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 Post subject: Kruger birding - tips
Unread postPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 1:14 pm 
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I have realised that by driving around looking for birds is just gonna make you feel like filling in your tax return. Just to the point when I get to rig my binocs to check out my new tick, it divebombs for cover.

I have now given that up as a bad job and only stop to watch a bird if he seems to have taken his prozac for that morning. Raptors is good for driving around.

Waterholes and camps are the most productive. Camp birding actually is excellent. I like to chill out on the lawns or as in the case with Satara, rooigrond(red dust) and scan any sign of movement.

Another thing I like to do is to just stop somewhere where I hear some bird calls and sit and wait. Amazed I am sometimes to c how many feathered friends appears from nowhere.

This is my tips. What is yours?

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2005 9:54 am 
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Jose wrote:
Satara and Letaba are great for birding. And yes, I'm occasionally willing to hang around the camp a little longer in the mornings.
Esp. for those who still haven't ticked off their redheaded weaver - sorry WTM, I know you're not here to defend yourself but couldn't resist :lol: - Letaba is the place to be. But I think my #1 fav must be Olifants... just sit there at the viewpoint near the restaurant and enjoy the BBB-parade. Eye-level or even below you!! Ah... bliss. :D And for those who favour the small and colourful... I sat there once for over 3 hours watching the antics of a pair of paradise flycatchers.

Djeeze, what am I doing here in the NL??? :( Where it just started raining. Again.


OK. The joke is on me...

Thanks for ripping me off in my absence. :lol:

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2005 9:22 am 
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I’m going to post this information here although it is by no means a Kruger only tip on birding. On SABirdNet a couple of people mentioned that they have problems with identifying waders (me included) and from the responses thus far this one by Trevor Hardaker, in my opinion, is very helpful. Surely not only for waders as these principals can be applied to and group of similar looking birds. I hope that you will also find it of help in your birding. It is quiet a long post, but worth it IMHO
----------------------------

Perhaps the problem that many people have with identifying difficult groups of birds is more fundamental than what as actually already been suggested. I agree with many of the points already raised about what to look for in terms of diagnostic features, etc., but I think we have to take a further step back to look at what is potentially the real problem.

Over the years, I have watched the way many different people make their approach to birdwatching. I am not suggesting that there is only one correct way to bird, but in my humble opinion, there are certain fundamental errors that are being made.

The primary problem I have experienced is that people try to obtain an exact match with the bird they are watching and the illustration in their field guide - almost like playing the card game "Snap!". Countless descriptions in rarity submissions I have seen have contained the sentence "The bird looked exactly like the illustration in the field guide".

The field guides serve only as an aide to identification. There is no way they could possibly cover every eventuality. Waders, for example, have a number of different plumages, varying from juvenile, through 1st year plumages to adults which have a summer (breeding) plumage and a winter
(non-breeding) plumage, also known as basic and alternate plumages by some.
So, if your bird is in an intermediate phase between plumages, you are not going to get an exact match in the field guide.

One almost needs to go through an apprenticeship for birding to learn what to do. This may sound derogatory to some, but it is not meant to be. Look around you and watch what other birders are doing when they look at a bird.
This may assist you in developing your own skills and will teach you how to look at a bird.

When you are faced with a small bird at some wetland feeding along the muddy edges, what should you do? Its really down to basics...first quickly look at the habitat and the bird's habits. From that, you can very quickly establish that it is a wader of some sort. Then, get a feel for the size. Compare it to something you know well e.g it is about the size of a sparrow or a weaver or whatever. By getting a feel for the size, you have already narrowed down the possibilities.

Let's assume our bird is sparrow sized. That means we can cut out all the larger waders like Greenshanks, Godwits, Curlews, Whimbrels, large plovers and the larger sandpipers. So, we are really left with the small sandpipers and stints and sanderling.

Next, we quickly look at the bill length and compare it to the head. Is the bill the same length as the head roughly, or is it noticeably shorter or longer. In our case, the bill is roughly the same length as the head.
Immediately, we eliminate all the small plovers who's bills are much shorter than the heads and we also cut out others like Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Broad-billed Sandpiper, etc. who's bills are obviously longer than the head.

Based on our local field guides, we have now cut down the possibilities to about 8 or 9 species. A quick glance at the bare parts colouration reveals that our bird has dark legs and a wholly dark bill. Immediately, we eliminate a few more and are down to 5 possibles.

The 5 are Sanderling, Little and Red-necked Stint and White-rumped and Baird's Sandpiper. These are all small waders with dark bare parts. So, we've now got to look a bit more closely at the bird and see further details.

Next we try and ascertain the age and plumage of the bird and whether it is moult or not. Lets assume the bird is in fresh winter plumage without any moult.

Looking more closely at the bird, we can see that the wings don't project hugely beyond the tail when they are folded. We quickly eliminate White-rumped and Bairds by doing this and are down to 3 possibles.

In fact, the projection of the wings beyond the tail is pretty non-existent, so it probably should eliminate Sanderling as well, but we quickly check the overall plumage of the bird and find that it is not particularly pale and going back to size, Sanderling is probably just a little too big to be compared to a Sparrow. So, another possibility eliminated.

Down to the 2 stints - We now have to start looking very carefully at the bird. What is the leg length and what is the tibia/tarsus ratio like? What does the bill really look like? Is it wide at the base? Does the tip look pointed or blunt? What does the plumage actually look like? Are the feathers uniformly coloured or do they have darker centres and paler fringes? Are the pale fringes white or are they a buff colour? You really have to pull the bird apart feather by feather.(figuratively speaking of course!!!)

Once you have satisfied yourself with all of the above points, you should have no problem putting a name to a bird. Obviously, taking field notes is extremely useful (especially before consulting a field guide) and in today's modern digital age, a few photos through your telescope may just help you to clinch the ID as well.

Needless to say, having the correct literature available is invaluable. I have a travelling library that is permanently in my car while I am out birding. Besides containing the normal local field guides, it also, amongst others, has a copy of the following books in it:

Collin's Bird Guide to the birds of Britain and Europe by Mullarney, Svensson, Zetterstrom and Grant
- arguably one of the best field guides in the world and having many overlaps with species in SA including great detail on the waders.

Shorebirds - An Identification Guide
by Hayman, Marchant and Prater
- an illustrated guide to all the waders of the world giving more detail on identification pitfalls and plumage variations than any field guide.

Photographic guide to Waders of the World by Rosair and Cottridge
- many great photos of various plumages of all species and often a useful added reference in the field.

Finally, the comment that time in the field is a big plus is very true. Not only does it improve your knowledge of various species, but it actually serves to hone your basic birding skills which is imperative in assisting you to making identifications.

Sorry for all the waffle. Needless to say, waders are one of my favourite groups of birds and I could go on for ever, but rather not! I'm now off to go and find some waders to look at......

Kind Regards
Trevor

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 Post subject: KNP visit April 06- discussion on uncommon sightings
Unread postPosted: Tue May 02, 2006 4:56 pm 
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I've posted my trip report in the 'recent sightings' section but wanted to pull out some bird-specific stuff for discussion.

170 birds in 2 weeks can't be too bad for this time of year? It's the 10 lifers I'm chuffed with though, moving my grand total up to 410 - woohoo!

The Gull's and Tern's at Nsemani have already been brought up.

I'd like to know though if anyone else has seen Allens (Lesser) Gallinule in the park before (or even wherelse outside the parks).

Also, how common are Lanner Falcons in the KNP? I've only ever had the one sighting there now - has anyone else seen them more regularly and, if so, where?

I saw 3 Lizard Buzzards during this trip - that's almost the same amount as I had seen going into this trip. Would this be down to the good rains that the area has had?

The Pallid Harriers - two males in the space of 2 minutes - and I promise that they weren't the same bird. It just seems strange that having never seen one until that point, 2 rock up inside a matter of minutes. Anyone else experienced there guys in the KNP before?

I also experienced two incidents of pairs of Bataleurs mobbing Tawny's. Is this common - maybe around breeding time?

And finally, anyone else seen any birds such as the european roller that should have left by now? Just interested to build up a picture of how many species have stuck around with the good rains this year.

Any discusssion on any point about would be good. Cheers

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Tue May 02, 2006 5:11 pm 
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oh yes, and more bird-specific stuff for discussion:

My first Redbilled Hornbill in Gauteng around what now seems to be the first time that others are seeing them here too? Has anyone else seen this bird in and around Gauteng much?

I can only think that they must be learning about the opportunities in suburban gardens for feeders and fruit etc as our cities expand and expand

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Unread postPosted: Mon May 08, 2006 10:05 am 
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I wouldn't say that Red-billed Hornbills are common in suburban gardens but in the bushveld of northern Gauteng they are very common indeed. If we don't see one on Birding Big day we consider it a mega dip.

Allen's Gallinule is a special bird for anywhere in South Africa. Well done. They usually show in places like Kgomo-Kgomo, Borakalalo and Nylsvley in lekker wet seasons but are by no means common.

I've not seen many Lanner Falcons in the park even though I feel that there is no reason why they shouldn't be common there.

Pallid Harrier is also a very nice bird to get in the park - but they do seem to be getting more common. One of the best sightings I've ever had was when we found two males fighting over a Kurrichane Buttonquail in the middle of the road.


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Unread postPosted: Thu May 11, 2006 3:54 pm 
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Howzit deefstes,

Thanks for the input. Ja, seen loads of RB Hornbills but just never in Pret or JHB.

I guess Lanner's will appear when there's a reason to (like in this case - quelea's along the Olifants river)!?

As I said, it certainly helped having a bird professional in the hide with all the equipment when checking out the Gallinule.

Sounds like a great sighting of the Harriers. It's strange and interesting that we both had sightings of two male birds interacting (in your case) and so closely existing (in my recent case), especially when you barely see them at the best of times...all that space and there they are competing with each other!?

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 Post subject: Any birding hotspots on my route?
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 9:28 pm 
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I have booked into camps in the KNP as follows:
22/9 Skukuza, 23/9 Olifants, 24&25/9 Satara. My trip has birding (and bird photography) as the main aim. Please suggest good spots for birding - basically anything goes, but tips on spots, techniques, strategies for owls and other insomniacs would really be welcome.


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Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 11:49 pm 
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Johan,

Near Skukuza one of the sites to spot birds is the Lace Panic birdhide. In the Satara area I've had good sightings in the Gudzani area. I've seen Gymnogene, malachite and pied kingfisher and greater painted snipe there.

M.


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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 12:05 am 
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If you're birding in Olifants look high into the big trees and you may see the Giant Eagle Owl - Stay close to the river as well that helps - good luck


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Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 6:53 am 
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Bok bok wrote:
If you're birding in Olifants look high into the big trees and you may see the Giant Eagle Owl - Stay close to the river as well that helps - good luck


Olifants. try and take the s90 road between Balule and Bangu windmill. There are a number of vey small seepages and gullies that cross the dirt road stop and pick up Black Crake, Malachite Kingfisher, and every year in Sept when we have stayed at Balule we see a mom Three Banded Plover feeding her TINY chicks and carry them around under her wing etc last year she started with 3 then there were 2 and the next day there was 1 and by the time we left none...Genet I think as there are plenty there. Just take a good solid beanbag a lens from about 150-400 range and go and sit at one of these little streamlets and within an hour you should get the little Malachite Kingfisher sitting posing on the reeds 10-20 metres away. Its a quiet road and also brilliant for daytime Barred and Pearl Spotted Owlets but people do tend to pile up behind you thinking you have seen mating Leopard or a huge pride of Lion...with good reason Last year at Balule I had gone off for a short drive to get a Malachite. I was parked right in one of these little streams at 10 am One car had passed 10 minutes previously and wheelspun away after he realised I was bird watching...should have been further South that chap!! Anyway I happened to look in my rear view mirror and lo and behold there 300 metres away and closing was a pride of 13 lion padding down the road. I couldnt believe my luck and quicly put on my then 17-35 lens anticipating they would come right past me and maybe drink. I waited and got ready and sure enough the padded right up next to my car and talked in low growly tones to each other as they jockeyed for position right next to my car in this stony silence as I clicked away a whole roll of Velvia in my then F5 AND I had l had left my big Canon Video Camera at Balule because I wasn't going to see anything worthwhile in the heat of the day was I!!!!!
Skukuza I know nothing about as I never go anywhere near there apart from plant buying at the Nursery. but it is a good bird area with all that riverine bush. Here take an image stabalised 70-200 plus 1.4 convertor and a fully charged battery and let us know how you get on

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 10:39 am 
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Hi Johan,
Lake Panic as Madach has already pointed out and I cannot emphasize it more, is a wonderful place to go and spend a couple of hours.
Then if you still have any time left Sunset Dam near Lower Sabie camp and of course the bridge across the river plus the low level bridge over the Sand River near Skukuza can also be very rewarding.
If you wander around camp after hours you should also be able to pick up some nice shots.
I am not too familiar with spots further North.
Hope you have a great time and don't forget to post some of your pics on the forum when you get back. :D

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 10:51 am 
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Sweni bird hide has been good to me
And the Girivana dam is good for waterbirds and birds drinking
Lake Panic is a must

And dont forget the camps 8)
Trees along the river bank at Skukuza

Ask around for the scops owl at Satara
When we were there it was near the camping
Near the swimmingpool they have a kind of garden with a little stream. Good for birding

Low water bridge towards Balule

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 Post subject: Thanks for the tips (Any birding hotspots on my route?)
Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2006 7:35 am 
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To Madach, Bert, Bok bok, Peter Betts and Elsa, thanks for your suggestions, I have enough time to try them all. I will post some of the results on my return from KNP. 1st, though, I'll have to get proficient at using the pix posting facilities - I imagine once you have mastered it, it will be easier than the daunting task it seems to be!


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Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2006 6:32 pm 
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Hi Johan,

Take the dirt roads and stop off at the waterholes. I have often seen martial eagles in the satara area. Take the s100 to gudzani dam, saw ME, fish eagle (ubiquitous), dark chanting goshawk, black egret, etc.

Orpen dam& Mlondozi dam are also great.

The best birding spot in the park except for the far north BAR NONE is the Matambeni hide just north of Letaba. here is a huge sweep of river and we constantly heard FEs and saw umpteen waders. Eles and buffs crossed the river as well.

Sunset dam outside Lower Sabie is usually very good, but 4 weeks ago the birds were on holiday.....

We did see the resident scops owls at Afsaal, and the purple turacos inside Pkop.

Good luck and welcome to the forum.

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