Rufousnaped Lark

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Week 49 - Mkhombo Dam

Mkhombo Shoreline
This last weekend I eventually got out to Mkhombo Dam after some procrastinating and what a surprise! The Dam was very full with a lot of small inlets with some reeds and flooded vegetation creating some perfect habitat for all kinds of birds. I was after the 4 specials that had been found by some pioneer birders. Pygmy Goose, Ruddy Turnstone, Pectoral Sandpiper and Spotted Crake. I was particularly interested in the Pygmy Goose of which I still needed a photo but was very sceptical about actually seeing the Spotted Crake ( I had already taken great photos of the Roodekoppies Dam Pectoral Sandpiper and Ruddy Turnstone the previous year).

African Jacanas were probably the most common birds and were seen foraging everywhere.

African Jacana foraging in the shore grass

African Jacana foraging in the shallows

 I quickly headed down to the area where the specials had been seen and after a short while picked up the female Pectoral which was shortly joined by the male.

Pectoral Sandpipers (Male left, Female right)

Pectoral Sandpipers are supposed to be American migrants so how is it that we seem to end up with a few visitors each Shorebirds book says that some birds get blown across to Europe and it is these birds that end up migrating to Southern Africa.

The area was really great for photography as you could get close with the vehicle without disturbing the birds and with so many subjects it was just heaven......

Black-winged Stilt

Female Southern Pochard


White-faced Ducks

Whiskered Tern

Fulvous Ducks
 I was also trying out my new flash extender which gave some very good results, I still need a lot of practice but one shot I was very happy with was this Curlew Sandpiper stretching its wings..

Curlew Sandpiper
 While all this was going on another birder stopped and asked me if I had seen the Pectoral Sandpipers yet. I had and explained where to find them, "have you seen the Pygmy Goose" I asked....He gives me this odd look, points over my left shoulder and there sure as eggs is an adult male Pygmy Goose not 5 meters from the other birds I was photographing. Talk about embarrassing!!

Adult Male Pygmy Goose

This is a really impressive little bird which I had only seen on one other occasion. When he took flight I could see just how small he is..

I was heading back towards the entrance when I decided to try once more for some decent photos of the Pectorals. As I got closer to the site, the driver (Niall Perrins) of another bakkie signaled for me to stop and pointed to the sedges next to the path and there he/she was, an adult Spotted Crake. Viewing the bird was quite difficult as it constantly moved in thick vegetation and only appeared in small gaps now and again. I finally got a few shots after about 45 minutes of patiently waiting for him to co-operate. Lifer number 670 and photo lifer number 571...

Spotted Crake

Well that rounded off a great days birding and I headed off for home after that, completely forgetting about the 4th special...the Ruddy Turnstone.

After a day like that birding at home is going to be an anti-climax!!

Hmmmmmm......where to next, the Grey Wagtail at Debengeni in Limpopo or shall I attempt the Golden Pipit at Pongola Nature reserve in KwaZulu Natal.....decisions this space.

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