Higher numbers of Near Threatened Black-tailed Godwits & other winter migrants

Apologies for the silence on the blog since late August. Sometimes I am away from the field and have to run the fieldwork by correspondence while in Nairobi from where I majorly fundraise, consolidate data and write reports. There has also been a Malaria epidemic in Bunyala the past 2 months sweeping through the 11-man team incapacitating one member after the other with the hardest blow dealt when my dedicated assistant and lead scout, Joseph came down with the fever and has had to be off duty for close to one month even having been admitted in hospital at some point. Nonetheless he is making good progress and should join us soon. Even on this bad news starting note, monitoring to prevent bird killing/poisoning has been on-going with individual donors keeping us running when we had absolutely no grant funding between August 2013- October 2013. These included USD 100 from Nella of Australia, USD 350 from Max Osullivan of Australia, USD 320 from Ngaio, R of Canada and USD 280 from Pirjo of Finland. Thank you very much for your support.


The greatest news from our surveys is that we have not observed any poisoning since May 2013! A fortnight ago we recorded up to 60 Common Buzzards hunting/passing through the neighborhood of Bunyala Rice Irrigation Scheme-the largest number since we started our surveys- and 2 records of each of Eurasian Hobbies and Black Kites. Overall, the migrating raptors influx seems to have slowed down but even then afrotropical raptor species are more common as they come to feast on smaller migrants, more so the waders at the rice irrigation scheme .

Common buzzards

Migrant Common Buzzards photographed in neighborhood of Bunyala


Migrant Eurasian Hobby observed in neighborhood of Bunyala Rice Scheme


A pair of resident African Harrier-hawks exhibiting rather aberrant ground-hunting behavior


 Peregrine Falcon watching for waders to hunt from atop a Eucalyptus  tree in the neighborhood of the rice plantation

We are currently observing thousands of palaearctic originating migrant waders at our site including Yellow Wagtails, Ringed Plovers, Little Stints, Common Sandpipers, Wood Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpipers, Green Sandpipers, Marsh Sandpipers, Common Greenshanks, Black-winged Stilts, Whimbrels, Ruffs and Black-tailed Godwits.


Waders arriving, mostly Godwits & Ruffs

Stilts, Greenshank, Ruffs, Godwits

Godwits, Ruffs, Black-winged Stilts & Common Greenshank


Wood Sandpiper

Marsh Sandpiper

Marsh Sandpiper

Greenshank & Marsh sandpiper

Common Greenshank & Marsh Sandpiper

Black-tailed Godwits are Near Threatened according to the IUCN Red List of threatened species and were the most poison-killed migrant species in our study at this site in 2009 (Odino 2011). Our nearly precise approximation of the number of Black-tailed Godwits currently at Bunyala Rice Scheme is 1900 distributed in 3 sub-populations around the rice scheme. This number is higher than the cumulative number of live/dead birds (about 500) that we counted in our quantification of bird mortality study for one year in 2009.

Black-tailed Godwits Stirring up in early morning

A few of the Black-tailed Godwits currently on site, stirring up in the early morning

Black-tailed Godwits, feeding

Feeding Black-tailed Godwits

Black-tailed Godwits arriving

Flying Black-tailed Godwits at Bunyala

I posit that poisoning and accompanying chasing and battering of intoxicated birds may have been traumatizing birds and just a few were able to settle and forage. Our monitoring has been able to create some serenity at the site that may be behind the general increase in the flock sizes that we are observing this season. We are glad that the birds can refuel their energy reserves here before continuing on their southerly migration. We are also happy that our preventive monitoring has kept them all safe at our site this migration season and we will keep it so throughout the entire season.


We will keep you posted on any incidences and observations as and when they arise here at Bunyala Rice Scheme.

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