Rufousnaped Lark

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Recent Birding outings

Howzit? I haven't had to time to blog lately (honestly :-)) with my recent change in circumstances and starting a new company, its been rush, rush, rush over the last few months. I have however done a few birding trips which I thought I would share,. One of them included a sighting of the elusive White-backed Night-heron which I am sure is on a lot of peoples wish lists. I also went out to Mkhombo Dam again which is an area I really love to visit. Just a pity it is so far from home. Oh and Getaway website used one of my photos for their site recently which you can see at

Firstly, the White-backed Night-Heron....I sent my wish list through to a good birding bud who noticed that I hadn't seen this bird and so on the following Sunday I met up with him at a bridge crossing a small stream on one of the back roads through Mpumalanga, parked the cars and after a 200m walk next to the river came up with this chap or chapess on the opposite bank of the river (So if you are reading this, thanks Richard ).

I have done a couple of birding trips to Mkhombo, the first was in November where Phil Penlington and I went looking for the Chestnut-banded Plovers and came up trumps for a change with some good views and great photos of adult breeding and non-breeding birds..

Breeding Chestnut-banded Plover

Non-breeding Chestnut-banded Plover

We also saw an Osprey that had just caught a fish.

 Another interesting spectacle was a large flock of mixed Egrets and Spoonbills feeding in the shallows just off shore. They kept in a tight group, wading or flying forward in stages whilst feeding constantly. They kept this up for about 100m with the Black Egrets seeming to try to stay ahead of the group all the time. They would fly forward, spread their wings over their heads to form a canopy as they normally do and then fly off again as soon as the larger birds caught up.

Black Egrets flying off ahead of the flock
Here they land ahead of the feeding flock again

They immediately assume hunting position with backs to the wind

Here they start to move forward again as the flock catches up

We also got this very interesting looking Yellow Wagtail in moult which looks like it could the flavissima race (the British race) of this species but I dare not speculate for fear of being ridiculed by those in the know.. although I have probably already opened myself up for some serious body shots....

Yellow Wagtail
Mkhombo is great for waders as well and some of the common ones are...

Little Stint

Ruff - getting his waltz all wrong

Wood Sandpiper (with Little Stint in the background)

Common Greenshank

Common Ringed Plover

In Late December JP was up in Pretoria from the Lowveld to visit in early Jan so he and I also did a trip to Mkhombo to try and find the Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwits and Chestnut-banded Plovers which had been seen there but unfortunately we dipped on all of them. One plus point was that we came across the inland race of the White-fronted Plover which got me/us pretty excited initially.

White-fronted Plover

There were plenty of Yellow Wagtails around in different plumage's, which made identifying the races a bit tricky but I think they were these:-

Motacilla flava flava moulting adult

Motacilla flava flava - male in breeding plumage

Motacilla flava flava - non breeding plumage

Motacilla flava flava - 1st winter bird?

Motacilla flava flavissima moulting male (I think this is the same bird as the first Yellow Wagtail image at the top of the page but taken two weeks later)

As far as bushveld birds were concerned we found a Juvenile Great Spotted Cuckoo which had found a huge caterpillar and was beating it to death on a convenient branch. There didn't seem to be much left of it when I took this photo.

Juvenile Great Spotted Cuckoo

More excitement came in the form of my first confirmed Icterine Warbler ( I think all the others may have been Willow Warblers). It's a bit embarrassing to admit this by the way...seeing as I have been birding for the last 20 years...

Icterine Warbler - note yellow colour and GREY legs :-)

Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters are plentiful and we saw them on both occasions sitting on the numerous petrified tree stumps scattered around the shore just waiting to shred a tyre. The bee-eaters are fairly approachable and allow a photo session as long as you stay in the vehicle.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

On both visits there was a flock of Greater Flamingos made up mainly of juvenile birds and a few adults. It looked almost like a type of creche?

Greater Flamingos

Finally, what would an African bird watching outing to a dam be without the old Fish Eagle, this guy always seems to be at the same place near the dam inflow.

African Fish Eagle

There is not going to be much time for birding or blogging this year by the looks of it but I will try to sneak out now and again for some photos and a story....

Oh and one more photo to make the mouth water and keep the brain ticking over..

Mystery Eagle - taken in a pine forest in Mpumalanga

Hahaha.....with that I say...toodles!!

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