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2013 - 2014 Season

Well another season has come and gone with a very busy season behind me  I have been able to finally tally up my data and see if  it gives me any interesting information. In total I ringed 1127 Barn Swallows during the season as well as the usual Lesser-Striped Swallows, Black Saw-Wings and both Whiterumped and Little Swifts. I also caught a Greater-Striped Swallow which is slightly out of range as these only occur from 20km's inland from the coast, I think this bird got caught up in the frenzy of feeding Barn Swallows and got swept down to the roost in the evening with all the birds.

I also caught a few Martins, namely Sand, Common House Martin and Banded Martin. The Banded Martin is about 60km' from where we normally start to record them, so this is also a very interesting catch.

One of the more unusual was a Hybrid Barn Swallow/House Martin. These birds do interbreed so it is altogether possible to catch these hybrids but this is my first.

    Hybrid - partially feathered Tarsus and Toes

Hybrid - Partial white Rump

Hybrid - No White windows on the tail

Hybrid - No dark band on the chest, pale red throat and a full blue head

In addition to this I had 2 overseas visitors the first Lasse who is from Finland was here to research details for a book that he is writing, while here he visited some of the Zululand reserves and the Mt. Moreland  Barn Swallow Roost before visiting the Umzumbe Barn Swallow Roost.

Lasse taking photo's of the swallows the evening before he flew back to Finland
The face tells the story

the second visitor was Peter who is from Denmark. Peter is also a Bird Ringer/Bander who's passion is Barn Swallows. He is studying the breeding success of the swallows using natural and artificial nests. Peter was here for a week where we caught and ringed 230 Barn Swallows and took feather samples for analysis. 

Peter watching the Barn Swallows coming in to the roost.
A sight of around 2 million Swallows is not normally seen in Europe 

28 December 2013 - Well here we are almost at the end of another year and the swallows at the roost have been incredible. So far to date I have managed to catch and ring 627 Barn Swallows without any controls as yet, but who knows what could happen in the second  half of the season. Below are some of the recent pictures taken in the evenings

Barn Swallow in flight

immature Barn Swallow, you can clearly see the extent of the primary feather moult

coming in to land on top of the nets

Barn Swallows against an African Sunset

30 November 2013 - Over the last few weeks the wind has really been blowing in Umzumbe so this has hampered the ringing of the swallows. Whenever possible I have been going to the roost to catch and can report that numbers are still increasing at the roost and I have managed to ring a few more birds, with the season total now on 206 birds, very disappointing after the start that I got earlier than normal.

Barn Swallows coming in to roost

10 November 2013 - Was ringing again over the last 2 evenings however Friday was disappointing possibly due to the clear conditions and the Swallows remain high, I only managed 7 birds, but yesterday was overcast and perfect and I closed the nets with 42 Barn Swallows to be ringed. the season total already sits at 113 birds and no recaptures.

Adult Barn Swallow sitting on sugarcane flower

    Swallows around the nets, - Umzumbe Roost 09 Nov 2013                                               Swallows above the nets

02 November 2013 - Went down to the roost yesterday evening to see what the numbers were like. Yes we do have Barn Swallows but the numbers should increase over the next few weeks. I managed to catch 35 birds which I ringed and released, no recaptures among them.


        Swallows starting to gather                                                                                                    Swallows around the nets

17 October 2013 - The rains have started and the Swallows are arriving back. Saw quite a few Barn Swallows at the Umzumbe Roost today, the rest should be arriving over the next few weeks.
Barn Swallows having just arrived back at the roost, they are temporarily grounded due to the rain

12 October 2013 - Latest update on what we can expect this season. The Barn Swallows are still on their way to us although I have recorded a few birds (no more than 20) on the odd occasion while birding in the area. There is interest from the BBC to revisit the roost for a follow-up segment for their next episode of winterwatch. I will also be hosting a visitor from finland later in the year.