We chose to go to Olifants through Roodewal Road (S39), in order to avoid the tar road, where many cars would be present. This was a good decision. S39 reserved to us a lot of sightings and, besides that, a great and adventurous stop in the Sasol Ratelpan Bird Hide, which I strongly recommend. These were the sightings in the road before the bird hide:
1 European Roller (Coracias garrulus
), 2 Ostriches (Struthio camelus
), a male and a female, 1 African Grey Hornbill (Tockus nasutus
), 1 Magpie (African Longtailed) Shrike (Corvinella melanoleuca
), another European Roller, Burchell's Zebras, 2 Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters (Merops nubicoides
), 1 Southern Grey-Headed Sparrow (Passer diffuses
) , 2 Laughing Doves (Streptopelia senegalensis
) , 3 Grey Go-Away Birds (Lourie) (Corythaixoides concolor
), Impalas, Wattled Starlings (Creatophora cinerea
) , 1 Cape Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia capicola
), 1 Red-Billed Hornbill (Tockus erythrorhynchus
), 1 Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri
), 1 Tree Squirrel (Paraxerus Cepapi
), 2 (African) White-Backed Vultures (Gyps africanus
), females taking care of their nests, 1 Brown-Snake Eagle (Circaetus cinereus
), Chacma Baboons (Papio ursinos
) , 1 African Elephant (Loxodonta Africana
), and more Wattled Starlings.
First, European Rollers. They were common, but I could never get tired of taking their pictures. The first individual was in the middle of the road, posing for nice pictures. In fact, he was catching beetles, as you can see in the second picture.
This European Roller, in turn, was with a Caterpillar ready to be eaten.
I did not identify the owners of this web, but, based on the size, I`d say it probably belongs to some social spider. I have began working with them – as models to study the evolution of sociality about two years ago. And they do such big webs.
And then we found our first ostriches in the trip, a couple. First we saw the male and then the female. In the first picture, you can see how we found them, far away in the middle of the grass.
Ostriches are classified as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List, due to their large range and population size. However, the population trend is decreasing, but up to the moment not at a rate that puts them into vulnerability to extinction. The global population size has not been quantified. Anyway, the species is reported to be frequent to abundant throughout most of its range.
Here you can see their natural distribution, including an area in southern Africa where they were introduced: http://maps.iucnredlist.org/map.html?id=100006001
However, this is not entirely correct, since ostriches have also been introduced in other parts of the world, for instance, in Northeast Brazil, where I live.
Ostriches generally prefer open savanna woodland, arid and semi-arid grassland and shrubland, and open desert plains.
In Xenocanto, we find only one recording of Ostrich, quite short, but with the curios that we also hear an African Rock Python hissing in foreground: http://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Struthio-camelus
A call recording can also be found here: http://www.biodiversityexplorer.org/bir ... amelus.htm
They are predominantly herbivorous, eating succulents, grass, leaves, flowers and seeds.
One male holds a territory and mates with up to four females. Even though the females also have home ranges, they do not defend them, and, besides, they which overlap with one another. The female home ranges are larger and do not coincide with the male territories. A male drives other males out of his territory. If he encounters females, however, he displays to them, trying to court them.
Parents care for young for about nine months, warding off predators off by pretending to be injured so as to divert the predator away from the young. They can also threaten the predator by running towards it with opened wings and lowered head. Anyway, survival rates can be low. A study in Kenya showed that only 36% of the eggs in a nest were incubated, and, of the incubated eggs, only 33% hatched, resulting in 7.5 young on average being produced per nest. Only about 12% of these young survived to adulthood, resulting in 0.9 survivors per nest. In South Africa, in particular, chicks die due to the sudden onset of cold, wet spells and are also susceptible to internal parasites. When we see such vulnerability, worries about risks for the species increase. But ostriches have entered the set of animals domesticated and reared by humans, what makes it less likely that they get extinct.
In S39, we found once again a Magpie Shrike, always a nice bird to see. In the first two pictures, it was more exposed in the tree, showing its long tail. Then, it moved (as we can see in the third pic) to a more hidden position.
And then the first Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters. What a marvel of nature this combination of colors! Almost unlikely that we are seeing something like that. This is a birder dream!
These two birds were found in the same dry tree.
Here is a closer view.
And then one of them flew away
Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters are classified as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List, with decreasing populations, since it occupies a large range and the population decline is not fast enough for their classification as Vulnerable to extinction. Although the species is not threatened, they are shot by farmers who consider them pests. This shows how knowledge can be a bless. As they feed on insects, they are more likely to help than to harm farming.
The distribution of this species can be seen here: http://maps.iucnredlist.org/map.html?id=106001185
In KNP, we are at the southernmost part of its distribution, in a non-breeding area. They are locally common in savanna, swamps with scattered dead trees and cultivated land, especially in areas surrounding rivers and lakes.
They feed exclusively on insects, as the common name of the species suggests. Their preys are generally larger than those of other bee-eaters. Most of the foraging takes place aerially, often flying long distances to find eruptions of insects. They quick take advantage of bushfires, catching the insects as they flee from the fire.
Here you can find recordings of their calls: http://www.biodiversityexplorer.org/bir ... coides.htm
As usual, these recordings are also available from Xenocanto: http://www.xeno-canto.org/browse.php?sp ... +Bee-Eater
One of the recordings is from ca. 500 birds breeding in a river bank, showing one of the more famous behaviors of the species.
I will soon come back with a new posting, still in S39.