Saturday, 30 June 2012

KZN Rarity spotted on Shelly Beach Boat Trip

Text by Andy Ruffle

22 members and 'Friends' of Birdlife Trogons took advantage of two boat charters, organised by the club and operated by Hot Stuff Pleasure Cruises, from Shelly Beach on 29th & 30th June.
Our skipper on both days was Mike (not Fagan), who performed perfect smooth launches, was highly informative on the trip and brought us back to dry land in an utterly thrilling manner.
If there is enough interest, Andy is considering the possibility of another charter when (and if) the Sardines arrive. However, participants would need to be able to drop everything and get to the launch site at the drop of a hat, as these little fish are very unpredictable. 
Here are the reports for each day's charter, with a very special sighting on the 30th.
Some of the photos maybe of rather suspect quality, but it gives you an idea of what can be expected on one of these trips.

29th June Boat Charter

Passengers on the 29th June charter (see list below)
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

Passenger list (left to right): Nick Baglow, Willie van Zyl, Yegas Naidoo, Wilna van Zyl, Penny Taylor, Grace Kendall, Lan Yeadon (and grandson), Ann Maher and Liz. Andy Ruffle behind camera.

Unfortunately, the only birds seen this morning was a Kelp Gull and some Oystercatchers flying along the beach at Orange Rocks. This was more than made up by some absolutely stunning views of lots of Humpback Whales on their way to the breeding grounds. When you can actually see barnacles growing on these magnificent animals, with the naked eye, you know you are experiencing something really special.

Our first sighting of a Humpback Whale
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

and the sightings just kept getting better and better
(Photo Andy Ruffle)
No not a cloud on the water- this is the splash a
breaching whale makes when it hits the water
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

Whale ''slapping''.
For more info on surface behaviour of whales see
the link under references at the bottom of the page
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

''A picture is worth a thousand words''
I will say no more
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

30th June Boat Charter

Passengers on the 30th June charter (see list below)
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

Passenger list (left to right): Noeleen Phillips, Janet Dalton, Hazel van Rooyen, Lennart Erikkson, Evelyn Heunis, Stacy Jones, Herbie Osborne, Eileen Brannigan, Jeanette Osborne, Steve Peacock. (Andy Ruffle behind the camera)

Having been on the charter on the 29th, I didn't really think it could get any better. Oh how wrong can you be.
There definitely appeared to be more birds present today, albeit Kelp Gulls and a couple of Cape Gannets. When the skipper called a bird on the water, we really did not expect what we were about to see. To our amazement, there, bobbing around on the water, was an African Penguin. This is a truly special sighting for the KZN coast. Steve Davies, the previous chair of the KZN Rarities Committee, doesn't recall an African Penguin being seen in KZN for the past 10 years. I am waiting to find out the actual number of sightings and will then update the post.

African Penguin off Uvongo
(No it's not a rubber duck photoshopped!)
(Photo Hazel van Rooyen)

We were all rather concerned that this little critter was not going to make it back to the Cape alive, however, according to Roberts Online, first year birds are known to move into KZN waters during Jun-Oct and are probably following the sardines. This bodes well for our bird, as they presumably do return safely.

Humpback breaching- Amazing!!!!
(Photo Hazel van Rooyen)

Humpbacks ''Spyhopping''
(Photo Hazel van Rooyen)

Humpbacks frollicking- well done Hazel nice pic!!
(Photo Hazel van Rooyen)

Mike explains how the shark nets work
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

Well as you can see, a truly magical experience and worth every cent. If these pics don't wet your appetite, nothing will.
I'm sure the club will be arranging more charters in the future.

Roberts online
Wikipedia- Whale surface behaviour

Sunday, 24 June 2012

**UPDATED** Outing report- 24th June 2012 Uvongo River Conservancy

Text by Andy Ruffle

(Photo Andy Ruffle)

Attendees: Doug & Angie Butcher, Val Culley, Sue Hansbury, Margaret Jones, Hazel Parry, Andy Ruffle, Irma Smook, Bob & Hazel van Rooyen, Barrie Willis. (11 attendees).

The previous night's scattering of rain certainly contributed to today's excellent birding at this local reserve. The walk was alive with bird activity, as attested by the birdlist below.
My early arrival was rewarded with a lovely sighting of a female African Finfoot which flushed from the near bank. Luckily Hazel van Rooyen was just in time to share this also.
Good sightings were had of many species, but in particular an Orange-breasted Bush-shrike and adult African Harrier-hawk. The latter was made more special by the fact that it appears to be an addition to the reserve birdlist.

African Harrier-hawk (Gymnogene)
(Photo Doug Butcher)
Water (Dikkop) Thick-knee
(Photo Doug Butcher)

Once again we thank the Ivungu River Conservancy for the exceptional way this reserve is maintained, making this such a special place on the south coast.

Birds recorded: Egyptian Goose, African Finfoot, African Darter, Reed Cormorant, Water Thick-knee, Natal Spurfowl, Hadeda Ibis, African Harrier-Hawk, Brown Scrub-Robin, Red-capped Robin-Chat, White-starred Robin, Olive Thrush, Dark-capped Bulbul, Terrestrial Brownbul, Sombre Greenbul, African Dusky Flycatcher, Ashy Flycatcher, Southern Black Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Drongo, Square-tailed Drongo, Black Cuckooshrike, Cape Batis, Southern Black Tit, Black-bellied Starling, Red-winged Starling, Lesser Honeyguide, Black-headed Oriole, African Pied Wagtail, Black-backed Puffback, Southern Boubou, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Black-collared Barbet, Pied Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Olive Sunbird, Grey Sunbird, Collared Sunbird, Amethyst Sunbird, Purple-crested Turaco, Little Rush-Warbler, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Green-backed Camaroptera, Bar-throated Apalis, Black Saw-wing, Speckled Mousebird, Tambourine Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Laughing Dove, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Thick-billed Weaver, Spectacled Weaver, Village Weaver, Yellow Weaver, Dark-backed Weaver, Cape White-eye, Yellow-fronted Canary, African Firefinch, Red-billed Firefinch. (63 species)

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Cape Vulture count at Oribi

Text and photos by Andy Ruffle

Andrew & Mike survey the cliffs,
whilst Roger Uys from KZN Wildlife scribes

On Saturday 23rd June, Andrew Pickles and I joined Mike Neethling for the initial census of this season's nesting activity at the Oribi Cape Vulture breeding colony.
46 nests with adult birds sitting were identified, up from 41 last year. This is a healthy 12% increase, which is a very positive sign considering the general status of this vulture - see the map below. The colony size can now be estimated at around 110 birds, when you take into account that generally 80% of the colony will breed.
Mike reports that during the 12 month period from June 2011 to May 2012, 52 carcasses had been laid at the vulture restaurant, which could well explain the increase in breeding activity.
During the SABAP1, the Cape Vulture population was estimated at 12,000 birds. The latest estimate takes this down to 8,000-10,000 birds.
Mike's colony is therefore very significant and the work he is doing with the restaurant, even more significant. Thanks to people like Mike, we may just be able to save this incredible bird.

Cape Vulture distribution comparison SABAP1 to SABAP2
(Image courtsey of ADU)

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

When the Barn Swallow is away

So we all wondered what the Barn Swallows get up to when they are away for our winter. Well, Gary & Wendy Holburn can now give us a bit of insight. Gary sent this picture and story.

These Barn Swallows have chosen an unusual nesting site
(Photo Gary Holburn)

‘’We were having breakfast at Torview B&B, Lyne Station, just outside of Peebles in the Scottish Borders area and noticed these barn swallows entering in and out of this "hole" edifice in the wall of the B&B we were at, taking in mud and back again.
I fetched the camera and Wendy was chatting to our host with breakfast all laid out for us and our host, Arran Waddell, said  ‘goodness that is her fume extractor from her kitchen’. That is why the birds are hovering, wondering why suddenly the wind is blowing !!!
Could not see any sign of a ring on their legs, but who knows where they will be later in the year ?
Amazing to even think they move so far and wide !!’’

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Outing report- 17th June 2012 Bird ringing Umzumbe Floodplain

Text & photos by Andy Ruffle

(Photo Andy Ruffle)

Attendees: Liz Blomeyer, Mike Fagan, Yegas Naidoo, Andy Ruffle, Ron Whitham, Don Williams (from Nelspruit).

It was an absolutely perfect morning for today's ringing session.Once again we had a thorougly educational day with a few surprises and some new birds for the floodplain (and Umzumbe Conservancy).
No less than 3 Cape Robin-chats totally scuppered my theory that they prefer slight altitude, with the floodplain being at sea level.
Our next surprise was a Brimstone Canary, a new bird for the list. The difference in size between this and the Yellow-fronted Canary is very apparent at close range, as is the very robust beak.

Brimstone Canary

Not totally unexpected, but nice to bag even so, was a male Red-headed Quelea (one of two birds) which was already coming into breeding plumage. Bearing in mind we are only in the middle of June, this is very early for birds to start attaining breeding plumage and noted with many of the Weavers also.

male Red-headed Quelea
starting to attain breeding plumage

The final surpirse of the day was a female Red-billed Firefinch and a juvenile male, again new birds for the list.

juvenile male Red-billed Firefinch

The next ringing session will be on 8th July 2012 and will probably be at the home of Andrew & Ivan.

Birds ringed: Cape Robin-chat x 3, Spectacled Weaver x 2, Yellow Weaver x 11, Village Weaver x 1, Fan-tailed Widowbird x 5, Tambourine Dove x 1, Lesser Swamp-Warbler x 2, Little Rush-Warbler x 3, African Reed-Warbler x 2, Rufous-winged Cisticola x 3, Red-headed Quelea x 2, Yellow-fronted Canary x 1, Brimstone Canary x 1, Bronze Mannikin x 1, Red-backed Mannikin x 2, Red-billed Firefinch x 2, Common Waxbill x 2. (17 species, 44 birds ringed)
Birds re-captured: Yellow Weaver x 3, Red-capped Robin-Chat x 1, Spectacled Weaver x 1, Rufous-winged Cisticola x 3, Cape White-eye x 1, Lesser Swamp-Warbler x 1 (10 recaptures)

Total of 54 birds processed.

**UPDATED** Keep our beaches clean and save a life!

Lennart Eriksson has sent through this very disturbing photo of a Swift Tern which became entangled in fishing line on the beach. This is becoming an all too familiar sight as some irresponsible fishermen leave line laying around. So next time you're having a stroll along the beach, please take a carrier bag with you and let's clean up this mess and potentially save a bird's life.

Another problem arises when birds go for bait when fishermen are casting out. The bird gets hooked through the beak and many fishermen are not familiar with how to de-hook the bird. The following poster shows step-by-step how to safely handle a seabird and remove a hook from the beak.

You can download a poster sized version by clicking here.
Download a copy of an article published in the Fever newspaper by clicking here.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

**UPDATED** Outing report- 13th June 2012 Tala Private Game Reserve

Text and photos Andy Ruffle

Birders guided walk

Attendees: Liz Blomeyer, Eileen Brannigan, Stan & Val Culley, Debra Dougall, Stanley & Asothie Gengan, Sue Hansbury, Margaret Jones, Stacy Jones, Sandra Olver, Barry Pullock, Andy Ruffle, Irma Smook, Hazel van Rooyen, Ron & Elaine Whitham, Barrie Willis; (HCCC- Chris & Liz Coetzer, Roger & Rachel Marais, Dave & Joy Mullin, Ian & Debbie Taylor, Sean Warnick) 27 attendees.

An extremely rewarding day was had at this new venue, by members of Birdlife Trogons and the Hibiscus Coast Camera Club, making the early start well worth it.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

**UPDATED** Outing report- 10th June 2012 Umzimkulu Valley

(Photo Doug Butcher)

Attendees: Liz Blomeyer, Doug Butcher, Sue Hansbury, Margaret Jones, Andy Ruffle, Irma Smook, Hazel van Rooyen, Ron Whitham, Barrie Willis. (9 attendees).

(Photo Doug Butcher)

The prospect of a cold and windy day certainly seemed to put some of our members off for this outing. However, once we were tucked down in the valley, the temperature soon rose and we found ourselves removing our excess clothing. Although the birding was not outstanding, we did have good sightings of Southern Tchagra in the usual spot and managed to add three species to the checklist (highlighted in blue below). The flowering aloes were exceptional at this time of year.

Hamerkop heads downstream
(Photo Hazel van Rooyen)

Liz, Hazel, Sue, Barrie, Ron & Andy decided to pop in to Leopard Rock on the way home. Here we had wonderful sightings of Mocking Cliff-chat, Cape Rock-thrush and Striped Pipit, whilst sipping our teas & coffees on the deck.

Birds recorded: Dark-capped Bulbul, Fork-tailed Drongo, Red-eyed Dove, Yellow-fronted Canary, Burchell's Coucal, Neddicky, Southern Boubou, Sombre Greenbul, Hadeda Ibis, Speckled Mousebird, Bar-throated Apalis, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Black-headed Oriole, Tawny-flanked Prinia, African Firefinch, Egyptian Goose, Brown-throated Martin, African Pied Wagtail, African Black Duck, Southern Tchagra, Hamerkop, Spectacled Weaver, White-bellied Sunbird, Common Waxbill, Cape Batis, Green-backed Camaroptera, Golden-breasted Bunting, Giant Kingfisher, Southern Black Tit, Southern Black Flycatcher, Cape Starling, Woolly-necked Stork, African Fish-Eagle, White-necked Raven, Common Fiscal, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape Wagtail, Brown Scrub-Robin, Cape Turtle-Dove, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Knysna Turaco, African Stonechat. (42 species). Leopard Rock- Pin-tailed Whydah, Mocking Cliff-chat, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Rock-thrush, Bronze Mannikin, Cape White-eye, Village Weaver, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Red-winged Starling, Rock Martin, Striped Pipit. (53 for the day) 

Friday, 1 June 2012

Outing report- 27th May 2012 Umdoni Park, Pennington

View from the Otter Site Deck
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

Attendees: Doug Butcher, Stan & Val Culley, Lennart Eriksson, Mike Fagan, Stanley & Asothie Gengan, Evelyn Heunis, Margaret Jones, Andrew Pickles, Andy Ruffle, Irma Smook, Hazel van Rooyen, Ron & Elaine Whitham. (15 attendees).

It's always a pleasure to visit this well maintained oasis and today's visit was no exception. The winter altidudinal migrants were evident with both Spotted Ground-thrush and White-starred Robin being seen. Green Malkoha gave fleeting glimpses for the lucky few and a Brown-backed Honeybird at the Enviro Centre was nice to see. Gorgeous Bush-shrike and Scaly-throated Honeyguide could be heard calling, but failed to show themselves.

The new Otter Viewing Site deck
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

Birds recorded: Brown Scrub-Robin, Spotted Ground-Thrush, Olive Sunbird, Sombre Greenbul, Collared Sunbird, Square-tailed Drongo, Black-backed Puffback, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Tambourine Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Fork-tailed Drongo, Crowned Hornbill, Black-headed Oriole, Trumpeter Hornbill, Southern Boubou, Black-bellied Starling, Hadeda Ibis, African Pied Wagtail, Dark-capped Bulbul, White-eared Barbet, Bronze Mannikin, Terrestrial Brownbul, White-starred Robin, Green Malkoha, Knysna Turaco, Dark-backed Weaver, Grey Sunbird, White-bellied Sunbird, Cape White-eye, African Dusky Flycatcher, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Black Saw-wing, Yellow-fronted Canary, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Green-backed Camaroptera, Egyptian Goose, Three-banded Plover, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Crowned Eagle, Mountain Wagtail, Purple-crested Turaco, Bar-throated Apalis, Grey Waxbill, Lemon Dove, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Black-collared Barbet, Green Twinspot, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Brown-backed Honeybird, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Ashy Flycatcher, Chinspot Batis, Blacksmith Lapwing. (54 species)

Red-headed Quelea- What to look for this winter

Red-headed Queleas were identified as being present on the South Coast by Stan Culley in 2006.Not previously recorded in this area and only present during winter, Stan was able to capture this series of photos showing the various phases of moult from non-breeding to breeding plumage.
Mike Fagan has already initiated a ringing project, so if you see these birds using your bird feeder please contact him on 039 681 3560. It will be interesting to discover where these birds spend the summer and if they return to the same location here in winter.