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From Budapest to the Maasai Mara, Adam Scott Kennedy shares the delightful tale of Halas the White Stork and how he happened to discover this bird's story so far...
Hey everyone, meet Halas, a White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) that was hatched south of Budapest, Hungary, in 2015 and now enjoying some African sun in Kenya’s Mara Triangle. Here’s his story and how we know so much about Halas, aka HJR6.
On 7th April 2017, Kenneth, our guide, took us on a morning safari – Tyler, Vicki, my wife, and me. Around 9am, we encountered an individual White Stork with a distinctive colour ring (or band) on its right leg. I asked Kenneth to get a little closer so we could photograph the ring and identify the code, which we then read as ‘HJR6’. From my experience, there are people around the world that go to a great deal of effort to ring these birds and, who knows, maybe we could find that individual and let them know that we’ve found their bird. This is known as a ‘recovery’. Better still, there may even be an interesting story behind HJR6. It is quite unusual to find a White Stork feeding alone as they typically migrate in sizeable flocks, sometimes many thousands strong, but the bird looked healthy enough. Nearby, an immature Saddle-billed Stork provided some stork company while a Martial Eagle surveyed the scene from close by. This large predatory raptor could easily kill a stork but, luckily, seemed more interested in preening than feeding. An ominous omen that the stork was certainly unaware of was that it was feeding at the Kaburini Swamp; kaburini means ‘graveyard’ in Kiswahili and is so named on account of the vast numbers of bones and skulls that litter the edge of the swamp. This is partly due to the high numbers of Spotted Hyena and other predators that live around the marsh throughout the year and the high density of game that it attracts.
Upon our return to Angama, I searched online for “White Stork ring” and the top result was the website www.cr-birding.org (‘cr’ being short for ‘colour ring’) and I realised I had stumbled across the very project team that had placed the ring on the bird. I emailed the Hungarian Bird Ringing Centre with the details and some photos and did not have to wait long for a detailed response (abbreviated as follows):
- Ring number: Coloured ring, blue, HJR6 (2015.06.30.)
- Species: White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)
- Date: 2015.06.30.
- Time: 10:00
- Place: Kiskunhalas (Volán telep), Bács-Kiskun, Hungary
- Geocoordinates: 46°25’8″N 19°28’34″E Status: Pullus (chick)
- Catching method: On nest
- Ringer: Kiss Tamás 641
- Distance: 5,529 km; 160 degrees
- Elapsed time: 1 year(s) 9 month(s) 7 day(s) 
So the bird was ringed as a chick on 30th June 2015 – amazing! But it gets even better as I receive an email from Tamás who was the one who placed the ring:
“Thank you for the recovery! I am very happy to know the stork named “Halas” is doing well in Maasai Mara, Kenya. Please find attached the pictures of it from the day of ringing. With its two siblings, they were ringed with the attention of the locals, the media and a bunch of kids from the kindergarten. This stork is in its 3rd year, so I think it could be on the way back home, but to stay another year in Africa is just as possible. I hope next year we will see him in Hungary in a nest already!”
This is truly amazing. We now have images of the young bird, its siblings and their young admirers. Tamás and I are communicating on other species that he has ringed and even satellite-tagged, such as the stunning European Roller.
This morning, two flocks of White Stork (13 and 80) circled over Angama and we photographed them circling with the Kaburini Swamp in the background. Hopefully, Halas has joined the flocks and is on his way home again.
As you’ll probably know, White Storks have long been associated with bringing babies to lucky couples so I wonder if there may be some exciting baby news on its way…?
Note from the Editor: Yes, the storks have indeed been delivering babies flat out to Angama Mara: a baby girl to our Res Manager, Anne; a baby son to our Financial Manager, Martin; a baby daughter to Violet, on our house keeping team; a pigeon pair of twins to Ali and Steve; a baby boy to Kate; a little boy to Shan and Tyler and another baby boy to our Maasai naturalist, John. Time for the storks to go back to Hungary.