Vulture Tracks

Click here to see the Cape Vulture movements of those tagged and click here to see the movements of tagged Bearded Vultures.

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Raptor Rescue Newsletter

Click here to read the latest Raptor Rescue Newsletter.

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VulPro Newsletter

Click here to read the latest VulPro newsletter.

Information about VulPro 

VulPro – The Vulture Conservation Programme of South Africa is a unique stand-alone programme based in the North West Province.

VulPro rescues and rehabilitates grounded vultures and raptors, giving the non-releasable birds a second chance at life by using them in a captive breeding programme for population supplementation.

VulPro identifies and mitigates threats, educates, researches and is a trendsetter in vulture conservation.

Visit VulPro and see Cape Vultures, African White-backed, White-headed, Lappet-faced, Palm-nut Vultures and Condors, Bateleurs, Fish Eagles and a host of other raptors depending on what has been rescued and is undergoing rehabilitation.

Visit VulPro’s vulture restaurant and book the hide for an out of world photographic and life experience at a later date.

Families particularly love the involvement of “their” vulture, with children learning so much about these amazing birds.

We also offer a variety of memberships suited to individuals, corporates and families, contact mandyschroder.uron@gmail.com or kerri.wolter@gmail.com for more information.

We also offer the privilege of adopting one of our special vultures, some of these include rescued and rehabilitated vultures, others are captive bred chicks bound for release at a later date.

Should you sight a grounded vulture that requires urgent assistance then please contact Kerri Wolter immediately on the cell number listed below. It doesn’t matter where in the country you are, VulPro strives to assist any vulture in need.

Visit our website at http://www.vulpro.com. We also have a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VulProAfrica/?fref=ts

VulPro Kid’s Corner at https://vulprokidscorner.wordpress.com/

Tours are by appointment only.

Contact Kerri Wolter on kerri.wolter@gmail.com or 082 808 5113

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Vulture Support

This week is your last chance to pledge your support for the Bearded Vulture project. Please consider a pledge for even R1 per minute- every bit counts!

Go to http://www.rhinopeakchallenge.co.za/people-pledge/?celeb_id=4 to make your pledge.

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Repairing Binoculars

For those of you who live in and around the Durban area.

I have been asked numerous times “To whom can I go to get my binoculars cleaned or fixed ?”

Well I have a name for you. He worked for Whysalls for many a year. He is:

Nandha Naidoo (Photography), 27 Tongova Mews, 6 Ushukela Drive, Tongaat 4399.

Tel: 032 945 1565

Cell: 083 470 4077

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Kamberg Nature Reserve

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

8th t0 9th September 2016

Only one night was spent in Kamberg Nature reserve on the way to family in the Berg.

Fortunately the weather was clear but cool when we arrived until we left – although we had an entertaining evening of wind and fire.

Anyway we were grandly welcome by the birds. These photos show the first five birds we saw.

On arrival we had noticed a smell of fire and we could see the smoke rising from the top of the distant hills. The wind was obviously blowing our way.

Sitting with our sundowners enjoying the peacefulness, the smoke we had seen now changed into fire. We could see the flames creeping down the mountainside towards us. Nervously the camp manager was called and she told us there were adequate fire breaks surrounding us.

On going to sleep the fires kept getting closer and the smell of smoke not quite choking – brought to us on the wings of a rather strong wind. Sleep eventually fell upon us and when we awoke all was quiet and the smoke had gone. Looking out the window we could see the burnt area miles away from us!

The morning was spent birding around the camp and staff areas. In total we identified 39 different species – click here to view our list.

Garden birds were calling all around us with Bokmakierie playing a variety of calls.

Several things were striking. The first was the numbers of Buff-streaked Chats – they seemed to be everywhere.

A large family of Ground Woodpeckers kept us entertained as they came out to sunbathe in the warmth of day.ground-woodpeckers

A Red-throated Wryneck called all morning long moving from one clump of tall trees to the next and evading our binoculars. Eventually we found it in a distant bare tree.

red-throated-wryneck

Red-throated Wryneck

Cape Vultures circled overhead

Unusually a Secretarybird flew above us. We are used to seeing them on the ground so this was a treat.

And a Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk did a fly-by.

Then we seemed to save the best for last. Having settled in at Kamberg Valley Hideaway http://www.kambergvalleyhideaway.co.za/with Sally’s son and girlfriend, we took a drive towards the Hlatikulu Crane Sanctuary and Giant’s castle.

We almost turned back as the temperature was dropping and the wind was up. However just past the turnoff to the Crane sanctuary there are two large lakes on the same side of the road. As we approached we wondered if we would see any Cranes. Were we in for a surprise – 30 Wattled Cranes and 2 Grey Crowned Cranes in the first field between the lakes and another 40 Grey-crowned Cranes in the field on the far side. Thankfully we had our scope with us to get a good count.

A very rewarding 24 hours.

Paul and sally Bartho

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Tanglewood Farm Nature Reserve

Saturday Outing to Tanglewood Farm NR

3 September 2016

We had an excellent turnout – the weather could have been a bit better but the cool/slightly overcast sky made walking very pleasant.

Our bird count was in the region of 84 – we had a few mysterious raptors and there was much debate whether the one was an early returning cuckoo or a sparrowhawk.  Unfortunately no photos to help with ID. Click here to see a list of the birds recorded as identified.

The walk through the forested Kloof area yielded up a good number of birds, Purple-crested and Knysna Turacos, Dusky Flycatchers on every second tree and the one group were lucky enough to hear (and see?) Green Twinspots also Narina Trogon  were heard.

Also heard was the Crowned Eagle but then the consensus was possibly a Red-capped Robin Chat!!

Our Weaver count was excellent; Dark-backed, Spectacled, Yellow and Cape building nests by the boathouse dam, Thick-billed and of course the ubiquitous Village.

Sunbirds were not too shabby either; Amethyst, Collared, Olive and Greater-double collared.

Some of the birds seen and heard included: Black-headed Oriole, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Forest Canary, Black-collared, Crested and White-eared Barbets, Southern Boubou, lots of doves – Red-eyed, Emerald Spotted, Tambourine, Rock and Lemon, African Olive Pigeon (Caryl said they roost on top of the house) Common Fiscal, Black-backed Puffback, African Firefinch, Olive Thrush, Southern Black Tit, Olive Bushshrike, a couple of specials – Buff-spotted Flufftail (calling) and Grey Waxbill.

The walk through the grasslands yielded Cape Grassbirds, Croaking Cisticolas, Neddickys, Yellow-throated Longclaws, with Lesser Striped Swallows, Palm Swifts and Black Saw-wings swooping over the dams.

Plenty of wild flowers and butterflies produced some really great photos.

We finished off the morning having our picnic tea at the boathouse – watching the weavers building nests.

Relaxed Birders

Relaxed Birders

The Shetland pony came down to munch the fresh green grass around the dam, the Hadedas delving into the soft earth for tasty morsels, Woolly-necked Storks flying overhead, Reed Cormorants sitting in the dead tree, altogether a very pleasant place to be!

At one point someone on the deck saw this Reed Snake floating at the water’s edge below. “Look at the eyes” was the call, “But not much of a wiggle” said another.

Reed Snake - PB

Reed Snake – PB

At one stage we stopped off at the house to see the Trumpeter Hornbill chick that Caryl and her son rescued. At the moment it lives in a make-shift enclosure and is making a wonderful recovery. It shares the enclosure with an Angora rabbit (also found in the nature reserve) and they seem to be the best of friends.

We had a ‘silver’ collection and R300 was collected! which will go to the Hillcrest conservancy. Many thanks to Caryl for allowing us to visit and have such a great ‘birding’ day.

Cheers

Elena Russell

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Benvie Open Garden

Dear Friends,

Another year has gone by and we have been preparing for Benvie Open Garden again.

We have had some nice unseasonal rain in July and again in August and quite a lot of colour is emerging in the garden and the clivia buds are all showing.

We had intended to open on 24 September but are going to open a week earlier on the 17th and run through to 09th October from 9 – 4pm daily.

As per normal you are welcome to picnic and to bring family and friends.  The entrance fee of R50 for adults remains the same and children are free.  For pensioners a reduced entry fee of R30 will apply on all Thursdays over the open garden period.

The nursery will be open for plant sales and if you wish to visit the nursery before open garden please phone in advance to make arrangements.

Hoping to see you over open garden.

Regards,

John & Jenny Robinson

033 – 502 9090 / 082 4433 805

tomrob@mweb.co.za

BENVIE OPEN GARDEN:  17 SEPTEMBER TO 09 OCTOBER.  R50 FOR ADULTS.  9AM TO 4PM DAILY.

S29˚16’09.3″

E30˚22’05.4″

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BirdLife Plettenberg Bay Newsletter

Click here to read the BirdLife Plettenberg Bay latest newsletter.

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Bird Photography – Part Two

Bird Photography

SONY DSC

In my previous article I discussed different types of cameras that we can use for bird photography. As a recap, the 3 different categories are the Compacts, the Bridge Cameras and then the DSLR’s.

Compact cameras are of little or no real use for bird photography leaving us with really with only 2 feasible options. The Bridge camera is sort of a hybrid between a point and shoot and a DSLR. It has features of both categories but for birders, the important things are that they can be used in automatic and semi-automatic modes as well as in manual modes. Your progression through the different modes can be at your own pace and expertise leaving you a great flexibility in your photography.

The weight of the bridge camera can be a deciding factor for many birders. We often spend a lot of the time out in the field and lugging heavy cameras and camera equipment around is not an option for a lot of us. This is where the bridge camera comes into the fore. It is light, small enough to carry around and offers us features like large zoom capabilities and auto modes that make our experience pleasurable rather than a drag.

An added benefit to these cameras is that most of them now offer superb video capability as well. Imagine you are out in the field, you spot a bird behaving unusually or even normally but somehow something that you haven’t seen before. At the push of a button, you have video on tap. A video clip is easily recorded, in either high definition (HD) or even in ultra high definition (UHD or 4k), for you to replay on your big screen TV at home. This can be done wholly in automatic made, bringing the filmmaker in you right from the field to your living room.

The bridge camera does not have interchangeable lenses but instead generally has one lens that can be used widely for landscapes and zoomed all the way in to bring far away objects a lot closer to us. Some of these cameras are even called “Superzooms” because they can bring our subject up to 60 times closer. There are however 2 types of zoom on these cameras.

The digital zoom – This merely magnifies certain pixels on the camera sensor to digitally make the image larger, thus deteriorating image quality and ruining the details in the image.

The optical zoom – using the actual lens elements to bring our subjects closer and thereby not degrading the image in any way.

One must also consider that the magnification amount does not just mean that you can capture images of birds that are exceptionally far away. One must bear in mind that we have all sorts of anomalies in the air between ourselves and the bird and if you are zooming into a bird by 60 times, all these anomalies will also be magnified by the same amount.

Things like dust and heat currents in the air can cause distortions and unclear images. A further note is that the more we zoom, the more we tend to shake when using cameras so one needs also to consider this factor. We generally do not lug tripods around with us when we are out birding so it is important that we use bridge cameras with built in stabilization. This will reduce the amount of shake in the camera when we are zooming in and capturing images which in turn will give us clearer and sharper images.

I am often asked for advice of which camera I would recommend and when looking in the stores. There are 3 brands that generally are kept in stock. The Canon, the Nikon and the Panasonic.

Whilst each brand has its pros and cons, I find that the Panasonic Lumix brand suits birders very well. All their cameras have a good built in stabilization with some models even featuring Leica lenses. For those of you that are not aware, Leica is considered to be amongst the best lenses in the world.highres-Panasonic-FZ1000

Panasonic Lumix offers 3 different models, the FZ1000, the FZ300 and the FZ70. The FZ70 is a superzoom and offers a 60x zoom with the capability of doing lovely landscapes as well. The FZ300 has a Leica lens, 4k video capabilities as well as a 24x zoom. The FZ1000, also with a Leica lens has a large one inch, 20.1mp sensor which renders beautiful quality images as well as 4k video and 16x zoom.

Some might scoff at the small zoom rate compared to some others but consider that you are actually bringing your bird 16 times closer, more than a lot of binoculars do. The FZ1000 and FZ300 also offer a unique feature called 4k Photo. This allows you to capture images at a rate of 30 photos per second (30fps) which is unique and a wonderful feature to capture that bird in action.

At the end of the day, no matter which camera you decide on, the most important thing is for you to get out there and shoot the birds………….. with a camera of course!

Sunbird web

I will be looking at DSLR’s in the next article.

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Western Cape

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

23 to 26 August 2016

On the spur of the moment Sally and I decided to spend a few days in Cape Town as our Avios points covered most of the cost.

Like the last time when we went to see the Snowy Egret, we found a hotel in the centre of town – the Inn on the Square. The hotel was comfortable and the room and facilities were good.

Traffic is more than hectic at peak times. So staying in the town centre meant we were travelling in the opposite direction to the hectic traffic at peak times.

Our purpose was to find the Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin in Zeekoevlei and to go to Postberg in the West Coast National Park to see the flowers.

After checking in at the hotel we took a drive in our cheapo rental car to Zeekoevlei to scout the area. It was chilly and windy when we got there at 16h00. Having not been there it was unclear where the bird had been seen. We looked where we thought it might be – based on Trevor’s photos. No luck. Were we looking in the right area or were the conditions unfavourable? A phone call was in order. And we learnt in which general area to look. A large grassy field some 200 by 50 metres – stretching from the car park to the start of a copse of trees.

As it started to get dark we decided that was enough for the day and to come back early the next day.

As we were driving out we had several unexpected sightings – Cape Francolins right out in the middle of the road. The other sighting was more curious as there was this huge spread of tail feathers stretching up some 2 metres in length and it seemed to be courting local Helmeted Guineafowl. It was a Peacock with the longest tail we have ever seen.

The next morning we headed back to try and find the Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin. Now day 40 so what were our chances? We met some staff there and they told us that it had gone. Were we too late? We were the only people there. Rats.

After about half an hour traipsing around in the field getting soaked by the dewy grass we started to wonder. The day was perfect – sunny and windless. Surely it was there and would pop out to cheer up from the dewy night and to find some food.

Another person arrived – Barry. Just arrived back from Singapore the previous day and he had seen it the previous afternoon. Now we were hopeful.

Then Barry calls out “There it is”. We get a glimpse as it flies off into the dense scrub. Patience was the order of the day and it paid off. The Robin came back and displayed on the path 10 metres from us – unfortunately just popping round the corner as we got a decent view of it. However we did get a nice long viewing of it and its behaviour. The striking feature being its vertical cocking of its tail.

The Robin then came and went in the treed area and along the path enabling us to get reasonable good sightings of it.  After about an hour of observing and trying to take photos we decided to leave.

We headed for Rondevlei NR. We did not expect to see much but we had several pleasant surprises.

Two of our first surprises occurred before we entered the Park. I had gone back to collect the tripod and scope while Sally waited for me. On my return she was talking to someone. As I got closer I realised it was a good friend from Durban whom we had not seen in ages – Adam Kahn.

Then the second surprise was a large raptor flying over our heads. At first we thought it might be a Yellow-billed Kite but then as it got closer we realised it was something else – a juvenile BBJ (Big Brown Job). It was only later when we had a good look at the photos that we realised it was a juvenile African Harrier-Hawk.

Most of the birds we saw at Rondevlei were resident species but several Greenshank had returned. Rondevlei has six bird hides overlooking the vlei with a couple of tall lookouts. It was at the second bird hide that we visited that we had our next surprise. Not a bird but a large nocturnal porcupine.

Porcupine

Porcupine

The rest of the day was spent with Sally’s brother in Somerset West.

On Thursday we headed for the West Coast National Park to see the flowers in Postberg. It was about an hour and a half’s drive with little traffic but thick fog in patches.

Our first stop was Geelbek. We went to one of the hides but it was still quite misty and blowing. We saw more species along the walk to the hide than from the hide itself – mostly because it was still high tide. Numerous Greater Flamingos about. On the way we saw Avocets, Cape Teals, Yellow-billed Ducks, Egyptian Geese, Black-winged Stilts, Blacksmith Lapwings and a harrier – either African Marsh or a juv. Black??.

Then we headed for Postberg. Fortunately we arrived early. On departure it was one long stream of cars coming in – it would have been impossible driving around without getting badly frustrated.

The flowers were fantastic – oranges, yellows, golds, whites, lavender blues and the odd red. So hard to capture on film. It was so colourful and extensive.

The landscape had some interesting rock formations as well.

Postberg Rock Formation

Postberg Rock Formation

Postberg Rock Formation

Nature has a hand of its own making.

The animals too surprised me – Zebra with unusual striped markings on their rumps and differently on their bellies, Blesbok, Wildebeest, Oryx, Springbok and Eland.

There were numerous birds as you might expect but the common species were predominantly Lesser Double-collared Sunbirds, Cape Bulbuls, Karoo Prinias, Cape Robin-Chats and Yellow Canaries.

On the way out we had a couple of sightings of Black Harriers – unfortunately some distance away.

Then it was the long drive back to the hotel and an early night in preparation for our very early morning flight back to Durban.

Well worth the Avios Points.

Paul and Sally Bartho

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Durban Botanical Gardens

Outing to Durban Botanical Gardens

17 August 2016

The weather started off rather gloomily but soon cleared up and the 12 birders were treated to some good birding.

On arrival we had a melanistic Black Sparrowhawk and then later we saw an “ordinary” one.

The lawns around the lake were swarming with masses of honking and hissing Egyptian geese and the Palm Swifts filled the air as usual.

The juvenile Palmnut Vulture that was reported the previous week was not around, but instead we saw an Egyptian Goose posing on top of a Raffia palm trying to fool us into believing that it was the Vulture!

3  Egyptian Goose trying to look like a Palmnut Vulture on a Raffia Palm

3 Egyptian Goose trying to look like a Palmnut Vulture on a Raffia Palm

A stunning Purple Heron, presumably in his breeding dress, had us all ooh-ing and aah-ing.

Purple Heron all dressed up to impress

Purple Heron all dressed up to impress

We were surprised to find a Common Moorhen nesting in one of the boats on the lake.

Most of the nests in the Casuarina tree contained Grey Herons and some chicks. Southern Black Flycatchers were very active everywhere and they were completely unperturbed by our presence.

We also observed Dusky and Paradise Flycatchers. Lots of  Kurrichane Thrushes were doing what they do best – tossing up the dry leaves. A pair of bright yellow Brimstone Canaries were struggling to eat some large berries – they appeared to be feeding each other.

Off to the Tea Garden for refreshments, and we had many opportunists trying to grab a tasty morsel – Spectacled and Village Weavers, Dark-capped Bulbuls, Kurrichane Thrushes, House Sparrows, Red-capped Robin-Chats (one even came and perched on a coffee-pot!) Then the monkeys arrived and entertained us, but before long they were causing havoc, harassing the staff and trying to get into the kitchen!

Some other species seen or heard – Amethyst Sunbird, Cape and Pied Wagtail, Cardinal and Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Crested Barbet, Southern Red Bishop, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cattle Egret, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Black-headed Oriole, Black-backed Puffback, Woolly-necked Stork, Lesser Striped Swallow, Streaky-headed Seed-eater.

On leaving, an African Spoonbill arrived at the lake and a Yellow-billed Kite and a Pink-backed Pelican flew overhead.

Altogether we recorded 52 species. However, someone who was not with our group told us that they had seen a Spotted Ground-thrush near the top path.

Sandi du Preez

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Vumbuka and Umbogavango

Vumbuka and Umbogavango

Saturday 6 August 2016

Report by Elena Russell

The moon was a sliver in the dawn sky and the click of the African Goshawk could be heard overhead and then seen.  We had a good turnout starting off with about 14 members and ending up with 18/19 (the guards had been told about late-comers).

In the beginning a lot of the birding was on call but as the morning warmed up things started to improve.  Red-fronted Tinkerbirds caused a bit of excitement, we then saw the Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds which didn’t quite have the same pulling power!

As we walked through the ‘man-made’ forested area of Vumbuka (it is amazing what AECI have done in reclaiming slime dams and dumps) we identified Southern Boubou, Green-backed Camaroptera, Terrestrial Brownbul, Dark-capped Bulbul, Sombre and Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Bar-throated Apalis, Chinspot and Cape Batis as well as lots of nice flycatchers: Black, Dusky, Ashy, African Paradise.  Our sunbird tally was not too shabby either: Collared, Grey, Olive and Amethyst.   A very confiding Red-capped Robin Chat (aka Natal Robin) gave us one of those special birding moments too.

Tambourine and Red-eyed Doves, Square-tailed and Fork-tailed Drongos in abundance, Yellow-fronted and Brimstone Canaries, Black-collared and dare I say it the ubiquitous White-eared Barbet.

As we came out towards the grassland area there were masses of Africa Palm Swifts and & Black Saw-wings and to a lesser extent Lesser Striped Swallows and Rock Martins.

African Palm-Swift

African Palm-Swift – PB

Here we had Grey and Black-headed Herons, Rattling Cisticola, Bronze and Red-backed Mannikins as well as Tawny-flanked Prinias.  We also had excellent views of a juvenile African Goshawk  as well as an adult flying overhead.

And nearby in the grassy field there were Blacksmith Lapwings and Fan-tailed Widowbirds. African Pied Wagtails were seen in the fenced dam.

We had our tea at Vumbuka and then went on to Umbogavango (maybe a little late for good birding) but a number of Black-headed Orioles greeted us in the car park and a pair of African Fish Eagle delighted us as we set off for our second walk.

We got very excited in trying to identify a raptor. There were two raptors perched at most five metres apart. One was an adult Black Sparrowhawk. The other caused some consternation amongst the group. It was obviously a juvenile – but what? African Harrier-Hawk was one opinion the other a Black Sparrowhawk. In the end the consensus was Black Sparrowhawk (juvenile).

At the last hide not much on the water, Yellow-billed Duck, Little Grebe and Common Moorhen.

A slow walk back to the picnic site where Jenny and Jane were waiting. Did you see the Yellow-billed Kite? They asked. Of course none of us had. Here, an African Jacana entertained us while we had lunch and chatted (remember this is the Saturday Chat Show!!).

Our total bird count was 77 – not too shabby.

Thanks to John and Paul for the pics.

Cheers

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Raptor Rescue Newsletter

Click here to read the latest Raptor Rescue Newsletter.

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BLPN 2017 Calendar now available

2017 Calendar - BLPN

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Help Save African Penguins from extinction.

BirdLife South Africa and partners have been working towards establishing a new African Penguin colony on the mainland of South Africa. Establishing a colony will help conserve this endangered and iconic African species. Part of the project involves monitoring the sites that we’re interested in because we need to know what predators there are in the area. To do this, camera traps will set up around the sites to take photos of the potential penguin predators. These cameras will also be essential as the colony becomes established to monitor predator incursions and the presence and behaviour of penguins at the site.

BirdLife South Africa and Nature’s Valley Trust have launched a crowd funding campaign on Experiment, a platform for funding scientific research to raise funds for the predator monitoring study. The target is $5,400 to buy the cameras and other equipment (batteries, security boxes etc.). As of 3 August we are 30% of the way to the target and have 15 days to go, so we need your help! Please help us get the rest of the way by donating and spreading the word to friends and colleagues.

To learn more about this initiative please read the media release by BirdLife South Africa by clicking here.

You can learn more and donate at https://experiment.com/africanpenguin.

Contact Christina Hagen (christina.hagen@birdlife.org.za or 083 301 8765) for more details.

Christina Hagen

Pamela Isdell Fellow of Penguin Conservation

Please support our crowdfunding campaign: www.experiment.com/africanpenguin

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Mkuze

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

Thursday 21st to Sunday 24th July 2016

Sally and I were invited by Jenny and Dave Rix to join them for their visit to Mkuze. They had booked into the Tented Camp but the only one available was a double. All the huts, cottages and Tented Camp sites were full most nights we were there. The Camp Site only had one occupant.

The park is exceptionally dry. Dave, who has been coming to Mkuze since the 70s, says he has never seen it so dry.

Most of the animals were in the southern reaches of the park in the Fig Forest area.

All the roads are being upgraded and some repaired so access to various parts of the park were not possible. Basically we were limited to the northern part of the park. We were unable to get to Nsumo Pan as well as the road leading down to the hunting camp and the Loop Road off it.

kuMasinga and kuMahlahla Hides were both open and had water. The new kwaMalibala hide remains closed.

The first afternoon we took a drive to kuMasinga hide. As we were on the Beacon Road we were unable to take the first dirt road to the hide – it was closed. So we continued south to the next turn off to the left – again the road ahead was closed. Eventually we got to the hide. A number of animals came for a drink as well as numerous Emerald-spotted Wood-Doves.

The next morning we went with Patrick to the Fig Forest. It was the first time in weeks that the Fig Forest was open so we were very fortunate. New swing bridges greeted us and another treat was the Lookout Tower in the Fig Forest – standing some 10 metres tall in the canopy of the surrounding trees. Apparently this has been there for 5 years.

Our initial goal was to find the Pel’s Fishing-Owl. It did not take long for Patrick to find it and although it was distant we had good views of it.

Otherwise birding in the forest was productive unlike the arid areas of the park although we did find a Burnt-necked Eremomela. Here are some of those we did manage to photograph.

Most of our birding revolved around the main camp as well as the two hides and the campsite.

At kuMahlahla it was not as busy as kuMasinga except for the Emerald-spotted Wood-Doves. However a Black Sparrowhawk did make an appearance at the far end of the dam. Several Tambourine Doves also came down to drink.

On an evening walk around the Main camp we found an African Goshawk perched atop of the Reception – much like a weather vane.

The campsite too was relatively quiet birdwise. The place was a large dust bowl.

As expected we had several unwanted visitors around the tented kitchen. During the day it was monkeys at breakfast and lunch. At night it was the Bushy-tailed Bushbabies. During the evening braai one took his chance and swiped half of a rump steak. We would have been quite cross but the steak was tough and flavourless.

Crested Guineafowl and tame Nyala visited at breakfast. One naughty adult Nyala male kept coming up behind us and giving a nudge – probably wanting water.

Crested Guineafowl

Crested Guineafowl

In total we identified 93 different species – not a bad count considering the arid nature of the park. Click here to see our bird list.

Paul and Sally Bartho

 

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Oribi Gorge Outing

Report by Elena Russell.

16th and 17th July 2016

Jenny Norman and I drove down early on Saturday morning to Oribi Gorge.  We met up with Sally, Paul and Mike White at the cane loading zone where we had arranged to meet Andy Ruffle to go on and view the vultures.

Although the morning was cold and a little overcast, the sun kept appearing and on those occasions we had 70 to 80 vultures soaring overhead and wheeling back to land on the cliff face.

Cape Vulture

Cape Vulture

 

There are nests with chicks and the whole experience is fantastic.

Outside the hide there are a number of carcasses in various stages of decomposition and the smell can be rather powerful!! It was mainly White-necked Ravens feasting on the carcasses.

Carcass at the vulture restaurant

Carcass at the vulture restaurant

The hide has been rebuilt after a fire destroyed the old one. It is very well made with brick and concrete roof. Inside is Andy’s abode. He even has cooking and bedding facilities.

There was a pair of Lanner Falcons, Rock Martins, Alpine Swifts etc flying around and by the hide we had Plain-backed and African Pipits.

Lanner Falcon

Lanner Falcon

Andy mentioned that on one occasion when visiting the hide a Black-rumped Buttonquail popped out of the head of a Zebra carcass presumably eating maggots inside the skull.

We then went on to Leopard Rock for coffee – the birding can be very good whilst sitting and drinking a good cup of coffee – and to name a few of the birds we saw there: Crowned Hornbill, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Pintailed Whydah (non-breeding plumage), Red-backed and Bronze Mannikin, Greater Double-collared Sunbirds.

If you want a viewing you need to book with Andy Ruffle as the site is on private property. Here are Andy’s contact details 072 893 3794 or andy_ruffle@yahoo.co.uk.

We then drove leisurely back to camp birding along the way: Grey Crowned Crane, Cape and Yellow-throated Longclaw, Grey Cuckooshrike and Jackal Buzzard. Red-backed Mannikin and African Firefinch became the trash birds of the weekend.

Back at camp Mike proceeded to cook us each a perfect mushroom omelette – how good can the weekend get?

Enjoying Mike's omelets - delicious

Enjoying Mike’s omelets – delicious

But then it started to rain on Saturday night (I am seriously considering offering my services as a ‘rain maker’) and it was still raining early on Sunday morning.

We went down to the picnic area just in case any crazy birders pitched up for the Sunday Outing and along came Sandi, Roz and Prem.  Along the road we had good views of Lemon and Tambourine Doves.

Tambourine Dove

Tambourine Dove

We then took a slow drive up to the bridge where we had heard Knysna Woodpecker a number of times on Saturday. As it was still raining and the birding was abysmal we headed back to camp for coffee.  On the way down we met up with Sally, Paul and Mike and it was decided to go on to Leopard Rock for breakfast.

Sally and Paul had to leave but the rest of us had a superb English Breakfast – we sat inside as there was a thick mist in the gorge but every now and again the mist would partially lift and strange and fantastic views of the gorge would appear.

Some views of Oribi Camp and the Gorge itself:

By 9h00 the rain stopped and we took a slow drive back to Oribi Gorge and on the way the flying ants were coming out and the birding took off!! Fan-tailed Widowbirds, Village, Cape and Yellow weavers, Croaking Cisticola and masses of Rock Martins all hawking from the edge of a cane field.

An obliging Knysna Turaco made an appearance near the bridge at the bottom of the Gorge.

Knysna Turaco

Knysna Turaco

We stopped a number of times and one spot near the farm dam was exceptionally good – Lesser Honeyguide, Dusky Flycatcher, Black-collared Barbet, Fork-tailed and Square-tailed Drongos, Little Bee-eaters and much much more.

There is a rather nice dam at the entrance to the camp and we saw a pair of African Black Ducks, Egyptian and Spurwing Geese, Common Moorhen, Yellow-billed Duck and Reed Cormorant.

A Chorister Robin was fossicking around by the swimming pool on our return to camp. We had a good bird party going through the camp with Grey and Black Cuckooshrikes, Cardinal Woodpecker, Black, Dusky and Paradise Flycatchers as well as the Drongos!

On Monday morning we took another drive through the gorge and had gorgeous views of the Olive Woodpecker! And added a few more birds to the list so our total bird count for the weekend was 120.

A new one for the Oribi list was African Hoopoe which we saw twice.

African Hoopoe with wild hair-do

African Hoopoe with wild hair-do

One bird which maybe we were not so pleased to see was the Common Starling!

Elena Russell

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