Rufousnaped Lark

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Rietvlei Dam Nature Reserve

After a day of working in the garden, braaiing and watching the Springboks almost finish in a draw after leading for most of the game against Ireland in the first test of their overseas tour, I decided I needed to do some serious birding. So being the Lazy Birder that I am I chose Rietvlei Dam NR the next day because it is close and I wouldn't have to get up so early. I wanted to be out the door by 5:30am at the latest but only woke up at 6:15am.....so arrived at the gates at 6:50am. The weather wasn't too bad, a bit cool for a short sleeved shirt and shorts, with a bit of cloud about. There didn't seem to be too many cars about which was perfect for my style of slow driving and checking out everything I saw.

At the gates I started ticking with a pair of Cape Sparrows, followed by a Streaky-headed Seedeater in full song about 100m down the road. These birds are not something we see a lot of around our garden so I stopped to watch a while and got in a few piccies..

Streaky-headed Seedeater showing where he got his name from!

The veld is still quite brown and dry with green grass coming through in the patches that burnt out during the winter months. Widows are in abundance with both the Long-tailed and Red-collared Widows displaying over their territories. These are always quite difficult birds to photograph because of their long tails but I kind of like this one image that I managed to capture...


Long-tailed Widow
 
One of the most common birds at Rietvlei are the Rufousnaped Larks which call incessantly during the summer months and display from any conveniently raised post, which could be a termite mound, bush, fence post or No Entry signboard. I always enjoy to watch and try to photograph their display which consists of a continuous "trilee triloo" call interspersed with a quick flap of the wings which lifts the bird momentarily into the air...after about 100 shots I got these few images..



Rufous-naped Lark Displaying

Down at the small dam upstream from the picnic site I found the usual birds like Yellow-billed Duck, Moorhen, Wood Sandpiper, Little Egret and a first in Rietvlei for me was a Yellow-billed Egret which didn't stay for a photo session unfortunately. I also witnessed a couple of Sacred Ibis squabbling over a huge frog which I assume was a Bullfrog. The two birds pecked at the hapless bullfrog for quite some time before deciding it was too big to swallow and too tough to tear apart. By the time they gave up and left it the frog was already dead.

Sacred Ibis with the Bullfrog prey

On the Vlei route I found another first for me at Rietvlei in the form of a Violet-backed Starling pair which kept just out of reach for a decent photo. I tried a long shot however just to show the stunning colour that the male bird is named for but the photo doesn't really do it justice...the female is a rather drab streaked bird which I think is not too unattractive.

Male Violet-backed Starling

At the end of the Vlei route I stopped at the fountain hide to check if there were any waxbills around only to find that almost every bush in the fenced off area had its own calling (European) Marsh Warbler in it. I spent another hour waiting for one to show himself but they are extremely wary and only show themselves very briefly. I did however manage to get one dodgy photo before I gave up and went back to the car.


(European) Marsh Warbler ..you can just make out the sloped forehead and notice the wings extending past the rump.


At the Island View hide, a White-throated Swallow had made its nest and successfully hatched three chicks who popped their heads up at the slightest noise or disturbance. The adults were completely relaxed with me sitting there quietly stealing the odd picture. One thing I noticed was that every time I took a photo and the flash went off the three chicks would beg for food, looking just like three little opera singers....I really enjoyed this opportunity to just relax and get some nice photos.


One of the adult White-throated Swallows taking a break

White-throated Swallow at the nest

The Three Sopranos!!

Finally on the way out of the reserve I came across a female Giant Kingfisher looking for lunch at the bridge next to the new wier. She sat there for quite some time carefully watching the pool below and seemingly undisturbed by my close proximity. After about 10 minutes she launched herself down into the pool and came up with a smallish Banded Tilapia or Bream as it is more commonly known....She then flew up to a branch, beat the fish to death and swallowed it whole!



Watching the pool below!


Got one and down the hatch it goes!

All in all it was not a bad days birding, I managed to get some photos and a bird list for the day of 79 species in total.....

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