Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Swift Tern Project needs your help

Click image to enlarge

Swift Terns are one of the few locally-breeding seabirds whose numbers are increasing. To help understand the main factors driving the positive trend of this species, a team of researchers from the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology and the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town marked 500 Swift Terns chicks from Robben Island in April 2013 and 2014 with metal and individually engraved colour rings. In 2013 members of the public reported how these birds dispersed, providing information on the fledging success, survival and dispersal of juvenile Swift Terns, which were re-sighted from Namibia to the Eastern Cape.

Gathering dispersal records is a time consuming but important task that relies on assistance from volunteers across southern Africa.
Rings in 2014 are orange and yellow (with black text) and green and blue (with white text), and are engraved with an “A” followed by a letter and a number (e.g. AU2). Rings from 2013 are yellow andwhite (with black text) and green and blue (with white text), and bear a code of one letter and one number (e.g. U2).  The majority of the colour rings are top-down and all are on the right leg.

Juvenile/Immature Swift Terns are leaving (some already left) Robben Island and they will soon be all around the southern African coasts.

If you see any ringed birds please record their location as accurately as possible (ideally GPS), the date and time of sighting, ring colour, letters on the ring (if legible) and age class (juvenile or immature). If a bird is found dead, please also record the number of the metal ring. 

Send the information to Davide Gaglio at swift.terns@gmail.com

Please spread the voice to all those people might be happy to help this project 
Thanks for your help!

The Swift Terns Team
Davide Gaglio
Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology
DST/NRF Centre of Excellence
Private Bag X3
University of Cape Town
Rondebosch 7701
Cape Town, South Africa

Monday, 26 May 2014

Trogons at the Lions' Outdoor & Leisure Expo 2014

Text and photos by Andy Ruffle (unless credited)

This year the show was held at the Port Shepstone Country Club and this proved to be an excellent venue.

Herbie, Eric, Vaughan, Andy & Siyabonga set up the stand on the Thursday morning.

Eric, Vaughan, Herbie and Siyabonga
setting up the stand on Thursday morning
and by the end of the morning
there were just a few finishing touches needed

The basic theme for the stand was broadly based on the BLSA Bird of the Year, the Tristan Albatross.
Our message ''Please keep our rivers, sea and beaches clean - Rubbish Kills!!' was excellently conveyed through Herbie's concept of depicting a pristine beach (on the left) and a polluted beach (on the right).

Thanks to the volunteers (Vic & Kay Neilson, Margaret Jones, Irma Smook, Doug Butcher, Willie & Wilna van Zyl, Bob & Hazel van Rooyen, Herbie Osborne, Andy Ruffle) who manned the stand, we had a very successful show again.

Vic & Kay were the first on duty on Friday morning
Margaret Jones & Irma Smook

Saturday lunchtime, Herbie & Andy were called to go to the main stage in the outdoor arena, where Trogons were presented third prize for indoor stand.

Our prize certificate proudly displayed on the stand.
The spelling was corrected later.
A chuffed Herbie & Andy
(photo taken by Doug Butcher)
Bob & Hazel van Rooyen, Doug Butcher, Andy Ruffle
& Herbie Osborne
(photo taken by Luke from Wild 5 Oribi)
Herbie, Doug, Wilna & Willie van Zyl

Many, many thanks to all the volunteers who erected, manned and dismantled the stand. We say it every year (and it is so true), we could not do this show without you.

A special thanks goes to Herbie for all the time and effort put in to making the stand happen. Well done Herbie. The prize was well deserved.

Finally, an unusual treat on Saturday evening was the appearance of these two beautiful mermaids on our stand. I just couldn't resist the photo.

Yes, they are real mermaids:):)

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Outing report- Cape Parrot Count 17th-18th May 2014

Text & photos by Andy Ruffle

Asothie & Stanley Gengan at Ingeli Forest Lodge 

Volunteers: Stanley & Asothie Gengan; Erik Kok, Herbie Osborne & Andy Ruffle.

Herbie, Eric and Andy arrrived at Ingeli Forest Lodge at about midday, on Saturday, to meet up with Stanley & Asothie who were going to monitor the area close to the lodge.
After briefing them on the plan of action, we left the happy couple and set off on the 40km drive to our Eastern Cape lookout at Mpur.

The road from Ingeli to Mpur

Guided by a trusty red rag tied to a tree, we soon found the access to our temporary camping site.
Three years ago we had needed to search for a new vantage point, as our original location was infested with American Bramble. To ensure we would find it again, Herbie had tied the rag to the sapling pine. Thankfully, it is still holding strong, albeit somewhat faded now.

The trusty 'flag' (circled) guides us to our camp

Base camp for the night

Weather conditions, on the mountain, were ideal with fairly clear skies and not a breath of wind. We had high hopes for the afternoon survey.

Unfortunately, due to the date change for the count this year, we were unable to cover our second lookout point at Mpur, which we had found last year (circled in photo below). Hopefully next year we will be able to muster enough volunteers to man it.

View from our lookout point,
with a second vantage point circled

At about 16h00, we positioned ourselves on the rocks overlooking the forest and waited with great anticipation. Sadly, not one parrot was seen or heard. This did not bode well for the morning count.

Perfect weather, but not a parrot in sight (or sound)

Dejected, we returned to our camp for supper and warming drinks.

Not exactly Mount Everest conditions,
but certainly not the coast either....brrrrrrr!

As morning broke, with a chill in the air and a beautiful sunrise, we prepared ourselves for the Sunday morning count.

A crisp clear morning with a beautiful sunrise

By 06h30, we were perched on the cliff, with hot coffees in hand. A frost could be seen on the distant veld and plenty of bird calls emanated from the forest below.

Frost on the distant veld

07h30 came and went, with no signs of parrots. 08h00 came and went and still no signs of parrots. African Olive-Pigeon, Knysna Turaco and Cape Canary were everywhere, so surely our birds were awake by now.
Then at 08h15, ''PARROT'' Herbie cried. ''That was a parrot calling''. Well it certainly sounded like a parrot, but by this time, a mooing cow would also have sounded like a parrot, so desperate were we to see one.
About ten minutes later, sure enough we could hear more parrots calling below. Then to our delight, two birds flew up out of the trees and towards us. They settled in the canopy a short distance from us and had no intentions of going anywhere in a hurry. They were soon joined by another 'pair'.
We sat for over an hour, watching as these stunning birds foraged  and flew around close by. It was now difficult to safely determine whether we were hearing anymore parrots, so we conservatively estimated that there were at least five birds.
It was interesting to note that these birds were remaining in this patch of forest. The conclusion we came to was that there must be yellowwoods fruiting here.

Eventually, we tore ourselves away to pack up camp and head back home.
Our luck was not over yet though. We negotiated the dirt tracks out of the forest, birding on the way, and soon hit the main tar road.
Just a few kilometres down the road, we turned a corner and there on the top of an embankment was a family of six Southern Ground-Hornbill happily marching along.

Southern Ground-Hornbill close to Mpur
Juvenile on the left hand side

What a perfect end to a very satisfying trip. We look forward to next year's count.

Sadly, Stanley & Asothie didn't see any parrots near the lodge this time.

Many thanks go to everyone who volunteered this year, including those who were subsequently unable to make it due to the date change.
A huge thanks also to Ingeli Forest Lodge for offering a preferential rate for the night.

Birds recorded during trip: Jackal Buzzard, Cape Crow, Hadeda Ibis, Cape White-eye, Sombre Greenbul, African Harrier-Hawk, Dark-capped Bulbul, African Olive-Pigeon, Cape Turtle-Dove, Forest Buzzard, Southern Boubou, Black-headed Oriole, African Crowned Eagle, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Knysna Turaco, Cape Canary, Bar-throated Apalis, African Goshawk, Grey Crowned-Crane, Cape Robin-chat, Cape Batis, Red-eyed Dove, Grey Cuckooshrike, Collared Sunbird, Black-backed Puffback, Ashy Flycatcher, Cape Parrot, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Streaky-headed Seedeater, Southern Black-Tit, Olive Thrush, Red-necked Spurfowl, Speckled Mousebird, Speckled Pigeon, Southern Ground-Hornbill, Amethyst Sunbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Common Fiscal, Long-crested Eagle, Cape Wagtail, African Fish-Eagle, White-necked Raven, White-breasted Cormorant, Egyptian Goose, Red-knobbed Coot, African Stonechat. (46 species).

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Outing report- 11th May 2014 Uvongo River Conservancy

Photos and text by Andy Ruffle (unless otherwise credited)

Attendees: Doug & Angie Butcher; Stan & Val Culley; Stanley Gengan, Eric Kok, Roger & Lilliene Linter; Vaughan Meyrick, Hazel Parry, Andy Ruffle, Bob & Hazel van Rooyen. (13 attendees).

Another good morning's birding at Uvongo River Conservancy.
We had a promising start when Stan spotted a Goliath Heron on the river. They have been recorded in the reserve before, but it was nice to see this bird at close quarters.

The highlight of the day, this Goliath Heron
(Photo Stan Culley)

Olive and especially Grey Sunbirds were going crazy this morning. The latter showing off it's red pectoral feathers regularly. Quite a few African Black Duck were also seen flying up and down the river.
Sadly, African Finfoot and Spotted Ground-Thrush eluded us on this visit.
We did still notch up a respectable 57 species for the morning.

Birds recorded: Black-headed Oriole, Purple-crested Turaco, Dark-capped Bulbul, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Red-eyed Dove, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Goliath Heron, Red-capped Robin-Chat, African Black Duck, Giant Kingfisher, Southern Boubou, Spur-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose, Reed Cormorant, Yellow-billed Duck, Black-collared Barbet, Square-tailed Drongo, African Pied Wagtail, Cape Wagtail, Collared Sunbird, Southern Black Flycatcher, Hadeda Ibis, Olive Sunbird, Common Myna, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Terrestrial Brownbul, Sombre Greenbul, Green-backed Camaroptera, Spectacled Weaver, Olive Thrush, Grey Sunbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Black-backed Puffback, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Red-billed Firefinch, Amethyst Sunbird, Ashy Flycatcher, Tambourine Dove, Dark-backed Weaver, Cape White-eye, Knysna Turaco, Black Saw-wing, Chinspot Batis, Pied Kingfisher, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, White-breasted Cormorant, Black-bellied Starling, Pied Crow, Bronze Mannikin, Water Thick-knee, Laughing Dove, Village Weaver, Yellow-fronted Canary, Speckled Mousebird, Red-winged Starling, Natal Spurfowl. (57 species).

Trip Away report- 24th-28th March 2014 Highover, Hela Hela

Text and photos by Andy Ruffle (unless otherwise credited)

Attendees: Doug & Angie Butcher; Stan & Val Culley; Stanley & Asothie Gengan; Margaret Jones, Cathy Lee, Andy Ruffle, Irma Smook, Bob van Rooyen, Barrie Willis & Sue Hansbury. (13 attendees).

Monday 24th March

Well there was absolutely no doubt that we had stumbled upon a little gem when we arrived at this delightful reserve. Access down the pass to the valley was a little hairy at times, but it was certainly worth it.
The accommodation was perfect and to top it all, Irma and I were kindly upgraded from the bunk house to a basic chalet.

One of the basic chalets
and this was the view from the basic chalet!!

Once everyone had settled in to their respective chalets, we took a short walk to find our bearings.
The braai was then lit and the evening faded in to a haze.

Tuesday 25th March

(Photo Doug Butcher)

Well rested, we were all up for an early morning walk through the camp site. The bush was alive and we soon started notching up a healthy bird list. Violet-backed Starlings gave us a nice show and an African Emerald Cuckoo could be heard calling in the distance.

In the afternoon we headed out on another walk which turned out to be slightly more adventurous than in the morning. The trail (or should I say Barrie) took us along the hillside and seemed to go up and up, with no prospect of it descending again.

a bit of a hike on this trail, but well worth the views
the tricky part, going back down
and safely back on terra firma
what a backdrop as the sun began to set

Wednesday 26th March

The vulture restaurant is behind us marked by a beacon
(Photo Doug Butcher)

Wednesday morning we arranged to drive up to the grasslands which form the upper part of the Highover property. Here we hoped to find buttonquail for Barrie and also Blue Swallow if it was still around.
As we parked our cars, we noticed a rather pungent smell, which to me was very familiar - dead animal. We were right next to an apparent vulture restaurant.

searching for the grassland specials

Mkomazi River Valley
(Photo Doug Butcher)
Scouring the pristine grasslands proved fruitless for the buttonquail and African Grass-Owl, the grass probably being too short for the latter.

LBJ's were a plenty, giving us brief views and then darting for cover. Wailing Cisticola and Neddicky were the only two we could positively identify.

Hirundines were in full force also. White-rumped Swift, African Black Swift, Rock Martin, Alpine Swift, Black Saw-wing and Barn Swallow all being seen.

We weren't to be disappointed by the Blue Swallows either, with atleast three individuals seen swooping through the ravines.

The wildlife went to Andy's head.
Here he is sporting a Springbok skull.
(Photo Doug Butcher)

The views from the grasslands was absolutely stunning. Great debate was had, trying to work out where our camp was. It was only when we returned back to the main reserve that we realised it was directly under where we had been standing looking out.

The rest camp is located directly below this cliff edge

Back at Highover, some of us decided to take a look at the Lodge situated near the reception. The start of a trail was noticed here, so we couldn't resist checking it out.
Although we didn't get far due to the increasing heat of the day, the spectacle of butterflies on this walk was amazing. At one point you felt like you had died and gone to heaven.....there were so many butterflies flying around.

two male Dusky Acraea having a bit of a dual

In the afternoon, we took a walk along the river and the SAPPI Tree Trail.

alongside the river
scanning the adjacent hillsides
Zebra and Wildebeest on the far hills - honestly they are there
The Mkomazi River

Thursday 27th March

So far we had been blessed with glorious weather, but as morning broke, things were about to change.

low cloud with rain, shrouds the valley

Low cloud and rain had set in and it didn't look as though it was going anywhere. Our plans for the morning were therefore put on hold.
But for every cloud there is a silver lining and the group were treated to a charming display by three beautiful butterflies....................well..........

can they really be angels?

Luckily, by early afternoon conditions had improved for us to do a walk. Once again we headed through the camping area to a lovely vantage point by the river.

Stan is looking for an elusive Terrestrial Brownbul 
Mkomazi River from the camping site
and so ends another trip away

farewell Jane
(Photo Doug Butcher)
(Photo Doug Butcher)
(Photo Doug Butcher)

Friday 28th March

Another wonderful trip away came to an end. We had some good birding in a gem of a setting.
A must for a return trip we think.

Highover website: http://www.highover.co.za/index.htm

Birds recorded: (Mon afternoon) Black-headed Heron, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Long-crested Eagle, Amur Falcon, Cape Glossy Starling, Southern Black Flycatcher, Cape Wagtail, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Crow, Mountain Wagtail, (Tuesday) Black-headed Oriole, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Hamerkop, African Dusky Flycatcher, African Hoopoe, Cape Batis, Southern Black Tit, Dark-capped Bulbul, Village Weaver, Black-shouldered Kite, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Cape White-eye, Hadeda Ibis, African Sacred Ibis, Crowned Hornbill, Egyptian Goose, Olive Thrush, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Natal Spurfowl, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Green-backed Camaroptera, Sombre Greenbul, Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Boubou, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, African Emerald Cuckoo, Violet-backed Starling, Kurrichane Thrush, Yellow-fronted Canary, Ashy Flycatcher, Red-throated Wryneck, Black-collared Barbet, Terrestrial Brownbul, Dark-backed Weaver, Black Cuckooshrike, Forest Canary, Fork-tailed Drongo, Spectacled Weaver, African Pied Wagtail, Black-backed Puffback, Cardinal Woodpecker, Knysna Turaco, African Olive-Pigeon, Red-chested Cuckoo, African Fish-Eagle, Spotted Eagle-Owl, (Wednesday) African Firefinch, African Stonechat, Common Waxbill, Red-winged Starling, Rock Martin, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Amethyst Sunbird, Wailing Cisticola, Blue Swallow, Speckled Pigeon, Black Saw-wing, Rock Kestrel, Alpine Swift, Barn Swallow, Neddicky, White-rumped Swift, Common Fiscal, White-necked Raven, African Black Swift, Cape Longclaw, African Harrier-Hawk, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Collared Sunbird, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Olive Bush-Shrike, Black-crowned Tchagra, Giant Kingfisher, Thick-billed Weaver, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, (Thursday) White-breasted Cormorant, Speckled Mousebird, African Crowned Eagle, Wahlberg's Eagle, Grey Cuckooshrike, Olive Sunbird, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove. (94 species).