Emperor Bird-of-Paradise - Huon Peninsular, Papua New Guinea (July 2019)

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Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Cuckmere Haven 31/10/18

A longish day out in the field for a last chance of an October rare, but like all other days there was very little about.

The only highlights of the day were a Firecrest in Hope Bottom, and in the Cuckmere was a mega site tick, this being an Eider that was found along the river. The long staying pair of Knot and the single Grey Plover were also along the river. Tide Mills and Newhaven West Beach were very quiet.

Eider at Cuckmere Haven
My first record of Eider in the Cuckmere.

Knot at Cuckmere Haven




Sunday, 28 October 2018

Lands End, Cornwall 26/10/18

Ever since returning from my travels I haven't been too fussed about going for the Grey Catbird. However, since being back, birding around the patch has been truly awful and so on Thursday I cracked, and arranged with ADW & RJF for us to twitch the Catbird. Despite oversleeping we arrived to a very cold and windy Lands End, and over a two hour period obtained six brief views of the Grey Catbird. It then somehow took eight hours to drive home.

Closer to home, on Monday 22nd two Ring Ouzels were at Foxhole Farm, and Seaford Head on this day produced the Willow Warbler and a Swallow flying west. Other then this, the Head has only produced daily sightings of Bramblings and Redpolls, whilst seven Corn Buntings and a Yellowhammer flew west on the 23rd.

A look at the Newhaven Harbour Gull roost on the 27th only produced two Mediterranean Gulls.

the culprit from last week remained
until the 22nd - Willow Warbler in Harry's Bush

Ring Ouzel at Foxhole Farm
The Atlantic from Lands End -
windy and rainy was far from ideal





Thursday, 25 October 2018

Mammals of Namibia & Botswana - 2018

Following on from a successful trip to southern Africa to near-complete my 'near-endemic' bird list, I decided to visit Namibia at the end of the dry season to have some excellent mammal encounters in Etosha NP. I wasn't disappointed as the waterholes were filled with a range of species. The waterholes in Etosha are well maintained throughout the dry season to ensure the animal's survival, and it was apparent that this method works superbly, as away from the water very few larger animals were encountered.

One of the main highlights inside Etosha was the floodlit waterhole at Okaukuejo. In the two consecutive nights I stayed in one of the chalets (the only way to view the waterhole at night) I was treated to superb views of several Black Rhinos coming down to drink, and also witnessed various 'communications' between the animals.

As I neared Botswana there was thankfully lots of water fed from the mighty Okavango, and this produced a different array of species, mainly Antelopes including many new ones, and of course where there's water, you get many Hippos and Crocodiles.

The rest of the trip before and after the above was mainly dominated by the smaller mammals, all of which are listed below.

- Bushveld Sengi
One seen at Daan Viljoen Game Park near the restaurant. 


- Baboon
Only seen in hilly and rocky areas, but were numerous when seen.


- Vervet Monkey
Small numbers encountered in Mahango Game Reserve.

- Lesser Bushbaby
Two superb Bushbabies were found at night in Waterberg Plateau NP, found by listening for rustling in the acacia branches above.

- Scrub Hare
A couple throughout but generally scarce.

- Southern African Ground Squirrel
Very common in Etosha NP and sparsely vegetated flatlands in central Namibia.


- Tree Squirrel
A couple seen at Xaro Lodge, Botswana in broadleaved habitat.

- Dassie Rat
Two found at Erongo Mountains NP, but were very shy and avoided the camera.

- Four-striped Grass Mouse
One found in surrounding hillside near to Vineyard Country Lodge, Windhoek.

- Black-tailed Tree Rat
One at the restaurant at Daan Viljoen NP.

- Cape Fox
One at the campsite in Daan Viljoen NP.

- Bat-eared Fox
A party of three on the night drive in Etosha NP.


- Black-backed Jackal
Common In Etosha NP, with a minimum of six around the Okaukuejo Waterhole one evening.


- Banded Mongoose
The commonest mongoose seen.


- Slender Mongoose
Only one found, this being at Roy's Camp.


- Yellow Mongoose
A couple seen in Etosha NP only.


-Spotted Hyena
Surprisingly only three seen in Etosha NP, one being at night and heard to call.

- Aardwolf
One found in Etosha NP in the western sector in the first hour of daylight.

- Lion
Sixteen individuals encountered. Very memorable!


- African Elephant
Numerous in Etosha NP and Mahango Game Reserve. One at Xaro Lodge.


- Rock Hyrax
Common at Waterberg Plateau.

- Plains Zebra
Very common in Etosha NP.

- Black Rhino
A maximum count of seven Black Rhinos at Okaukuejo Camp after dark. Two seen during the day sleeping and a couple seen on a night drive.


- Warthog
Common along roadsides in the north.


- Hippo
Common in the Okavango.


- Giraffe
Common in Etosha NP.


- Buffalo
Only seen at Mahango Game Reserve in small numbers.

- Greater Kudu
Regularly seen in Etosha NP, but very few Bucks.


- Bushbuck
Only seen in Mahango Game Reserve, including one barking at me for a while.

- Roan Antelope
Only one seen at Mahango Game Reserve.

- Sable Antelope
A superb male seen in Mahango Game Reserve.


- Gemsbok
Common in Etosha NP.


- Lechwe
Common at Mahango Game Reserve, with the males showing off their unique horns, although they never came close.

- Blue Wildebeest
Common in Etosha NP.

- Red Hartebeest
Only small numbers encountered in Etosha NP.


- (Black-faced) Impala
This unique looking Impala were seen in large herds in Etosha NP. 


- Springbok
Common throughout.


- Klipspringer
A small group seen at Daan Viljoen Game Reserve and were considered of wild origin based upon their 'goat-like' climbing skills enabling them to escape the reserve's compound.


- Steenbok
Fairly common throughout.

- Crocodile
Common along the Okavango.


- Cape Fur Seal
A very large colony at Pelican Point near Walvis Bay.


- Bottle-nosed Dolphin
A couple of pods off from Walvis Bay.




Friday, 19 October 2018

Namibia - Day 18 19/10/18

Avis Dam

Well this is it, the last morning and birding opportunity in Namibia. Avis Dam is only a five minute drive from the B&B and therefore I set that as my destination this morning. 

It was very cold and wish I’d taken a jumper, something I’d not worn all trip. The birding was very good with many southern African near-endemics seen, and I even managed a trip tick, this being a finely plumaged Pin-tailed Whydah. Four Rockrunners were also good value. 

I only spent two hours here before heading back to the B&B to sort things out and drive to the airport, where my very clean hire car was dropped off. The queueing then commenced for security and immigration. The flight departed WDH half hour late, but that meant half hour less in Jo’burg airport where an overnight flight awaits. 

It’s been a very enjoyable adventure. In total I’ve driven 4986 KM in 18 days seeing a total of 313 species of bird and a long list of mammals which will be shown here in the near future. The number of lifers was expectedly low, with around 50 new birds, and the undoubted highlight being the Pel’s Fishing Owl in Botswana. 

Hope those who’ve read the trip on here have enjoyed it somewhat. Now back to the doldrums of birding in Sussex. 

Photos from the trip will be added next week. 

Highlights for this morning are as follows:

Black-headed Heron - 1
Blacksmith Lapwing - 4
White-rumped Swift - 10
Rosy-faced Lovebird - 5
Pririt Batis - 4
Ashy Tit - 1
Greater Striped Swallow - 3
Rockrunner - 4
Black-chested Prinia - 4
Barred Wren-Warbler - 1
Chestnut-vented Warbler - 2
Wattled Starling - 5
Cape Starling - 2
Kalahari Scrub-Robin - 1
Marico Flycatcher - 3
Short-toed Rock Thrush - 2
Southern Masked Weaver - 2
Red-headed Finch - 6
Pin-tailed Whydah - 1
Black-throated Canary - 10

Barred Wren-Warbler at Avis Dam

Pririt Batis

Marico Flycatcher
Swimming not an issue in 
the dry season

Avis Dam

Windhoek Intl Airport

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Namibia - Day 17 18/10/18

Waterberg NP - Windhoek

This morning was my last chance of finding a Hartlaub’s Spurfowl and so I had no choice but to wake up at 5am and start and finish the ascent onto the plateau in the dark. However soon after starting I got lost and instead of turning around and re-starting like a normal person, my tripod came in handy in smashing the undergrowth to pieces, and eventually after climbing two fences and a few cuts I made it onto the rocky path at the foot of the cliff face. By this time the light had crept up on me and I had already heard a Spurfowl calling, which was far from ideal. Still, I made it onto the ridge and waited. After 90 minutes there was surprisingly no more calls from any Spurfowl and so that was that. It wasn’t wasted though, a good number of near endemics were seen from my position including only my third sighting of Monteiro’s Hornbills this trip, a Carp’s Tit and some superb aerial displays from many Bradfield’s Swifts. Baboons were also in good numbers (possibly explaining the lack of Spurfowl) and posed beautifully for the camera. 

The 330km drive to Windhoek was up next and I made very good time arriving before 2pm, and also having a car wash on the journey down. 

Vineyard B&B is situated on the east side of Windhoek on the way to the airport and is surrounded by some good looking acacia hillsides. After a catch up on WiFi and a swim, I walked a long circuit around the hillsides finding myself a lifer, this being a Barred Wren-Warbler. Other good birds were found, but mammals took over slightly with two Scrub Hare, a Steenbok and best of all a Four-striped Grass Mouse. 

This now was my final evening in Namibia and I was hoping to end it in fine African style, however this soon turned into a Nando’s as the restaurant was closed! Still one more morning to soak in and enjoy what has been a fantastic trip. 

Highlights for today are as follows:

Bateleur - 1
Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk - 2
Freckled Nightjar - 1
Alpine Swift - 50
Bradfield’s Swift - 75
White-backed Mousebird - 2
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater - 4
Common Scimitarbill - 2
Monteiro’s Hornbill - 2
Pririt Batis - 1
Carp’s Tit - 1
Cape Penduline Tit - 2
Rattling Cisticola - 3
Black-chested Prinia - 2
BARRED WREN-WARBLER - 1
Yellow-bellied Eremomela - 1
Green-winged Pytilia - 6
Cape Wagtail - 1

Baboon also enjoying the views
on Waterberg Plateau

Alpine Swift

Bradfield's Swift
Sunrise on Waterberg Plateau

Looking onto the plateau

The last part of the ascent


Countryside east of Windhoek

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Namibia - Day 16 17/10/18

Grootfontein to Waterberg Plateau

Another relaxed morning because yet again I woke up feeling a bit grim. Not ideal as a 250km drive was ahead of me. 

On the way to Waterberg I stopped off at the famous Meteorite near to Grootfontein. Apparently it fell 80,000+ years ago and is the largest known anywhere. Well it took all of one minute to get my meteorite fix before heading back to the main road through various cultivated fields. These fields held a plethora of Larks including large numbers of Chestnut-backed Sparrowlarks and a single Rufous-naped Lark, whilst overhead a Wahlberg’s Eagle drifted over. 

After a tedious long drive (only enlightened by a large wild fire sweeping through a valley) I finally arrived at Waterberg NP, checked into my chalet and fell asleep for a couple of hours. I still felt ropey but I really wanted to walk to the plateau which involves a semi-steep ascent over mainly fallen boulders. Not only for the view, but I also wanted to get to grips as to where will be a good place to stand at first light for Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, and unfortunately this is at the top meaning an early morning ascent in the dark. On the way up a Snake species was found and a Rockrunner scuttled across my path. The views at the top were worth the trek and I felt much better for it. 

As it became dark I set myself up halfway between the chalet and plateau as I knew this area is good for Freckled Nightjar. However after dark there was no sound of them and so I retreated to have dinner, although finding two Bush-Babies on the way back was excellent. 

After dinner I was then surprised to hear a couple of Freckled Nightjars, and although distant, one bird did the decent thing by calling right next to me and then flying into view, phew!! An African Scops Owl was also calling but failed to find it after a half hearted attempt. 

Highlights for the day are as follows:

Wahlberg’s Eagle - 1
African Hawk Eagle - 2
Speckled Pigeon - 2
FRECKLED NIGHTJAR - 1
Bradfield’s Swift - 20
Golden-tailed Woodpecker - 1
Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark - 50
Rockrunner - 1
Chat Flycatcher - 3
Scaly-feathered Weaver - 5
Black-faced Waxbill - 10
Black-backed Puffback - 2

Wahlberg's Eagle


Hoba Meteorite

A wild fire



Views from the plateau


View from the front door