Through my home-office window I have been able to study some of the hundreds of Bramblings that have visited my feeder this winter. There is lots of variation in the plumage, but usually only when it comes to the abrasion of head feathers; the more abraded, the more black they (males) appear.
However, some very few males (have not seen this in females) have so-called pea-throats. This means that they have a white throat with variable distribution. Most only show a pea-sized spot below the bill, and one male also showed an all white throat patch, streaching from the bill to the chest (see below).
After a few hours of what I suppose was both heavy and frustrating work in the field, fellow bird recorder Eirik Nydal Adolfsen managed to find and identify the first Trumpeter Finch in Hordaland county. This was also only the second record in Norway, following a long-staying bird in Østfold county from late June until late September 2013.
Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus at Breivik in Øygarden (western Norway) June 2017. The second record in Norway.
Here's my timeline from the first message about the bird, until...
12:00 Starting up a Skype-meeting on a work issue.
12:07 Getting a call from Eirik (the finder), but I am occupied in the meeting.
13:40 Trumpeter Finch published on the local messaging system Band.
13:41 Trying to call Eirik the finder, but his phone is shut off or batteries are dead.
13:42 Frustration. Having the White-winged Lark dip from 2015 fresh in mind.
14:30 No updates on the bird.
14:50 Twitchers are finally on their way, but a car accident is blocking the road and they are delayed.
15:30 Still no updates on the bird.
16:00 I'm coaching the Minde boys 2008 in soaking weather. Only five participants. Should have been cancelled.
17:00 Phone check after training. No updates on the bird.
17:10 Shopping dinner on our way back from the football training.
17:15 More birders have arrived at the site, but no sign of the star of the game.
17:20 Making pasta bolognese in 15 minutes. The pasta became pretty al-dente today...
17:30 Gosh. Still no updates on the bird.
18:00 A kind neighbour accepted a visit from two kids that I was supposed to handle this evening.
18:15 Finally in the car on my way to Øygarden - six hours after the first notification.
18:30 Reports from the people in the field: the bird has not been seen for several hours.
19:05 A White-tailed Eagle pass my car while driving through Rong. Not slowing down.
19:30 Arriving the site.
19:31 The bird seen briefly by a couple of birders after several hours of searching. it flew away...
19:43 After 15 minutes of oppressed worries we finally managed to find the bird. It was feeding on the ground together with Greenfinches, Linnets and Wheatears on a small patch of calcareous sand with sparse vegetation.
The third ever Thrush Nightingale Luscinia luscinia for Hordaland county was found a few days ago in Austrheim municipality, western Norway. Thrush Nightingales are mainly distributed in southeastern Norway, and are obviously concidered rarities in western Norway. The sound below was recorded with a handheld SLR.
The last area in our project (Ntchisi and Dzalaynyama arethe two others) is the IBA Kasungu National Park. Wednesday 22nd. was used for travel and a few community visits.
Kasungu is famous for its Elephants, and the population in Kasungu counted about 2000 animals 20 years ago. Poaching has decimated the numbers a lot, and now there are only about 70 left. Poaching is still a major issue in Kasungu, both from the Malawian and Zambian side of the border.
One of the communities had previously been bothered by Elephants. Elephants were both a nuisance for people’s crops, but were also a hazard to the people themselves. This community lives on the border of the park, but has been innovative in their work to lessen the Elephant issue. By mounting bee-hives in the trees every tenth meter along the park-border, combined with a thick wire between them, thay actually managed to “stop” the large mammals from entering their village. Elephans are not very fond of bees, and avoid them as far as possible. When an Elephant walks into the line, the bee-hives will be disturbed. The bees wil fly out and find the intruder. Elephants then pull back, and return to the reserve.
This community produce quite a bit of honey because of this effort, making them able to earn some money. The area covered with hives and metal lines was a few kilometers, but the leader of the community hoped for assistance to prolong this to cover a larger area.
Just before sunset we arrived at the nights’ accommodation, the Lifupa forest lodge inside the National park. A fantastic place close to a dammed part of the river passing by. A handful Hippos were bathing on the shore, and hundreds of Swallows and Swifts were feeding above the surface. The soundscape during the night was totally awesome, and there were a dozen nice moths to look at as well.
Before the sun broke the following morning we went for a hike around the lake to do some birdwatching. Joined by an armed forest ranger we had a veru nice walk. It was actually the best hours of birdwatching on my Malawi trip. More than 30 new bird species for the trip was registered, with Dickinson's Kestrel, Levaillant's Cuckoo, Purple-crested Turaco and Amethyst Sunbird as the highlights.
During the day we did some more community visits before heading back to Lilongwe. In the evening we had a great goodbye-dinner at a Chinese restaurant downtown. Tomorrow I am off to Norway after a visit to the Royal Norwegian Embassy. Can’t wait to visit Malawi again.
We left Lilongwe early in the morning yesterday, to visit the second IBA we run the project. Communities surrounding the Ntchisi forest reserve. Ntchisi hold the only rainforest in Malawi, but the area has experienced hard pressure from the livelihoods nearby for years. Today the forest reserve is protected, and a group of local rangers patrol the forest on a daily basis. Locals communities are allowed to collect firewood from the forest, but only dry dead wood. Earlier poaching was a problem, but today it is not. Anyway, there aren’t many large mammals to hunt anymore.
Visiting a handful of communities today was great. Local leaders and village people greeted us warmly as elsewhere on out trip. Their efforts in planting trees for community forests were good, and they seemed to have a lot of focus on using the available resouces sustainably. The awareness of the importance of woodlands like the Nitchisi forest did also seem good.
We spent the night at the Ntchisi forest lodge. A beautiful place close to the border of the rainforest. The view from the lodge was spectacular, with Lake Malawi towards the east and the mountains of Mozambique making out the lake's background. Today we managed to do a three-hour hike in the area, spotting about 30 bird species. My personal highlights were a party of Cabanis's Bunting and the enchanting Crowned Horbills. The latter seemed to be quite common in the area. Judging by all the sounds in the forest, many birds were unfortunately not identified. I suppose a local bird guide would have been good to improve the species list. We also got great views of a dozen Blue (Diademed) Monkeys inside the rainforest – the first for the trip.
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