Snow Petrel - Antarctic Ocean 2016

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Saturday, 31 January 2015

Makalali Game Reserve - Week 2

Yet another great week on the game reserve. Some incredible animal encounters this week, thankfully from the vehicle this time. Bird activity has also been good as the temperature has been lower due to local thunderstorms etc.

Probably the highlight was flushing a Small Buttonquail from the roadside one morning. 

I will add the very long mammal list after the trip next week when I visit the Western Cape with my brother. 

All birds capitalised below are all lifers, and yet again only birds of note are included. 

The many highlights this week are:

SMALL BUTTONQUAIL 
Wooly-necked Stork 
Red-breasted Swallow 
RETZ HELMETSHRIKE 
Pygmy Kingfisher 
Brubru 
White-fronted Bee-Eater
White-browed Robin Chat
BRONZE-WINGED COURSER 
Lanner
Common Scimitarbill
Black-bellied Bustard
PURPLE INDIGOBIRD
Collared Sunbird
Crowned Hornbill
Verreaux's Eagle Owl
Giant Kingfisher
Black Stork
African Black Duck

An afternoon visit to Legalametse waterfalls produced a couple of new birds in the more cultivated habitats. 

WHITE-WINGED WIDOWBIRD
White-browed Robin Chat
Lesser Masked Weaver
Black-collared Barbet
AFRICAN FIREFINCH
Golden-breasted Bunting

 was nearly its' prey, but thankfully they weren't hungry
 Southern Ground Hornbill


 Retz Helmet Shrike
 Fiery-necked Nightjar
 African Hawk Eagle
Verreaux's Eagle Owl


Saturday, 24 January 2015

Makalali Game Reserve - Week 1

A great week volunteering on this game reserve situated about 50 km west of Kruger. Plenty of game drives and also walking in the bush which have led to a couple of memorable experiences. One example was a few days ago we went walking in the bush with armed guides in search of Lions. Without knowing, we got within 5-10 metres of an adult female with two cubs. We however soon found this out when a deep growl sounded only metres away from us indicating that they didn't want us there. A quick retreat was in order and we found a sensible spot to watch these lovely animals. If they were hungry, we could have easily been their dinner.

Four new birds for me this week (been to Kruger before) as well as a wealth of other great species seen which are listed below. Other commoner species aren't listed, but you get an idea of how good it is here. 

Red-chested Cuckoo 
Lilac-breasted Roller
Broad-billed Roller
Green Wood Hoopoe
African Grey Hornbill
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
Red-billed Hornbill
DUSKY INDIGOBIRD
Black-collared Barbet
Black-headed Oriole
Southern Ground Hornbill
White-crested Helmet Shrike
JAMESON'S FIREFINCH
Levaillant's Cuckoo
Natal Francolin
Swainson's Spurfowl
GOLDEN-TAILED WOODPECKER 
Magpie Shrike
SENEGAL LAPWING
Water Thick Knee
Violet-backed Starling
Chinspot Batis
Black-backed Puffback
Bateleur 
Wahlberg's Eagle
Red-billed Buffalo Weaver
Red-headed Weaver
Southern Black Tit

 Giraffe
 Black-backed Jackal
 Levaillant's Cuckoo
 Senegal Lapwing
 Waterbuck

 Red-crested Korhaan
Impala

Sunday, 18 January 2015

South Africa - Day 6 -18/1/15

Today I drove from Port Nolloth all the way down to Cape Town which took 6hrs 40mins. Once in the south, I had some spare time so I birded Strandfontein Sewage Works seeing some decent stuff.

Tomorrow I'm flying to Hoedspruit to stay on Makalali Game Reserve for two weeks so maybe not many updates, though I'll try my best. Pictures from all the days will be added when I get back home on the 7th Feb. 

Strandfontein Sewage Works
Maccoa Duck - 8
Red-billed Teal - 1
Cape Teal - ca.150
Cape Shoveler - 2
Southern Pochard - 30
Greater Flamingo - 75
Blacksmith Plover - 5
African Pipit - 3
Great White Pelican - 1
Black-necked Grebe - 50

 Greater Flamingo, Cape Teal and Blacksmith Plover
 Maccoa Duck
 Blacksmith Plover
Great White Pelican

South Africa - Day 5 - 17/1/15

The day of the Larks!!! Yet again, another memorable day in the Northern Cape where I cleared up on everything I wanted to see (except from the unlikely Damara Tern).

I started the day on the Koa Dunes where I was actually shivering, mainly because it was still dark when I arrived. The expected Red Lark finally gave themselves up, and I scored with an unexpected Fawn-coloured Lark. It was then time for the long drive to Port Nolloth which is situated on the far NE coast of SA. I detoured to Geogap where amusingly I was just about to sign the papers for me to go in, when a group of Karoo Eremomelas (my target species here) flitted past. The lady seemed annoyed that I no longer wanted to visit the reserve, but hey ho, I was happy. This gave me plenty of time in Port Nolloth to score one of the big targets......Barlow's Lark, plus another unexpected Lark. 

I had completed everything by mid afternoon so I rewarded myself with some cider and chilled on the beach. A great way to end before the mammoth drive tomorrow. 

Birds capitalised are lifers and only species of note included below. 

Koa Dunes
RED LARK - 3 
FAWN-COLOURED LARK - 1
Rufous-eared Warbler - 2
Pygmy Falcon - 1
Namaqua Sandgrouse - 13
Lark Like Bunting - ca.200

Geogap NR (entrance)
KAROO EREMOMELA - 13

Port Nolloth
BARLOW'S LARK - 3
Barlow's Lark/Karoo Lark hybrid - 1 possible
CAPE LONG-BILLED LARK - 4
CAPE PENDULINE TIT - 5
Crowned Cormorant - ca.150
Hartlaub's Gull - 50
CHAT FLYCATCHER - 2
Kelp Gull - 30
Southern Double Collared Sunbird - 3
White-fronted Plover - 7
Greater Crested Tern - 5

Mammals seen today:
Common Duiker - 1
Meerkat - 6
Bat-eared Fox - 2

 the stunning Red Lark
 Karoo Eremomela

 the highly localized and endemic Barlow's Lark. Both images depict the same bird. Note the very heavy bill and unstreaked flanks. No hint of hybridisation with Karoo Lark!! I did have to sneak into a diamond field to find this pure bird, whereas in the 'safe' area I was not convinced by two individuals, both looking like hybrids. 
 Cape Long-billed Lark
 Hartlaub's Gull
 Port Nolloth - a welcome relief to see the sea after five days of arid land


 Koa Dunes
 on route to Port Nolloth - home to Meerkats
feeling small in the Koa Dunes

Saturday, 17 January 2015

South Africa - Day 4 - 16/1/15

An interesting day today. After yesterday's sweet success, today was the opposite, even though the bird species seen were very good. First of all, I arrived at the gates to Augrabies NP to find out the park didn't open for another hour, then after some good birding from the road, I discovered I had a flat tyre!!!

Two reasons why this was not ideal, first I was more then 1000km from Cape Town now on a spare wheel, but also my plans had been ruined for the day as I had planned to go to Onseepkans on the Namibian border for some Lovebirds. Needless to say this didn't happen but I enjoyed the day (although anxious about my tyre) and saw some good bits, as well as seeing the very impressive waterfalls. I then drove 130km to Pofadder and stayed the night with the spare wheel still in one piece. 

Species capitalised are lifers and only birds of note included below.

Augrabies entrance road
ACACIA PIED BARBET - 1
Red-faced Mousebird - 5
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater - 1

Augrabies NP (campsite)
Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler - 1
Fiscal Flycatcher - 1
ASHY TIT - 2
African Hoopoe - 1
Acacia Pied Barbet - 3
Cape Robin Chat - 2
Southern Grey-headed Sparrow - 4
Pririt Batis - 2
African Fish Eagle - 3
Verreaux's Eagle - 2
Orange River White-Eye - ca. 30
Cardinal Woodpecker - 2

Mammals today were: 
Little Mongoose
Ground Squirrel

 Pale-winged Starling
 African Red-eyed Bulbul
 Acacia Pied Barbet
 Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler
 Dusky Sunbird
 Black-chested Prinia


 Augrabie Falls NP
 east of Pofadder
welcome to Pofadder. 

Thursday, 15 January 2015

South Africa - Day 3 - 15/1/15

What a brilliant day. As usual I was out just before light (5am) and I worked all morning in the areas east of Brandvlei. By far the highlight of the morning were two Bat-eared Foxes that sat by the side of the road for a very short time. All morning was spent searching for Sclater's Lark without success, but there was still plenty to see.

I then headed north on the R27 and concentrated my efforts 20-40km South of Kenhardt, where after spending a couple of sweltering hours in the 40 celcius heat, I was finally rewarded with a Lark duo. I was buzzing after this and I soon found myself heading north to Kakamas where I stayed at Meerkat Compound, via a couple of stops on the Orange River. 

This amazing day was rounded off with one of the best steaks I've ever had, and a cold cider. Perfect!!!

Species capitalised are lifer, and only birds of interest included. 

East of Brandvlei
Black-chested Prinia - 7
Sabota Lark - 3
SCALY-FEATHERED FINCH - 6
Karoo Korhaan - 1

Haasfontein Road east of Brandvlei
Black-eared Sparrowlark - 16
Rufous-eared Warbler - 5
LARK LIKE BUNTING - 10+
Karoo Korhaan - 2
GREATER KESTREL - 2

20-30km sth of Kenhardt
SOCIABLE WEAVER - ca. 80
White-rumped Swift - 1
SCLATER'S LARK - 2 at Booysen Dam
STARK'S LARK - 2 at Booysen Dam
Layard's Tit-babbler - 1
Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk - 8

Keimoes
RED-EYED BULBUL - 4
Southern Red Bishop - 2
Red-billed Quelea - 50
Helmeted Guineafowl - 2

Kakamas
ORANGE RIVER WHITE-EYE - 1
Karoo Thrush - 2
Spotted Flycatcher - 1
African Palm Swift - 2
Red-eyed Bulbul - 7

 Karoo Korhaan
 horrid picture of a delightful little bird - Black-eared Sparrowlark
Namaqua Sandgrouse
 Greater Kestrel
 Sclater's Larks - one of the highlights of the trip. Note the dark 'teardrop' which is diagnostic of this species.
 Stark's Lark - note the crest
 Sabota Lark - it was so hot this bird refused to move out of the shade, allowing very close approach
 Lark-like Bunting
 Sociable Weaver nest - bigger then my car
 sparse!!
 outskirts of Brandvlei
R27