Tuesday 11 March 2014

Active nesting of Northern Masked Weavers at Bahri

On Friday I visited Bahri Sewage Pools again with Marwa. We visited the same area as last week, placing two nets close to where some weavers had built some nets. We had less success with the nets than last week and I only caught 7 new Northern Masked Weavers, many of which were showing some body moult with yellow feathers on the underparts, but none of which were in full breeding plumage. We also caught a couple of Village Weavers, a Reed Warbler and a heap of House Sparrows. Once again, we had about 50 Wattled Starlings flying around close to the nets, but again none went in. Unlike last week, I noticed that a number had the full wattles of birds in breeding plumage. After a while the wind picked up and we packed the nets up early.

We checked the main pools on the way out and were struck by the large numbers of weaver nests that had recently been constructed. One group of 16 nests was about 30 m out in the water in the branches of a flooded bush. There were then two other colonies close by that were built in patches of reeds beside the road, one with 29 nests and the other with 17. It was noticeable that the males around this area were in full breeding plumage. All nests were above water and the ones in reeds were between about 1 and 1.5 m above it. The ones further out in the bush were perhaps a little lower. Not all nests were complete and there was clearly still a lot of activity going on. Some males were already hanging below the nests and flapping their wings to attract females. I hope to get back soon to check on the nest contents.

Northern Masked Weaver nests in bush, Bahri Sewage Pools 7th March 2014

Northern Masked Weaver nests in reeds, Bahri Sewage Pools 7th March 2014

The most conspicuous birds, once again, were the large flocks of Ruff, with several thousand present but very difficult to actually count. Ducks were fewer in numbers, with mainly Gargany present and only a couple of Shovelers. There were still a couple of Eurasian Coots, several Western Marsh Harriers and we had a group of over 20 Senegal Thick-knees roosting under some bushes.

Ruff flocks, Bahri Sewage Pools 7th March 2014

Eurasian Coot, Bahri Sewage Pools 7th March 2014


  1. This succession records of "southern" species you're get are very interesting indeed. Do you think that the creation of permanent wetlands (such as the Bahri Sewage Pools) is creating the conditions that are allowing these species to establish themselves extralimitally, at least locally, close to cities and major conurbations? Paul Tout.

  2. I think this may well be the case, though the lack of any systematic study in the past means that there is no baseline from which to compare the current populations. Marwa and I are currently preparing a paper of our records. Even a small sewage site such as the one at Soba Hospital has populations of these southern species, which suggests that many of the towns further north along the Nile may also have similar sewage habitats. This could well be providing 'stepping stones' over which species could potentially move between the Palaearctic and Afrotropical regions, previously separated by the Sahara. This could have serious consequences for conservation. Marwa is currently looking for funding for a masters to study this.


  3. Absolutely fascinating ...thx. PT