Fynbos Estate Expedition, 3-12 December 2019

Following a successful 10 day BDI bird ringing expedition in February, another was held at Fynbos Estate in December. It was hot and windy but the days were long, and the birds plentiful!

Marc, Danielle, Salome and Dieter were the main team, joined by Joel for two days. On Saturday we were joined by Loutjie and Leon, and Les with Karis, Taylyn and Itxaso for ringing and a communal braai.

“Birdringing with Dieter and the BDI at Fynbos Estate was an relaxed, well thought and a enjoyable experience. There was a good variety of birds caught and ringed that made it worthwhile to drive through for a day, it was as always a pleasure to ring birds with Dieter and to learn from his wealth of knowledge. The day and trip was very well planned. Thank you for the opportunity to join the group.” Loutjie, Fynbos Estate (see Fynbos blog).

Ringing table
Ringing team at work


Top species – weavers

The top species was Cape Weaver, followed by Southern Red Bishop and Southern Masked Weaver. The large numbers caught were due to large numbers of juveniles foraging in flocks. These were usually caught in small flocks of 20-30 birds at a time. Most of the weavers had completed breeding, but for the Southern Masked Weaver two nests were found with chicks large enough to ring.

The adult weavers had started primary moult, and males were moulting into non-breeding plumage. Recent juveniles had not started moult, while some older juveniles were starting their post-juvenile moult.

Southern Red Bishop
Southern Red Bishop, male moulting (photo by Marc Baumann)

Special birds

A Bokmakierie was ringed – the first for Fynbos. This species was very vocal on previous trips, but avoided the nets! A Cape Sugarbird was ringed – a few were present daily in the beautiful protea garden – on previous trips, this species was rarely seen, and instead Malachite Sunbirds were regular (and ringed). All three mousebird species were ringed, with the Red-faced being the most common. Some African Stonechats and African Paradise Flycatchers were also ringed. A Cardinal Woodpecker was ringed – two nets were put high in the dead tree that at least 4 woodpeckers frequented, but without success (read story)!

Cape Sugarbird
Cape Sugarbird


African Paradise Flycatcher
African Paradise Flycatcher

Sonop Farm

One trip was made to Sonop Farm, on the south-east side of the Paardeberg, where ringer Loutjie regularly rings birds at the farm dam. Special birds caught here were a Malachite Kingfisher (recapture), a Namaqua Dove, and a Grey-backed Cisticola. (Previous ringing trip to Sonop). Four juvenile Fiscal Flycatchers were ringed, possibly from the same brood.

Fiscal Flycatcher
Fiscal Flycatcher, juvenile (photo by Marc Baumann)

Recapture rates

Recapture rates were 7% at Fynbos – this low rate is due to the large number of juvenile weavers present, which had fledged since the previous expedition in June. Excluding all the weavers gives a Recapture rate of 15% on this trip. At Sonop there has been more recent ringing resulting in a high recapture rate of 28%. At Fynbos some birds were recaptured from each of the previous trips.

Ringing studies

Ringing large numbers of birds at Fynbos Estate and other sites on the Paardeberg over the next few years will provide baseline data on moult patterns, diversity of birds, longevities, and other aspects of bird biology.

Table. Number of birds ringed and recaptured on two farms on the Paardeberg Mountain, 3-12 December 2019

  Sp no  Species  Fynbos ring  Fynbos retrap  Sonop ring  Sonop retrap  Total
  316  Cape Turtle Dove  2  2
  318  Namaqua Dove  1  1
  390  Speckled Mousebird  2  3  5
  391  White-backed Mousebird  3  1  4
  392  Red-faced Mousebird  6  3  9
  397  Malachite Kingfisher  1  1
  442  Lesser Honeyguide  1  1
  450  Cardinal Woodpecker  1  1
  502  Greater Striped Swallow  1  1
  543  Cape Bulbul  5  4  1  10
  576  African Stonechat  3  3
  581  Cape Robin-Chat  7  3  4  1  15
  606  African Reed-Warbler  11  3  1  6  21
  622  Bar-throated Apalis  1  1
  638  Grey-backed Cisticola  1  1
  646  Levaillant’s Cisticola  12  3  15
  665  Fiscal Flycatcher  1  4  5
  682  African Paradise Flycatcher  3  3
  707  Common Fiscal  2  1  3
  722  Bokmakierie  1  1  2
  749  Cape Sugarbird  1  1
  786  Cape Sparrow  6  1  1  8
  799  Cape Weaver  324  19  7  1  351
  803  Southern Masked Weaver  34  4  5  43
  805  Red-billed Quelea  5  5
  808  Southern Red Bishop  190  2  192
  810  Yellow Bishop  31  7  1  39
  857  Cape Canary  1  1  2
  863  Brimstone Canary  27  2  2  31
  867  Streaky-headed Seedeater  1  1
  1104  Karoo Thrush  1  1
  1105  Olive Thrush  1  1  1  3
  1172  Cape White-eye  8  1  7  16
  4139  Karoo Prinia  4  2  2  2  10
 Total  693  50  50  14  807


Well done to Joel for handling over 500 birds!

500th bird
500th bird, a juvenile Cape Weaver!


List of expeditions to Fynbos Estate, with links to trip reports

Trial expedition, 25-27 May 2018
First expedition, 18-28 February 2019 (ring totals), the place, and the birds
Student expedition, 17-21 June 2019
Second expedition, 2-12 December 2019 (this blog)

Sunset over Fynbos Estate – view from Dragonridge


  If you would like to ring fynbos birds, book a trip with Dieter at Birds4Africa !
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.