Rufousnaped Lark

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Week 6 - Amsterdam Rd Raslouw

Week 5 was a drag as I didn't get out birding at all, with my son taking part in a squash tournament all birding activities were halted. My 50D camera is also on the blink so I have to use my 350D...

This morning however I got up at about 06h30 to go and look for the Cuckoofinchs and Melodius Larks that were reported by Etienne Marais. Etienne discovered the excellent grassveld birding in this area and is the co-author of a book (with Faansie Peacock) entitled "The Chamberlain guide to Birding Gauteng" where they share some of the prime birding spots in the region. The area consists of highveld grassland, which is accessible by travelling along an aircraft runway, and a dump site for city refuge..

Long-tailed Widow Immature practising for adulthood!
At first it was really quiet but then I began finding the flocks of grassland birds, like Red Bishops, Masked Weavers, Red-Collared and Long-tailed Widows. Cuckoofinches are often found foraging with these flocks so I took time to check out each bird carefully. After about an hour I found an adult female and a juvenile Cuckoofinch.

Cuckoofinch Female
I also realised today that I have a lot to learn about bird identification. A while ago I photographed an Aghulas Clapper Lark with a very intricate pattern on the back and deduced from this that the Eastern Clapper Lark must have similar markings.....I thought that I had this ID mailed down and whenever I photographed a lark with detailed patterning on the back, determined that they must be Clappers. Until I saw a calling Rufousnaped Lark at Vernon Crookes in Natal with similar back patterns as "my" Clappers which destroyed my theory totally. So all my photos were immature Rufousnaped Larks...but today a displaying Clapper Lark landed right in front of me in the short grass. So here is a genuine Clapper Lark!!

Eastern Clapper Lark
  This is the first time I have seen one so close in and in such detail (the previous ones were ticked on distant display views only). Note the shorter, more conical bill, the darker appearance, less streaking on the breast and "fiercer more grizzled look".

Another interesting sighting was a Black Kite amongst a group of Yellow-billed Kites.

Black Kite below Yellow-billed Kite

Pipits are probably the toughest of groups to identify and this one was no exception. It was small, breast and facial markings indistinct, lower mandible pinkish, outer tail feathers were buffy on one side but appeared white on the other, tail wagging was slow to non-existant, tibia exceptionally long and back markings distinct.. I would say it is an Afican Pipit but some features were strange like the indistinct markings on the breast and face and the pink lower mandible. Anyway decide for yourself..

Mystery Pipit (9)

I went to the model flying clubs runway to look for the Melodius Larks and heard them calling but could not see them from the road. Finally, the last bird for the day was an immature Lanner Falcon, this is the first time I have seen them in the Centurion area.

Lanner Falcon Immature

So not a bad mornings birding for a local suburb, 47 species in total!

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