Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Little Crake: the star of Clovelly

The genetically programmed route that was missed and ended up directing our Little Crake to the South instead of the North, ultimately to Southern Africa and landing in Clovelly, was a blessing in disguise for listers. Taking advantage of  "reverse migration".

Travelling up  to North Africa to tick the bird was not going to be easier for even ardent twitchers. Lets make use of the opportunity while it lasts.

Here are the posibilities that we may wake up one day and find the bird gone.
1. Maybe the bird has been around for most of summer and she is ready to go up North again
2. As winter gradually draws closer, she may wake up to a correct orientation and innately start  navigating to the right wintering grounds.
3. He may perish in the unsuitable wintering grounds, (and this will be unfortunate)

If you have not gone down to see the bird, it is now the right time. Several people have already seen her.
Little Crake walking over floating water plants
(Photo: courtesy of Patrick Caldwell)
Little Crake
(Photo: courtesy of Patrick Caldwell)
Missed previous postings?
You can follow this link to see the excitement she has generated at Clovelly

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spotted Thick-knee: associated with the enemy or bad omen

While at Kgalagadi, I happened to discover a group of Spotted Thick-knees under a tree, just behind the little shop at the Nossob Rest Camp.This was ironic because it was just a day before my departure. It was about  mid- day.
I was amazed by the closeness in which I could get to them without being distubed. The Afrikaans people call them Dikkop. The Batswana people call them Tswang-Tswang (keep- away) while the Basutho people call them Kgoho-ya-dira (enemy). In all instances  the name refers to the enemy or bad omen.
All this remind me of the sounds they normally make at night since they are nocturnal birds.
Well, everything that it is associated with the night in Africa is "bad omen". Anyway, that is all what is in the name.Quite some lovely birds, isn'it?

Spotted Thick-knee

Spotted Thick-knee - well camouflaged at mid day

Spotted Thick-knee with characteristic big head (dikkop) and large knees (thick-knees) 

Monday, March 26, 2012

An interesting week for SA birders: A mega twitch

While north of the Equator, the arrival of migrants was mostly awaited with great anticipation; down here in the south the departure of migrants was filled with surprises.
The sighting of a Little Crake at Clovelly, near False Bay, in the Western Cape Province; has evoked in me this age old mystery called "bird migration" as one of the great wonders of nature.
Bird migration has been a phenomenon that has always intrigued me in the entire part of my life as a birder and birdwatcher.
This fella, an uncommon Palearctic Migrant with a red spot at the base of the bill; who was  spotted on the 21st March 2012 at Clovelly wetlands, is making waves in the field of birding in the countruy.
Experts say that this particular incident was due to “reverse migration”.
Well, whatever the case might be, the joy and the excitement of being a first on the South African soil has brought our "birding world"  relatively to a standstill for at least a week. Hey, rather a fun filled weekend.
Hopefully, it will be in the national news in some days to come. So, the story goes:-

Here is the encounter as it unfolds
The Little Crake story hit the headlines on the  local news paper today, the 28th March 2012 and a twitcher from the Gauteng Province was on the spotlight. Follow this link for a full story:

These are still some other encounters from ordinry people.
(Right-click to enlarge the image)

A group of veteran twitchers - a day to remember at Clovelly
(Photo: courtesy of Thomas Hohls posted 27/03/2012)

Family quality time enhanced for a lifetime opportunity at Clovelly
(Photo:courtesy of Thomas Hohls posted 27/03/2012)

All shapes and sizes out for a glimpse of the Little Crake at Clovelly
(Photo: courtesy of Tony Archer posted 27/03/2012)

Taking up position at the crack of dawn just for the Little Crake at Clovelly
(Photo: courtesy of Tony Archer posted 27/03/2012)

Little Crake - still showing at Clovelly (flashing the red spot at base of the bill)
(Photo: courtesy of  Pieter La Grange posted 26/03/2012)

The wetland at Clovelly where the Little Crake is at the moment temporarily taking refuge
(Photo: courtesy of  Cassia Gallagher posted 26/03/2012)

Little Crake at Clovelly
(Photo: courtesy of Per Holmen)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The incredible Sociable Weaver's nest: The biggest in the world

While travelling towards and out of Upington on my way to Kgalagadi, I was fascinated by numerous nests of Sociable Weavers in all shapes and sizes on telephone poles and other structures. Inside the park, the giant nest were seen on old huge trees.It was an interesting characteristic feature of the arid landscape. (Right click the image to enlarge)

Skilful Sociable Weaver
Even at mid day it was still hard at work

The giant nest can host a colony of ±500 birds
The various chambers still active even when the tree has fallen

Telephone poles were of  great use outside the park

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Melanistic form of the Gabar Goshawk at Kgalagadi

Just 21km North of Nossob, I came across this Melanistic (black) form of the Gabar Goshawk. In the mid morning sun it was just resting in the shade of a tree.
It was wholly black with faint paler barring on tail, and white barring on remiges, cere and legs were red. This was definitely the high light of my trip to the Kgalagadi. (Right click to enlarge the image)

Melanistic form of the Gabar Goshawk: wholly black

Only 15% of the population is melanistic

Enjoying the shade in the midmorning sun

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: Help identify the raptor

My stop at the Melkvlei picnic site at Kgalagadi on my way to Nossob came with a surprise.A raptor landed on top of  a tree very close to me.
I did have much time to reach for my binoculars but managed to take some few photos of it. That was a brief appearance and off it went. I have tried to  identify it through my guide books but I seem not to reach any conclusion. It looks like one of the Goshawks (by the shape of the legs), and a juvenile as well, but I may be wrong. Please help identify it. (Right-click to enlarge the photo)

A brief apperance. Please, help identify.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: Jewel in the desert

Adult Black Kite preparing to take off at Nossob Hide

Back from Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, amazingly ±900km away.
Had great time birding, seeing some of the birds I have always wanted to photograph and met amazing people. I stayed one night at Twee Rivieren then proceeded to the interior of the park at Nossob, had a great time amidst the roaring lions.
After spending four awesome days traversing the park, birding and viewing wild life; I am going to give out this trip report in parts so that I cover everything.
Here are some of the high lights (Right-click on the image to enlarge)

A juvenile Black Kite crash landing
Adult Black Kite taking a break in the afternoon 
Secretarybird striding across the veld
Stretching its legs before take off

Kori Bustard in great numbers seen walking sedately and slowly

Standing next to my "old faithful"
Time to take a break from the scorching sun at a picnic spot between Kamqua and Rooibrak water holes.