A german ornithologist extracts birds from mist nets at Ngulia Lodge, Tsavo West National Park, Kenya; November 1979.

In the autumn, millions of small birds migrate from Europe and Russia southwards into Africa to escape the harsh northern winter.  They fly at night for safety, and navigate by the moon and stars. A stream of these nocturnal migrants passes over Tsavo and, on moonless nights in the autumn, they become disorientated when caught in the fog and low cloud that often occurs in this area in the rainy season.

Ngulia Lodge is built high up on a ridge, and it has game viewing lights which are left on all night.  The migrants are attracted by the lights’ glow in the mist, and many tens of thousands of birds can descend on the lodge from out of the murky night skies.

The birds fail to see the very fine mist nets and fly into them, becoming entangled in the fine mesh. They are manually extracted from the nets and ringed (i.e. they have a small, engraved metal ring wrapped around one of their legs). Birds ringed at Ngulia have been found in many areas of eastern Europe and Russia, east to Siberia.

The mist nets’ fine mesh can be seen against the ringer’s red shirt; the bags around his waist contain birds already extracted from the nets and awaiting ringing.  The bird is some kind of warbler – but warbler identification was never one of my strengths!

This is a flash picture, but what did I know about using flash in those far off days?  But, as far as I remember, the OM-2 was unique at that time for setting the duration and intensity of the flash by monitoring the amount of light reaching the film during the flash – to which I can only say “Wow!!!”.  The OM-2 was as wonderful to use as its forebear, the OM-1, but whereas the OM-2 broke down during its use in Kenya, the OM-1 keep going.  I still have both of these two cameras, infected with mould now, in a display cabinet in our living room.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: OM-2 with 50mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide film rated at 64 ISO; automatic flash.

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