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Friday, March 13, 2020

Bird island nature reserve in Lamberts bay

We have known about Bird Island for years but have never been to witness this spectacle of viewing the breeding colony of Cape gannets (Morus capensis ) and other local resident birds on this island.




One of just six breeding colonies of cape gannets on earth and we have the luxury of it on our doorstep, this is an important nesting and roosting site for other sea birds too. 
A unique bird hide has been strategically built for us to view these beautiful birds and the close proximity to this colony allows for excellent photographic opportunities.  


Courtship and breeding are the order of the day, and with thousands of pairs in one confined space, it all seems like organised chaos. 


Returning birds from a days feeding out at sea, wave after wave constantly flying in to feed their hungry chicks and roost for the night.


Swift terns (Thalasseus bergii) also roost on this island along with some sandwich and common terns. This swift turn had a bunch of fish in its bill and was eagerly followed by others hoping to steal a scrap or two.


Connected to the mainland of Lamberts bay by a breakwater and roughly three hectares in size, this site is managed by Cape Nature. All information about this breeding colony is recorded by monitoring staff and the important data is forwarded on to Cape natures scientific services department in Jonkershoek in Stellenbosch.  


A Common tern finding a place to land amongst the swift terns.  The elegance is admirable.


Video and Sounds of the Cape Gannets on Bird Island Nature Reserve in Lamberts Bay


Turn up the volume and enjoy.


Birds of a feather flock together, one of the swift tern roosts in the area.
Large viewing windows allow for an uninterrupted 180-degree view of the colony. As you can see the Cape Gannets are approximately thirty meters away, which was amazing, the noise of the thousands of birds was deafening, yet a pleasant experience for our whole family. 





With some of the best views in and around the island royal blue water of a calm sea makes for a perfect setting, add a few thousand birds going about their daily routine.  It is a spectacle that is hard to forget. Well done to Cape nature for the initiative and vision that makes this bird island a special tourist location.


The white fluffy chicks wait patiently for their parents to return with a fresh catch of the day. 


Cape gannets are listed as vulnerable and they are confined to the continental shelf, often feeding behind fishing trawlers. Large numbers follow the annual sardine run up the east coast to KZN in winter, with others migrating up the west coast to the gulf of guinea.
The interpretive center and well-maintained pathways, lined with information boards made for an interesting and informative experience.


Evolved over the years and genetically designed to perfection, it was a pleasure to witness the constant flow of birds returning to their young.




The main harbour at Lamberts bay just on the other side of the breakwater is a great place to grab a bite after a few hours of birding pleasure.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Double Banded Courser Family in the farmlands outside Malmesbury

We first discovered this beautiful bird - the Double Banded Courser (Rhinoptilus Africanus) - on a recent trip to Roberston (Vrolikheid Nature Reserve).

Double Banded Courser, Rhinoptilus Africanus, Malmesbury, Western Cape, Rare Bird Findings, Alex Aitkenhead, Photography, Trevor Hardaker, Lifer, Birds, Bird Photography, Breeding birds, Cape Town, South Africa.

This bird was on our priority list to find, but unfortunately, we did not get to find any, so when the report came out on our local Cape Rare Bird Alert Group - managed by Trevor Hardaker, we quickly made plans to obtain all the relevant information to find them and prepared for an early morning start to find them.    (The statement Rare refers to it being rare to this area - as per the location in the map below)
Early on Sunday the 1st of March 2020, having reviewed the weather for the day - which was perfect - we decided to twitch for this special bird.

Double Banded Courser, Rhinoptilus Africanus, Malmesbury, Western Cape, Rare Bird Findings, Alex Aitkenhead, Photography, Trevor Hardaker, Lifer, Birds, Bird Photography, Breeding birds, Cape Town, South Africa.

When we arrived we scanned the location where the bird was last spotted, but we could not find them on their regular spot, on the left-hand side, facing the farm gate.  However, we were lucky when we located a single bird foraging in the wheat field to the right of the gate.

Double Banded Courser, Rhinoptilus Africanus, Malmesbury, Western Cape, Rare Bird Findings, Alex Aitkenhead, Photography, Trevor Hardaker, Lifer, Birds, Bird Photography, Breeding birds, Cape Town, South Africa.

The early morning start paid off as we had beautiful soft light which helped to photograph this magnificent bird.

Double Banded Courser, Rhinoptilus Africanus, Malmesbury, Western Cape, Rare Bird Findings, Alex Aitkenhead, Photography, Trevor Hardaker, Lifer, Birds, Bird Photography, Breeding birds, Cape Town, South Africa

Heading out towards Malmesbury before sunrise always promises to deliver some magic moments.

Double Banded Courser, Rhinoptilus Africanus, Malmesbury, Western Cape, Rare Bird Findings, Alex Aitkenhead, Photography, Trevor Hardaker, Lifer, Birds, Bird Photography, Breeding birds, Cape Town, South Africa

Upon finding the location, it did not take us too long to find this breeding pair of double-banded coursers.   A quick strategy session to work out the best angle and approach for the best light, we set up our gear and begun our quiet approach to obtain a decent photo. 

We were very excited to witness this breeding pair of Double Banded Coursers with a juvenile.

Double Banded Courser, Rhinoptilus Africanus, Malmesbury, Western Cape, Rare Bird Findings, Alex Aitkenhead, Photography, Trevor Hardaker, Lifer, Birds, Bird Photography, Breeding birds, Cape Town, South Africa


Double Banded Courser, Rhinoptilus Africanus, Malmesbury, Western Cape, Rare Bird Findings, Alex Aitkenhead, Photography, Trevor Hardaker, Lifer, Birds, Bird Photography, Breeding birds, Cape Town, South Africa

One other local resident - a Thick Billed Lark - became very vocal and made for a good movie star.

Facing the gate, this breeding pair can be located to the left or right-hand side, depending on the day.  On this Sunday morning, the right-hand side field, looking over the gate, is where we located our target bird.


Double Banded Courser, Rhinoptilus Africanus, Malmesbury, Western Cape, Rare Bird Findings, Alex Aitkenhead, Photography, Trevor Hardaker, Lifer, Birds, Bird Photography, Breeding birds, Cape Town, South Africa

The plumage of this bird is so incredibly beautiful and they blend in so perfectly with the environment.  It was a pleasure to witness nature once again at its best.

The typical scenery of Malmesbury in the Western Cape consists of thick shrubbery bush (also known as Karoo Scrub) and wheat fields as far as the eye can see.

Double Banded Courser, Rhinoptilus Africanus, Malmesbury, Western Cape, Rare Bird Findings, Alex Aitkenhead, Photography, Trevor Hardaker, Lifer, Birds, Bird Photography, Breeding birds, Cape Town, South Africa

The Google Map location for the Double Banded Coursers as per 1 March 2020 on the Lukasfontein Farm just to the north outside Malmesbury.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Wilsons Phalarope Sighting in Velddrift South Africa

Wilson's phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) is a small wader. This bird, the largest of the phalaropes, breeds in the prairies of North America in western Canada and the western United States. It is migratory, wintering in inland salt lakes near the Andes in Argentina.


We went to twitch for the very rare vagrant Wilson's Phalarope at Kliphoek Saltpans in Velddrift on 11 January 2020 as the notices came in from our Whatsapp group. With hard luck, we missed the visitor by a few minutes as it had disappeared.  Michael Mason and I kept searching with to no avail.  We left with sad hearts.

I returned on the 12th of January 2020 to give it one more go, and my efforts paid off and I was rewarded with great sightings of this very busy wader enjoying our local saltpans. 

INTERESTING FACTS
Its common name commemorates the American ornithologist Alexander Wilson. This bird is the largest of the phalaropes and is often very tame and approachable. Unlike the other phalaropes, this species does not have fully lobed toes and so rarely swims, spending no time at sea.




 
Scientific name: Phalaropus tricolor 
Mass: 57 g (Adult)
Encyclopedia of Life Conservation status: Least Concern (Population increasing) 
Encyclopedia of Life Rank: Species
Higher classification: Phalaropes
Kingdom: Animalia


The Barn owl 
This local resident at Kuifkopvisvanger takes up residence in the large date palm just outside the reception area.  We have confirmation that there are five barn owls that now reside here.

The above GPS map pinoints where the above images were taken.  I hope it helps you to locate this very rare bird from far North America, visiting Southern Africa.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Kruger Holiday 2018 3 of 3 Letaba to Lower Sabie

One thing one must always keep in mind is that the distance from the camps has relevance to the time it takes to get from A to B.    This is always dependent on your sightings, and of course the 50km/h speed limit that you must to adhere to.  So while the two mentioned camps are 160km apart, the time it takes on average to travel it is about 7 hours drive.




What are the pro's that stood out at each camp?


Letaba:

  • Beautiful camp with a great opportunity for daily walks all around and along the river.
  • The restaurant has a lovely vibe and a great view overlooking the river.
  • Magnificent trees all over the camp.
  • Outdoor movie theatre not to be missed.
  • Animal sightings and birdlife is superior, not forget the nighttime animal activity too.
  • Elephant Hall of Fame.
Lower Sabie

  • Lower Sabie chalets are much bigger with an indoor kitchen, which is a big plus for when you need to prepare and manage your meals.
  • This camp is much greener and easier for the little ones to play and run about. 
  • A beautiful boardwalk along with the riverfront
  • The local dam is very close, so you have a great opportunity to enjoy a sunset shoot if photography is high on your agenda.
  • This location is cooler in the peak summer months.



    This is one of the most boring gates of the whole park.  We love entering each camp with enthusiasm and this one seems very dull compared to many of the other main camp gates.


    All the main camps that we had visited have lovely swimming pools.





    The famous weir that crosses over the Lower Sabie River and always has offered wonderful photographic opportunities.



    With the dense bush, there is always a special moment when you find an eagle owl resting in the branches above.





    White-headed Vultures are on the endangered list, and with only about 300 breeding pairs remaining in the Kruger National Park, this was a special sighting indeed.





    Visiting the park during the rainy summer months is great fun because this is when you get to see all the baby animals and the summer migrating birds.


    This sighting was particularly special, as we noticed the Tawny Eagle in the tree (on the right), seemingly keeping a beady eye on the black-backed jackal pups.




    Sunset Dam is only 1km from the Lower Sabie camp, and we found out on the last night exactly how this dam got its name.






    We made it part of our holiday to ensure a bush-walk at each camp.  This one was by far the least entertaining of them all.  Maybe the ranger was as bored as we were, but there is little to offer on this walk compared to the other walks we did up North.





    On route out of the park, we made a point of stopping at our favourite bird hide, Lake Panic.  Sadly this year it was extremely dry and muddy and little to no action took place.  



    Skukuza restaurant offers a great vibe, views and welcome meals.