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26th January 2020 – The Swartberg Pass

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As we were due to be up very early for a meerkat safari (which didn’t happen because of rain) we didn’t take up the option of the ostrich farm tour. We had a leisurely day exploring the Swartberg Pass and the area around the Cango Caves.

Stunning scenery again.

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We spent quite some time watching the southern masked weavers “weaving” their nests and came across the southern red bishop for the first time. I gather it is quite a common bird but it is the first time we had seen it and it is quite stunning.

DSC06980Southern masked weaver

DSC07097Southern red bishop

DSC07113White-breasted cormorant

 

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DSC06595Greater striped swallow

DSC06271Willow warbler (?) in the garden

 

 

 

 

 

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25th January 2020 – Oudtshoorn

 

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As we had had quite a long and tiring journey from Knysna to Oudtshoorn we just relaxed in the afternoon in the gardens of the farm where we were staying. Oudtshoorn is the ostrich capital of the world and we were staying on an ostrich farm.

DSC06034The view across the farm to the local church.

As the ostrich is the biggest bird it is appropriate that I have it as my header photo, although I much preferred the weavers and the common fiscals.

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27th January 2020 – Oudtshoorn – meerkats

 

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The main focus of our stay in Oudtshoorn was  a morning “safari” to see meerkats in the Klein Karoo. However, when we got up at 4.30 am  it was raining and we had been warned that the trip would not go ahead in the rain as the meerkats would not come out to play.

Fortunately we were able to re-arrange another visit on the morning we were leaving Oudtshoorn and the weather was fine.

The vegetation in this part of the world was very different from Kruger but quite impressive at this time of the morning with the backdrop of the Swartberg and the Outeniqua Mountains. I must say that, as in Kruger, much of the time I had great difficulty getting the white balance correct in my photos especially with the morning and evening light. 

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Before we got to see the meerkats (we had to search for them as they move from burrow to burrow) we only saw antelope. In this part of the world they have Southern Eland, Greater Kudu and Common Duiker (the smallest).

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DSC07475Common duiker

DSC07485Greater Kudu (with the big ears)

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There was a family of seven meerkats. It’s a matriarchal society and it seemed that 2 of the meerkats were pregnant and our guide assured us that this was going to cause some fuss in this group.

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We saw a few birds on our trip. The first was a house sparrow! There were quite a few Egyptian geese,  southern-masked weavers, a couple of southern black korhaan and the ubiquitous common fiscal.

DSC07381House sparrow

DSC07459Southern-masked weaver

DSC07548Southern black korhaan

DSC07683egyptian goose

DSC07993Common fiscal (the butcher bird)

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16th – 19th January 2020 – Thornybush Private Game Reserve, South Africa – birds

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Clearly the main focus of the 6 games drives we did in the Thornybush Game Reserve was the animals. However, we had a fantastic opportunity to see a large number of birds too. I felt I probably tested the patience of our fellow tourists by me wanting to stop to see birds; but they were very tolerant and even helped to spot birds and point them out to me. Our guides were very good too and incredibly knowledgeable. They nearly always knew the names of the birds – the problem of identification has been my lack of memory.

However, with the help of my field guide (Newman’s) and the knowledge and great cooperation of Larry Swetman (back in Bristol) I have been able to identify most of them.

Labelling is a job for back home.

The slideshow is a selection of the photos I took (the slideshow can be pinched out on an iPad for optimum viewing).

Listed below are some of my favourite birds.

Probably the rarest bird we saw was the bronze-winged courser (certainly by the reaction of our guide Kilmore) especially as it is usually nocturnal.

DSC04357Bronze winged courser

The most exciting bird was the dark chanting goshawk which we saw swoop down on its prey and took it off to a nearby branch so that we were able to see it rip its prey apart and devour it.

DSC05241Dark chanting goshawk

The most startling was probably the southern yellow-billed hornbill – there were hornbills everywhere.

DSC00464Southern-yellow billed hornbill

The largest raptor was probably one of the vultures but I particularly liked the tawny eagle.

DSC03676Tawny eagle

There were lots of very colourful birds but I wasn’t always able to catch them in their full splendour because of the rain and cloudy conditions which prevailed for the last few days. A few of the contenders

DSC04850Woodland kingfisher

DSC03910Crested barbet

DSC02894Lilac waxbill

The most fascinating bird for me was the long-tailed paradise whydah .

DSC04958Long-tailed paradise whydah

We saw quite a lot of shrikes and I liked this photo of a red-backed bush shrike which I photographed in the rain.

DSC04826Red-backed bush shrike

We saw oxpeckers mainly on buffalos but I love this photo of one on a giraffe.

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I could go on …

We saw lots of other birds that I didn’t manage to photograph. I suppose I was disappointed most not to capture some of the cuckoos.