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15th February 2019 – Eastville Park

We only had time for a very brief walk around the park – so brief we didn’t even catch sight of a kingfisher. However, we were lucky to see a dipper on the River Frome opposite Fishponds Brook. It’s amazing to see this little chunky stout bird in the city when it normally inhabits the banks of fast-moving upland rivers. They are unique among passerines for their ability to dive and swim underwater and they have a characteristic bobbing motion when perched beside the water, giving them their name. This one did plenty of bobbing but only occasionally submerged its head below the water and never once foraged in the water – it must have considered that the water was flowing too strongly.

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All around we could hear robins and caught sight of them regularly. I even saw two feeding close together on the ground. These two weren’t so fiercely territorial.

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On the lake there was just one grey heron and, as I said, not a single kingfisher to be seen. There were plenty of cormorants in the trees above the lake and a great spotted woodpecker could be heard drumming nearby.

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On Tawny Lake there was the tawny owl but, as usual, it was difficult to get a full view of it.

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The snowdrops looked great in the sunshine and there were some lovely rusty reflections in the lake.

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Click below for gallery of photos from this morning:

 

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13th February 2019 – Forest of Dean

A pleasant day was forecast and we fancied a walk in the country. However, we weren’t  sure how muddy it would be after recent rain and so opted for a walk through the woods at RSPB Nagshead in the Forest of Dean, along tracks which we knew would not be too onerous. The recent removal of tolls from the Severn Bridges is certainly going to entice us across the Severn Estuary more often.

The Forest of Dean is one of the surviving ancient woodlands in England with more than 110 square kilometres of mixed woodland and lots of fairly rare birds (such as hawfinch and crossbills)  often reported there. However today at RSPB Nagshead we saw very few birds at all. The woodland, though, held plenty of charm.

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I did, however, have plenty of opportunities to photograph birds when we stopped a little further on at Cannop Ponds where there were a variety of ducks.

Mallards are looking very attractive at this time of year but nowhere near as attractive as the mandarin ducks, which I hardly ever see other than here where they appear in fairly large numbers. There were also tufted ducks and a couple of little grebe which, busy diving, were quite a challenge to photograph.

DSC08442Male mandarin duck

DSC08743Female mandarin duck

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DSC08686Successful dive for this little grebe

DSC08621Little grebe

DSC08554Diving little grebe

DSC08711Male tufted duck

DSC08602Female tufted duck

DSC08561Male mallard

DSC08476The mute swans are always beautiful

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Click below for gallery of photos from today:

 

 

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10th February 2019 – Eastville Park

It’s always nice to come home. However, this time it has been challenging as the weather has been very wet and windy and it’s been difficult to get out and about. We did manage to dodge the showers this morning and even saw a little sunshine when we went for a walk in our local park.

It was reassuring to see some of the regulars, especially as we had several views of a kingfisher (on the newly named Kingfisher Island) and a tawny owl (on the newly named Tawny Island). But there were lots of birds about and we saw great tits, long-tailed tits, over 100 black-headed gulls, 2 mute swans, a robin, a great-spotted woodpecker, a few Canada geese, some coots, a grey heron (who had some success fishing) and a magpie (whose feathers looked very iridescent in the sunshine). There were even mallards mating which suggested (along with the daffodils, wild chives and catkins) that spring is nor so far away.

DSC08277Robin

DSC08303Tawny owl

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DSC08341Female kingfisher

DSC08369Grey heron

DSC08393Wood pigeons

DSC08296Canada goose

DSC08313Mute swans

DSC08318Black-headed gull

DSC08379Mallard

DSC08386Grey heron

DSC08402Magpie

Click below for gallery of photos from this morning:

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1st February 2019 – Strandfontein birding area

 

Our last few days in and around Cape Town were spent visiting friends and doing tourist activities. However, we did manage to pack in one more trip to the birding area at Strandfontein. It was a last minute decision and we didn’t even have binoculars with us (although I did have a camera!) but once again we had lovely close-up views of the birds. The best were barn swallows, African black oyster catchers and African Sacred Ibis.

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DSC07611Barn swallows

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DSC07713African black oystercatchers

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DSC07424African Sacred Ibis

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DSC07388Black-winged stilts

DSC07371Pied avocet

DSC07557Great white pelican

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DSC07395Spur-winged goose

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Greater flamingos

DSC07361Cattle egret

DSC07794Hadeda ibis

DSC07496Flycatcher

Click below for gallery of photos.

 

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31st January 2019 – Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

We couldn’t imagine coming to Cape Town without visiting the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden near Newlands Cricket Ground (where we spent yesterday at an international one day cricket match between South Africa and Pakistan).

Kirstenbosch is an important botanical garden nestled at the eastern foot of Table Mountain in Cape Town. The garden is one of ten National Botanical Gardens covering five of South Africa’s six different biomes and administered by the South African National Biodiversity Institute.

Kirstenbosch includes a fragrance garden, a medicinal garden, 2,500 species of plants found on the Cape Peninsula, a Protea garden (best seen in spring!), a braille trail, and a cycad amphitheatre. There is also the Botanical Society Conservatory, which houses plants from the continent’s more arid regions. In more recent years we have been able to enjoy a walk along the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway – affectionately known as the Boomslang. This 130-metre steel-and-timber bridge snakes its way through and over the trees of the Arboretum, providing stunning views of the Garden and the Cape Flats.

dsc07136Tree Canopy Walkway

Here we have previously seen some really good bird life including sun birds, sugar birds and even a Spotted Eagle Owl. We wern’t so lucky this year but there were  a few species of birds and butterflies and the flora was magnificent.

After our visit we went to the nearby vineyard of Groot Constantia and studied the vines (and enjoyed some of the results of the winemakers efforts).

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dsc06917Views of the gardens toward Table Mountain

Birds and butterflies

dsc06927Sombre Greenbul

dsc06938African Dusky Flycatcher?

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dsc06980Cape Batis

dsc07048Cape Spurfowl

dsc07133Hadeda Ibis

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dsc07224Egyptian Goose

dsc07230Normal view of Egyptian Goose

dsc07263Cape Bulbul

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Selection of flora

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Groot Constantia

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A few photos of the route back to our accommodation in Camps Bay

dsc07306The Twelve Apostles (at the back of Table Mountain)

dsc07307Camps Bay in the distance

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Click below for a gallery of photos from today:

 

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Tuesday 29th January 2019 – False Bay Nature Reserve

Another amazing day on this amazing continent. Our hosts Merryl and Steve really indulged us today and and took us to, what I consider to be, the best place I have ever been for bird watching – False Bay Nature Reserve.

The highlights in the main centre at Rondevlei were pelicans, African sacred ibis, glossy ibis, spoonbills, various plovers, black-winged stilts, little egrets, Cape wagtails, Cape teal, red-billed teal, Egyptian geese, Blacksmith lapwings and loads that I haven’t identified yet. It was quite windy and there didn’t seem to be many little birds darting around the beautiful vegetation but there was no reason to complain.

When we moved on to the lakes near the sewerage works (Strandfontein birding area) it was just as exciting as our visit last year, with all of the above plus flamingos, Hadeda ibis, little grebes, barn swallows, pied avocets, and a raptor which I think may have been a black-shouldered kite.

You visit this section by car and you get to see the birds really close up. The birds are not bothered by the cars which aren’t numerous anyway – we didn’t see another car at all today and only two last year.

There was certainly so much else to see but I didn’t want to push my luck too much; our hosts had been so accommodating and the thought of a lunch by the beach at Muizenburg was even more enticing than an overdose of birds.

Thanks Merryl and Steve for a very special day.

dscf5492Beautiful vegetation

img_4321An amazing setting

img_4324Very accommodating hosts

dscf5952Glossy ibis

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dscf5752Flamingos

dscf5993Black-shouldered kite ?

dscf5859Egyptian goose

dscf5809Pied avocet

dscf5830Sacred ibis

dscf5676Pelican

dscf5749Red-billed teal

dscf5703Cape teal

dscf5638Cape wagtail

dscf5588Spoonbills and pelicans 

dscf5577Terns

dscf5536Black-winged stilt

dscf5551Kittlitz plover

dscf5556Three-banded plover

dscf5922Flamingo

dscf6034Hadeda ibis

dscf6035Spur-winged goose

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dscf6070White-necked raven

Click below for a gallery of some of today’s photos:

 

 

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Monday 28th January 2019 – Hout Bay

Whilst I was looking out at the beautiful view from the balcony of our excellent accommodation in Camps Bay (51, Camps Bay) I saw some Cape White-eye feeding off the nectar of the tree right in from of me.

dsc06527A room with a view

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dsc06505Cape White-eye

A little worryingly behind us I could see a fire rampaging on the hillside of the Lion’s Head. However, the fire brigade seemed to be coping well with their helicopters.

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We then drove to Hout Bay and had a walk along the beach. Even quite early in the morning the temperature was around 30 degrees, but with the gentlest of breezes coming off the sea it was bearable. As we walked we saw a few cormorants (Cape and Bank Cormorants), some distant Kelp Gulls and a Swift Tern.

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dsc06551Swift Tern

As it was getting even hotter we decide to take a boat trip to Duiker Island, the Seal Colony, where we could view thousands of wild Cape Fur Seals close up in their beautiful natural habitat. There were also lots of Cape and Bank Cormorants, some Kelp Gulls and even one Penguin.

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dsc06718A Kelp Gull

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dsc06748A solitary penguin (Lost and Found?)

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dsc06908Pet seal?

dsc06830Chapman’s Peak (outside looking in)

Click below for gallery of photos:

 

 

 

 

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Saturday 26th January 2019 (morning) – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Friday 25th January 2019

Windhoek to Victoria Falls

Our flight to Victoria Falls was slightly delayed and so we  had just 20 minutes to drop off our bags before departing for a visit to a local Zimbabwean woman’s home to hear about local customs and to take part in a meal of local products. It was particularly interesting hearing about family attitudes to boys and girls forming relationships and the role of aunties and uncles.

By the time we returned to the hotel there was no opportunity for any wildlife photos.

Saturday 26th January 2019

We had yet another early start as we set off to visit the Victoria Falls. We stopped en  route to visit an ancient Baobab, believed to be between 1000 and 1500 years old.

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At the entrance to the park we had a talk from our local guide about the Falls and, in particular, the story of their discovery by Dr Livingston. It was very interesting but, with the roar of the Falls in the background we were all desperate to move on to get our first sight of them.

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Walking through the park we could see and hear plenty of bird life amongst the very green vegetation which was interspersed with lots of orchids and other plants such as Deadly Nightshade.

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As we had not had even the slightest glimpse of the Falls (except, what even Livingston had considered to be, clouds of smoke) until we were well into the park, it was indeed a magical moment when we did at last get a glimpse of them.

dsc06432Our very first glimpse of the Falls

We had nine major view points along the pathway, many of them quite precariously close to the cliff edge which was extremely slippery from the spray. It was not perfect weather for photographs as the sky was quite hazy and the spray was, at times, very heavy. However, there was no doubt that the Falls were an amazing sight to see.

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In the afternoon w elected to take a short helicopter ride to see the Falls. This was an expensive excursion and the flight only lasted 12-13 minutes. Nonetheless, this was a most amazing experience and enabled us to see (and photograph) the Falls at their best.

Two of the younger members of our “ Namibian Group” took a microlight flight which sounded even more amazing than our flight, lasting longer and even presenting opportunities to see wildlife from the air.

Click below for gallery of photos from this morning: