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Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Mon Nov 18, 2013 5:52 am

Sky wrote:How many ticks in total for the week ?


I haven't done the final count, but it is well over 200. Got a lifer as well! :dance: And an amazing number of KNP ticks (for me, that is...) :lol:
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Mon Nov 18, 2013 3:29 pm

Let me get some personal trip stats out of the way:

Trip list = 223
Balule Bash = 184
Lifers for me = 1 (Olive-tree warbler) :dance: :dance: :dance:
KNP ticks for me = 9 (Yellow wagtail, grey-backed sparrowlark, Lark-like bunting, red-headed finch, African black duck, Amathyst Sunbird, Black cuckoo, Olive-tree warbler, flappet lark) :lol: :lol: :lol:
Last edited by Johan van Rensburg on Mon Nov 18, 2013 6:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross

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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Mon Nov 18, 2013 7:07 pm

My trip did start off on a high with one of nine KNP ticks taking place while I waited for the gate to open. A pair of African black ducks represented the best of around 30 species I marked down as time marched toward the 05:30 mark.

Remember the shorthand notes I sent while travelling in KNP? Remember the reference to the brown-hooded kingfisher and leopard story? Well, this is that kingfisher sitting very relaxed, posing for me just before the leopard brought its own brand of excitement tagging along...

Image

That was also where I ran into one of only two yellow ribbons (mandym on this occasion) seen of the whole trip. I am wondering about the yellow ribbon thing :hmz: Do 'mites still bother?

Anycase. At least I'll be able to drop those two 'mites a PM each, reminding them of our encounter and maybe reminisce a bit...

I had a lot of time on my hands so I trawled north...
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Mon Nov 18, 2013 7:55 pm

It was a bit overcast and every now and then a light drizzle helped to keep the dust in check. It was cool to the extent that I had to put on a light jacket. I knew the cool weather wasn’t going to last and enjoyed the ride with all the windows open.

I never pass up an opportunity when I come across any bird that I can get close to and this brilliantly coloured southern yellow-billed hornbill was no exception, making a handsome picture in that early morning light. “Having fun?” he seems to be saying. Adult males have a larger (vertically deeper) bill than females and also show more facial skin…

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I had a SABAP2 pentad map of the area within which Malelane Gate falls and keeping within its boundaries, I next worked the S114 towards the Crocodile River Road. This section was very good in respect of raptors and I clocked up Martial eagle, Bateleur and brown snake-eagle all within sight of each other.

At the eastern edge of the pentad I enjoyed the shenanigans of a pair of southern white-crowned shrikes as they hunted in their typical buoyant way, often returning to the same perch.

Image
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Tue Nov 19, 2013 10:10 am

I always enjoy finding oxpeckers because they are primarily seen working on various herbivores, usually photogenic animals in their own right.

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Mutualism are far more complicated than originally believed. Red-billed oxpeckers feed almost exclusively on what they can glean from the skin of the large mammals they choose to sit on. It is generally believed that hosts benefit through a reduction in tick load; but this theory has never been proved in the field. In actual tests oxpeckers significantly prolong the healing time of wounds and removed earwax, both unwanted events for a mammals'  health while the tick load remain constant!

Just a little way further I encountered a buffalo next to the road with hard evidence of an oxpecker targeting a wound for the blood it could obtain.

Image

Vampire extraordinaire?
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Tue Nov 19, 2013 11:24 am

By this time I had been along every road of the Malelane Gate Pentad at least once, and still three hours remained before I'd be allowed to book in at Berg en Dal. I decided to start the Berg en Dal Pentad with driving along the Matjulu Loop.

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As per the norm, if it was accepting of my presence and willing to pose, I shot it. The tawny-flanked Prinia is often too busy a subject for good photography, but this little fellow  must have had some gogga for breakfast that had a huge calming effect on his normally frantic behaviour.

Looking up a small movement caught my eye...

Image

One could immediately see this bird was not used to an audience, very inquisitively returning my interest. The African scops owl is the smallest of our owls, superbly camouflaged so that seeing one is often a surprise, considering how well they blend in with their environment.
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Wed Nov 20, 2013 9:42 am

Thanks, naomi c. With KNP it is very difficult for me to get lifers as the birds that I need for my life list occur mostly elsewhere.

Thanks hilda, barryels, MM, Pumbaa and Ladybirder for leaving spoor... Your kind comments and compliments mean a lot.

I was now firmly aimed at the Berg-en-Dal gate and nearly missed this brown-crowned tchagra looking for a nesting site.

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Booking in at the camp went smoothly and I was soon in my chalet (#6), not very far from the restaurant and shop. The Camp Dam had a lot of water in it and the walk up and down the path from where one can see the water produced some nice sightings: Purple-crested turaco (darn difficult photographic subject :wall: :wall: :wall: ), white-bellied sunbird, black-collared barbet and Levaillant's cuckoo. In a very thick bit of bush near the right-hand end on the "trail" I encountered both yellow-breasted apalis and green-backed camaroptera loudly chatting away. The skulky sombre greenbul gave its position away by its typical single high note call that is followed by a jumble of notes in decreasing frequency. On the water's edge the usual Hadeda, reed cormorant, blacksmith lapwing, Egyptian goose and water thickknee were present.

Image

I saw this brown-hooded kingfisher had something big in its bill, but I couldn't fathom what. Later on in the bungalow, when processing my day's pix, I noticed it was a scorpion! Must be the equivalent of a special crayfish dinner! :lol:

I have seen little birds downing some unbelievably large meals in my time, but this one must hold some of its own challenges, with sting and all! :lol:
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Wed Nov 20, 2013 10:01 am

I was really enjoying the leg-stretch that the walk in the camp provided… Some 10 hours sitting behind a steering wheel truly puts a strain on one.

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A female Bennet’s woodpecker landed close by, probably before noticing me and then tried to remain motionless in an attempt not to be spotted by me. Fat chance!

A little further along the Rhino trail which is a continuation of the walk along the dam, I found this very relaxed go-away-bird. I actually had to back off to enable the camera auto-focus, which means I was closer than 3.5 metres to the lourie!

Image

The camp list continued to grow steadily: red-faced mousebird, bateleur flying overhead, fleeting glimpses of red-chested cuckoos (they were very active!), red-billed hornbill, Natal spurfowl and bearded woodpecker. By this time I was back at the start (the dam wall). So I did a second lap, with a brief stop for a beer.
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Wed Nov 20, 2013 11:09 am

On the second circuit of the Camp I added wire-tailed swallow, noticing a pair feeding a fledgling that remained on the roof of the pump station while the parents collected food for it. Red-billed buffalo weaver, African pied wagtail, white-rumped swift and violet-backed starlings were now scattered additions along the walk. I alluded previously to the pair of novice birders and the Kurrichane thrush…

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It was a particularly scruffy individual, and maybe that threw off the couple. I now noticed a tick on the face of the bird!

As I said earlier, meeting the birding greenhorns made me a bit nostalgic and the recall of those early page-turning days had me reminiscing about some very special sightings.

On the final traverse of the dam, I got a portrait opportunity of a bushbuck ewe…

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The lady in red is dancing with me, cheek to cheek,
There's nobody here, it's just you and me,
It's where I want to be,
But I hardly know this beauty by my side,
I'll never forget the way you look tonight...
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Sky » Wed Nov 20, 2013 2:42 pm

Hi Johan
Thanks for all the lovely pics :clap: :clap: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
Hope you found your way to the office after all :D
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1 Jan 2016 Skukuza

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Brenden » Wed Nov 20, 2013 4:21 pm

That is a beautiful picture of the Bennett's Woodpecker Johan. Thank you, I am thoroughly enjoying the thread.
"Keep the Wind in your face, the Sun on your back and the Wilderness deep in your heart".

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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Wed Nov 20, 2013 6:23 pm

Sky wrote:Hi Johan
Thanks for all the lovely pics :clap: :clap: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
Hope you found your way to the office after all :D


I found my way, against all odds! :lol:

Are you back from Zambia or still on your way? Thanks for the kind words, Sky.

@ Hilda: You have go-away-birds in your coop? :big_eyes:

I am pleased to see one role player in the Balule Bash getting into this thread. Brenden will keep me from embroidering too much, I'm sure... :twisted:

Let me get on with the preamble to the Bash:

I was out of the gate first and off for the planned Pentad surveys to the west and north of Berg-en-Dal. Because of access roads to the Pentad west of the Camp being barricaded, I had to change tact and I spent more time in the Pentad containing Afsaal picnic spot.

Image

Burchell's starlings are generally not shy when approached with care. They make good pictures when one gets a decent chance, so, true to me rule of not refusing a photo opportunity, this bird working the roadside got its image collected.

A little way on, this spectacularly coloured orange-breasted bush-shrike caught my attention with its song. After carefully scanning the bush, I spotted it, a little obscured, but still collectable.

Image
Last edited by Johan van Rensburg on Fri Nov 22, 2013 7:01 am, edited 2 times in total.
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Wed Nov 20, 2013 9:09 pm

Keeping it coming, Tilandi... :lol:

Amethyst sunbird seen on the S120 about a kilo off the Malelane Skukuza road was my second KNP "lifer" of the trip. I didn’t get photos of it, though. Poor light and black birds are never friends…

At Renosterpan the trip’s first African harrier-hawk flapped along low amongst the trees looking for a meal. Along the access road to the Pan, this white-fronted bee-eater showed evidence of the damp day.

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Red-crested korhaan seemed more regular than normal with 10 sightings and more on some days.

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Other noteworthy birds were golden-breasted bunting, yellow-throated petronia, yellow-fronted canary, and a dark chanting goshawk. On another run to Malelane Gate I saw the Eurasian Hobby again. A long shot, but evidence…

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These migrating raptors start to arrive in September to spend the European winter in Africa south of the Sahara. They return to Europe in April and May, taking around fifty days to do the migratory trip one way, flying on average 170 km per day.

Unlike Amur falcons that the hobby superficially resemble, they are not exclusively insectivorous, actually taking more than half of their food in the shape of small birds.

Flowers started popping up after the wet spell.

Image

I’m sure someone will know what we are looking at here. For now I’ll take a flyer at some type of Gladiolus…
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross

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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Thu Nov 21, 2013 6:18 am

I headed back to camp early. The rain had become the heaviest it has been and photography was now very difficult. I decided to work a bit on downloading photographs before dinner which I had indoors. As there was no view to make the Apple Leaf fare bearable, I ordered glass of house red to do that trick… :lol:

My firm intention was to get the purple crested turaco shot the following morning.

It was still raining a little Monday morning. I started a walk around the camp fence as soon as light allowed me to see where I was going. I got both white-browed scrub-robin and white-browed robin chat working for insects in the lights illuminating the footpaths. A greater blue-eared starling also used the same tactic hunting. It was a little more accepting of my presence though…

Image

I was walking along the fence when some weird sounds coming out of the undergrowth on the camp-side, interspersed with a sharp “snap” from the fence, confused me. From the underbrush came a singular, slowly repeated, oo – oo – oo, then “snap” from the fence. Initially I thought it must be a combination of some tree frog and maybe popping seeds (due to the rain!?) In the dark it took me a while to spot the southern boubou working the undergrowth. OK! Now for solving the snapping sound…

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I am very proud of this achievement! :dance: :dance: With my limited hearing figuring out that the snaps were the electrocution of a red roman is no mean feat! More about this animal at a later stage…

A scarlet-chested sunbird, golden-tailed woodpecker and African hoopoe helped to pass the time while I waited for the light to improve. By 07:00 I decided to try for the turaco shot. I could hear them calling all over the camp. Three hours later I gave up. I though if I got a lucky break, there may be an image that I could use, but no flight shot…

The lucky break…

Image

Usually you can only see those crimson primary feathers when the bird flies, a magnificent sight to see those reds flashed, but I got lucky here... You can just see the crimson panel of primaries. The turaco is very difficult one to get flight shots of as the thickest bush is where they keep. There is always a leaf, twig or branch around for the camera auto-focus to be side-tracked, searching and not finding what it is supposed to. Getting a flight shot is the ultimate trophy... One day...

The green and red colours in turacos are due to copper-based pigments, unique to turacos. To maintain the reds and greens require large quantities of copper that the turaco is able to accumulate through a diet rich in fruits, flowers, buds, and other plant matter.
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross

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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Fri Nov 22, 2013 7:11 am

arks wrote:Just catching up with you adventures, JvR, but did your bee eater get washed away? :wink: :whistle:


:lol: Yup! Out of one post into the next, arks. Sharp of you to notice. I edited the reference so, 'mites will now be scratching their heads a bit... Now its our private "joke" :twisted:

Thanks for the kind words, Pumbaa

Mr Graham, your computer is broke... no CAPs or punctuation bits left? :twisted: Thanks for showing sign, Bro'
No, André, there is a lot more coming. Just hang in here... :thumbs_up:

Glad to make anyone's day, naomi c :lol:

Keep with us, MM... there is a BIG critter a few days hence... :twisted:

@ hilda: better the roman than me, hmm...
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross


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