Sunday, 1 November 2009

Weavers for a change

So, not much to report for today (went to the same church as a few weeks ago, met some of the same people and some new news, then enjoyed a nice lunch and lazy afternoon with a bunch of people from there and elsewhere (including a rather large number of teachers from one of the internation schools) and that's about it - highlight for Kitty and the Mancub being some tiny puppies with eyes still closed, whilst I appreciated the 3 species of sunbird in the garden), so I thought I'd post something about the weavers I saw (or didn't) on my trip last week.

The mission, to remind you, was to find a suitable place where Rufous-tailed Weavers have plenty of nesting colonies that might be useful as a study site. The destination was a tip-off from someone we've met by text along the lines of 20-30km down the Oljoro Rd there are RTWs. So, first, find Oljoro Rd - no easy task when most streets aren't signed and aren't named on maps (and certainly aren't consistently named anyway...). So, after one false start I found it and zipped along nice tarmac for a while 5km, before hitting mud which gradually deteriorated the further I drove... Still, after about 20km I finally got somewhere that wasn't completely overgrazed and still had some bush left over, which was a good sign. (It even had one of my favourite local birds - this pigmy falcon which is actually rather smaller than a blackbird.)

And then, passing under a mysterious barrier with a smile and a wave to the rather surprised onlookers I came across a tree with definite weaver nests:

Now Rufous-tailed Weavers have a few friends who also make rather messy nests. Some weavers create magnificent constructions with delicately woven entrance tubes (some even have false entrances to fool the snakes!) and all sorts (I'll have to take some pics of those types too). RTWs and their friends don't bother - as you can see, they tend to look more like my best knitting efforts. In fact these ones are from the rather more common and much more widely distributed Red-billed Buffalo Weavers. (You can just see one in the left-hand most nest in the pic - all black, with a red beak, not very exciting really.) You can tell (a) because there's one with the nests and (b) because they're mostly built on top of the branches. Actually, this is a bird I'm interestested in, because I think it might well have some sort of competitive relationship with "my" RTWs, but not what I was looking for this time (and you don't have to go anywhere near as far from Arusha to find it either).

So, carrying on, I came across this tree. Ah ha, nests below the branches, bit more interesting...  Messy nests below the branches. But no, sitting in the tree with these ones was a White-browed Sparrow-weaver. Another largeish, dull, messy nesting weaver, but not mine...

So one a bit further and this time definite gold - a tree with some beautifully redone Rufous-tailed Weaver nests. Big, very messy, sometimes several pairs in one blob. And the new ones with nice yellow straw. But could I find a bird? Not even a hint! Parrots, yes, lovebirds, yes (again, another species that might have something to do with RTW's strange distribution), wattled and superb starlings, yes. But the builders of the nests? No. And yet part of my project more or less relies on the fact that these birds are easy to find around their nestinging colonies year-round... So where were they? Am I wrong and these aren't the most northerly breeding Rufous-tailed Weaver colonies but something else (and if so, where were they, whatever they were?!) - it's certainly possible, but my tip-off was from someone who really should know. Or were they just rooting around some beautiful dung pile I couldn't see from where I was? So, the search will have to be continued. And as a final bit of excitement on my way back I discovered that the mysterious barrier I had passed marked the edge of a military zone - discovered when stopped by a burly army type asking what I was doing and who had given me permission to be there... Happily the ignorant foreigner role worked a treat once more...

No comments:

Post a Comment