Blog Category | Overseas Birding
My time in the Western Cape is coming towards the end. I arrived a week ago to brilliant sunny weather that I went up Table Mountain where I had fantastic views as did hundreds of others. A Rock Kestrel caught its prey from a steep drive. The next day was some serious bird watching at Strandfontein with lot of water birds and a Spotted Eagle Owl. It was my first ighting of African Oystercatcher which have mad a come back from the brink of extinction thanks to a French water snail that has colonised the shore line. In the afternoon I drove around the Cape visiting Cape Point (Souther Right Whales) and Cape of Good Hope. It was my first sighting of Ostrich as well and of course I stopped at Boulders Bay for Aftican Penguin. Sunday was the pelagic in a small boat. I was not sea sick thanks to a pill that kept sending me to sleep though one chap did not last a hour before he turned green! Anyway about 7 miles south of Cape Point we met a trawler that was finishing processing fish and then took up another catch. It was a superb experience to see so many birds including 5 types of Albatross. O the way back we picked up all 4 types of Cormorant and for good measure also added Black-bellied Storm Petrel. Monday morning I headed for the West Coast National Park and on the way followed the Darling loop. This was birding paradise with so many species with Blue Crane, Cape Long-billed Lark, Bokmakerie, Cape Bulbul and lots of Karoo Prinia which was to become a common bird. At the park there were a lot of waders as as well as Southern Black Korhaan and Black Harrier. A extension to the Cerebos salt Works for Chesnut-banded Plover proved fruitless as did a stop the following morning after successfully finding 2 Verreaux's Eagles. It was avery long drive to Karooppoort with roadworks that had a waiting time of around 10 mins. One way traffic for about 5 kms was the norm at least 3 times on one particular road. The Karro was warm unlike the coast and I spent ages trying to find Karoo specialists but only succeeded in White-backed Mousebird, Booted eagle, Karoo Chat, Lark Like Bunting, Grey Tit and Namaqua Warbler. Along drive back to Cape Town and experienced rush hour at Paarl; never to be repeated. On Wednesday morning met up with the Cape Birding Club at Kirstenbosch for just over 2 hours when they finished and I continued. The Spotted Eagle Owl was nesting in the courtyard and we could see the top of the chick. I added Cape Sugarbird and Brimstone Canary to my list. The afternoon was spent looking for the elusive Knysna Warbler that was heard but not seen so does not get added to the list. Yesterday I met the committee of the Hermanus Birding Club at Rooiels by chance. We had excellent views of Cape Rockjumper and Cape Rock Thrush as well as other birds. The next stop was Harold Porter Botanical Gardens with Cape Siskin and Swee Waxbill. I was shown a back road that was covered in birds including Plain-backed Pipit. The afrernoon I stood where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans met doing the tourist bit. Today is my final day here and more birds to find around Agulhas. My total now stands at 356 species for the trip.Comments
I have come to the end of my time in Kwa-Zulu Natal where there is no Zulu word for maintenance. I have been helped by bird clubs and my host whilst I have been visiting. I am in the humid town of Durban and finished birding In Pigeon Valley where I was early this morning. At long last I was able to sight the Purple Crested Turaco that I constantly heard on my travels. I spent all but the last day in Howick; the last person to sleep in my bed was a certain Capt Wales. I visited many sites nearby including some original Afro-Montain habitat and today Scarp Forest habitat. Yesterday I was counting Bearded and Cape Vultures at Giant’s Castle. Endemics seen over the last few days include Cape Batis, Bush Blackcap, Southern Boubou, Forest Canary, Cape Grassbird, Drakensberg Prinia, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Southern Double-collared Sunbird and Knysna Turaco. I have had good views of African Harrier-Hawk, Emerald Cuckoo, Long-crested Eagle, Orange Ground Thrush and Dark-backed Weaver; their Afrikaans name translates as forest musician. I have heard more birds but as not seen are nor recorded. An example is the Chorister Robin-Chat which was heard a lot at a farm which had an Open Garden week; the flowers were tremendous. Quite a few visits were to Game Reserves. As we were walking down a track my hostess reminded us about Puff Adders on the path and Leopard in the gorge; neither were met but we did walk past an old male Giraffe. I have managed to see all 3 crane species and have visited a sewage works where a Goliath Heron put on various fly-bys. I am now at 276 species for the trip as each day adds a few more.Comments
I have a signal once again but I am now in Kwa-Zulu Natal. I travelled back to Johannesburg once again dipping on the Taita Falcon as the female died and the malehad disappeared. The next day I visited the Bird Reserve at Marievale. This desolate spot next to a mine where a gale was blowing introduced me to water birds including Hottentot Teal, Levaillant's Cisticola, a range of Bishops, White-bellied Duck and Marsh Warbler. The next day was adrive to Wakkerstroom on the border with KZN. There was time before last light to visit the lakes and reeds after picking up African Darter and Caspian Tern at the lunch stop. There were South African Cliff Swallows nesting under the bridge. An African Marsh Harrier swept the reedbeds and a pair of Black-crowned Night Herons were a star with some other birders. I was more interested in the Long-tailed Widowbird and African Rail. The next day we went out with a guide named Lucky. We did quite a few miles on dirt roads but we did see some nice birds including to start with Denham's and White-bellied Bustard. All 4 Ibises were seen; Hadeda, Sacred, Bald and Glossy. In addition we saw Botha's, Red-naped, Red-capped, Rudd's, Clapper and Spike-heeled Larks. There were Secretarybird, Blue Khoran, Blue Crane, Grey-crowned Crane, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Cape Longclaw and Ground Woodpecker. Back at the water I saw Black Crake and African Swamphen. The birds came thick and fast and it was wonderful weather. This morning was a quick visit to the water where a Red-chested Flufftail appeared out of the reeds. It was then a drive south to Howick where a new set of birds awaited including an African Harrier Hawk, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Southern Boubou, Spectacle Weaver and White-rumped Swallow. I am now at 202 species for the trip and will be leaving at 5.45 to go out for a couple of hours before it gets too hot. Once again the weather has been kind and Wakkerstroom will be remembered as a birder's paradise.Comments
It is 36 degrees celcius in the shade as I write this sitting on a veranda overloking the Olifants River in one of a number of private game reserves bordering the Kruger Par. Nyala have just walked past and an African Fish Eagle is circling above. I arrived in Johannesburg last Wednesday and was met at Standton Station by my host Tom. We sat in his garden watching Rosy-faced Lovebird, Masked Weaver, Karoo Thrush and Cape Sparrow and several more before going out for lunch where a Fiscal Flycatcher kept us entertained. Afterwards we visited Liliesleaf where the executive of the ANC were arrested in what was the Rivonia Trial. The next morning we headed east with Tom’s friend where I managed to pick up a few larger birds from the back of the car before we stopped at the Taiata Falcon site. Micheal our guide could not find the bird that day but he did show us a Mountain Wagtail, Half-collared Kingfisher and a Green-backed Camarpotera. We then headed for the Game Reserve were we settled in before going out in the open vehicle for a evening and night drive. It is the same programme each day with morning and evening drives except last Saturday where the pool area was packed for the SA rugby game and deserted as I watched England lose. During the time here I have seen a lot of 4 of the big 5 less Leopard. There have been fighting giraffe, large herds of elephant, vultures on a kill and a good range of birds that have to be seen from the vehicle; it is too dangerous to get out and walk. Highlights have included Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Arrow-marked Babbler, Marico Sunbird, Golden-breasted Bunting, Brubru, Water Thick-knee, Black-backed Puffback, Long-billed Crombec, Blue Waxbill, Green Wood-hoopoe, Crested Barbet, Acacia Pied Barbet, Bateleur, Mocking Cliff Chat and Pels Fishing Owl. There are lots to mention that include a whole host of other birds and animals including vultures, eagles, kingfishers, waders and quite a few LBJs as well as antelopes. It is now time for a swim today rather than use the outdoor shower. I hope to keep you updated on my trip and my list stands at 102 birds this afternoon.Comments
The Final Curtain
After 3 years and about 160 BLOGs, this is the final curtain. I’ve been struggling to find time to write the BLOG in the last couple of weeks and with it being June (the worst month for birding in Cyprus), I’ve also struggled for material, and so all in all, it’s probably time to call it a day, as I depart the island on 11 Jul and am on a Mediterranean cruise next week.
During my time on the island, I’ve submitted circa 35000 records detailing 305 species and managed to photograph many of them. My Cyprus list stood at 263 when I arrived and is now at a very respectable 320. 4 lifers were seen on the Island; Saker, River Warbler, Asian Buff-belled Pipit and Crimson-winged Finch, with an additional 2 being seen in Turkey – Brown Fish Owl and Red-fronted Serin. I’ve submitted rarity reports and supporting evidence for 37 rarity occurrences and so far, with a few pending, all have been accepted, including a few “MEGAs” like the 2nd record of Menetries’ Warbler, 5th record of Goosander, 14th record of River Warbler and recently the 1st record of Lesser Flamingo.
Despite the fact that writing the BLOG every week was a bit painful at times, on the whole, I’ve really enjoyed doing it and providing information to visitors. During my last 3 years and as a result of writing the BLOG, I’ve guided, assisted or provided information to in excess of 50 visiting birders and at a fraction of the price that they might have been charged elsewhere – so I’m very pleased about that!
The 2 tours I organised for the Army Ornithological Society – 1 in the Spring and 1 in the Winter of 2014 were very successful with lots of new birds for all those participating. The best moments; finding a male Hooded Wheatear at Cape Greco on the final day of the Spring tour and getting a Wallcreeper for Tim Cowley in Avgas George on the Winter tour.
In many ways, I have mixed emotions about leaving Cyprus. Of course I’ll miss the birding with Rollers, Beeaters and Spur-winged Plovers to name but a few in my back yard but there are also reasons why I’ll be glad to depart. Sadly, despite the country being full of potential for birders the mass slaughter of millions of birds through netting, liming and shooting continues unabated and if anything, it’s got a lot worse during the last 3 years. Europe, The Cypriot Government, Birdlife Cyprus and the SBA Police seem unwilling or unable to take any real, meaningful action to address and defeat this disgusting, cruel and barbaric practice. Lobbying and campaigning are all very well but it doesn’t save any birds without practical intervention on the ground.
I do not discriminate between the political boundaries of the country or Birdlife Cyprus and KUSKOR as birds do not adhere to political boundaries and more needs to be done to produce a set of records that represents occurrences across the island if any meaningful data is ever to be collated. How it can be described as Birdlife Cyprus that doesn’t represent the Island holistically is beyond me.
Not to end on a low, a big thank you to all the friends I’ve met in Cyprus and visitors who’ve assisted me, joined me in the field and shared bird sightings, which have all added to a fantastic birding experience. Special thanks to the kindred spirit and long standing friend Colin Richardson.
Finally, a thank you to all the BLOG readers (I really have no idea how many), who have followed the exploits of a manic birder and twitcher. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the read and found some useful information on the Birds, Orchids, Butterflies and Dragonflies of the country as a result.
Many thanks and perhaps I’ll see you all around the course.
Mark Easterbrook - The Bird Finder General - “It’s All About The List”!