Karoo ringing – New Holme (Hanover)

New Holme guest farm (Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve) lies lies halfway between Cape Town and Johannesburg, just off the N1. Les, Karis and I visited from 10-12 November 2019 to test out ringing there, and take Virtual Museum photos en route.

Mistnetting at weaver colonies

We put a few nets around the farm house on Monday, and also before breakfast on Tuesday, and caught 86 birds. Top of the list was Cape Sparrow with 42 birds ringed (30 males, 12 females). Second was Southern Masked Weaver, partly due to a large colony in some reeds – there were many green nests, and at least 8 males in the colony – 1 juvenile, 15 males in full breeding plumage, and 8 females (two with brood patches) – it seemed as if breeding only started recently.

Southern Masked Weaver
Southern Masked Weaver colony


Ringing at swallow nests

A Greater Striped Swallow pair had a nest under the roof and White-throated Swallows were feeding juveniles near their nest. The swallows could be targeted by mist-netting near their nests. Flocks of Barn Swallows forage over the karoo veld.

White-throated Swallows
White-throated Swallow juveniles


Pied Starlings

Six Pied Starlings were caught in the mist-nets, but there is potential to catch hundreds! Spring traps and drop traps may be effective to increase the catch.

Pied Starling
Close-up of a Pied Starling!


Night spot lighting

The surrounding karoo veld hosts the usual larks, chats, flycatchers, starlings, buntings and other specials – night spot-lighting could be used effectively to catch and ring these.

Spike-heeled Lark
Spike-heeled Lark in the karoo veld


Cape Sparrows

Cape Sparrow weights vary by region, as shown in the figure below. These birds are lighter in arid regions as represented by Namibia (Nam) and the Northern Cape (NC) compared to other regions in South Africa. The dots show the average and the vertical lines show the extreme ranges. A better analysis would be to separate males from females, but this shows the value of ringing very common species, and large numbers can be ringed at New Holme.

Cape Sparrow
Cape Sparrow weights by province

River ringing

The river is within walking distance from the farm houses, and hosted many Three-banded Plovers. Mist nets here could catch these plovers and possibly other water birds.

Karoo dawn
Karoo dawn, with moon setting

Table – total number of birds ringed at New Holme, 10-12 November 2019

Species Latin Ringed
African Reed Warbler Acrocephalus baeticatus 4
Southern Fiscal Lanius collaris 1
Pied Starling Lamprotornis bicolor 6
Cape Sparrow Passer melanurus 42
Southern Masked Weaver Ploceus velatus 25
Red-billed Quelea Quelea quelea 3
Southern Red Bishop Euplectes orix 5
Karoo Prinia Prinia maculosa 1

Visiting and ringing in the Karoo is special! Thanks to PC and Marisca Ferreira and their staff for hosting us incredibly well! Thanks to Karis and Rozaan for help with the ringing!

  If you would like to ring birds in the Karoo, book a trip with Dieter at Birds4Africa (in conjunction with BDI)!

(this blog first appeared here).

Dieter is a qualified Bird Ringer and trainer, registered bird guide, and Weaver expert. Dieter is able to act as a bird guide for day trips in Cape Town, and is able to customise birds tours in South Africa and beyond.