New Germany Nature Reserve Outing

Report by Sandi du Preez

Wednesday 19 September

The weather wasn’t great but 12 birders attended the outing and for once there were more males than females! The reserve is looking absolutely stunning at the moment as a portion of the grassland was burnt earlier this year, resulting in a fantastic display of Spring wild flowers. In fact, the flowers outshone the birds by far!

A Southern Ground Hornbill (nick-named Chester) was spotted in the reserve the day before but he obviously didn’t get the WhatsApp ordering him to wait for us.

Walking down the steep “steps” at the start, a Southern Boubou flew across and and we were treated to excellent views.

Southern Boubou – Dave Rimmer

The pathway through the grassy area towards the forest area yielded the usual birds such as Neddicky, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Black-headed Oriole, African Hoopoe, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Violet-backed Starling, Black-bellied Starling, African Palm Swift, Olive Thrush, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Spectacled Weaver, Purple-crested Turaco. Surprisingly, the only sunbird seen was an Amethyst Sunbird.

For a full species list of the birds recorded, click here. Unfortunately, many of the 65 species  were recorded on call only.

While we were having our picnic, a Yellow-bellied Greenbul was complaining about his “belly-ache!

There was not much opportunity for bird photos so all the flower photos will just have to be tolerated instead! Thanks to Dave Rimmer for his photos.

I had a special treat on the way out. A Black-backed Puffback flew in front of my car with it’s “puff” up and landed on a branch for a superb view.

Sandi du Preez

 

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached the movements (click here) of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week. N207 has certainly been quite active!

Please also find attached a selection of photos of our growing chick.

Bearded Vulture

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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Mapungubwe NP, Ratho and Golden Gate NP

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

9 to 13 September 2018

Pel’s Fishing-Owl

Sally and I have just spent four nights camping in Mapungubwe NP at the top-most part of RSA bordering Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Mapungubwe NP

We went there between the Bird Fair (at Walter Sisulu Gardens) and the Getaway Show (at the TicketPro Dome) – both in Jo’berg on consecutive weekends. It was the first time we had been to either show.

Our first issue was to find a campground within easy distance from each location. At first our search on Google Maps showed that there were no campsites reasonably close to either venue. However after much searching we did find one campsite – The Guest House @ Country Lodge in Muldersdrift situated between each venue and within 20 kms of each.

We went to the Opening Day of the Bird Fair – Saturday 8 September – in Walter Sisulu Gardens. This is a very appropriate venue in a wonderful setting. The Fair was equally as interesting. It had stands with everything appropriate to birding as well as talks from a variety of people – even a puppet show for the kids which the adults enjoyed equally. Faansie Peacock’s new book – “A fully fledged field guide… for kids” – was for sale. What a well written book and appropriate not only for kids but new and old adult birders as well.

Walter Sisulu NP is renowned for its Verreaux’s Eagles and their nest in the cliffs. We were not disappointed and had views of them on their nest with their offspring as well as in the air.

Then on to Mapungubwe NP to fill in time between the shows. Another 550 kms drive!!

Mapungubwe NP is divided into two sections – the Eastern and Western sides – with Den Staat Farm in between. See map above. The campsite is in the Western section and the reception is in the Eastern section – some 34 kms apart.

The Den Staat Farm has always had interesting ponds to search for amazing water birds. Permission to enter required. However, when we inquired about going there we understood that the farm had changed hands and the ponds are now all dry. No longer a special birding spot.

Right now both sides of the Park are extremely dry and dusty. The fences are broken in long stretches and cattle wander across the river from Botswana to forage in the Park. Sad that management appears to not have the funds needed to maintain the fences.

Some camp birds.

Our first afternoon and next day we spent driving round the Western section, spending time at the Maloutswa Hide overlooking a patch of wetland (water supplied to maintain the wetland).

Perhaps the best sighting at the water hole was a Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl nesting in a Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver’s nest.

In one spot we confronted a few elephants by the river.

Elephant

Then we came across a Holy Tree.

After that, this juvenile Bataleur nicely framed.

At another spot we found a very rough access point to the river and picked up a few water birds amongst others on the way there.

Limpopo with a small stretch of water

In all we identified 92 different bird species. Our bird list for everywhere we visited can be seen later in this report.

One of the highlights of our time there was to see a Bushpig in the daylight. It had a lovely white mane which went from neck to rump. Most unexpected sighting.

Bush Pig

Another day was spent in the Eastern section. The first bird we saw as we entered was a Red-headed Weaver which flitted about making it impossible to get a photo. A bit further along we came to a lookout point set high above the valley below where Baobabs appear in a barren landscape.

Barren Landscape

We headed for the chalet accommodation at Leokwe nestled in a boulder strewn enviroment.

On the way to Leokwe, Splat (our life-like Platapus furry toy) waved at a passing Park’s vehicle. It screeched to a halt. Out jumped the driver who came running up to our car. Oh-oh I thought. Well the driver, Leonard, immediately said, “I know you. You were in the Kruger Park at Pafuri 7 years ago driving a Kia”. We were astonished that he had remembered us – it must have been Splat whom he recognised.

Anyway he told us to follow him as he had something to show us. So we followed him virtually to the far end of the park to the old SADF bunker.

SADF Bunker

We had been there some 7 or 8 years ago and had intended to go there again during our visit. The benefit this time was having Leonard with us as we were able to get out of the car and walk around the area.

Under the trees by the Bunker

Specifically beneath the two large Nyala trees where we had seen a pair of Pel’s Fishing Owls all those years ago. And sure enough he pointed out another (or the same?) pair. What a wonderful happenstance meeting Leonard.

Pel’s Fishing-Owl

Sadly, we later learned that this wonderful spot at the SADF Bunker is being considered as a future picnic site. If this goes ahead then Goodbye to the Pel’s Fishing-Owls (and their likely breeding spot). Can we afford to let this happen? We have let Mark Anderson know about this and hope he has some influence with SAN Parks to avoid this going ahead.

Close to the Bunker the river did have a large area of standing water in it where we saw a small variety of waterbirds.

Yellow-billed Stork

We went for a walk up to the viewing point overlooking the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers. As you can see the rivers at this point were absolutely dry and cattle could be seen wandering into the Park from the opposite side.

From there we went to the tree top boardwalk and hide. The photo below shows the damage the elephants have caused to part of the entrance.

What next

Elephant Exclusion Zones

Some birds and other colourful critters photographed.

In all we identified 71 different bird species during the course of the day there.

On our final day we visited Ratho camp – due west of Pontdrift which is the border crossing into Botswana near the western-most edge of the Park. This crossing enters into the Tuli Block in Botswana. Should you want to visit the Tuli Block for a day visit we were told that it would cost you R700 to enter. Not sure if that cost applies per person nor if it applies if you simply want to drive through into other parts of Botswana.

Ratho sign to turn off the main road going to Pontdrift.

We had stayed at Ratho many years ago so it was interesting to see if it had changed much. At that time they had a 4×4 bush camp atop of a hill with a scenic loo overlooking the valley below. This has now gone, the area having been sold. However a new 4×4 camp has been established in the area next to the river.

Riverside 4×4 Camp

There are now several drives alongside the river where elephants were seen to roam. The main camp has a deck overlooking a waterhole where the elephants often are seen.

Viewing Deck

However the most interesting thing we learnt from the owner – Sandra- was how the whole camp was submerged after the floods one year. In the pictures below you can see me pointing to the height of the water level marked on the tree. Surprisingly the essence of the camp remained and was refurbished. It was quite unimaginable to visualise the extent of the area under water.

Pointing to the height of the river

We had a short drive along the riverside and identified 40 different bird species.

Grey Heron in breeding plumage – red beak

Eventually it was time for us to leave and head back to Jo’berg and the Getaway Show. We stayed at the same campsite as we had the previous weekend. This time without power nor water. Broken transformer and water shutdown. Fortunately we had own supply of both.

The Getaway Show covered everything associated with 4×4 camping. There were displays of all the main offroad campervans for people to examine. Probably the best way to assess which one you prefer.

At lunch time we visited Isdell House in Pinegowrie where we were treated to a full hour and a half tour guided by Mark Anderson. It was very impressive what they have done there. The whole concept is “Green” at its best. One day soon they may even be off the grid.

The support they got from various donors – the Isdell’s in particular – has been very generous. Virtually all the furnishings, building supplies have been donated by various companies keeping the cost of rebuild to an absolute minimum.

And the paintings, sketches, photos and prints – most signed by the artists – are extremely valuable. The library has a large selection of books donated by members. The policy of donated books is to offer the Orthonological Library first choice, then books come to Isdell’s library where some are kept, field guides donated to guides and schools, and the rest sold on – the proceeds of which go into the capital fund.

Such a well run operation with a very dedicated and happy team. It was a pleasant surprise to be guided around by Mark and to glean first hand of the story of Isdell House.

To break the journey home we decided to go to Golden Gate and camp for 2 nights with the hope of seeing vultures at the vulture restaurant, and Cape Eagle-Owl(s) along the cliffs bordering the campsite.

The first thing we realised when we got to the campsite was the noisy people. Friday and Saturday nights are party nights and all passing traffic had their music at full blast. It is also a place for bikers.

There are two loops to bird along. One loop goes up tp 2150 metres while the vulture hide is on the other lower loop. Most of the habitat is high grassland with bordering cliffs. Bird variety is therefore limited.

Devil’s Tooth

Our bird list for here and Mapungubwe can be seen by clicking here. Our afternoon and early morning bird list amountes to 23 different bird species here at Golden Gate.

We dipped on the Cape Eagle-Owl – not even hearing it. Not surprising really as the camp noise drowned out all other wildlife calls.

Black Wildebeest, Blesbok and Zebra were plentiful on the mountain slopes. Eland and Mountain Reedbuck were also seen.

Mountain Reedbuck

The vulture hide was relatively quiet. No vultures, just White-backed Ravens, Cape Crows and a lonely Southern Bald Ibis.

Bald Ibis

The weather was very windy – perhaps that was why there were so few sightings. However we did see one Bearded vulture fly over the hide just as we had returned to the car.

Bearded Vulture

All the other birds we had seen there took to the skies. So we raced back in the hope that the Bearded Vulture had landed – unfortunately it turned out to be another breathless walk 400 metres back to the hide to no avail.

African Stonechats were everywhere but this one had us fooled for a while.

After our morning’s drive round both loops the wind picked up. That was enough for us and we packed up and returned home a day early.

Hope you enjoyed the account and photos.

Paul and Sally Bartho

 

 

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (Click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

Please also find attached photos of the growing chick accessed this week from our nest camera.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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BLPN 2019 Calendar – the best yet.

 

BLPN-Calendar-2019_

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Tanglewood Farm NR Outing

Report by Elena Russell

1 September 2018

We had an excellent outing to Tanglewood.

It was the first day of September, in other words Spring Day and the flowers were blooming all over the hillsides where the grass had been burnt.

There was a good turnout of members and visitors and from all accounts we had some great birding.

Thanks to Sandi for the bird list. Click here to view the list.

Thanks to all the photographers, John Bremner, Dave Rimmer, Mike Jackson, Mike Stead & Sandi du Preez, for all the superb photos not just of birds but flowers and game as well.

The dassie is called Teddy Bear and I am told has been trained to use the spare loo!!

We had tea at the Boat House and were entertained by all the Weavers; Cape, Holub’s Golden and Eastern Golden (aka Yellow).

Many thanks to Caryl for always making us so welcome to this magical place.

Cheers

Elena

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News from Nylsvley

Friends of Nylsvley and Nyl floodplain

News from Nylsvley

Edition #100

September 2018

Greetings!

I hope we find you well?

So here we are presenting the 100th edition of ‘News from Nylsvley’, what a ride it has been…..The first newsletter was circulated by post in August 1991, 27 years ago and we are still here! The most important innovation was the introduction of e-mail communications, and coloured pics. Julia’s drawings are classic and I plan to reuse a lot of them! I have learnt a lot but not how to get a new ipad to send e-mails! I had hoped to find a more modern font and update the 2 duck logo for this edition….

We thank the hardy souls who helped set up and man the stall at the BirdLife South Africa Bird Fair. It was a great networking event. The weather was either very cold or very very windy, I had to vacuum the felt notice boards before I stored them away!

We recently purchased a spotlight (thanks to a special offer on ‘Takealot’ which included delivery directly to the reserve!) for the staff members that have banded together to do night patrols as a preventative measure to protect the reserve and their families. What they have discovered is that the spotlight picks up damage or deliberate cuts in the fence much more easily than daylight patrols!

News from the reserve is that Marabou Stocks have been seen frequently at Vogelfontein, not the handsomest of birds, nor the nicest. They are predators and eat fish from drying up pools. Red billed Queleas attract opportunists and Marabou hang around them picking up scraps as they do in KNP on elephant carcasses. They also catch live rats and mice and have been known to attack, kill and eat Flamingo’s!

Natasha is very pleased to announce that the Working for Water project will be removing Bankrupt bush, have you noticed how it is expanding in the Jacana hide area? The Grey Poplar that needs regular attention and the Spanish Reed are also to be dealt with. One of the jobs we are offering at the upcoming work party weekend, 28 -30 September, is to do a walkabout of the campus and remove Cacti, Syringa and Lantana.

Other jobs include: re-waxing the Crake and Jacana hides…nice job but messy! Lowering the shelf in the Jacana hide, carpentry skills needed, and repainting the road signs at the railway crossing. The tree labels need loosening and to list the ones that need replacing. The Monument recording a Boer war the skirmish nearly opposite the Shumba’s Rest gate also needs tidying up. The group camp long drop walls require some attention if someone could carefully measure what is needed and do a ‘shopping list’ the reserve staff will complete the repairs. Salome Beeslaar from Imerys Refractories has delivered a sign for the Stemmerskop hide; a really nice job to walk or cycle there and screw the sign up? Please let me know ASAP if you will be attending and which job you would like to do? The group camp is also available if you would like a short holiday weekend at Nylsvley. The accommodation will cost R200 per person per night (children half price). Except that I will put out the tea station, the weekend will be self-catering. We plan to go to the Spoonbill for supper on the Friday evening.

An exciting development has been the expansion of wild dog packs in the Waterberg. Some Ranchers are not so impressed as some stock animals have been killed. EWT have a project going where you can visit them and make a donation towards supplying meat. Take a look at: WWW.waterbergwilddogs.com for more information.

Joseph Mokoka a bird guide and staff member at Nylsvley sent this very sad pic of his binoculars that broke while he was guiding a tourist, if anyone has a pair looking for a good home, please let me know.

We welcome new member Barbara Brown and thank our ‘renewees’:  Hedley & Lainey Herring, Pierre Reinecke, Francois Dubb. . elman, Ann Banfill, and Carol Taylor your support is much appreciated, a new batch of reminders will be sent soon.  A donation labelled ‘Paradine’ was received on 3 August? We do not have a member of that name????

I hope you will enjoy the article from Africa Geographic originally published in August 2008 by Ian McCallum telling us why we love our Wild Areas.

An article by our esteemed treasurer Liza Walls about her trip to Lesotho is published in the September edition of Go! Magazine, charming reading….enjoy

Do we have a member who would like to advertise his/her company in the gate brochure?

We need a reprint and would like to include a sponsor’s logo? The Nylsvley Bird Quick guides have proved very popular, the first edition is nearly sold out, that too will need reprinting very soon.

Cyril Ramaphosa recently quoted that South Africa’s biodiversity can create 1000’s of jobs. I firmly believe that one of the ways ordinary people can help care for our precious environment is by securing/helping to look after as many small and interrelated nature areas especially within towns / suburbia as possible.

For many years, as well as being project co-ordinator of Friends of Nylsvley and chairlady of Friends of Smuts I have been Friends Groups adviser for the WESSA Friends Groups all around the country. The

Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) is busy restructuring and the small honorarium I used to receive has fallen away????

The Owls course in October is fully booked, I will be sending more info out soon and we are thrilled to announce that a bird photography course is being negotiated with Robbie Aspeling for early March next year. Did I tell you that a Green-winged Pytilia and Pearl-spotted Owlet were seen near the Dabchick hide?

It was a hot, busy and sometimes hectic 3 weeks in the UK. My family in the UK are well; I loved spending time with sisters (x3) nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews. I did not enjoy seeing Verbena brasiliensis being sold in the plant nurseries; it is one of our problem plants!

Since my return at the beginning of August I become a granny for the fourth time, have run a FoN team building weekend and a stall at the Bird Fair hence the delay in sending news.

We congratulate my son Malcolm and Tammy on the birth of their second daughter Kate Sarah on 21 August; 4 year old big sister Rose is so excited!

Cheers for now, God Bless, with love Marion xxx

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Latest Cape and Beared Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (Click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

I have also attached a photo of the sibling of the chick in our nest with a camera. This sibling hatched from an egg collected by Shannon Hoffman and her team from Bred 4 The Wild as part of the Bearded Vulture Breeding Programme. Bearded Vultures only raise one chick, therefore if the second egg hatched, the chick would not survive. This provides an opportunity for us to harvest the second egg for the breeding programme which aims to establish a captive stock of this critically endangered species. The advantage of the camera on the nest is that the potential impact of the harvest activity can be monitored. The egg was collected last month and although the parents were off the nest for a few minutes, they continued incubating soon after and hatched the chick successfully (as per the photos emailed last week). Both the wild and captive chick appear to be doing well.

BV_Chick 2018-09-05

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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Water, Birds and Biodiversity -Key Elements of Education

This Biodiversity Observations Research Paper can be read by clicking here.

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (Click Here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

Attached also find some recent images from our nest with a camera- one with the proud parents, one with chick circled in red (born mid-August) and one showing some interesting food items.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Welcome to the 500th email of our vulture movements

Please find attached (Click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week. I am happy to report that the proposed wind farm (renewable energy development) that is overlapping with N207’s movements, is no longer planned for development.

Attached also find some images from our nest with a camera.

The poor cell phone signal at the site is preventing us from getting more recent images, but these are being stored for us to access after the breeding season.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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Durban Botanical Gardens

Report by Sandi du Preez

15 August 2018

Nine participants enjoyed a sunny, windless morning of birding.

Just inside the entrance were some very cute juvenile Egyptian Geese being cared for by very attentive and devoted parents.

We looked up and noticed an African Goshawk flying high in the sky. There were also the usual African Palm Swifts darting about.

We then went to see what we could find at the lake. There was nothing out of the ordinary but we saw one Spur-winged and many Egyptian Geese, Sacred Ibis, African Spoonbill, Common Moorhen, and Thick-billed Weavers.

The Village Weavers were very busy noisily constructing their new nests in the Fever tree.

Village Weaver – John Bremner

Refreshment time for the Village Weaver – John Bremner

The best bird at the lake was undoubtedly a lovely Malachite Kingfisher.

Malachite Kingfisher – John Bremner

In the Casuarina trees were Herons nesting – mainly Grey, but also a Black-headed. Several times during the morning we saw Herons flying overhead with nesting material, towards the trees.

Making our way around the gardens we came across a bird that made our brains work – Dusky Flycatcher? ……. Well it seemed to have a flycatcher’s bill. Then it flew off. Ha! White outer tail feathers visible – of course, it was a Brown-backed Honeybird!

A Black-headed Oriole was heard calling close by, and there it was perched beautifully on a branch for all to see!

Black-headed Oriole – John Bremner

An exotic South American tree with large yellow fruit provided a feast for the Speckled Mousebirds and they were also feeding on the fruit that had fallen to the ground.

Speckled Mousebird – John Bremner

A Black Sparrowhawk flew over but it did not perch on it’s usual spot on the Norfolk Pine. We did, however, have a very obliging Yellow-billed Kite which flew into a tree and provided a good view. It was the first for the season for some of the group. Then it flew out and joined another Kite on a branch of a Norfolk Pine – that was a real bonus!

Yellow-billed Kite – John Bremner

Black Flycatchers and restless tawny-flanked Prinias were numerous.

Tawny-flanked Prinia – John Bremner

Only two species of Sunbird were seen – Amethyst and White-bellied, but we did hear an Olive.

There was one Olive Thrush and numerous Kurrichane, but one had us scratching our heads and debating – maybe a hybrid?

Kurrichane Thrush – John Bremner

Pretty Cape Wagtails were seen wagging their tails on the lawns.

Cape Wagtail – John Bremner

Golden-tailed Woodpeckers were quite vocal during the morning and we saw one in a tree making it’s shriek.

Golden-tailed Woodpecker – John Bremner

We came across two Egyptian Geese having a really vicious fight. The thwacking of bills and wings was so loud. They must have been males having a fight over a lady-love. Spring is in the air! Two minutes later we had three Common Mynas involved in a noisy scrap (as mynas are prone to do).

Some other species seen and photographed included:

Time for tea at the kiosk, and the House Sparrows were after all the scraps. A gorgeous Spectacled Weaver perched on the wall watching us and patiently hoping for a treat.

Spectacled weaver – John Bremner

The species count was 50 at this stage.

As we headed off to see what birds we could find at the butterfly dome, a Pink-backed Pelican flew overhead. We also got Grey-headed Sparrows, and a male Chinspot Batis along the way. Then we added Southern Fiscal at the butterfly dome. This area is always good for birds as indigenous trees and shrubs have been planted to attract butterflies and birds. There were Carpenter bees flying around the Polygala Myrtifolias (they are the pollinators of the Polygala).

So with 4 species added the total count was 54. Click here to see the list.

As we were leaving we were lucky to find a stunning Pleasant Hornet moth (Euchromia amoena).

Pleasant Hornet moth – Sandi du Preez

Thanks to John Bremner for the photos.

Sandi du Preez

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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A Blast to the Past – Flock 2017

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

24 to 28 April 2017

Paul and Sally on Sinfonia

Flock 2017 was an outstanding birding experience which I know many people would relish doing again. It is incredible that BirdLife South Africa managed to virtually fill all the cabins with birders on MSC Sinfonia. As everyone said, this must be a world record for the largest flock of birders gathered together in one place.

MSC Sinfonia

Almost 2000 birders from all over the world were on board including many of the seabird experts worldwide.

The BLSA organisation of the trip was highly professional. The AGM was well organised, there were interesting talks, prizes and entertainment and the guiding on board was exceptional for us novices.

We left Cape Town on a lovely clear day and were escorted out to sea by a number of seals and dolphins.

The route was planned by the very willing captain according to BLSA wishes.

Our first day of birding started at dawn and lasted to dusk (as did every day) with quick dashes away for food etc. It was also one of those days when numerous different exciting and rare birds appeared. Sometimes we were unable to keep up with a special bird appearing on one side of the boat and another rare bird on the opposite side.

And from our height above the sea we were lucky if we got a few decent photos of any of the birds. For me, virtually every bird was a lifer having never been on a pelagic trip before.

 

A quiet moment at the back of the ship – normally each level was teeming with birders. Also at the front too.

The ship’s entertainment areas were virtually empty during the day, however the bars at night were quite popular. I think the staff were mystified by all us birders as they tried to talk us into the large empty casino and away from the birding.

That first morning there were seven different species of Albatross seen – Black-browed, Indian Yellow-nosed, Light-mantled, Shy, Sooty, Tristan and Wandering. The Light-mantled Albatross had all the guides screaming as this was most unexpected.

For our Bird List click here. Of the 21 species shown 17 were lifers for me, and 7 for Sally. There were numerous other lifers called out which unfortunately we were not at the right place at the right time.

A Ghostly Albatross

Here are some photos of birds I did managed to connect with. I hope I have correctly identified most of the birds in the pictures. Do let me know my mistakes. Note the Tristan Albatross was identified by Peter Harrison. I am aware that there is not full consensus on its ID as there is not enough published about the bird to clearly identify it beyond doubt. However Peter Harrison has done a huge amount of research on the bird and I will happily accept his opinion.

Some birds I have struggled to identify from my photos include this Giant Petrel:

And these two birds:

Mystery UFOs

There was fascinating birding along the sides of the ship each night. The lights from the ship enabled us to see the birds as they bobbed on the water alongside. It was interesting to watch as the Great Shearwaters diappeared behind the boat only to returne to the front and bob alongside again catching squid and other delicious morcels.

We understand that the bewildered captain was so impressed with the BLSA organisation and nature of our trip that he suggested we do it again but for a week or more next time.

Another memorable moment was the sunset and double rainbow at the end of the four nights at sea.

Intense golden double rainbow taken from our cabin

This was a wonderful trip that Sally and I will always fondly remember.

Hope you enjoy the memories.

Paul and Sally Bartho

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Dear All

Please find attached (click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week. Our Cape Vulture seems to be exploring further south every week.

Please also find an article (click here) on how vultures are impacted by lead poisoning from hunting for your interest.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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Namibia

Report by Sally and Paul Bartho

27 April to 17 May 2018

(An aside: Remember by clicking on a photo it will enlarge).

Our trip to the Kgalagadi ended when we got to Tsabong. As we were so close to Namibia we decided to pay a visit to Namibia. Our goal was to get to Epupa Falls and take in the various Parks along the way there and back.

Our first stop – Kalahari Rest Lodge and Camping – was our only stop in Botswana once we had left the Kgalagadi. It was about 25 kms north of Kang on the Kalahari Transfrontier Highway. This was a long journey (some 430 kms taking over 5 hours) to add to the day we had already driven. We left Tsabong mid-day so arrived just before dusk.

We certainly recommend this campsite as a stop over point. It is a small campsite with four bathrooms – each with toilet, shower and basin- as the ablution block. After a long day we ate at the restaurant and the food and ambiance was good.

The next day we headed to Windhoek to a campsite near the inner city Eros airport – Arebbusch Travel Lodge.  A distance of about 710 kms taking close to eight hours. The border post was a tad busy so it took us a while to get through. However checking our insurance documents later we found they had entered the licence place of our campervan incorrectly. We hoped it would not be noticed at the police check points.

Some Namibian Scenery:

At Arebbusch we spent two nights, the first in a chalet and then camping. There are only 4 campsites all of which are under cover round a large glassy patch.

Our provisions needed replenishing otherwise we would have only stayed one night. Unfortunately our night’s camping was loudly disturbed by the antics of an open air concert right next door after a soccer match. Avoid Saturday nights camping here.

No bookings had been made for our time in Namibia. We called Etosha for a booking but all they could offer us was 5 days camping at Halali in three days time – we took it. So we booked a campsite ten kms before Okaukuejo at Etosha Safari Lodge for two nights. Nice grassy sites and entertaining ablutions. 420 kms taking a almost five hours due to the police checks. Very nervous at the first as he was fairly thorough checking the car licence plate. However he did not see it necessary to check the campervan licence plate. This was the case fortunately at all the police stops.

Etosha Safari Camp

Campsite birding was good. We had a nesting pair of Great Sparrows right beside us.

Other campsite birds

Time was spent in Etosha around Okaukuejo puzzling over the various larks and other ground birds favoured by the open flat grassland/scrub area. We saw a good variety of different species which we did not see elsewhere in the park.

However there is one big criticism that I have to make. Outside of the main camps there are no ablution facilities fit for humans at the various run down picnic spots. Some picnic sites are so bad that they have been closed. We never found one that had an even passable excuse for a toilet. I dread to think what foreign tourists think. For the cost of entering and staying in the park this is shameful.

Okaukuejo waterhole – very quiet

Blue Crane – double header

At last we arrive in Halali – the central camp between Okaukuejo and Namutoni – about 70 kms from each. We just miss the best campsite – No. 37 – by about 5 minutes. However we did recamp there when the people left after two nights.

Many overlander safaris visit the camp and they can be very noisy at night. I don’t think we would camp there in future although the waterhole can be interesting at night. While there this time we saw Elephants, Black Rhinos, Hyenas and Jackals there plus hundreds of Double-banded Sandgrouse each night, maybe more.

Sandgrouse in their hundreds at Halali waterhole every evening

Perhaps because of the rains we did not see a wide variety of game. We did have one sighting of three Cheetah on the first morning leaving the camp. After that no big cats. Much of our time was spent away from the camp in and around Namutoni.

Cheetah

There were of course many Black-faced Impala, Springbok, Burdhell’s Zebra, Steenbok, Black-backed Jackals about with campsite Banded Mongooses, Tree Squirells, lizards etc.

In the camp wew had a selection of special birds visiting us. There was a flock of about twelve Violet Woodhoopoes, a Pearl-spotted Owlet, a Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Southern Red-billed and Monteiro’s Hornbills, and a Red-billed Spurfowl.

For birding, one of the nearby waterholes – Goas- had the most interest for us.

Goas Waterhole close to Halali

Just north of Namutomi is Fischer’s Pan. It was full of water so we had excellent sightings of numerous water birds.

Great White Pelicans in various poses