Rufousnaped Lark

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Week 13 - Zaagkuildrift Rd

Zaagkuildrift Rd

Week 13 already, don't the weeks just fly past. Saturday was spent doing gardening at home where I noticed small flocks of Barn Swallows heading North. They were not foraging but flying determinedly in a northerly direction making that twittering call that you don't hear for most of the season until now when they are ready for home and a new breeding season.

Vervet Monkeys on Zaagkuildrift Rd

Sunday was the day I have decided upon to try for the Warblers again. River, Olive tree and White-throat were on my list but being so late in the season, chances were slim. I reached the start of the road at 05h40 when it was still dark but the sky was starting to lighten to to that deep indigo blue colour. I drove quite quickly at first in the hopes of maybe getting a Bronze-winged Courser but only flushed a Fiery-necked Nightjar from the road.....Bird dynamics had changed from my previous visit and bushveld Kingfishers as well as indigobirds were more common along the road. One woodland seemed to have a completely red bill which is an ID feature of the Mangrove Kingfisher (what I thought one would be doing on Zaagkuil is un-explainable but sanity prevailed!).

Normal Woodland Kingfishers with black lower mandible (2)

Odd Woodland Kingfisher with almost completely red bill

Brownhooded Kingfisher

Both Village and Purple Indigobirds were seen at various intervals and we even saw males of both species on one telephone line together..

Village Indigobird (Red bill and Legs/feet)

Purple Indigobird (Pink bill and legs/feet)

Both Village and Purple Indigobirds within metres of each other!

Indigobirds parasitise Firefinches, the Village Indigobirds host is the Red-billed Firefinch and the Purples host is the Jamesons Firefinch, both of which are also common along the road. Waxbills were numerous and I managed to see all the common ones, Blue, Black-faced (of which I still don't have a photograph), Common and Violet-eared.

Violet-eared Waxbill female

Another interesting surprise was a huge flock of Burchells Starling perched on some trees a fair distance from the road. I counted at least 30 as they took off en masse and flew over the road (I didn't think of taking a flight shot). I also encountered several individuals further on.

Burchells Glossy Starling

I found the same White-throated Robin-chat in the same place I found it on my last visit, a quick Pearly call imitation and he popped out to show himself nicely.

White-throated Robin-Chat

I also managed to call up a Pearly in the process!!

Pearl-spotted Owlet

Another bird I missed last time was the Kalahari Scrub-robin which are probably not as common as the White-browed Robin-chat in this area. He preferred to stay deep in the bush however so apart from catching him and pinning his feet to a branch this was the best photo I could manage.

Kalahari Scrub-robin

Hornbills were also very visible with all three present Grey, Red-billed and Yellowbilled Hornbills. Redbilled Hornbills are the most common here.

Red-billed Hornbill

Along the road I bumped into Selwyn Rautenbach who was looking intently through his bins into the distance behind me. "What do you see?" I ask "White-backed Vulture" he replied, "Oh" says I. Thinking, I've seen them here a few times before but realising afterwards that I've only seen Cape Vultures here.......sorry too late!! Must have still been sleeping at that stage!! He had also seen Olive Tree Warbler and heard River Warbler along the route I had just taken...It took me 5 hours to travel the route and even with stopping regularly I had not picked up either Warbler, how is that for bad luck???

A short detour down the Crake rd didn't turn up much except a possible Dwarf Bittern (didn't get good views) and a foraging Hamerkop.


Eventually I arrive at the floodplain! Still no Red-capped Larks or Chestnut-backed Sparrowlarks around although they used to be extremely common, I wonder what changed? At the T-junction I picked up three Cut-throat Finch, two females and a male which is good sighting for this area.

Cut-throat Finch male
After a tip off from Selwyn I looked for a found the Collared Pratincole which was all alone on the dirt road running below the tar road on the bridge. The rufous underwing and white trailing edge on the secondaries which are visible in flight helped with identification, thanks to Lisl Van Deventer for helping to get views of the id features ;-)..

Collared Pratincole (showing distinct white trailing edge)

While waiting for the Pratincole to comply with our request to show his wing details a Lesser Grey Shrike landed close by after attempting to catch a rather nimble grasshopper. They were also more common than the last visit but the Red-backed Shrike numbers seem to have dwindled a lot.

Lesser Grey Shrike

The ponds at the bridge are great for herons and egrets and Purple Herons are seen quite regularly here along with Little, Intermediate and Great White Egrets. Black Herons are also quite common.

Purple Heron immature

On the way back I finally got a Crimson-breasted Shrike to pose for a half decent photo. The breast colours almost compare to those of images I have seen of the Vermillion Flycatcher which is a truly stunning bird!! check this link for a great photo of the flycatcher.

Crimson-breasted Shrike

In total I took some 700 images which is more than double what I normally get. All in all it was an excellent outing and I got a total of 111 species for the day, including a pair of Great Sparrows who declined an invitation to pose for a photo shoot!!

Lilac-breasted Roller

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Week 12 - Uitvlucht Loop

Week 12 was a squash weekend with us running between home and the squash courts for my son to compete. They did quite well in the doubles and finished first in the junior section. Saturday afternoon we rushed out to the Hammanskraal area to spend the night on a friends farm and then had to rush back to town for the next game at 10h00 on Sunday.

The evening on the farm was nice with Fiery-necked Nightjars calling all around us. I called one up and it did a slow fly past in the dying evening light. We took a torch and went searching for calling birds to take a photo but they did not stick around. I ended up photographing some Golden Orb-web spiders which are quite common in this area. They build huge webs of bright golden thread which is strong enough to catch small birds and sit and wait in the centre of the web for prey. The femals is quite large and can be as big as a mans outspread hand.

Golden Orb-web Spider
Early the next morning I left in the dark to try and find some night birds on the Uitvlucht loop road and disturbed a pair of owls at the farm gate. Unfortunately they took off too soon and away from me but judging by the size they must have been Spotted Eagle-owls. The Uitvlucht road did not produce any nightbirds but I got some eager Crested Francolins wandering around in the early morning darkness.

Crested Francolin

It turned out to be a rainy day and the birding was not great, I managed a few birds here and there but the highlight was probably a lone Bearded Woodpecker drumming on a dead tree about 50m from the road.

Bearded Woodpecker

With the rain now coming down steadily I decided to head back to the farm for a warm breakfast before the drive back into town for the tournament. A last quick photo of a Southern Black Tit concluded the photos and the birding for the day.

Southern Black Tit - Female
Next week should be more rewarding as I plan to head to Zaagkuil for the River Warblers. Hopefully I'll get more photos as well.