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23rd January 2020 – Knysna

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We had planned a trip up the River Kromme at St Francis Bay as we made our way along the Garden Route from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town but the weather was so bad that it was cancelled (too wet and windy) and our first opportunity to get out and see some birds was on our second day in Knysna (yes it has stopped raining but it still isn’t very warm).

We walked along the edge of the Woodbourne Trust Nature Reserve and Bird Sanctuary near The Heads (which feature in nearly all the tourist photos of Knysna).

It was like home from home to start as the first bird we saw was a grey heron but it soon became a bit more exotic with African sacred ibis and Egyptian geese.

From the edge of the reserve we could easily see avocets, black winged stilts, Blacksmith lapwings and common greenshank but the real treat was an African spoonbill which flew out and then back over our heads. We rewarded ourselves with lunch.

DSC05583Reed cormorant (I think)

DSC05871Little egret

DSC05841African sacred ibis

DSC05821Egyptian geese

DSC05800Common greenshank and black-winged stilts

DSC05785Common greenshank

DSC05548Blacksmith lapwing

DSC05439Avocet

DSC05359African spoonbill on its way out

DSC05820and on its way back

 

 

 

 

 

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

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Our trip to South Africa certainly got off to a fantastic start. We spent the first 3 nights at Chapungu, a luxury tented lodge, on the Thornybush Game Reserve in Greater Kruger.

We were quite apprehensive about the 28 hour journey from Bristol to Chapungu (via London Heathrow, Johannesburg and Hoedspruit) and quite concerned that we might not have the stamina for 6 game drives in three days with 5 am starts but either the adrenaline or the “sundowners”  with the beautiful backdrop of the Drakensburg Mountains) enabled us to cope quite well.

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However, I didn’t count on the logistics of taking so many photos, saving them, editing a few and backing them all up which has been very onerous. Ah well, I enjoy it really.

The cloudy weather on a couple of the drives and even rain on the last day probably also  helped us to cope but didn’t do much for my later photos.

Initially I thought that I would revisit this blog at a later stage and write about the narrative of each of the 6 game drives but, unless we have a really bad run of weather when we return to the UK, I am realistic enough to know that that is improbable and that I shall enjoy more editing additional photos, remembering what was what and adding captions. However, I couldn’t fail to mention the excitement of seeing the leopard family with their kill in the marula tree, the lions protecting their kill, the hyenas and the vultures waiting to scavenge for their shares, or the goshawk which we saw stoop, make off with its prey and devour it in a nearby tree.

DSC02932Another memorable moment when we got stuck in the river bed – just to let me see even more birds!

I have already prepared a very large number of photos in a slideshow but can’t imagine anyone sitting for long enough to watch all of them so will have to rethink how I am going to do that. I will probably post in a later blog when I have more band width.

For the moment I will settle for a more modest slideshow of some of my favourite photos (above – the slideshow can be pinched out to fit a tablet).

We would like to say a very big thank you to the interesting young tourists from around the world who were with us throughout the three days and who added a different dimension to our trip by sharing with us some of their “world”. Also I would like to mention the staff of Chapungu Lodge who were excellent in every way. Finally we can’t say enough about our guides, Jacques, Kilmore and Victor, who went to enormous trouble to take us to amazing places, got us so close to the animals and showed us with such enthusiasm and knowledge the variety of the incredible wildlife of South Africa.

A truly memorable trip.

The “Big Five:

In Africa, the Big Five game animals are the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. The term was coined by big-game hunters, and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot, but is now also widely used by safari tour operators.

DSC09788Leopard

DSC04538Black rhino (the horns are removed to deter poachers)

 

DSC04046Elephant

DSC02965Buffalo

DSC02579Lion

 

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3rd January 2020 – WWT Slimbridge

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For our first bird watching sortie of the new year we had another visit to Slimbridge. However, with two young ones in tow we only had limited time for bird watching before their attention waned.

The highlight again was the water rails as normally they are quite elusive but today in one spot we saw three. There was a marsh harrier in the distance towards the estuary and pink footed geese (no photo).

DSC08947Marsh harrier in the distance

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DSC08974Water rails

I’m not too sure about my identification of Bewick’s/whooper swans but I think the first below is whooper and the second Bewick’s.

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DSC08890Wigeon

DSC08894Teal

DSC08847Robin

DSC08864Robin

DSC08892Chaffinch

DSC08900Blue tit

DSC08982Blue tit

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DSC09047Pheasant – such wonderful colours

DSC08940Redshank add a bit of colour on a muddy bank

DSC08957Shelduck in flight

DSC08934Shelduck

DSC08840Little egret in the distance

 

 

 

 

 

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29th December 2019 – WWT Slimbridge

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It’s almost a tradition for us to go to Slimbridge at this time of year: it’s definitely worth it even if you only go to the hides and don’t visit all the exotic wildfowl in the pens (which isn’t really our cup of tea anyway).

The stars were the whooper, Bewick’s and mute swans in flight. although pintails and the water rail were a close second. Its always good to see teal, wigeon and redshank close up too.

DSC07706Bewick’s swans

DSC07780Mute swan

DSC07794Mute swan

DSC07829Whooper swan

DSC07851Amourous shelduck

DSC07909Male pintail

DSC07919Female pintail

DSC07958Lapwing

DSC07964Redshank

DSC08003Greylag goose

DSC08057Teal

DSC08067Blackbird

DSC08095Lapwing

DSC08130Wigeon

DSC08165Greylag goose

DSC08390Waterrail

DSC08399Robin

DSC08409Bluetit

DSC08772Tufted duck

I have mixed feelings about the bust up between the whooper/Bewick swans; in the end it was probably no worse than the stand-offs seen by rugby players in most matches these days. However, it did remind me of the infamous “99” call made by the England rugby team v Australia in 1975 with an element of pre-meditation.

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23rd December 2019 – Eastville Park, Bristol

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I wandered over to Stoke Park Estate at the beginning of my walk this morning but it was very wet underfoot and very slippery. There wasn’t much to keep me there other than a moorhen and some gulls fishing at Duchess Pond.

DSC07532A black-headed gull has success with a small fish

DSC07543The moorhen was quite bold and didn’t dash for cover

On the way across to Eastville Park I saw a song thrush but couldn’t get a clear shot.

DSC07547Song thrush hiding behind the branches

There wasn’t a lot going on in the park either. The water in the River Frome was very high and the only bird I saw on the river was a cormorant.

DSC07682Cormorant by Wickham Bridge

A kingfisher was busy around the lake and more cormorants (six in all) were keeping the fish stocks well under control. I could only see one grey heron,  which is quite unusual. The tawny owl was in its box but didn’t show its face any better than any other day.

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DSC07663The kingfisher was quite easy to see but challenging to photograph as it was always in poor light.

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DSC07576Difficult to catch the eye of the coot

DSC07601… no such trouble with the cormorant

DSC07630If only the tawny owl would show her face.

I heard the robin as I entered the park but it wasn’t until I was leaving that it popped out (to say good bye?).

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My last blog before Christmas and so I would like to thank anyone who reads my blog and wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

 

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16th December 2019 – Eastville Park, Bristol

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Following even more rain this weekend the River Frome and the water in the lake in Eastville Park were very high.

Robins are very visible at the moment as they stake out their territory and there always seems to be one to greet me as I enter the park.

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A kingfisher darted around the lake and paused every now and again to fish and (maybe) have its photo taken.

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Cormorants (I could see 7) seemed to be the most successful of the fishermen but a grey heron also had reasonable success but only very small fry.

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9th December 2019 – Barrow Tanks, North Somerset

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I thought I would be a little less parochial this morning and try and see a few of the rarities reported on Barrow Tanks (a reservoir just south of Bristol). I managed to see the great northern diver  (but it was a long way out) but failed with the black-throated diver and the long-tailed duck. Whilst walking around the reservoir I saw a common sandpiper, a common buzzard and a grey wagtail and on the lake there were coots, great crested grebes and cormorants. The light was not terribly good and it was very cold.

DSC06199Great northern diver

DSC06027Common sandpiper

DSC06047Common sandpiper

DSC06048Common sandpiper

DSC06083Grey wagtail

DSC06142Common buzzard

DSC06153Common buzzard

As I was that side of Bristol I carried on to Chew Valley Lake. The light was better when I arrived at Herons Green but it was no warmer. I stayed briefly and spent most of my time watching lapwings circle around the lake. There was also a great white egret and a grey heron.I  carried on to Herriotts Bridge but saw very little – but that was because it was too cold and I spent nearly all the time in the car eating my lunch. I’m clearly not a dedicated birder.

DSC06963Lapwing

DSC06452Lapwings

DSC06543Great white egret

DSC06547Great white egret

DSC06656Grey heron

DSC06660Grey heron

DSC06631Cormorant

DSC06626Cormorant

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5th December 2019 – Eastville Park, Bristol

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I know its not terribly exciting writing about my walks in Eastville Park again but I’m always excited about seeing a kingfisher. I don’t quite know what it is but it always lifts my spirits.

Today I saw both a male (on the lake) and a female (on the river). I so enjoyed seeing them that I found myself watching them rather than taking photos.

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DSC05213Female kingfisher

DSC05419Make kingfisher

Two visiting birders (who had made the trip from Yatton by train) reciprocated my showing them a kingfisher by pointing out to me a goldcrest: I didn’t, however, manage to take a very good photo of it. I also enjoyed putting a face to Trevor and Mark (whose names I have seen on reports to Avon Bird Blog) and chatting to them.

DSC05224Goldcrest (rather poor photo I know)

I was pleased that other passers-by (who had seen my photos on the Facebook page of The Friends of Eastville Park) stopped to introduce themselves. I also spent time talking to two other photographers (Steve and Dani) and hence the reason for not too many photos today.

DSC05394Grey heron

DSC05485Robin

DSC05573Magpie

 

 

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4th December 2019 – Eastville Park, Bristol

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We were popping in to town but we couldn’t resist stopping at Eastville Park for a walk around the lake.

DSCF8902A robin greeted us at the entrance to the park

The lake looked no more frozen over than a few days ago even though we had another heavy frost last night.

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The park was very quiet but there were a few photographers drawn by the ubiquitous kingfisher. We weren’t disappointed and saw it flitting around the (appropriately named) Kingfisher Island. It was rather gloomy and so I put my energies into trying to capture her in flight

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Even the swans were placid.

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