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27th February 2020 – Eastville Park, Bristol

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It may seem a bit mundane reporting on the same walk around Eastville Park but its all we had time for  and anyway there’s nearly always something interesting to see. Today’s highlight was definitely a tree creeper.

DSC02230Tree creeper

We heard, and generally saw, robins all round the park. Early on we saw a goldcrest (sadly no photo) near Fishponds Brook.

DSC01859A robin to greet us

DSC02241Another robin half way round

On the lake there was a grey heron, a coot, a couple of  moorhens, 6 mute swans, two Canada geese, lots of black-headed gulls and a couple of lesser black-backed gulls.

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DSC01897Grey heron

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DSC02024Mute swan

DSC01946Canada goose

DSC01882Moorhen

DSC01937Black-headed gull

DSC01975Lesser black-backed gull

DSC01967A pigeon strutting its stuff

DSC01926Crow

For the first time for a while we saw no cormorants but there were plenty of corvids, mainly crows and some jackdaws lurking in the trees and around the lake.

We saw the tree creeper along the River Frome. True to form it landed on the tree and made its way around the trunk out of sight. When it reappeared it hid frustratingly behind the small branches but then fleetingly gave me a chance to capture it. I’m sure my editing of the photos makes its stand out much more than we saw as its camouflage on the bark was quite amazing.

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DSC02205Tree creeper

On the way home we saw a jay, lots of magpies and several wood pigeons.

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The other pleasing sight was the celandine which was quite prominent in the sunshine

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DSC02321A different robin to bid us farewell

 

 

 

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25th February 2020 – Eastville Park, Bristol

Back to reality! I decided not to be a wimp and got out for a walk this morning. Light showers were forecast and I must admit it wasn’t raining when I left home. But when I arrived at the lake at Eastville Park it began to rain and continued to pour until I got home. Light shower indeed!

I caught a glimpse of a kingfisher but anything moving faster than a hovering black-headed gull didn’t get captured by my camera!

The only way I could make any of the birds look interesting was to try and get in close.

The highlight was being able to see the tawny owl on the island and a pied wagtail which followed me around the lake. A coot and a moorhen came close too. What did the robin find to be so cheerful about?

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DSC01661Tawny Owl

DSC01603Brightly coloured pigeon (it wasn’t the sun catching its plumage!)

DSC01742Pied wagtail

DSC01750Pied wagtail

DSC01780Coot

DSC01738Moorhen

DSC01792Black-headed gull

DSC01762Cormorant

DSC01821Magpie

DSC01815Robin

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Birds of South Africa January/February 2020

In this blog I have tried to compile a record of the different birds we saw on our holiday to South Africa in January and February 2020.

We started our holiday with a safari trip to the Thornybush Private Game Reserve in Greater Kruger. Although the main focus of the trip was to observe the animals in the park there were plenty of opportunities to see lots of birds.

We spent three nights at the Chapungu Lodge in Greater Kruger and took part in 6 game drives (3 in the morning from 5 am to 8am and 3 in the afternoon from 4 pm to 7 pm).

We then flew back to Johannesburg and then on to Port Elizabeth. From there we drove along the Garden Route to Cape Town stopping (for 2 or 3 nights each time) at St Francis Bay, Knysna, Oudtshoorn, Robertson, and Franschoek. When we arrived in Cape Town we spent 10 nights in Camps Bay.

We were due to do a bird watching trip up the Kromme River in St Francis but this was cancelled due to persistent rain. The only other organised bird watching trip was to the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve when we were staying in Cape Town.

Not all our time was spent bird watching We managed to pack lots in to our holiday including seeing South Africa play England in a cricket ODI at Newlands and visits to lots of vineyards and botanical gardens.

I have tried to show a variety of the birds we saw at each place. Although I am very pleased with many of the photos others are not so good but are included for ID purposes. Currently there is no particular order to the birds but they are generally in the order in which we saw them.

Please note: I am still adding photos to this collection and continuing the process of identifying and labelling them.

Click on heading for each place (on the following pages there will be a link to return to this page or use the back button on your browser)

I would like to thank Larry Sweetland and David Swanepoel for help with identifying birds in this blog.

Birds of Thornybush Private Game Reserve, Greater Kruger

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Birds of Knysna

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Birds of Oudtshoorn

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Birds of Robertson

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Birds of Strandfontein Birding Area, False Bay Coastal Park

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Birds of Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve

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Birds of Camps Bay

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Birds of Blouberg Strand and nearby lagoons

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Birds of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens

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10th February 2020 – Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, Cape Town

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We spent the last day of our wonderful trip to South Africa visiting the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Their website says “Kirstenbosch is acclaimed as one of the great botanic gardens of the world. Few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of the setting of Kirstenbosch, against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain”. Indeed Kirstenbosch is one of our favourite gardens in the world. We have visited it several times and even visited it on this trip with some friends just over a week ago when we arrived in Cape Town.

It was a bit cooler today and even quite chilly as the cloud came down late in the afternoon. (Although, the other side of the mountain in Camps Bay, where we have been  staying, it had been sunny and hot all day.

DSC06807View across Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden from the Tree Canopy Walk.

DSC06768Tree Canopy Walkway

Today we saw more birds than last week (clearly I must have been talking too much last week) and even saw a new bird for us, an Olive Woodpecker. But the stars of the day were the Lesser Double-collared Sunbirds which we saw several times feeding in the Ericas. We also had plenty of sightings of Cape Bulbuls.

DSC06156Olive Woodpecker

DSC06140Olive Woodpecker

DSC06219Lesser Double-collared Sunbird

DSC06217Lesser Double-collared Sunbird

DSC06225Lesser Double-collared Sunbird

DSC06597Cape Bulbul

DSC06558Cape Bulbul

DSC06622Cape Bulbul

DSC06190Forest Canary

DSC06657Cape Robin-Chat

DSC06512Juvenile Cape Robin-Chat

DSC06488Fork-tailed Drongo

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DSC06532Red-winged Starling

DSC06747Butterflies too!

… and lots of beautiful plants:

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What a great way to end our trip.

 

 

 

 

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6th February 2020- Kogelsberg Biosphere Reserve

For our last nature trip on our holiday to South Africa we booked our first ever guided  birding trip through the company “Birding Africa” (https://www.birdingafrica.com/) to the Kogelsberg Biosphere Reserve.

“Birding Africa” were very efficient in their administration and our guide David Swanepoel was superb. David quickly assessed our capabilities and designed a programme which was very suitable for us. He clearly had an amazing knowledge of birds and was excellent at spotting and pointing them out to us (not an insignificant skill!). We really enjoyed David’s company throughout the day. He drove us safely and was most a most engaging and interesting character. We arrived safely back at our apartment in Camps Bay after a very full day, exhausted but exhilarated

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I have taken the following article about the reserve from https://www.kbrc.org.za which I find most fascinating:

“Just an hour out of Cape Town at the southern tip of Africa, lies an area of such natural beauty and floral diversity as to be recognized as perhaps world’s greatest biodiversity hot-spot. Size for size, the 100,000 hectare UNESCO designated Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve is home to the most complex biodiversity on our planet with more than 1,880 different plant species … the next richest is the South American rainforest with just 420 species per 10,000 square kilometers!

Biosphere reserves are ‘new concept’ reserves: no fences to keep ‘people’ out and ‘nature’ in. It is the commitment of local communities, farmers, conservation agencies and local government that protects the magnificent landscapes and unique biodiversity.

The Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve begins in the Atlantic Ocean, 7.5 km off a rugged, rocky shore interspersed by glorious, golden sandy beaches. A zig-zag ribbon of narrow coastal plain is squeezed between the ocean and huge sandstone mountains. Contorted by their tumultuous birth some 300 million years ago, these awesome folded mountains and highland valleys are home to the more than 1,880 different species of plants. Seventy seven (77) species within the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve occur nowhere else on earth. To put this in perspective, the whole of the UK has just twenty two (22) endemics.”

Our birding experience started at Rooi-els (about an hour and a half from Camps Bay) where we went looking for Cape Rock Jumpers. David heard them but they did not show themselves to us. However, we had very good views of Orange-breasted and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, Cape Bunting and several Familiar Chats, which was more than enough to keep us happy. As we walked along the pathway we also saw a Neddicky, a Cape Rock Thrush, a Cape Sugarbird and Red-winged Starlings. Even more distant up above us we could see a Rock Kestrel, White-necked Ravens and a Rock Martin.

DSC00066Cape Bunting

DSC00068Orange-breasted Sunbird

DSC00337There’s no bird hiding here – I was just fascinated by all the different vegetation

DSC00198Familiar chat

DSC00132-EditRock Kestrel

DSC00261Cape Rock Thrush

DSC00211The path we explored at Rooi-els

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DSC00280Orange-breasted Sunbird

DSC00363Cape Sugarbird

After a coffee break at Betty’s Bay we moved on to Stony Point (a former whaling station) to see African Penguins. We were also fascinated by the four different types of cormorant which we spotted (Cape, Crowned, Bank and White-breasted) We also saw Water Thick-knees and an African Black Oystercatcher amongst the rocks as well as dassies. These little furry creatures are, unbelievably, the closest living relative to African elephants.

DSC00833Dassies

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DSC00712African Penguins

We also saw lots of Cape Wagtails, Kelp Gulls,  Hartlaub’s Gull and a Sandwich Tern.

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DSC00437Kelp gull

DSC00594Hautlaub’s Gull

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DSC00915Bank Cormorant

DSC00945White-breasted Cormorant

DSC00741Cape Cormorant

DSC00621Crowned Cormorant

DSC00798Water Thick knees

DSC00814African Black Oystercatcher

After Stony Point we went to the Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens. Here David picked out all sorts of birds for us. For me the stand out ones were Orange-breasted and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds. We also saw  Fiscal Flycathers,  Cape Robin-ChatKaro Prinia,  Cape White-eye,  Malachite Sunbird, Red-eyed Dove, Sombre Greenbul, Forest Canary,  Cape Canary and an African Dusky Flycatcher. Flitting past were also Greater-striped Swallows and Black Saw-wing. I did attempt some shots but I would be too embarrassed to show the results.

DSC05899Harold Porter National Botanical Garden

DSC00998Water-lillies and frogs

DSC01037 Southern Double-collared Sunbird

DSC01075Juvenile Fiscal Flycatcher

DSC01149Cape Canary

DSC01101Forest Canary

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DSC01135Orange-breasted Sunbird

DSC01170Cape Canary

DSC01175 Southern Double-collared Sunbird

DSC01216Orange-breasted Sunbird

DSC01224Orange-breasted Sunbird

DSC01242Orange-breasted Sunbird

DSC01267Karoo Prinia

DSC01321Cape White-eye

DSC01432African Dusky Flycatcher

DSC01476Cape Robin-chat

After the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden we returned to Betty’s Bay for a late lunch.

On our route back to Camps Bay we stopped off at at Pardeviei Wetland at Somerset West but the water was very low and, although we could see lots of birds (including Blacksmith Lapwing, Black-winged Stilts and Pied Avocets) in the distance, we felt that we had had enough and set off to face the Cape Town traffic.

The weather was not very kind to us as it was very windy and quite grey. In a way that may have been a blessing as we might have been even more exhausted if it had been a hot sunny day. Nonetheless an amazing day where we saw over 50 different species.

 

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Friday 31st January 2020 – Strandfontein Sewerage Works, Western Cape SA

The Cape Flats Waste Water Treatment Works, or simply Strandfontein as it is known to birders, also forms part of the False Bay Nature Reserve. It really is a marvel for birders as you can drive around the gravel paths and see and photograph birds at close quarters.

Strandfontein features more than 300 hectares of reed-fringed detention ponds and dunes connected by gravel roads that are usually in good condition, although on this occasion we did have one terrifying moment when we got stuck in  a very deep section of slurry which had been deposited on one of the paths.and which demanded all our driving skills and ingenuity in to order to extricate from a very embarrassing situation.

In the end it was really worthwhile and we saw an amazing amount of birds in a very short trip.

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DSC08934Greater flamingo

DSC09420Greater flamingo

DSC09898Greater flamingo

DSC09820Cape weaver

DSC09754Black-winged stilt

DSC09727White-necked raven

DSC09577Cattle egret

DSC09537Cattle egret

DSC09605Blacksmith lapwing

DSC09482African sacred ibis

DSC09478African sacred ibis

DSC09392African sacred ibis

DSC09118White-faced whistling duck

DSC09128White-faced whistling duck

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DSC09325Great white pelican

DSC09010African sacred ibis and glossy ibis

DSC09061Egytian goose

DSC09673Spur-winged goose

DSC09015Red billed teal

DSC08992Little grebe

DSC08975Barn swallow

DSC08897Caspian tern