Whos keeping an eye on me....

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Two-Barred Crossbills

A fairly close Twitch through a couple of counties and into West Yorkshire. Word had it that upto 9 Two-Barred Crossbills had been seen for a few days. So the 4 musketeers (Myself, Phil, Jeff and Jason) set off to bag these scarcities. This would be a life bird for me and it came in for my No.227 UK bird and No.1040 World bird.

I shouldn't have been surprised to find a good sized twitch in progress as we arrived, good news was that a female had been seen 30 minutes before we arrived, so a little patience would be needed. After searching through a large flock 100+ of Common Crossbills to no avail, Jason pointed out the distinctive call and sure enough after about an hour we had the female......

The thick canopy, distant birds and poor light were never going to enable anything other than record shots, but sometimes just being there is more than enough.

a few moments later we had the stunning male

We did manage a second female a little later on, anyway mission accomplished!
The twitch
Jason, Phil and Jeff

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

South Africa 2013 - Pt 2

Cape Town and surrounds.

During our first weeks stay in Cape Town I visited a number of locations. As a family we visited Robben Island, Kirstenbosch Gardens, Simons Town and the Cape of Good hope (Cape Point), as a birder I also visited Strandfontain, Phillipi and an area around Rondebosch Common, these areas I did on my own.

Unfortunately my Pelagic trip was cancelled on both the allocated days so my attempt at getting Albatross failed, unfortunately the wind was causing a large Swell, it arrived on the Friday stuck around for the weekend of the sailing ...... a real shame as this trip had been booked for a year and was eagerly anticipated as the holiday got nearer.

Strandfontain Sewage Works: A big thank you to Cathy & Paul (from Birdforum.net) for meeting up with me for a mornings birding at the sewage works. To a non-birder I am sure it doesn't sound too pleasant when you mention sewage works but the birding is usually good, today it was fantastic. The weather tried to dampen things with a constant drizzle and very overcast skies but birding from the car is as good as sitting in a hide!

The bird photography is hardly world class in this post as the weather was miserable, however the species on show more than made up for it.

We started off with Pied Crows, White Necked Ravens and a Pale Chanting Goshawk..... the PCG we observed in a tree with prey. The obvious Ibis species were soon counted... Hadeda and Sacred both in good numbers.

Greater Flamingos did their best to avoid the rain by burying their heads in the water
and I now realise that in all the countries that I have seen Cattle Egret, this was the first time I have ever photographed one....... at last!
Driving between the water pans there were plenty of reeds, Lesser Swamp Warblers and
African Reed Warbler were the only species to dare stick their heads up into the rain....
Cape Robin Chats were conspicuous
African Purple Swamphen is nest building as a Red Knobbed Coot looks on
Yellow Billed Duck, Red Billed Teal, Southern Pochard, Cape Shoveler and Cape Teal were on show and in good numbers but unfortunately I missed Maccoa Duck and Hotentot Teal.
I also found my first (and as it turned out last) Grey Headed Gull, I was sure I had an image of this species but I can not find it..... perhaps it was dream after all.
no doubt about this African Darter though!
Sat on its nest against a backdrop of the sewage works buildings
Of the larger birds I baged my first ever White Breasted and Reed Cormorants. But still plenty of other species on offer with Pied Avocet, Grey Heron, Spur Winged Goose, Black Headed Heron and Black Winged Stilts
Black Necked and Little Grebe were plentiful as were plenty of passerines such as Cape Weaver, Southern Boubou, Cape Canary, Brimstone Canary, Yellow Canary, Karoo Prinia
and Southern Masked Weaver
The rain continued and a change of scenery was the best course of action so a trip to Phillipi
Plenty of the same species as Strandfontain but here we added Lesser Flamingo, Black Shouldered Kite. Capped Wheatear, Cloud Cisticola, Great White Pelican, African Spoonbill and
Three Banded Plover
Kitlitzs Plover
As a final treat we headed to a suburb of Cape Town: Rondebosch Common here we were given stunning views of around a dozen Spotted Thick-knee

 Large flocks of Cape Canary fed while continually avoiding pedestrian traffic

A message to Paul: 30+ Lifers on this day out, looks like I need to send you a cheque for a few thousand Rand, or maybe you start a tour Co for Starndfontain!
Next stop Kirstenbosch, Cape point, Boulders and Robben Island

Saturday, 17 August 2013

South Africa 2013 - Pt 1

The birds around Mouille Point and Green Point, Cape Town:

A family holiday of 18 days comprising of three specific areas of interest. The first part of the holiday was based in Cape Town. We stayed with friends who live in the lovely suburb of Mouille Point.

Overlooking the shoreline it was no surprise to have an array of waders and common Seabirds.

The smallest being Kittitz's Plover

and when the wind blew even harder they would huddle up to a piece of seaweed for shelter
Although this iconic African bird isn't faring too well generally, they were in very good numbers here
African (Black) Oystercatcher
Plenty of Cormorants too, with the Crowned Cormorant being the most abundant but Cape and Bank Cormorants were also seen.

but the noisiest species would be a good fight between the Egyptian Goose (of which there were many, often perched on top of the apartments lining the shore road, or roosting on the golf course)
 or the Hadeda Ibis...... an unmistakable sound that followed me around South Africa
or possibly the charismatic but noisy Blacksmith Plover
The two species of Gull were Kelp Gull
 and Hartlaubs Gull
although plenty of Swift Terns passed close to shore every evening on a passage to roost somewhere further down the shoreline. Further out in the far distance Shearwaters followed the mid morning trawlers back to harbour, unfortunately I couldn't ID at this distance.... even with a scope.
A little closer to dry land African Sacred Ibis (which incidentally was the first species seen as I set foot in South Africa) and Little Egret search the low tide rock pools for food.
Across the road from the shoreline is a lovely Eco friendly Park at Green Point. A large pool that is utilised by the Gulls for bathing, open fields for the Geese and Ibis, reed beds, show borders and specimens of indigenous flora all attracted an array of bird species, and alongside lies a Golf Course to add to the open spaces.
 Cape Wagtail were abundant (and noisy), many hundreds walked the beach taking insects from the seaweed, while plenty more took advantage of the park, the roadsides and every available patch of green around the suburb
Common Fiscal (or as I was informed by a local....  the Butcher-bird)
Levaillants Cisticola
Cape Weaver
Yellow Billed Duck (these also spent a lot of time just off shore at low tide)
In the smallest of Reed beds tucked away between the Golf Course and the Gull pool I was surprised to find two lovely birds ......
....... Lesser Swamp Warbler
 and the Malachite Kingfisher
The reed bed was no bigger than five foot square, its amazing what creatures utilise the spaces available. One local visitor to the Green Point Park was astounded by the Kingfisher as he said he visits the park daily and had never seen it........ One for the local news for sure!
Rather more conspicuous were the Cape Sparrows
Cape White-eye, Red Knobbed Coot, Common Moorhen, Helmeted GuinefowlRock Martin, Pied CrowRed Winged Starlings and the inevitable Eurasian Starling were seen inlarge numbers, but particularly early in the mornings White-Necked Raven were seen.
Of the more impressive species a Lanner Falcon took advantage of the large Gull and Pigeon colony and caused huge panic in the sky, it took something but was too quick for me and in the confused commotion meant I missed my photo opportunity, although another raptor showed up and gave me a very poor shot......
Possibly  Black Sparrowhawk.
Sunset.........  Cape Town Style