Monday, 24 October 2011

Outing report Umbogavango Nature Reserve 23rd October 2011

By Andy Ruffle

Attendees: Stan & Val Culley, Mike Fagan, Stanley & Asothie Gengan, Richard Johnstone, Cathy Lee, Sandy Olver, Andy Ruffle, Bob & Hazel van Rooyen. (11 attendees)

The arrival of summer was very evident on today's outing, with much nest building activity from the weavers going on. More summer migrants, such as Barn Swallow, Violet-backed Starling and Steppe Buzzard, were also starting to put in appearances.
The reserve was alive with birds, which is very pleasing considering the huge amount of development that has recently taken place around the area. Thankfully, it appears to have had no effect on the birdlife. On this note, however, the directions for the meeting point have now become out of date. This will be amended for the next visit, so please do take note when they are published.
Back to the birding side, it was quite amazing how the 'Bird call and song' course enhanced my experience on this outing. Very quickly I was able to pick up what sounded like a begging call in a tree close by. This was promptly confirmed when an African Dusky Flycatcher was seen feeding a fledgling. A Brimstone Canary nest was also picked up after hearing begging calls in the pine forest. Not only did I seem to be paying alot more attention to what I was hearing, but also to what I was seeing. So to Roy and Steve a very personal thank you again.
The day finished off with a very respectable bird count of 80 species recorded, which may well increase with Sandy and Richard's observations. Strangely though, we didn't see or hear any Kingfishers.

Thick-billed Weaver nest. (Photo Hazel van Rooyen)

Birds recorded: Kurrichane Thrush, Egyptian Goose, Green-backed Camaroptera, Dark-capped Bulbul, Yellow-billed Kite, White-eared Barbet, Bar-throated Apalis, Brimstone Canary, Black-bellied Starling, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Spectacled Weaver, Village Weaver, Hadeda Ibis, White-breasted Cormorant, African Darter, Southern Black Flycatcher, Red-capped Robin-chat, Little Rush-Warbler, Purple-crested Turaco, Cape White-eye, Southern Black Tit, Red-backed Mannikin, Tambourine Dove, Collared Sunbird, Crested Barbet, African Dusky Flycatcher, Klaas' Cuckoo, Black-collared Barbet, Burchell's Coucal, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Yellow-fronted Canary, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Red-eyed Dove, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Black Saw-wing, Lesser Striped-Swallow, Familiar Chat, Amethyst Sunbird, Rattling Cisticola, Violet-backed Starling, Cardinal Woodpecker, Yellow-billed Duck, Reed Cormorant, Little Grebe, Steppe Buzzard, Olive Sunbird, Yellow Weaver, Little Swift, White-rumped Swift, Fan-tailed Widow, Pink-backed Pelican, African Sacred Ibis, African Spoonbill, Cape Wagtail, Black-headed Heron, Three-banded Plover, Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, Purple Heron, Barn Swallow, Southern Red Bishop, Sombre Greenbul, Diederick's Cuckoo, Fork-tailed Drongo, Bronze Mannikin, African Palm-Swift, Speckled Mousebird, African Pied Wagtail, Thick-billed Weaver, Common Waxbill, Tawny-flanked Prinia, African Firefinch, Black-backed Puffback, Square-tailed Drongo, Lesser Honeyguide, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Common Starling, Southern Boubou. (80 species provisional)

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Report back on 'Bird Calls and Song' Course

Sandy Olver's brainchild for a bird call course in Pennington, came to fruition on 22nd October and was a resounding success.
The course 'Bird calls and song,' presented by Roy Cowgill and Steve Davis, was hosted by the Pennington Conservancy and Birdlife Trogons Bird Club at Relton Hall in Pennington.
Some 62 participants enjoyed the informative and entertaining presentation which was then followed by a field trip to Umdoni Park.
Refreshments and the hall were kindly sponsored by the Pennington Conservancy.
Thanks go to the Conservancy Committee, Roy and Steve and a big well done to Sandy for making this happen.
We will now be looking at holding the same course in the Port Shepstone area, so watch this space.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Vultures visit poisoned bushpig at Umtamvuna

This from Roger Uys of KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife

While at Umtamvuna Nature Reserve doing a  survey of the baboons, during the last week of September, KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife field staff came across up to seven vultures hanging around a carcass. Upon closer inspection they found four bushpig, a jackal and a genet along with bananas with black granules on. The SAPS was called out, the presence of Temmik identified and a case opened. Thankfully, the vultures had not opened the carcasses by the time Ezemvelo staff discovered them and they were burnt the next morning. This said, the last baboon survey done in the protected area in 2000 counted 250 baboons, while we only recorded 142. While this may be due to the method used (we're testing other methods to check our figures), the use of poisons in the district may account for this decline which amounts to 10 baboons per year. It may also account for the absence of vultures in the protected area despite more than adequate roosting sites. Once again this raises the need to maintain a fully functional vulture restaurant at Oribi Gorge to help prevent such occurrences.

Hollywood movie shines light on world of birding and Audubon

It is a big day for birds and Audubon – the country’s leading bird conservation organization – when 20th Century Fox releases The Big Year on Friday, Oct. 14.
The new movie, starring Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black, was directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me) and is set within the little-known world of competitive birdwatching. Audubon expects the movie to awaken new audiences to the amazing world of birds.
“We are thrilled the birds are getting their first starring role in a major Hollywood film since Hitchcock,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold. “The film tells an entertaining story, and its stars capture the enthusiasm that birds inspire in nearly 50 million Americans.”

Source: Birdlife International

Monday, 10 October 2011

Outing report- Rodney Miles Farm 9th October 2011

(Photo Andy Ruffle)

Attendees: Stan & Val Culley, Mike Fagan, Eric Kok, Cathy Lee, Bob & Hazel van Rooyen, Andy Ruffle (8 attendees).

With the temperature very pleasant on arrival at the meeting point for Rodney Miles Farm, the birds were already bouncing around the veld. There were plenty of widows flying around, with the Red-collared males being particularly amusing in their intermediate breeding plumage. Two males dropped onto the road infront of us and proceeded to strut around, pushing out their chests at each other as if to say 'look my collar is bigger than yours'.
The road leading to the farm was also busy with bird activity, forcing us to stop and check it out. Lucky we did. Eric pointed out a faint booming amongst the trees. Lo and behold, a Buff-spotted Flufftail was calling. By the time we had reached Rodney's place, we had already recorded some 47 birds.
The onset of summer was confirmed not only by the soaring temperature, but also by the sounds of Red-chested, Diederick's and Klaas's Cuckoos.
Both Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler and Southern Tchagra were briefly seen on the forest walk, whilst Grey-Crowned Cranes and good numbers of waterfowl were seen on the full dam.
Thanks go to the Miles' for hosting a very rewarding days birding, with 84 species recorded.
While in the area, Mike, Eric and Andy decided to check the Blue Swallow site at Weza. A very welcome and unexpected sight was a Secretary Bird walking through the field. I'm pleased to say it wasn't long before we saw our first male Blue Swallow, followed shortly afterwards by a female.

Birds recorded: Greater Striped Swallow, African Stonechat, Common Waxbill, Cape Canary, Red-eyed Dove, Spur-winged Goose, Little Rush-Warbler, Fan-tailed Widow, Neddicky, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Red-collared Widow, Fork-tailed Drongo, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Weaver, Hadeda Ibis, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Grassbird, Southern Boubou, Burchell's Coucal, Natal Spurfowl, African Snipe, Cape Robin-chat, African Oilve-Pigeon, Yellow-fronted Canary, Lesser Striped-Swallow, White-throated Swallow, Cape Wagtail, Red-chested Cuckoo, Sombre Greenbul, Red-throated Wryneck, Forest Canary, Swee Waxbill, Black-headed Heron, Black-headed Oriole, African Dusky Flycatcher, Levaillant's Cisticola, Olive Thrush, Southern Black Tit, Amethyst Sunbird, Green-backed Camaroptera, Streaky-headed Canary, Cape White-eye, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Grey Heron, Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, Cape Turtle-dove, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Common Fiscal, Cattle Egret, Spectacled Weaver, Cape Sparrow, House Sparrow, White-rumped Swift, Speckled Pigeon, Speckled Mousebird, Orange-breasted Bush-shrike, Southern Tchagra, Barratt's Warbler, Cape Batis, Bar-throated Apalis, Black-backed Puffback, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Diederick's Cuckoo, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Plain-backed Pipit, Egyptian Goose, Cape Longclaw, Blacksmith Lapwing, Southern Grey-Crowned Crane, Long-crested Eagle, Klaas's Cuckoo, Red-billed Teal, Little Grebe, African Fish-Eagle, Pied Crow, Jackal Buzzard, Wahlberg's Eagle, Cape Vulture, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Thick-billed Weaver, Lesser Honeyguide. (84 species)
Weza additions: Secretary Bird, Cape Crow, African Harrier-Hawk, Blue Swallow, Yellow-billed Kite (5 species)

Total for the day was an impressive 89 species

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Outing report- 2nd October 2011 Bird ringing at Umzumbe floodplain

Eric Kok and Len Thonell (behind) carrying bagged birds

Attendees:-  Andrew Pickles, Liz Blomeyer, Mike Fagan, Bradley, Christine & Eric Kok, Sandy Olver, Andy Ruffle, Len Thonell (9 attendees)

Despite a rather dodgy forecast the weather turned out to be perfect for today's ringing session. Light to no wind and cloud cover meant the birds were active throughout the morning.
This did, however, mean we were kept constantly on our toes with what seemed like an endless stream of bags coming to the ringing table. Andrew was kept busy processing the birds, while Mike assisted by removing birds from the mist nets.
In total, 68 birds were processed (about three got away before being bagged), including one re-capture of a Cape Weaver. This bird (ring no. CV34528) was previously ringed as an adult by Andrew on 5th June 2010 at Wozani, just a kilometre or so away.
The breakdown of species was as follows:- 27 x Fan-tailed Widow; 18 x Cape Weaver; 8 x Yellow Weaver; 3 x Rufous-winged Cisticola; 3x Cape White-eye and 1 of each of Cape Wagtail, Red-collared Widow, Spectacled Weaver, African Stonechat, Amethyst Sunbird, Olive Sunbird and Yellow-fronted Canary.
It is interesting to note that the Cape Weaver has only recently moved into the area where we were ringing (within the last couple of years) and seems to have replaced the Village Weaver, which used to be common there.
Once again a fascinating and educating morning was had by all.
We are hoping to have a regular monthly ringing session with Andrew at various locations locally. See the outings schedule for dates and venues.
Below are a few highlight photos. Other photos will be added to the various species posts. I will add a link to the species breakdown list as the photos are put on the blog.

male African Stonechat

male Fan-tailed Widow

un-sexed Cape Wagtail

un-sexed Olive Sunbird

male Amethyst Sunbird

male Amethyst Sunbird

male Red-collared Widow

All photos by Andy Ruffle