: ring number read in field 43
Incubating egg(s) 20
Controlled: and released 11
Caught: and released 7
Sick or injured: Taken to rehabilitation centre 6
Sick or Injured: no other information 5
Alive: found hanging from wire by thread around leg 2
Caught: flew into shop/house, released 2
Sick or injured: wing broken 1
Sick or injured: subsequent fate unknown 1
Collision: with a building 1
Caught: flew into building 1
Controlled: tracking device fitted, bird released 1
Exhausted: taken to rehabilitation centre 1
Exhausted: kept in captivity 1
Exhausted: bird released 1
Alive: bird found in possession of uninformed persons 1

Table 6: Foreign recoveries, retraps and resightings from South Africa during the 2017 ringing year. Values marked as unknown have not been received from relevant schemes. BTO: British Trust for Ornithology

Ring no. Species Sex Ring/Resight Date Location Stage Entity
1428322 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing 2012-06-19 5148N0404E Nestling/Pulli Arnhem Scheme, Netherlands
(Sterna sandvicensis) Resighting 2017-02-09 3407S1820E Unknown Mr A Tree, Western Cape
1442246 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing 2013-06-27 5148N0404E Nestling/Pulli Arnhem Scheme, Netherlands
(Sterna sandvicensis) Resighting 2017-03-12 3417S1849E Adult Mr M Boorman, Western Cape
1442662 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing 2012-06-19 5148N0404E Nestling/Pulli Arnhem Scheme, Netherlands
(Sterna sandvicensis) Resighting 2017-11-27 3435S1920E Adult Mr M Boorman, Western Cape
1585280 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing 2014-06-20 5147N0408E Nestling/Pulli Arnhem Scheme, Netherlands
(Sterna sandvicensis) Resighting 2017-03-14 3407S1850E Adult Mr M Boorman, Western Cape
1585453 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing 2015-05-26 5148N0404E Adult Arnhem Scheme, Netherlands
(Sterna sandvicensis) Resighting 2017-10-12 3435S1920E Adult Member of the public, Western Cape
1585463 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing 2015-05-26 5148N0404E Adult Arnhem Scheme, Netherlands
(Sterna sandvicensis) Resighting 2017-03-07 3435S1920E Adult Member of the public, Western Cape
1588140 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing 2015-06-27 5307N0453E Nestling/Pulli Arnhem Scheme, Netherlands
(Sterna sandvicensis) Resighting 2017-10-30 3407S1850E Adult Member of the public, Western Cape
1589465 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing 2016-06-25 5307N0453E Nestling/Pulli Arnhem Scheme, Netherlands
(Sterna sandvicensis) Resighting 2017-09-25 3407S1850E Adult Mr M Boorman, Western Cape
1590542 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing 2016-06-23 5148N0357E Nestling/Pulli Arnhem Scheme, Netherlands
(Sterna sandvicensis) Resighting 2017-12-04 3435S1920E 1 to 2 year Mr M Boorman, Western Cape
4592983 common tern Unknown Ringing unknown unknown unknown Unknown
(Sterna hirundo) Recovery 2017-10-16 3248S1753E Adult Member of the public, Western Cape
6A3484 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing unknown unknown unknown Unknown
(Sterna sandvicensis) Resighting 2017-11-13 3434S1920E Adult Member of the public, Western Cape
9933315 European storm-petrel Unknown Ringing unknown unknown unknown Unknown
(Hydrobates pelagicus) Recovery 2017-12-08 3404S2454E Adult SANCCOB, Eastern Cape
99Z29736 common tern Unknown Ringing unknown unknown unknown Unknown
(Sterna hirundo) Recovery 2017-12-07 3425S1908E Adult Bruxelles Scheme, Western Cape
A16170 osprey Unknown Ringing 2016-07-13 5826N2714E Nestling/Pulli Estonian Bird Ringing, Estonia
(Pandion haliaetus) Recovery 2017-01-27 2857S3146E Unknown ADU non ringer, KwaZulu-Natal
AT217135 common tern Unknown Ringing 2008-06-28 6035N2144E Unknown Helsinki Museum, Finland
(Sterna hirundo) Recovery 2017-02-02 3205S1818E Unknown Mr Y. Chesselet, Western Cape
DB93011 Caspian tern Unknown Ringing 2000-06-20 5720N0159W Nestling/Pulli Member of the public, United Kingdom
(Sterna caspia) Resighting 2017-02-12 3406S1849E Adult Prof D Cyrus, Western Cape
DD44529 Caspian tern Unknown Ringing 2010-08-30 5720N0159W Adult plumage Member of the public, United Kingdom
(Sterna caspia) Resighting 2017-02-12 3407S1849E Adult plumage Prof D Cyrus, Western Cape
DD44558 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing 2010-08-30 5719N0159W Adult plumage BTO, United Kingdom
(Sterna sandvicensis) Resighting 2017-02-17 3407S1850E Adult plumage Prof D Cyrus, Western Cape
DD78255 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing unknown unknown unknown Unknown
(Sterna sandvicensis) Resighting 2017-09-22 2849S3204E Nestling/Pulli Member of the public, KwaZulu-Natal
DD92438 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing 2013-07-17 5537N0138W Unknown BTO, United Kingdom
(Sterna sandvicensis) Resighting 2017-02-01 3434S1921E Unknown Mr A Tree, Western Cape
DE23529 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing unknown unknown unknown Unknown
(Sterna sandvicensis) Recovery 2017-03-30 3407S1849E Unknown BTO, Western Cape
DE52988 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing 2014-05-09 5719N0159W Adult plumage BTO, United Kingdom
(Sterna sandvicensis) Resighting 2017-12-16 3407S1850E Adult plumage Member of the public, Western Cape
DN56796 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing unknown unknown unknown Unknown
(Sterna sandvicensis) Recovery 2017-12-19 3421S1904E Adult plumage Member of the public, Western Cape
DT02729 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing 2014-06-13 5719N0159W Unknown BTO, United Kingdom
(Sterna sandvicensis) Resighting 2017-02-01 3439S1929E Unknown Mr A Tree, Western Cape
FT67249 elegant tern Male Ringing 2003-07-03 4434N0114W Adult plumage Paris Scheme, France
(Thalasseus elegans) Resighting 2017-03-05 3419S1827E Adult plumage Member of the public, Western Cape
HN53498 common tern Unknown Ringing unknown unknown unknown Unknown
(Sterna hirundo) Retrap 2017-01-27 3373S1843E Juvenile SANCCOB, Western Cape
K6P7778 barn swallow Male Ringing 2014-09-14 5232N1913E Adult plumage Gdansk/Varsovia, Poland
(Hirundo rustica) Retrap 2017-02-21 2825S3218E Adult plumage Member of the public, KwaZulu-Natal
NL1672 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing 2013-06-25 5148N0357E Nestling/Pulli Arnhem Scheme, Netherlands
(Sterna sandvicensis) Resighting 2017-12-25 3435S1920E Adult plumage Mr M Boorman, Western Cape
PL00806 sandwich tern Unknown Ringing unknown unknown unknown Unknown
(Sterna sandvicensis) Resighting 2017-12-08 3433S1921E Adult plumage Member of the public, Western Cape
RE3685 barn swallow Unknown Ringing 2016-09-24 4033N0315W Adult plumage Bird Ringing Office Spain ICONA, Spain
(Hirundo rustica) Retrap 2017-03-26 2541S2903E Juvenile Dr M Remisiewicz, Mpumalanga
TA12113 white stork Unknown Ringing 2016-06-17 4540N1824E Nestling/Pulli Zagreb Scheme, Croatia
(Ciconia ciconia) Resighting 2017-01-05 3357S2205E Adult plumage Member of the public, Western Cape
VN8213 white stork Unknown Ringing unknown unknown unknown Unknown
(Ciconia ciconia) Recovery 2017-01-21 2742S2959E Nestling/Pulli Member of the public, KwaZulu-Natal
YE41RE41 osprey Unknown Ringing 2015-07-11 6057N3554E Juvenile St. Petersburg, Russia
(Pandion haliaetus) Resighting 2017-04-30 3420S1905E Adult plumage Member of the public, Western Cape

Figure 4: Positions/directions at which birds with SAFRING and FOREIGN rings were initially ringed and retrapped/recovered /resighted, for the 2017 ringing year.
Figure 4: Positions/directions at which birds with SAFRING and FOREIGN rings were initially ringed and retrapped/recovered /resighted, for the 2017 ringing year.

 

Of the 553 recovery records received; the most commonly recovered species were sociable weaver, kelp gull (Larus dominicanus), Cape gannet and laughing dove (Spilopelia senegalensis) (Table 4). Most recoveries did not have a known cause of death, with many being reported after washing up on beaches and others being found around residential areas (Table 7).

Table 7: Causes of bird mortality over the 2017 ringing year

Finding Condition Total
Died: cause of death unknown 426
Carcass: found beached, cause of death unknown 20
Carcass: dead less than one week 15
Collision: with motor vehicle (or found next to road) 9
Collision: with a window 8
Killed or attacked by: domestic cat 7
Died: of natural Cause 7
Sick or injured: Euthanised 6
Sick or injured: subsequently died 6
Carcass: ring found with just part of carcass or skeleton 6
Died: drowned 5
Died: on long line from fishing vessel, drowned 4
Ring found: no sign of carcass or skeleton 4
Died: electrocuted 3
Died: of avian cholera or other disease 3
Killed or attacked by: wild mammal 3
Died: in, or near nest 3
Died: as a result of ringing activities 2
Killed or attacked by: domestic dog 2
Carcass: partly eaten by scavengers 2
Shot: no reason given 1
Shot: for sport 1
Poisoned: unintentionally, bait intended for other animal 1
Killed: by predator while in mistnet or ringing 1
Sick or Injured: leg broken 1
Sick or injured: subsequent fate unknown 1
Ring number reported, no further details 1
Killed or attacked by: domestic animal 1
Collision: with a building 1
Victim of weather: due to wind (or storm) 1
Victim of weather: due to cold 1
Died: at rehab centre, recovery site unknown 1

Ringing papers

Fifteen peer-reviewed research articles were published during 2017, either using stored SAFRING data directly, or producing ringing data of their own and using SAFRING’s services (Table 8). In addition to these publications four PhD theses were completed in 2017 assisted by SAFRING-related ringing data. AFRING News (published in Biodiversity Observations) published 8 new bird ringing related articles. In addition to these publications, many other popular articles featuring bird ringing, were published in birding newsletters, magazines, and online.

Table 8: Scientific (peer-reviewed) publications produced utilising records (either self-produced or archived) within the SAFRING database for the year 2017. Note: This list may not contain all publications. *Reports that only produced their own SAFRING records

Author(s) Title Journal/Institution
Peer-Reviewed Papers
Paijmans DM, Catto S, Oschadleus HD SAFRING longevity and movement records for southern African vultures (subfamilies Aegypiinae and Gypaetinae) Ostrich 88(2), 163-166
*McPherson SC, Brown M, Downs CT Gender-related morphometric differences in mature and nestling Crowned Eagles, with comments on ringing of eagle nestlings in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa Ostrich 88(3), 195-200
*Turner WC, Küsters M, Versfeld W, Horak IG Ixodid tick diversity on wild mammals, birds and reptiles in and around Etosha National Park, Namibia African Journal of Ecology 55(4), 714-721
Tatayah V, Brown R, Le Corre M, Nicoll M, Jones CJ Body mass and pectoral muscle size changes in African waterfowl during moult. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 47(1), 24-31
*Hirschauer MT, Wolter K, Neser W Natal philopatry in young Cape Vultures Gyps coprotheres Ostrich 88(1), 79-82
*Pfeiffer MB, Venter JA, Downs CT Observations of microtrash ingestion in Cape Vultures in the Eastern Cape, South Africa African Zoology 52(1), 65-67
Thompson LJ, Downs CT Altitudinal variation in metabolic parameters of a small Afrotropical bird. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology 212, 88-96)
*Maphalala MI, Monadjem A White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus parental care and chick growth rates assessed by camera traps and morphometric measurements Ostrich (88(2), 123-129
*Ball AD, van Dijk RE, Lloyd P, Pogány Á, Dawson DA, Dorus S, Székely T Levels of extra-pair paternity are associated with parental care in Penduline Tits (Remizidae) Ibis 159(2), 449-455
*van Eeden R, Whitfield DP, Botha A, Amar A Ranging behaviour and habitat preferences of the Martial Eagle: Implications for the conservation of a declining apex predator PloS one 12(3), e0173956
Walther B, Pirsig L Determining conservation priority areas for Palearctic passerine migrant birds in sub-Saharan Africa Avian Conservation and Ecology 12(1)
Tate G, Sumasgutner P, Koeslag A, Amar A Pair complementarity influences reproductive output in the polymorphic Black Sparrowhawk Accipiter melanoleucus. Journal of Avian Biology 48(3), 387-398
*Rose S, Sumasgutner P, Koeslag A, Amar A Does Seasonal Decline in Breeding Performance Differ for an African Raptor across an Urbanization Gradient? Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 5, 47
*Mackay B, Lee ATK, Barnard P, Møller AP, Brown M Urbanization, climate and ecological stress indicators in an endemic nectarivore, the Cape Sugarbird Journal of Ornithology 158(4), 1013-1024
*Lloyd P, Frauenknecht BD, du Plessis MA, Martin TE Comparative life history of the south temperate Cape Penduline Tit (Anthoscopus minutus) and north temperate Remizidae species. Journal of Ornithology 158(2), 569-577
Kalle R, Combrink L, Ramesh T, Downs CT Niche models reliably predict suitable habitats for the reintroduction of red-billed oxpeckers. Ecology and evolution 7(6), 1974-1983
*van Velden JL, Koeslag A, Curtis O, Gous T, Amar, A Negative effect of mite (Knemidokoptes) infection on reproductive output in an African raptor The Auk 134(3), 498-508
*Remisiewicz M, Tree AJ, Underhill, LG, Burman MS Age-specific variation in relationship between moult and pre-migratory fuelling in Wood Sandpipers Tringa glareola in southern Africa Ibis 159(1), 91-102
Rose S, Oschadleus HD Longevity summary from 69 years of Estrildidae ringing data in southern Africa African Zoology 53(1), 41-46
Kopij G Migratory connectivity of South African Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis, Ciconiiformes, Ardeidae) Zoological Journal 96, 418-428
Lowney A, Green K, Ngomane PB, Thomson RL Mortal combat: Intraspecific killing by an African pygmy-falcon (Polihierax semitorquatus) to acquire new mate and territory Journal of Raptor Research 51(1), 89-91
Academic Theses
Musitelli F Aves remores: responses of migratory birds to climate change and habitat alteration PhD Thesis, University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy
*Munshi N Genetic diversity and interspecies hybridization in cossypha robin-chats PhD Thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
*Van Eeden R Understanding the decline of Martial Eagles Polemaetus bellicosus in the Kruger National Park, South Africa PhD Thesis, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
*Van de Ven TM Implications of climate change on the reproductive success of the Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Tockus leucomelas PhD Thesis, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

Acknowledgements

We at SAFRING really appreciate all the effort of ringers and the general public (the latter for reporting recoveries) and would like to thank everyone that has taken part in ringing and resighting in southern Africa. During 2017, SAFRING was housed by the Animal Demography Unit and funded by the South African National Biodiversity Institute, and the Namibian Ministry of Wildlife and Tourism during 2017.

References

Anonymous. 2019. Conserving Southern Ocean seabirds, viewed 25/01/2019, http://www.fitzpatrick.uct.ac.za/fitz/research/programmes/maintaining_species_level/southern_ocean_seabirds.

Paijmans DM, Catto S, Oschadleus HD. 2017. SAFRING ringing report for 2016. Biodiversity Observations, 8 (36): 1-8. Available online at https://journals.uct.ac.za/index.php/BO/article/view/458

Fynbos Estate expedition, 3-12 December 2019

Cape Sugarbird

Following a successful 10 day BDI bird ringing expedition earlier this year, another was held at Fynbos Estate in December. It was hot and windy but the days were long, and the birds plentiful!

Marc, Danielle, Salome and Dieter were the main team, joined by Joel for two days. On Saturday we were joined by Loutjie and Leon, and Les with Karis, Taylyn and Itxaso for ringing and a communal braai.

Ringing table
Ringing team at work

 

Top species – weavers

The top species was Cape Weaver, followed by Southern Red Bishop and Southern Masked Weaver. The large numbers caught were due to large numbers of juveniles foraging in flocks. These were usually caught in small flocks of 20-30 birds at a time. Most of the weavers had completed breeding, but for the Southern Masked Weaver two nests were found with chicks large enough to ring.

The adult weavers had started primary moult, and males were moulting into non-breeding plumage. Recent juveniles had not started moult, while some older juveniles were starting their post-juvenile moult.

Southern Red Bishop
Southern Red Bishop, male moulting (photo by Marc Baumann)

Special birds

A Bokmakierie was ringed – the first for Fynbos. This species was very vocal on previous trips, but avoided the nets! A Cape Sugarbird was ringed – a few were present daily in the beautiful protea garden – on previous trips, this species was rarely seen, and instead Malachite Sunbirds were regular (and ringed). All three mousebird species were ringed, with the Red-faced being the most common. Some African Stonechats and African Paradise Flycatchers were also ringed. A Cardinal Woodpecker was ringed – two nets were put high in the dead tree that at least 4 woodpeckers frequented, but without success!

Cape Sugarbird
Cape Sugarbird

 

African Paradise Flycatcher
African Paradise Flycatcher

Sonop Farm

One trip was made to Sonop Farm, on the south-east side of the Paardeberg, where ringer Loutjie regularly rings birds at the farm dam. Special birds caught here were a Malachite Kingfisher (recapture), a Namaqua Dove, and a Grey-backed Cisticola. (Previous ringing trip to Sonop). Four juvenile Fiscal Flycatchers were ringed, possibly from the same brood.

Fiscal Flycatcher
Fiscal Flycatcher, juvenile (photo by Marc Baumann)

Recapture rates

Recapture rates were 7% at Fynbos – this low rate is due to the large number of juvenile weavers present, which had fledged since the previous expedition in June. Excluding all the weavers gives a Recapture rate of 15% on this trip. At Sonop there has been more recent ringing resulting in a high recapture rate of 28%. At Fynbos some birds were recaptured from each of the previous trips.

Ringing studies

Ringing large numbers of birds at Fynbos Estate and other sites on the Paardeberg over the next few years will provide baseline data on moult patterns, diversity of birds, longevities, and other aspects of bird biology.

Table. Number of birds ringed and recaptured on two farms on the Paardeberg Mountain, 3-12 December 2019

  Sp no  Species  Fynbos ring  Fynbos retrap  Sonop ring  Sonop retrap  Total
  316  Cape Turtle Dove  2  2
  318  Namaqua Dove  1  1
  390  Speckled Mousebird  2  3  5
  391  White-backed Mousebird  3  1  4
  392  Red-faced Mousebird  6  3  9
  397  Malachite Kingfisher  1  1
  442  Lesser Honeyguide  1  1
  450  Cardinal Woodpecker  1  1
  502  Greater Striped Swallow  1  1
  543  Cape Bulbul  5  4  1  10
  576  African Stonechat  3  3
  581  Cape Robin-Chat  7  3  4  1  15
  606  African Reed-Warbler  11  3  1  6  21
  622  Bar-throated Apalis  1  1
  638  Grey-backed Cisticola  1  1
  646  Levaillant’s Cisticola  12  3  15
  665  Fiscal Flycatcher  1  4  5
  682  African Paradise Flycatcher  3  3
  707  Common Fiscal  2  1  3
  722  Bokmakierie  1  1  2
  749  Cape Sugarbird  1  1
  786  Cape Sparrow  6  1  1  8
  799  Cape Weaver  324  19  7  1  351
  803  Southern Masked Weaver  34  4  5  43
  805  Red-billed Quelea  5  5
  808  Southern Red Bishop  190  2  192
  810  Yellow Bishop  31  7  1  39
  857  Cape Canary  1  1  2
  863  Brimstone Canary  27  2  2  31
  867  Streaky-headed Seedeater  1  1
  1104  Karoo Thrush  1  1
  1105  Olive Thrush  1  1  1  3
  1172  Cape White-eye  8  1  7  16
  4139  Karoo Prinia  4  2  2  2  10
 Total  693  50  50  14  807

Congratulations

Well done to Joel for handling over 500 birds!

500th bird
500th bird, a juvenile Cape Weaver!

 

List of expeditions to Fynbos Estate, with links to trip reports

Trial expedition, 25-27 May 2018
First expedition, 18-28 February 2019 (ring totals), the place, and the birds
Student expedition, 17-21 June 2019
Second expedition, 2-12 December 2019 (this blog)

Sunset
Sunset over Fynbos Estate – view from Dragonridge

 

Would you like to ring birds in the fynbos? Book a trip with African Ringing Expeditions!

The Armoured Tail-Eater

South Africa has an amazing diversity of reptile species and today we feature the awesome spiky critter known as the Armadillo Girdled Lizard Ouroborus cataphractus. Its scientific name means ‘armoured tail-eater’, but more about that later.  In Afrikaans we call it a ‘Blinkogie’ (little bright-eye).  They do have quite large and prominent eyes as far as lizards go. Most conspicuous of course are its ‘girdles’.  Its scales are modified into plates ending in sharp spines that are arranged in rings around its body and tail.

This feature is one it shares with other girdled lizards, once forming the genus Cordylus, which occurs mostly in South Africa. The genus has recently been split, with the Armadillo Girdled Lizard grouped in a genus of its own. They are part of the Armoured Lizard superfamily, the Cordyloidea, which includes several other genera in sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar.

The Armadillo Girdled Lizard occurs in the Northern and Western Cape Provinces of South Africa. It inhabits rocky habitats where it uses narrow crevices for shelter. It ranges from the Richtersveld southward to Piketberg and eastward to the Tankwa Karoo. In general, this is a very dry region that can get extremely hot during summer months. It is the spikiest member of its family; the spikes offer excellent protection in more ways than one.  They protect its skin against bruises and cuts in the harsh rocky environment.  If a predator comes across one in a crevice, the lizard will expand its body; the spikes will then wedge against the walls of the crevice making it almost impossible to extricate.  But if it is caught off guard, it has another strategy – it rolls itself into a ball, grabbing its tail in its mouth like a real-world counterpart of the Ouroboros. The Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. Originating in ancient Egyptian iconography, the Ouroboros entered western tradition via Greek magical tradition and was adopted as a symbol in Gnosticism, Hermeticism and most notably in alchemy. It is a potent symbol: the dragon consumes but simultaneously reproduces itself.  It is unlikely that the Egyptians, Greeks or medieval Europeans ever saw the Armadillo Girdled Lizard; the resemblance may be said to be a coincidence, although such a powerful symbolic image was somehow bound to occur somewhere amidst the richness of nature!

Early alchemical ouroboros illustration with the words ἓν τὸ πᾶν (“The All is One”) from the work of Cleopatra the Alchemist in MS Marciana gr. Z. 299. (10th Century)

But short of constituting an alchemist symbol, the lizard rolling itself in a ball like this performs an excellent defensive measure. The spikes on its back all jut outward, making it a hard ‘pill’ to swallow. This posture inspired its common name, armadillos, of course, also roll themselves into a ball for protection – but their armour is not as spiky!  Birds of prey, however, with their strong bills and talons, are not always daunted by these spiky lizard-balls.

Luckily this lizard has yet another defense: biting. If a predator should still persist in trying to eat it, it will release its tail and bite its assailant instead. Its jaw muscles are so strong that it has been recorded breaking its own jaw bones while biting. And finally, like many other lizards it can shed its tail. The twitching tail could distract the predator while the lizard makes its getaway. It probably is not a very satisfactory consolation prize for the predator, with the tail being so spiny. The girdled lizard can regenerate its tail, but as with most tail-shedders, the new tail will be a somewhat poor copy of the original. Because its tail is quite important to it, it will only shed it as a last resort.

Armadillo Girdled Lizards are medium-sized, 16 to 21 cm in length, with sturdy bodies. They eat insects – mainly termites – and other invertebrates, as well as a small amount of plant material.  Their habitat, though arid and sparsely vegetated, is rich in flowering plant species, many being succulents. The rains in this region usually occur during winter when temperatures are milder.  Consequently, these lizards are more active during winter months, eating and putting on fat.  In the extremely hot and dry summer, they are far less active, hiding in the shade and shelter of the crevices for most of the day.

Photo by Tyrone Ping

They are unusual among reptiles in that they are social, living in groups of up to 60 animals, but usually fewer. These groups are often relatives, for instance an adult pair along with their offspring. There is a lot of interaction between different groups. Dominant males stake out and defend territories in which they will allow, under their rule, females and subordinate males or youngsters. Displays used for territorial defense and impressing females include bobbing the head, flicking the tongue and wagging the tail. The lizards also alert each other to the presence of predators.

Another unusual feature of these tiny dragons is that the female does not lay eggs, but instead gives birth to a single baby (very rarely two). In truth the baby hatches from an egg, but inside the female, so it’s not quite the same as live birth in mammals.  The gestation period is very long: six to eight months. The baby is quite large relative to its mother and born at the start of the rainy season. The parents do give some care to their offspring, protecting them and even bringing them food. Living in a group is beneficial to all members where foraging and safety is concerned.

Sadly, because of their striking appearance, these lizards are often kept as pets. There is significant stress on wild populations due to people collecting them for the exotic pet trade. Because of their social nature, their way of life cannot easily be replicated in captivity; consequently most, if not all, individuals that are sold as pets were probably collected illegally from the wild. There are laws and initiatives in South Africa to try and combat the illegal trade. Captive breeding projects, however, are a different matter; if done responsibly this species can certainly benefit from a number of breeding populations being maintained outside of its small native range. In captivity Armadillo Girdled Lizards can live for up to 25 years.

BDInsight – November 2019

November has been a busy month! We have exciting news all the way from Liberia to the southern most tip of Africa. Read on to find out more….

Upcoming event: BDI Citizen Science Conference February 2020

Come and join the Biodiversity and Development Institute at New Holme Guest Farm (Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve) for our Citizen Science Conference. The core period is Friday evening, 14 February, to lunch time on Sunday, 16 February 2020. We encourage you to stay a few nights extra before and/or after the event too. The extra nights will also be at a discount rate. The theme for the conference is “Citizen Scientists: Ambassadors for Awareness”

For more information see: https://www.facebook.com/events/597102901097235/

PanGoPod goes to the Expo!

Yip, we are very excited to announce that the BDI will be attending the Cape OutdoorX expo this weekend (7 and 8 December 2019) at the Meerendal Wine Estate, Vissershok Road, Durbanville. Expo times: Saturday 09:00 – 20:00 and Sunday 09:00 – 18:00.

OdonataMAP – The Atlas of African Dragonflies and Damselflies

For the November Shoot The Dragons Week, OdonataMAPpers managed to snap and map 909 dragonflies and damselflies from 5 African countries (Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia). Most of the South African records came from KwaZulu-Natal Province.  The recent good rains in the province definitely benefited these amazing little freshwater dragons.

Corrie du Toit took top honours as Dragon Queen once again with an amazing total 210 records submitted for the Week! Well done Corrie, you are a star. Diana Russell did very well too, with 137 records submitted, followed by Andries de Vries on 123. A massive thank you goes to each and every one of you that took the time to snap and map odonata during the Shoot The Dragons Week. Each record is valuable and contributes to our understanding of odonata distributions in Africa. Keep your eyes peeled for the next event, but remember that you can upload records to the Virtual Museum at any time of the year, day or night.

The African Bird Atlas Project is launched in Liberia

The team of atlasers at the launch if the Liberian Bird AtlasThe first question that gets asked when you need to take decisions about the conservation of a species is this: “Where does it occur now?” So it is awesome news that Liberia has launched their own bird atlas. They are working towards answering the critical species conservation question, at least for birds. They are not starting from a blank map. Already, 31 of the 1114 pentads in Liberia have full protocol checklists. That is 3.1% . The first 10% of coverage is the hardest to achieve. After that, people see that the project is feasible, and start to believe in it. Liberia already has 88 checklists and 2,780 records of bird distribution. That is a great platform on which to launch. Awesomely well done! This is great news for birds in Africa.

Clara Cassell led a BirdLasser workshop for atlasers in Liberia

… and after the workshop there was an opportunity to do some fieldwork for the Liberian Bird Atlas

So the African Bird Atlas is now live in Liberia! Following in the successful footsteps of the bird atlas projects in Nigeria and Kenya, it is great to welcome Team Liberia. The Liberian Bird Atlas is being led by Clara Cassell, with support from SNCL (Society for Nature Conservation Liberia), the BirdLife partner there, and Flora and Fauna International.

LepiMAP – The Atlas of African Butterflies and Moths

Why do we celebrate Black Friday? Here’s another colour event that we ought not to be celebrating: White Cabbage. It is now 25 years since the first Cabbage Whites Pieris brassicae were spotted in South Africa, at Sea Point, Cape Town, August 1994. This is South Africa’s only invasive butterfly.

Until the end of 1999, it had been recorded in eight quarter degree grid cells, all close to Cape Town, with green bars in the distribution map (see map above). Between 2000 and 2009, it was recorded in 24 grid cells (shaded with orange bars), and from 2010 up to now it was recorded in 38 grid cells (red bars). There are now records from the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape. How far has it really expanded its range? You can help us answer this  important question.

Cabbage White Pieris brassicae – LepiMAP record submitted by Basil Boer

Please upload all your photos of butterflies (and moths) to the LepiMAP section of the Virtual Museum. This is a long-term database, and there are long term patterns of range-changes emerging – http://vmus.adu.org.za/ – The instructions on how to upload records to the VM are here: http://thebdi.org/2019/01/30/how-to-biomap/

Monitoring the breeding of the African Black Oystercatchers on Robben Island

Intensive monitoring of the African Black Oystercatchers on Robben Island started in the breeding season of 2001/02 and has continued in most years. Each year the objective has been to find all the nests. Bukola Braimoh has done the fieldwork for the past three summers as her PhD research project. She is busy writing up, and the data are starting to show long-term changes in the timing of breeding. Not long to wait to learn about her results; she is planning to submit in February.

This year Rio Button is leading the monitoring. Here she is at the first nest of the summer:

Nest N001 contains three eggs! Can you spot them?

Here is Rio in her office for the summer. The office is about 10 metres wide, just above the spring high tide mark, and 10 kilometres long, and roughly circular.

This was the 10th of the 11 nests found on 28 November 2019. The anticipated total for the summer is around 150 nests!