Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Conservancy Quiz 2011 at Riverbend Crocodile Farm

Back left to right Eric Kok, Andy Ruffle
Front left to right Christine Kok, Andrew Pickles
(Photo Judi Davis)
Birdlife Trogons entered a team (pictured above) into this years Inter Conservancy Quiz held on 21st August at Riverbend Crocodile Farm.
Participants and supporters were treated to fascinating Snake and Crocodile shows, followed by a sumptuous braai prepared by the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Honorary Rangers.
It was then down to the (not too) serious business of the quiz itself. Although Trogons didn't win, we didn't come last either, I'm glad to report.
A huge thanks to both Southbroom Conservancy which hosted the event and Howard Kelly for providing the facilities at Riverbend Crocodile Farm.
Thanks also to Margaret Jones who was our lone supporter (shame on the rest of you).
It was a thoroughly enjoyable and extremely educational day. Did you know for instance, that the crocodiles closest living relatives are birds? (We did get that one right by the way).
Kongweni Conservancy have volunteered to host the quiz next year, so we look forward to that too.

I was amazed at the number of birds frequenting the farm. Howard reports that there are some 60 Water Thick-knees present (interestingly these and African Snipe have a symbiotic relationship with crocs -again learnt at the quiz), with many egrets, Hamerkops and herons too. We also saw the first Common Sandpiper of the season, but dipped out on a pair of Barn Owls which have taken up residence in an old Hamerkop nest. 

Monday, 22 August 2011

Red-capped Robin-chat hybrid

With a visit to Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve imminent and reports of hybrid Red-capped Robin-chats being ringed there, I thought it appropriate to post these photos of what we should be looking for.

Red-capped Robin-chat Cossypha natalensis and Chorister Robin-chat Cossypha dichroa are now known to hybridise where their breeding ranges overlap. These hybrids were previously thought to be a separate species and were described as Haagner's Robin-chat Cossypha haagneri.
Although superficially similar to the pure Red-capped Robin-chat the main distinguishing feature of the Crookes hybrid birds is the slaty grey cap. Normally the cap is reddy-brown (see here).

Red-capped Robin-chat x Chorister Robin-chat hybrid
Note the dark grey cap
(Photo Dr Craig Symes)

Red-capped Robin-chat x Chorister Robin-chat hybrid
Note the dark grey cap
(Photo Dr Craig Symes)

These hybrids are not necessarily restricted to Vernon Crookes, so please be on the lookout in your neighbourhood and if you see one please contact us.

Outing report- Lake Eland 20th August 2011

Attendees: Stan & Val Culley, Eric & Christine Kok, Cathy Lee, Andy Ruffle, Bob & Hazel van Rooyen, Willie & Wilna van Zyl, Ron Whitham, Margie & Pete Williamson. (13 attendees)

The weather finally allowed us to visit Lake Eland Game Reserve on Saturday, with a good turnout.
It was very nice to welcome Bob & Hazel van Rooyen our latest members.

The day started off well with a sighting of a rather bedraggled Yellow-billed Kite resting on a dead branch, as we took our normal route down to the picnic site. Funny how we really miss these birds during the winter.
After breakfast we decided to revisit the large lake, something we haven't done for a long time.
The road there was a little rough, so our decision to pile into high clearance vehicles was a good one.
No sign of the Finfoot on the river I'm afraid, this probably due to the fast flowing water which was pouring over the low bridge.
At the Lake, Greater Honeyguide and Southern Tchagra could be heard calling up on the hills, but neither showed themselves. It was a different matter, however, with a pair of Black-crowned Tchagra who were foraging amongst the mown grass like pipits. They were so accomodating, allowing Stan to get some photos through his scope.
Following our hearty lunch, some of us carried on to the suspension bridge to see the African Fish-eagle which is sitting on her nest. The eggs are very close to hatching, but she was still sitting tight.
If this wasn't a wonderful enough sight in itself, we were treated to, albeit distant, views of a Peregrine Falcon perched on the cliffs. Our original supposition that it must be a Lanner, thwarted when Ron enlarged a photo he had taken. It was unmistakebly a Peregrine.
The day ended with a spectacular flypast by a glowing Rock Kestrel.

Species recorded: Cape Turtle-dove, Common Starling, Yellow-billed Kite, Hadeda Ibis, Village Weaver, African Stonechat, Common Fiscal, Cape Longclaw, Pied Crow, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Weaver, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Cape Robin-chat, Levaillant's Cisticola, White-browed Scrub-robin, Southern Boubou, Red-throated Wryneck, Brimstone Canary, Black-crowned Tchagra, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape Glossy Starling, Fork-tailed Drongo, Black-headed Oriole, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Canary, Long-crested Eagle, Black-collared Barbet, Golden-breasted Bunting, Streaky-headed Seedeater, Olive Sunbird, Cardinal Woodpecker, Cape White-eye, Neddicky, Spectacled Weaver, Cape Grassbird, African Darter, Croaking Cisticola, Rufous-naped Lark, Cape Wagtail, African Black Duck, Egyptian Goose, Bar-throated Apalis, Knysna Turaco, Crowned Hornbill, Ashy Flycatcher, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Jackal Buzzard, Green Wood-hoopoe, Greater Honeyguide, Yellow-billed Duck, Malachite Kingfisher, African Shelduck, Southern Black Flycatcher, Southern Tchagra, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Sombre Greenbul, Red-billed Teal, Speckled Pigeon, White-necked Raven, Cape Vulture, Red-winged Starling, Rock Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, African Harrier-hawk. (64 species)   

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Nature Watch southern KZN website launch

A new blog website aimed at focusing all local nature and environmental events under one roof has been launched today.
The site is called Nature Watch southern KZN.
Hopefully the site will grow and become a useful tool for all nature lovers and groups alike.
The site can be found...here

Why not set it as your home page and never miss a local event again.

Friday, 19 August 2011

British birdwatchers rally to save their summer migrants

Common Cuckoo: a migrant in trouble
(Photo John Carey)
It’s one of nature’s greatest miracles: millions of birds leave Africa each spring and head north to nest in the UK and other parts of Europe, only to return to Africa each autumn. However this multi-million-winged migration is under threat.
In the UK, for example, according to the 2010 Breeding Bird Survey of the 10 UK birds which have declined the most since 1995, eight are summer migrants, including the Common Cuckoo, European Turtle-dove, Yellow Wagtail and Common Nightingale. Similar rates of loss have been noted across Europe.

Read more.....here

Source: Birdlife International

Monday, 15 August 2011

Prehistoric bird described

Two possible body shapes for the gigantic Samrukia nessovi,
with a human and 'normal-sized' Mesozoic bird for scale.
(John Conway)
An enormous prehistoric bird, which might have resembled a very big ostrich, lived alongside dinosaurs around 83 million years ago, according to new research.

The bird, called Samrukia nessovi after the mythical Kazakh Phoenix, lived in what is now Kazakhstan. It is described in the latest Royal Society Biology Letters.

Read more......here

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Magpie (Pied) Mannikin research

Andy's garden, Sea Park January 2006
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

(Photo Andrew Pickles)

The Magpie (Pied) Mannkin Spermestes fringilloides, although not globally threatened, is listed as Near-threatened in South Africa*. It is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal to Ethiopia and south to Zimbabwe and Mozambique, with an isolated population focused around Anerley in Kwazulu-Natal*.
Very little is known about this species, especially our local population, with much of the 'current' information dating back to the eighties*.
In June 2002 local bird ringer Andrew Pickles started a ringing project in an effort to find out more about the movements and life expectancy of this intriguing little resident.
The ongoing project now has some 157 birds ringed, but without feedback, Andrew is struggling to accumulate data.
We therefore appeal to everyone who is fortunate enough to have the 'Magpies' visiting their bird feeders, to carefully scan for any ringed birds. If you do see a ringed bird, please note the combination of colours on each leg, date and location seen. An example of the ring layout can be seen in the photo below- 2 colour rings on the left leg; 1 metal ring and 1 colour ring on the right leg.
Andrew is also desperately looking for more locations to ring the birds, so if you can assist in any way, please let him know. The more data aquired, the more we will learn.
Andrew can be contacted via barbet@venturenet.co.za , or alternatively you can contact Andy Ruffle via andy_ruffle@yahoo.co.uk.

Ring example for Andrew's project
(Photo Andrew Pickles)

* reference Roberts VII

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Knysna Turaco

Tauraco corythaix

Umzumbe, 9th Aug 2011
(Subspp corythaix)
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

Umzumbe, 9th Aug 2011
(Subspp corythaix)
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

Umzumbe, 9th Aug 2011
(Subspp corythaix)
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

Umzumbe, 9th Aug 2011
(Subspp corythaix)
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

Umzumbe, 9th Aug 2011
(Subspp corythaix)
Note the very serrated beak
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

Monday, 1 August 2011

Trogons of the World

Trogons (the birds that is) are currently in the spotlight in the United States as a result of a wonderful article in the July issue of ''Birding'', the magazine of the American Birding Association.
The article, “Trogon Quest” , features artwork and text by internationally acclaimed wildlife artist Albert Earl Gilbert. Gil’s field adventures in Southeast Asia are described, in which he relates his first hand observations and experiences he and his party encountered doing the research for his Award Winning book on Tropical Birds entitled TROGONS. Published in 2010, Trogons was honored as the winner of the “BEST BOOK DESIGN” category in the 2010 INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS (IBA), the publishing world’s Oscar. The book also received an award as Finalist in “BEST COVER DESIGN”category.

Albert Earl Gilbert of Bridgewater, CTpainted over 80 full color illustrations for the book authored by Joseph Forshaw, designed by Derrick I. Stone, and co- published by Princeton University Press and Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. TROGONS is a natural history of this spectacularly beautiful tropical bird family that includes the Quetzal, the sacred bird of the ancient Mayans and Aztecs
To download the very interesting and beautifully illustrated article click....here
(warning it is 5.1mb)

Thanks go to Diane Gilbert Madsen for forwarding this information to us.

A Natural History of the Trogonidae

Joseph M. Forshaw
Illustrated by Albert Earl Gilbert
ISBN: 9780691141589

Available to order through Loot.co.za