Every year since 1969, bird ringers from Europe and Kenya meet at Ngulia Safari Lodge in Tsavo West National Park to participate in the ringing of Palaearctic migratory songbirds. These are birds who breed in Europe and Asia and migrate to spend the winter in Africa. Most of these birds fly south at night, passing over Tsavo in November and December. On dark, misty nights, the migrating songbirds become disoriented and land in the bush around the lights of the lodge.
This is a rare occasion in bird migratory phenomena in the world. The birds are gently caught, carried in cloth bags, identified, measured, and fitted with a light metal ring on one leg. Then they are released to continue their journey. A total of 597,694 Palearctic migratory birds of 72 species and 15,570 individuals of Afrotropical birds of 234 species have been ringed in the last 51 years (1969-2020) at the site.
Last year (2020) 10,666 Palaearctic migrants of 32 species and 588 Afrotropical birds of 75 species were captured and ringed. With so many birds, it was a challenge for the local Kenyan team to take the lead, since the ringers from Europe could not participate due to travel restrictions because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Plans for the 2021 ringing are on; it will be a two-week session commencing on 30th November and ending on 10th December 2021. The Kenyan team is expected to carry out the event, since international travel is still difficult. Nature Kenya members are welcome to book a stay at Ngulia Lodge during that time and observe the ringing. You may also volunteer to “scribe” (write the notes) for the ringers. It is a rare opportunity to see many species and big numbers of Palaearctic songbirds in ringers’ hands both day and night.