16 November 2015

Out of Africa... and into Norfolk, for a 13 gram bird

Oliver Fox writes:

Monitoring of wintering passerines is one of the main objectives of the Kartong Bird Observatory (KBO), a project run by volunteer ringers in the south of The Gambia, West Africa. Situated on the Atlantic coast close to the Senegalese border, the Kartong wetlands were formed relatively recently as a result of wet-season flooding of disused sand mines and form part of the Allahein to Kartong coast IBA.

Palearctic passerines being processed at Kartong Bird Observatory taken by Colin cross

The wetland reedbeds and surrounding scrub provides an excellent wintering site for many Palearctic passerines, and mist-net surveys have highlighted the importance of the site for Western Olivaceous Warblers, Common Whitethroats, Subalpine Warblers and Common Nightingales in particular. In dry years the area provides refuge for Sahel-dependent species, such as Western Orphean Warblers and Woodchat Shrikes, when conditions further north become unfavourable. Located on a promontory extending into the Atlantic, the site is also well placed to observe passage migration of Blackcaps and Garden Warblers moving south in October and November and Willow Warblers moving north in early Spring.

Wintering Reed Warblers are regularly encountered at Kartong, both in the Typhus reedbeds and the dry coastal and Acacia scrub that surrounds the wetlands. A proportion of those ringed at Kartong seem to be faithful to the wintering site, with five birds recaptured the winter after ringing and one bird returning to Kartong in two successive winters.

Reed Warbler about to be released at Kartong taken by Oliver Fox

News from the BTO has been received that a Reed Warbler ringed on 18/01/14 at Kartong was recaught at Hilgay Wetland Creation, Norfolk on 11/08/2015 BTO's Graham Austin, only 29 km from BTO HQ. There were several BTO staff members on the expedition in 2014, so it seems fitting that the bird was caught in Norfolk a few months later.

This is the sixth Reed Warbler ringed at KBO to be recaptured back in Europe during the summer months, with three having been previously recaptured in Spain, one on Guernsey and one in Surrey. Similarly, the ringing teams at Kartong have recaptured two Spanish and one British & Irish-ringed bird in the last few years, showing the migration pattern of Reed Warblers from Western Europe to the coast of West Africa.

Details of this latest recovery can be found on the Recoveries and Controls page of the KBO website.

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