Tuesday, 24 January 2012

South Africa - birdy pics and a few words...

It's tricky to select images for use on the blog - photographs of some of the better South African species have suffered to the heat haze, so a random selection will be posted rather than a chronological sequence.

Juv common fiscal, Franschhoek
 Our first four days in Franschhoek were based on a delightful vineyard - birding was restricted to species seen while out on the bike, so no camera was carried. The common fiscal was outside our residence on a very hot afternoon and allowed sufficient approach for the 100-400mm lens.The adults are cracking in comparison - jet black and pristine white plumage!

Black-shouldered kite, north of Cape Town
 Fast forward to Cape Town, out home for the last 4 days. Day 2 and 3 were spent with Birding Africa. Our guide, Alistair Kilpin was superb! Just north of Cape Town we pulled over off the highway to scan a small pool - it was full of birds! Two black-shouldered kite were perched in a dead tree - lush is the only way I can think to describe them! We also enjoyed bokmakerie, hottentot teal, marsh sandpiper, purple heron, yellow bishop, our first of many white-backed mousebird to name a few - it was avian overload!

Yellow-billed kite, Geelbek, West Coast National Park
 After great stops for secretarybird and the Darling track (blue crane, capped wheatear, red-capped lark, african stonechat, and our main quarry - 3 vocal and active southern black korhaan) and some wetland viewing at Velddrift (greater and lesser flamingo, caspian tern, pied kingfisher, thick-billed lark, waders galore) we hit West Coast National Park.

WCNP is beautiful... and views of the lagoon at Langbaan were picture postcard perfect - azure waters and pure white sands. Stops along the road were productive - two female southern black korhaan just avoided the camera as they lifted off the road and karoo scrub robin entertained.

Birding the lagoon wasn't bad either! 5 damara tern were roosting with the plentiful common and sandwich, while white-fronted and kittlitz plover scuttled in front of the hide.

Late lunch was at Geelbeck, and jolly good it was too - hake and calamari hit the spot, while cape weaver, yellow bishop, cape spurfowl and a brief male pin-tailed whydah entertained between and on the dinner tables!

Cape weaver, Geelbek, West Coast National Park
 No sign of any black harrier on our visit, the only "miss" of the day. Compensation was in the form of a plethora of new birds for me, so I cannot grumble! The water hole at Abrahamskraal was very good - I missed photographing a close black crake (there were several on the far shore), while cape bulbul, yellow canary african sacred ibis, african spoonbill, lesser swamp warbler kept us busy.

Our exit from the park included a flyby European bee-eater and many ostrich.

Red-knobbed coot, Abrahamskraal water hole, West Coast National Park
Our day completed almost 11 hours after the hotel pick-up, 110 species richer for the holiday. Fresh air had knocked us for six and it was a jolly good nights sleep...

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