Monday, 27 February 2012

Kenyan authority rejects the case for jatropha at Dakatcha IBA

Clarke’s Weaver Ploceus golandi
(Image credit: Steve Garvie)

Following a campaign led by Nature Kenya, supported by other BirdLife Partners, Kenya’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has officially rejected a proposal to convert 10,000 hectares of Dakatcha Woodland IBA to grow the biofuel crop jatropha Jatropha curcus.

Dakatcha Woodland holds at least half of Kenya’s East African Coast biome species, and is the only site outside Arabuko-Sokoke where Endangered Clarke’s Weaver is known to occur. It also holds substantial populations of Sokoke Pipit, and both species may breed at Dakatcha. Read more here

 Source: Birdlife International

Monday, 20 February 2012

Outing report- 18th February 2012 Bird ringing at Andrew Pickles home, Umzumbe

Attendees: Liz Blomeyer, Andy Ruffle. (Andrew & Ivan Pickles)

Not a good weather forecast for this morning, but as we were up we decided to carry on.
However, the rain soon put the dampers on things with the nets being taken down at about 0730.
All was not lost though. The bird pictured below was an interesting catch and would certainly cause some confusion in the field, no doubt. It is a juvenile Red-capped Robin-Chat.

juvenile Red-capped Robin-Chat
(Photo Andy Ruffle)
Four juvenile Olive Thrush in the nets at the same time also proved fascinating. Their position in the nets and stage of development, indicated that they were flying together and therefore presumably come from the same brood. This is where it becomes interesting. According to Roberts Online, the clutch size is normally 2-3 eggs. This prompted Andrew to double check each bird just to confirm they were infact juveniles, which they were.
For a picture of a juvenile Olive Thrush see Andrew's post here. Note the buff edges to some of the wing feathers...a diagnostic feature of a juvenile.
This is another example of how important bird ringing is when it comes to data collection and learning more about our avian friends.
There were four re-captures during today's session- 2 Green-backed Camaroptera ringed during 2011; 1 Terrestrial Brownbul and 1 Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird both ringed on 2nd Nov 2008 strangely.
The next ringing session will be on 11th March, so don't miss it, this could be your last chance for warblers this season.
On the Barn Swallow front, Andrew has ringed 997 birds so far this season, with just a few weeks to go before they start making their way back to the breeding grounds. Mike Fagan has kindly donated 200 surplus rings to Andrew's project.

References: Roberts Online

Outing report- 19th February 2012 Ivungu River Conservancy

Attendees: Doug & Angie Butcher, Mike Fagan, Eric Kok, John Marchant, Andy Ruffle, Irma Smook, Barrie Willis and Sue Hansbury. (9 attendees).

Once again the conservancy was looking excellent, with the trails in very good condition and little evidence of alien invaders.
A male Giant Kingfisher, with his rufous waistcoat, posed nicely on an exposed branch, allowing John and Doug to take a few photos (hopefully to follow). An African Goshawk was not happy with the presence of a pair of YBK's, so promptly mobbed them with little effect. A ''quack, quack'' from upstream soon revealed an African Black Duck as it flew downstream towards the falls and a Purple Heron lumbered away as we disturbed it on the near riverbank.
Needless to say, the 'resident' Lesser Honeyguide was happily klew-ing away in the picnic area as usual.
Unfortunately, the weather did not follow the planned forecast today, with us abandoning our visit shortly after breakfast, but we had been rewarded with some interesting sightings and interactions.

Birds recorded: Black-headed Oriole, Southern Black Flycatcher, Dark-capped Bulbul, Hadeda Ibis, Black-bellied Starling, Thick-billed Weaver, Purple-crested Turaco, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Yellow-billed Kite, Barn Swallow, African Goshawk, Giant Kingfisher, White-rumped Swift, Olive Sunbird, Sombre Greenbul, Tambourine Dove, Ashy Flycatcher, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Red-eyed Dove, African Firefinch, Terrestrial Brownbul, Spectacled Weaver, Burchell's Coucal, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Klaas's Cuckoo, Brown Scrub-Robin, African Black Duck, Bar-throated Apalis, White-breasted Cormorant, Green-backed Camaroptera, Dark-backed Weaver, Square-tailed Drongo, Speckled Mousebird, Southern Boubou, Natal Spurfowl, Knysna Turaco, Olive Thrush, Black-collared Barbet, Red-winged Starling, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Purple Heron, Egyptian Goose, Lesser Honeyguide, African Paradise-Flycatcher (44 species).

Grey-headed Bush-Shrike vs Boomslang by Douglas Williams

Monday, 6 February 2012

Outing report- 6th February 2012 Stott Farm, Umtentweni

Text and photos by Andy Ruffle

Attendees: Doug & Angie Butcher, Mike Fagan, Stanley & Asothie Gengan, Trevor Harty & Sheila Steyn, Eric Kok, John Marchant, Hazel Parry, Andy Ruffle, Irma Smook, Willie & Wilna van Zyl, Barry Willis & Sue Hansbury (16 attendees)

It was nice to see a couple of new faces this morning, with Trevor Harty and Sheila Steyn joining us for today's walk. John Marchant is also over visiting, so it was good to see him again too.
Eric's recky of the farm, during the week, paid dividends. We were able to explore much more of the farm, than on our first visit. Although predominantly sugar canes crops, there are plenty of tracts of indigenous forest with good access. A lovely walk hugs the banks of the Umtentweni River. There are some dams on the farm, but due to the access roads being impassable, we  were unable to check these out this time, but hopefully we will be able to on our next visit.
The coastal birding was once again slower than we would have liked, but still ended with a reasonable list.
Eric & John had a potentially interesting sighting when they saw a group of francolins.
When the birds flew they had a distinct impression of extensive rufous on the wings.
A possible candidate would be Red-winged Francolin, but when you look at the habitat (montane grasslands and rank vegetation 1800-2400m) this seems to rule this one out.
However, look at the reporting range for SABAP's 1 & 2 and you see that these birds have been recorded here in the past. Something to look out for in the future.

Red-winged Francolin distribution from SABAP
shows previous reporting in our area.
(Map SABAP2)

Birds recorded: Yellow-fronted Canary, Barn Swallow, Dark-capped Bulbul, Black-bellied Starling, Natal Spurfowl, Red-eyed Dove, Black-headed Oriole, Speckled Mousebird, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Village Weaver, Burchell's Coucal, Cape White-eye, Green-backed Camaroptera, Pied Wagtail, African Green-Pigeon, Tambourine Dove, Black-collared Barbet, Hadeda Ibis, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Southern Black Tit, Knysna Turaco, Neddicky, Black-backed Puffback, Spectacled Weaver, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Olive Sunbird, Black Saw-wing, Pin-tailed Whydah, Lesser Striped-Swallow, Yellow-billed Kite, Southern Black Flycatcher, Amethyst Sunbird, Long-crested Eagle,  Fork-tailed Drongo, Sombre Greenbul, Thick-billed Weaver, African Fish Eagle, Southern Boubou, Black-crowned Tchagra, Lesser Honeyguide, Steppe Buzzard, Green Wood-hoopoe, Fan-tailed Widow. (44 species)

References: Roberts Online; SABAP2

Saturday, 4 February 2012

2012 Committee appointed

Following the committee meeting held on Friday 3rd February, the following office-bearers were appointed.

Chairman: Andy Ruffle
Vice Chairman: Herbie Osborne
Treasurer: Doug Butcher
Secretary: Angie Butcher
Outings Co-ordinator: Eric Kok
Bird Ringing Co-ordinator: Mike Fagan
Outings Admin: Val Culley
Fund raising and scrapbook: Margaret Jones

BBC Filming at Umzumbe Swallow Roost

Text and photos by Andy Ruffle

UK TV Presenter Michaela Strachan and a BBC film crew, visited the Umzumbe Swallow Roost on Friday afternoon 3rd February. They were there to film an insert for a one off wildlife special 'Winterwatch', which is due to be aired in the UK on 19th February on BBC2.
(Was actually transmitted on 22nd february 2012 at 21h00). The programme will feature Andrew Pickles ringing the Barn Swallows.
The shoot location, chosen by the crew, was not Andrew's usual ringing spot and involved crossing the Umzumbe River by foot to get closer to the actual roost, there not being any access by road.

Filming started at around 4pm with an interview, followed by shots of Michaela assisting Andrew with putting up the nets.

It would normally take Andrew about 10 minutes to put up the nets, but due to the filming process this seemed to take an eternity and the light was fading rapidly. With the nets finally erected, we just had to wait and hope the swallows would do their stuff.

Andrew with Michaela during a welcome lull
whilst we waited for the swallows to arrive
We were not to be disappointed with swallows bouncing into the nets at an alarming rate. So much so that Andrew had to call it a day early to ensure we didn't catch more birds than we could handle. Unfortunately, by this time the light conditions were not good for photographing the spectacle.
While the crew were still filming Andrew taking swallows out of the nets, Ivan, Eric Kok and myself frantically worked behind the scenes to remove and bag as many birds as possible before the last glimmers of light disappeared.

Final shots before concluding filming for the night
With the nets dismantled, 50 Barn Swallows in bags and a Fiery-necked Nightjar calling, we made our way back across the Umzumbe River, keeping a watch for any reflections of eyes in the river.
The next morning, filming continued with Andrew actually ringing and releasing the previous night's catch.

Photos from Pete Williamson

A series of photos of a juvenile Gabar Goshawk with a lizard prey.
In our garden in Bela Bela, Limpopo

Photos from our trip to the Kgalagadi National Park - December 2011
Tawny Eagle
juv Pale Chanting Goshawk

Black-shouldered Kite
Some Club Members will go to great lengths
to enjoy the pleasures of birding with friends!
Twee Rivieren 24/12/2011

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Unusual Yellow-billed Kite behaviour

by Andy Ruffle

We've been receiving sightings of mass gatherings of Yellow-billed Kites along the lower South Coast.
Mike Fagan reported seeing a flock of some 12 birds over Sunwich Port over a week ago.
A similar sized flock was also reported by Hazel van Rooyen over Sea Park, which may well have been the same sighting as Mike.
I then received a phonecall on Monday from a gentleman in Southbroom who was witnessing 37 YBKs circling over the lagoon at about 200ft.
The most likely explanation for this behaviour is a mass of insect prey.
The YBK Milvus parasitus is usually solitary or in pairs. It is an agile hunter and often takes small birds, so there is also the possibilty that the swallows in the area may have attracked these birds, but this is less likely.
The other explanation could be that the birds are assembling ready for migration. However, YBKs usually only leave in March when the rains finish, so this seems rather premature, but cannot be ruled out.
Reports of any other sightings would be most welcome, as would photos of these events.

References: Roberts Online; David Allan (Curator of Birds, Durban Museum)

Harlequin Quail at Umzumbe

by Andy Ruffle

male Harlequin Quail
Umzumbe Floodplain 1st Feb 2012
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

This male Harlequin Quail was a nice surprise when it appeared in the nets during a Barn Swallow ringing session with Andrew P on Wednesday 1st February. It wasn't until checking the fieldguide that the relevance of this sighting became apparent. As you can see from the SABAP2 distribution map below, this bird is way out of it's normal range and hasn't been reported this far south before.

SABAP2 distribution map for Harlequin Quail
(Image SABAP2)

References: SABAP2; Roberts Online

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

**UPDATED** Unusual Cape White-eye behaviour

by Andy Ruffle

Earlier this month, I received an email from Shelly Lawrie in Umkomaas, asking me to identify a small bird that had been thrilling the children in her son's creche.
Shelly submitted the following article which was subsequently published in the Rising Sun newspaper's 17-24th January edition.

‘’Cape White-eye visits creche

Children at the Dawn to Dusk crèche in Saiccor Village were thrilled and amazed with a rare little feathery visitor last Tuesday.
A little Cape White-eye had flown into the crèche at home time and hopped around happily despite the shrieks of laughter from the children.
It pecked at little toes and fingers and a few of the children were fortunate to have the little green bird perch on their hand, lap or foot before flying out of the crèche only to return and happily hop around again.
It was thought the bird might have been hand reared as it didn’t seem too perturbed by humans, had a fancy for biscuit crumbs and even enjoyed a back stroke or two.
“This is very unusual behaviour for these birds which are not normally associated with habituation. They are insectivorous, eating mainly insects, supplemented with nectar and fruit.
It's extremely unlikely that this bird was hand-reared, so it is intriguing as to why it has taken to this behaviour. Also, they usually forage in small flocks, rarely alone,” said Andy Ruffle, chairman of Birdlife Trogons Bird Club.
The little Cape White-eye was taken to a garden full of birdlife in Ilfracombe and within minutes it had found a friend, another Cape White-eye.
Birdlife Trogons Bird Club is a non-profit organisation affiliated to Birdlife South Africa. Its catchment area is between Scottburgh and Port Edward.
For more information on the club contact chairman, Andy Ruffle on 039-695-0829 or Birdlife Trogons website’’

Shelly's son Osric with the little visitor
(Photo Shelly Lawrie)

Other children at the creche
 also enjoying the little visitor
(Photo Shelly Lawrie)

But the story doesn't end there. Yesterday evening (18th Jan) I received a phonecall from Francois Ras also from Umkomaas. This is what he had to say...

''On Saturday afternoon I was on the Bluff helping a friend to fix a gearbox when without warning this little bird came and sat on my arm. We could not believe it and at first I thought, it would soon discover its mistake and fly away. This was not the case though and it didn't take long for the bird to make itself at home on either head, hand or shoulder.
We eventually took it into the house where it continued to amaze us with the way it would just fly from person to person and eventually take a nap on my friends wife shoulder.
We decided to keep it in the house and seeing that they have dogs, they suggested I take it with me to Umkomaas. At arriving in Umkomaas on Sunday we left the bird in the house and went out for the morning. On our return we were disappointed to find it has 'flown the coop' but happy that it was rather in nature than being captive.
The little bird was just about forgotten when my neighbor, husband to the owner of Dawn to Dusk Crèche, showed me the article.
It is a blessing that such a small creature can warm so many hearts, and hats off for humanity for rewarding it with freedom.''

Photo submitted by Francois Ras

Photo submitted by Francois Ras
Well I'm sure we all think this is an amazing sequence of events as it is, but when I received another email from Shelly on Friday 20th January, I really thought Leon Schuster was going to jump out of the cupboard. Shelly has received another story about this little bird from Jenni Corfield.

'' On the Sunday afternoon the boys were playing outside in their pool when we noticed the little bird who was just hopping around next to the kids, anyway it followed them in and ate some bread with Chase he ended up staying all night, flew in and out a bit then finally settled in the boys room when I woke up in the night to check on Seth I noticed the bird still on the shelf in the room, any way when we woke up at around 6am it was sitting on Shaun’s foot just staring at him and then flew out the window.  Really an amazing story and I’m so happy that me and my family were a part of it.''

and her photos

Chase with his new found friend
(Photo Jenni Corfield)

Chase with his new found friend
(Photo Jenni Corfield)

Kalib and our little white-eye
(Photo Jenni Corfield)

What an absolutely wonderful story to start off 2012.
The big questions being 'is this one and the same bird?' and 'why is it displaying this behaviour?'