Thursday, 31 December 2009

African Openbill summer 2009/2010

Andy Ruffle's garden, Sea Park 8th March 2010 (Photo Andy Ruffle)

 The summer of 2009/2010 will be remembered for the unprecedented irruption of African Openbills Anastomus lamelligerus throughout South Africa. A fairly common resident in the lowveld and Zululand, it is a rare vagrant to other parts of the country. The first record of an out-of-range Openbill was a single bird in the KZN Midlands in mid-November 2009. Three days later, 30 were found near Potchefstroom in the North West Province. By the end of November a flock of 20 was seen in the Midlands and one bird was recorded near East London. By Mid-December birds had reached the Western Cape. Their numbers then started to climb. By Christmas there were sightings of flocks of 200 in southern KZN. It is hard to estimate the total number of out-of-range birds, but the irruption must have involved close to 1,000 individuals.
  Two questions arise. Where did all these birds come from? And why did they move so far out of their normal range? The breeding population of Openbills in South Africa is only a hundred or so pairs, begging the conclusion that they moved into South Africa from further north. But quite where is unknown. Vast numbers breed in Zambia in winter and the timing of the irruption suggests that they could be birds dispersing from these colonies after breeding. Irruptions often involve young, naive birds, but adults as well as juveniles were involved in the recent movements. Interestingly, there were also a few Openbills on the move in 2008/2009, with one seen in Potchefstroom and another in the KZN Midlands. It is possible that small numbers of Openbills disperse south in early summer each year and that this event reached unprecedented proportions in 2009/2010.
  We can only speculate why the 2009/2010 irruption occured. Conditions in the Openbill’s normal range have not been exceptionally dry or wet, but some of their traditional habitat has been lost due to the invasion of Mimosa pigra, a thorny shrub from South America that flourishes on seasonally inundated land. By 2005, more than 3,000 hectares of floodplain had been lost, and the weed continues to spread at an ever-increasing rate. Recent surveys on the Kafue Flats, in Zambia, show that areas invaded by Mimosa support just one percent of the number of Openbills compared to pristine floodplain (Shamunga 2009, Biodiversity 10: 56-60). Populations of many other waterbirds have also been severely impacted.
  The Openbill event follows on the heels of an irruption of Marabou Storks Leptoptilos crumeniferus into the Western and Eastern Cape in 2008/2009. Both irruptions occurred in summer. As with the Openbills, the numbers of Marabous involved make it almost certain that the majority originated from outside South Africa. Some Marabous remained until June 2009, but have since disappeared.
  How long the Openbills persist in their new environment remains to be seen. Indications are that they may have already left the South Coast. It seems highly likely that the Openbills were driven south and west by deteriorating environmental conditions in areas where they are naturally common.

Text extracted from Africa Birds & Birding, Vo. 15, No.2

SABAP2 map showing irruption of the Openbill throughout SA.
Click here to see current distribution map

Margate Country Club Feb 2010 (Photo Clive Edmundson)

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Community bird guides

Two bird guides trained by Birdlife South Africa, operate in our area covering Umtamvuna Nature Reserve and Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve.

Mpendulo Innocent Mzindle
Cell: +27 (0)73 893 0241

Richard Jabulani
Cell: +27 (0)73 043 5692

For details of nationwide community bird guides and recommended rates see here

Recommended* Bird Guide rates effective Mar 2013

Recommended Bird Guiding Rates per group (not person)
Clients1 hour2 hours3-4 hours5-6 hours7-8 hours8+ hours
1-2 pax R 125.00 R 210.00 R 290.00 R 350.00 R 450.00 R 550.00
3-4 pax R 180.00 R 260.00 R 360.00 R 480.00 R 550.00 R 600.00
5-8 pax R 220.00 R 290.00 R 410.00 R 500.00 R 600.00 R 650.00
8 or more R 290.00 R 360.00 R 460.00 R 550.00 R 700.00 R 800.00
 Latest rates can be confirmed....Here

*Recommended rates by BLSA

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Mystery Bird No.8

Welcome to our mystery bird no.8. As usual all our mystery birds are found in Southern Africa.

The answer to Mystery Bird No.7 is
juv African Goshawk

Yet again well done to Dylan who was spot on with his answer for no.7 

Please post your suggested answer as a comment by using the 'comments' box below.

The actual answer will be revealed on 1st April 2013.

Please send any suitable photos for the next quiz to

Previous answers

Mystery Bird No.1 Rufous-naped Lark
Mystery Bird No.2 Grey Tit-Flycatcher (Fan-tailed Flycatcher). see here.
Mystery Bird No.3 Cape Robin-chat juvenile. see here.
Mystery Bird No.4 juv African Hawk-Eagle. see here.
Mystery Bird No.5 Grey Cuckooshrike. see here.
Mystery Bird No.6 juv male White-bellied Sunbird. see here.
Mystery Bird No.7 juv African Goshawk. see here.

Hooded Vulture

Necrosyrtes monachus

Mana Pools, Zimbabwe. Sept 2009
(Photo Stan Culley)
Underwing pattern, Kruger Park, May 2013
 (Photo Stan Culley)

Photos: copyright of photographer

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Durban Pelagic 4th July 2009

We caught up with this Fishing Trawler
which was  being followed by numerous pelagic birds
(Photo David Allan)

Stan Culley, Lennart Eriksson, Steve Peacock, Andy Ruffle and Ron Whitham attended this pelagic trip from Durban Harbour which was organised by David Allan.
(Photos Andy Ruffle unless otherwise credited)

Sooty Shearwater

Sooty Shearwater foraging

Cape Gannet launches off the water

Cape Gannet foraging

White-chinned Petrel

White-chinned Petrel

White-chinned Petrel

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross adult
Skimming centimetres above the water

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross adult

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross adults

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross immature

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross immatures

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross immatures

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross adult

Friday, 6 February 2009

Bird ringing NPC Oribi Conservancy 6th-8th February 2009

Base Camp

Cardinal Woodpecker-Female 8th Feb 2009
Note the black crown and brown forecrown.

Spectacled Weaver 7th Feb 2009

Cape White-eye 7th Feb 2009

Marsh Warbler 6th Feb 2009
A new bird for the checklist.

Note the pale eystripe running through the eye
Chinspot Batis male 6th Feb 2009
Chinspot Batis female 6th Feb 2009
Brown-hooded Kingfisher female 7th Feb 2009
Note the brown back as opposed to black of the male.

(Photos Andy Ruffle)

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Bird Ringing- What we've learnt locally so far

This is what has been observed and deduced from the ringing sessions so far.

24th Sep 2011- Umzumbe. Re-capture of Yellow Weaver adult male (BH05488). New longevity record. 7 years 9 months and 18 days. Ringed 1.6km away at Wozani, indicating this population of Yellow Weavers possibly fairly sedentary.
2nd Oct 2011- Umzumbe Floodplain. Re-capture of adult un-sexed Cape Weaver (CV34528). Ringed by Andrew on 5th June 2010 at Wozani, indicating this population of Cape Weavers also possibly fairly sedentary.

White-starred Robin

Pogonocichla stellata

Igwalagwala Forest, 20 May 2012
(Subspp transvaalensis)
(Photo Stan Culley)

Juvenile, Igwalagwala Forest, 20 May 2012
(Subspp transvaalensis)
(Photo Stan Culley)

Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher

Trochocercus cyanomelas

Igwalagwala Forest 20 May 2012
(Subspp segregus)
(Photo Stan Culley)

Igwalagwala Forest 20 May 2012
(Subspp segregus)
(Photo Stan Culley)

White-bellied Sunbird

Cinnyris talatala

juvenile male, Stan's garden April 2012
(Photo Stan Culley)

Black-bellied Starling

Lamprotornis corruscus

Stan's Garden, October 2011
(Photo Stan Culley)



Cisticola fulvicapilla

Tala Private Game Reserve 13th June 2012
(Subspp fulvicapilla)
(Photo Stan Culley)

Jackal Buzzard

Buteo rufofuscus

Tala Private Game Reserve 13th June 2012
(Photo Stan Culley)

Bush Blackcap

Lioptilus nigricapillus

Piet Retief Road
Wakkerstroom 1st Feb 2013
(Photo Hazel van Rooyen)

Piet Retief Road
Wakkerstroom 1st Feb 2013
(Photo Stan Culley)

Piet Retief Road, Wakkerstroom 1st Feb 2013
(Photo Hazel van Rooyen)

Dark Chanting Goshawk

Melierax metabates

Kruger National Park, May 2013.
(Photo Stan Culley)

Mountain Wagtail

Motacilla clara
Oribi Gorge May 2012
(Subspp torrentium)
(Photo Stan Culley)

Grey-headed Bushshrike

Malaconotus blanchoti

Kruger National Park, May 2013
(Subspp hypopyrrhus)
(Photo Stan Culley)

Photos: copyright of photographer