Saturday, December 8, 2018

Bulletin 327 - South Africa #4 - Part 1 - Miscellaneous Songbirds; dogs and a small cat

I had an amazing 2 week trip to South Africa and scored almost 280 new species of birds as well as fantastic mammals and a few reptiles. My guide Casper Badenhorst was outstanding. You can see his web site here. He can be contacted through the web site or if you want his email it is info@birdingandwildlifesafaris.com. I recommend him highly as he showed me so many rare birds and animals. I will use him again when I go to Southern Africa.

As usual my birding luck was 100% and we saw almost every thing expected to be found and many that were not expected!

The 5" African Broadbill (Smithornis capensis) is a gray backed bird with heavy black streaking on the chest. It is an uncommon bird and my guide said I was lucky to see it. It took several tries to find it. The male shown here has a black cap. Notice the white puffball on his lower back. This is part of his display.


African Broadbill - male
We saw 2 members of the shrike family. The 9" Southern Fiscal (Lanius collaris) is a black and white bird with a white wing stripe. He has the usual hooked beak typical of shrikes.


Southern Fiscal
Long-tailed birds seem to be common in Africa. The 24" male Magpie Shrike (Urolestes melanoleucus) is all black with a very long tail.


Magpie Shrike
Despite the similarity of names, cuckooshrikes are a separate family from the shrikes above. The 10" Gray Cuckooshrike (Coracina caesia) is all gray with a white eye-ring.


Gray Cuckooshrike
The 7.5" White-crested Helmetshrike (Prionops plumatis) is in a different family again from the previous birds. It is a peculiar bird with a white bushy crest on his forehead, yellow wattles around his eye and pink legs.


White-crested Helmetshrike

The larks are a family with 98 species, but only 1 is in the New World. Many of the are LBJs (little brown jobs). I found 4 on this trip. The 7" Long-billed Lark (Certhilauda semitorquata) is a rufous backed lark best IDed by voice.


Eastern Long-billed Lark
The 6" Rufous-naped Lark (Mirafra africana) at least has some color with a bright rufous crown and wings. I could ID it after seeing few times.


Rufous-naped Lark
The 6" Sabota Lark (Calendulauda sabota) is another LBJ best IDed by voice. That is one reason I always have a guide on my travels.


Sabota Lark
The last is the distinctive 5" male Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark (Eremopterix leucotis). He has a black head and underside, brown back and white patches on the head.


Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark - male
Continue to part 2

Bulletin 327 - South Africa #4 - Part 2 - Miscellaneous Songbirds, dogs and a small cat.

Continued from part 1

The batises are a small (31 species) of small cute African birds. There are 5 species in southern Africa and I saw 3 of them. The 5" male Cape Batis (Batis capensis) is IDed by black breast and rufous flanks.


Cape Batis - male
The male 4" Woodward's Batis (Batis fratrum) has a rufous rather than black breast.


Woodward's Batis
Lastly, the 5" male Chinspot Batis (Batis molitor) lacks any rufous coloration. The female of the species has a rufous chin spot and gives the species its name.


Chinspot Batis - male
The oriole family in the Old World are yellow birds with some black. I am sure our New World orioles were named after them, although in an entirely different family. I saw my first member of this family on the trip. The 9" male Black-headed Oriole (Oriolus larvatus) is yellow with a black head, some black on the wings and a red bill.


Black-headed Oriole - male
The drongos are another small (26 species) of birds in Africa and the Orient. Most are glossy black and some have unique shaped long tails. I have seen some of them before, but I photographed them for the first time on this trip. My guide said that they are very aggressive birds and will even try to drive away eagles. The sexes are similar.

The 7.5" Square-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus ludwigii) is IDed by black and only a slight notch in the tail. 


Square-tailed Drongo
The 10" Fork-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis) is larger and has a longer tail. It has a deep fork.


Fork-tailed Drongo
We saw 2 species of canines on the trip. The more common one is the Black-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas). This dog has large ears, a very pointed muzzle, and is fawn color with a black back. The size is up to 25 pounds.


Black-backed Jackal
The rarer one is the Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus). These are medium sized dogs (up to 65 pounds) with long legs, and unique black, brown and white coloration. I am sure you have seen these on TV. The guide said that I would be lucky to see them in Kruger National Park where we spent 3 days. This huge park is about 2/3 the size of the state of New Jersey, This is an endangered species, and in Kruger there are an estimated 450 - 500 animals. They hunt in packs of 10 or more, so maybe 40 packs in the whole park. So even their web site says need luck. Haha I have my amazing luck and we saw a pack on the sundown drive one day, and the next day driving on our own, 3 adults and 10 pups were on the road. The pups were playing and jumping on each other as they do. This was one the most memorable experiences of the trip.


Wild Dog - pup




And another.


Wild Dog - pup
And another..you can see car stopped as everyone enjoyed this amazing sighting of 13 Wild Dogs in daylight.


Wild Dog - pup
There are only 39 species of cats, including the domestic cat. I was hoping to see 3 of them on the trip, and I did, but one was unexpected. In fact I did not even know about the Southern African Wildcat (Felis sylvestris). They may be same species as the domestic cat but latest info I can find online suggests now different. They are likely the source for the domestic cat being tamed 10k years ago. At one camp, the guide saw a pair of eyes in the bushes as we walked around before lunch. He said there is an African Wildcat in the bushes. Look at the eyes. I thought he was joking. Well yes I could see the eyes. I am not good at manual focus but had to try. Since my cataracts fixed last year, low and behold, I got a pic. They are the same size as our pets and unfortunately will breed with them. Fortunately Kruger does not allow pets in the park, so these are pure genetic wildcats.


Southern African Wildcat - Kruger National Park
And another you can see his body, legs and tail.


Southern African Wildcat - Kruger National Park
I have put the different bird/mammal families in single folders for easy viewing

I have photos of 6 of the 34 
species of shrikes

I have photos of 3 of the 92 species of cuckooshrikes

I have photos of 7 of the 98 species of larks

I have photos of 5 of the 40 species of dogs

I have photos of 5 of the 39 species of cats

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald
dkmmdpa@gmail.com

photos copyright 2006 - 2018 David McDonald

To have these trip reports sent to your email, please email me at the above address and ask to subscribe.


Sunday, December 2, 2018

Bulletin 326 - South Africa #3 - Part 1 - Hawks and Eagles; small mammals

I had an amazing 2 week trip to South Africa and scored almost 280 new species of birds as well as fantastic mammals and a few reptiles. My guide Casper Badenhorst was outstanding. You can see his web site here. He can be contacted through the web site or if you want his email it is info@birdingandwildlifesafaris.com. I recommend him highly as he showed me so many rare birds and animals. I will use him again when I go to Southern Africa.

As usual my birding luck was 100% and we saw almost every thing expected to be found and many that were not expected!

If you like raptors, Africa is an amazing place. We saw eagles almost every day and as many as 4 different species on several days. Of course, there were smaller hawks and kites too. I will start with the smaller ones and work up to the eagles.

We saw the  22" Yellow-billed Kite (Milvus aegyptius) daily. It was the most common raptor. It has a dark brown back, reddish underparts with a yellow bill of course.


Yellow-billed Kite
The 12" Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus) is the same genus and similar to our White-tailed Kite, but the whole wing is black.

Black-winged Kite
We only saw the 15" Lizard Buzzard (Kaupifalco monogrammicus) one time. It is gray with red bill and feet and a black midline stripe on the throat.


Lizard Buzzard
The 16" African Cuckoo-Hawk (Aviceda cuculoides) was another one hit wonder. It is listed as an 'uncommon woodland resident' where it perches quietly.


African Cuckoo-Hawk
There are several harriers, but I photographed only 1 species, the 19" African Marsh Harrier (Circus ranivorus). As usual, I can seldom see these birds perched to photograph as they hunt on the wing, flying over the ground. It is brown with a rufous belly.



African Marsh Harrier

The genus buteo birds are called hawks in the New World like the Red-tailed Hawk. But in the Old World, the buteos are called buzzards and I photographed 3 of them. The 19" Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) is a migrant to  Africa from Europe. We saw several of these birds as they were arriving for the winter.


Common Buzzard
The similar 18" Forest Buzzard (Buteo trizonatus) is an endemic South Africa bird. The difference is the underwing is mostly white in this bird. 


Forest Buzzard
The 23" Jackal Buzzard (Buteo rufofuscus) is more colorful. He is dark backed with a red chest and black belly. It is endemic in South Africa and Namibia.


Jackal Buzzard
 The 24" adult African Harrier Hawk (Polyboroides typus) is a broad-winged gray bird with bare facial skin that my flush red or yellow. He has a wide white band across the black tail. This on flew across the water on our boat trip, and landed in a tree close by. We saw this bird twice more on the trip.


African Harrier Hawk
Here he is perched.


African Harrier Hawk
Continue to part 2

Bulletin 326 - South Africa #3 - Part 2 - Hawks and Eagles; small mammals

Continued from Part 1

Now we have arrived at the eagles. The smallest is the 23" Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis). It is black with a long wispy crest. We saw this bird 4 times on the trip. This is a male with the white legs. The female has brown legs.


Long-crested Eagle - male
The next is the 23" Wahlberg's Eagle (Hieraaetus wahlbergi). Most of the birds are dark brown and it can be IDed by the flat head and slight crest.


Wahlberg's Eagle
5-10% are a lighter morph coloration. Again, the flat head and crest ID the species


Wahlberg's Eagle
The 26" Bataleur (Terathopius ecaudatus) is a brightly colored eagle with an extremely short tail, such that he looks tailless. This one had caught a Puff Adder snake and was devouring it 20 feet from the road while we watched. We saw this eagle many times on the trip. He is black with a brown back, white shoulders and red bill and legs.


Bataleur
Here is one perched in a tree. There is no tail visible.


Bataleur

The 28" African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) is the same genus as our Bald Eagle. He has a white head, chest and back. He is a stunningly beautiful, majestic bird. We saw this bird many times as well.


African Fish Eagle
Next in size is the 29" Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax). He is the same genus as our Golden Eagle. He is light reddish brown with darker wings.We saw several of these birds.


Tawny Eagle
There are a group of eagles called snake eagles and the only one I photographed was the 30" Brown Snake Eagle (Circaetus cinereus). He is dark brown with a large head. We saw several of these eagles as well. They have very thick scales on their legs to protect from snake bites.


Brown Snake Eagle
Most raptors take their prey to a perch to eat. In contrast this bird eats the snake aloft. Here is one with the tail of the snake hanging out of his mouth.


Brown Snake Eagle
The 32" Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) was one of my lucky birds. He was sitting in a dead tree right beside the road and allowed us to drive right under him. He is dark brown with white breast and belly flecked with brown spots. He also has a crest. This powerful eagle is able to take small antelope as well as smaller mammals, lizards etc. It is listed as uncommon, but we saw 3 times on the trip.


Martial Eagle
Here is a close up.


Martial Eagle
Lastly was another lucky find for me, the massive 38" Crowned Eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus). He has a dark back, crest, and barred underparts. This was the only bird of this species we saw. Both these last 2 eagles were on the same day in Tembe Elephant Reserve. The guide had been there 100 times and never seen this eagle there previously. This eagle preys on small monkeys and antelope as well as reptiles. If you look closely, you can see on the branch, the back half of a monitor lizard that he is consuming.


Crowned Eagle

The Scrub Hare (Lepus saxatilis) is a large rabbit and one of 6 species in southern Africa. It has very long ears.


Scrub Hare
I also photographed 2 squirrel species. The Natal Red Bush Squirrel (Paraxerus palliatus) is a typical squirrel with bushy tail. It is gray on the top and reddish below.


Natal Red Bush Squirrel
The other is Smith's Bush Squirrel (Paraxerus cepapi). It is yellowish in color.


Smith's Bush Squirrel

I have put the different bird/mammal families in single folders for easy viewing

I have photos of 60 of the 254 
species of hawks and eagles

I have photos of 3 of the 62 species of rabbits and hares

I have photos of 15 of the 282 species of squirrels

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald
dkmmdpa@gmail.com

photos copyright 2006 - 2018 David McDonald

To have these trip reports sent to your email, please email me at the above address and ask to subscribe.