Rufousnaped Lark

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Spring Time Birding in Gauteng

I can't believe that this year has flown past so quickly and so much has happened this year. It is definately going to be a year to remember. Well so far the Spring is has arrived and brought with it lots of rain and lots of migrants that have arrived earlier than usual. It all started when the Greater Striped Swallows arrived almost a 10 days earlier than they have for at least the last 5 years, then the Red-chested Cuckoo was heard calling on the 17th October whereas we normally only hear them around the 30th and the Paradise Flycatchers arrived on the 21st October, much earlier than the first week of November. I wonder what these signs mean....they can only mean good things! Maybe they know the Mayan calender and want to enjoy their last African summer......tee hee hee....

Other interesting sightings in the garden since the beginning of spring were our first Olive Pigeon, a (European) Marsh Warbler which was sighted having a dip in the bird bath on the 14th, a Wattled Starling on the 17th and a Rose-ringed Parakeet flying overhead. The Bronze Mannikins have become regular visitors now and we see them almost everyday which is still exciting for me to sit and watch them. I suppose the excitement of seeing them will wear off eventually as this tends to happen when birds become regulars to the garden. I can't even imagine that when we first moved in here 18 years ago we didn't have Karoo Thrush or Cape Robin in the garden (which was pretty bleak). Now as many as 5 Thrushes at a time display on the lawn and up the paths around the house dragging their wings and fanning their tails to attract the ladies. They are really comical when they do this and extremely bold. Our garden list has now grown to a cool 108 species in the last 18 years with 45 species being seen for the month of October.... Although this total also includes birds flying overhead there are 37 species which regularly visit our garden itself.

Anyway, I have really been battling with my camera to get nice crisp images and after much experimentation have re-calibrated the auto-focus using a calibration chart set at 45 degrees to the camera. It is now set to minus 7 and I am much happier with the result. For more details on how to set your own autofocus see Bill Majoros' website listed under My Favourite Websites..( He has an excellent photographic instruction manual (that you can read for free) which has very detailed information on just about everything to do with bird photography and he is a nice (and patient) guy who is happy to explain the technical stuff if you ask him!

So, here are some garden bird images after the auto focus calibration. Please feel free to comment to if you feel that there is a difference in the image sharpness (or not). I have done some re-sizing of the images for quicker uploads and one unsharp mask after the resize, on the parrot and hornbill shots I did adjust the shadows and highlights a bit but then again these were more record shots of special birds in the garden. We were on our way out when the hornbill arrived so had the wife pressing me to hurry up with that photo. I don't think it is that bad under the circumstances??

Red-faced Mousebird

Black-throated Canary

Sorry for this one but when you are eager to try out the new auto focus setting, any birdy subject will do!! But, hey, they have their own characters and being birds I enjoy them just as much as the others. Using Sir David Attenboroughs ranking formula on the BBC program Life of Birds (based on the bib size), this must be at least a lieutenant? A rather cheeky one as he was later seen chasing off a Colonel...

House Sparrow

Some more Glossy Starling regular visitors have probably seen enough of them on my blog. But aren't they pretty??

Tried a panoramic crop here..

And a Portrait type shot...

Cape Glossy Starling (3)

Oh and some time in October we heard a strange call from the front garden. I initially thought that the neighbour must have got a new parrot but then realised after half the day had gone by that the call was coming from the Karee tree right outside our lounge window...on closer inspection it turned out to be a Senegal Parrot. Not an indigenous bird in our area but a very popular cage bird so someone had lost a good R900 worth of exotic parrot.

Senegal Parrot

Finally, the Hornbill photo......competition time, if you can sex the bird you win bragging rights for a month. No peeking in the books now, this should be an easy one!

Red-billed Hornbill

I really hope I will be getting out soon to bring you more exciting bird photos but with a new job and a reputation to uphold I can't promise anything.


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