Tuesday, August 23, 2016

December 2015 pre xmas bash to the Limpopo!

RC Nightjars
This was a special trip as my Charlotte was joining myself Matt Prior and Sam Bayley, quite a formidable team!
Water Thick-knee
We started off in the Springbok flats an interface of farmland and scrubby savannah, highlights were 6 Rufous-cheeked Nightjars and one European Nightjar. Also got Matt a Lesser Grey-shrike.  
Next was the Lowveld where we stayed with Friends Rael and Helene at their lovely bush house on the dry Riet river. Everywhere was so dry and not many birds about, but we covered the dam which had a fair bit of wet mud and got a good load of Three-banded Plover, Water Thick-knee, Blacksmith Plovers and a few Malachite Kingfishers.

Malachite Kingfisher
From here we headed into the Magoebaskloof area of Afro-montane forest. En route we got a Shikra and a Long-crested Eagle coming into Magoebaskloof. 
We set as many nets in the forest as possible, and were rewarded with some gems like the endemic Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler and Chorister Robin, then White-starred Robin, Green Twinspot and Cape Batis. The best was one evening just before closing, we got a Wood Owl in one of the nets! It had gone in after a Chorister Robin, and got caught!
Three-banded Plover

On the back tracks here we got our first Steppe Buzzard, 2 Jackal Buzzards and another Long-crested Eagle.

Heading North to the Limpopo Valley, we got a Lesser Kestrel, a pair of Black-shouldered Kites, and 4 adult Black-chested Snake Eagles.

Our site in the Mpangubwe National Park was a very nice one, and we were blessed with a swimming pool in the 40+ degree heat! However it was more important to set nets around it as there were many Barn Swallows coming to drink. Over the 2 days here we got 68 swallow including a BRITISH CONTROL!!!! wow! that was something! at the time of writing, I can say that it was ringed in Ireland in 2014. Not bad at all!
One night we tried for Barn Owl and after putting the call on under the net, a male responded immediately and we had our first Owl! Charlotte was very happy to ring it!!  

Matt and his Lilac-breasted Roller
Raptoring was very productive during the day and we managed to get 3 African Hawk Eagles, including a scene with a male, female and juv all round the trap. We ended up catching the adult male and juv on the trap at the same time!
Charlotte with her Wahlberg's Eagle

One afternoon we set out with Luke, a young and enthusiastic falconer, who lived locally and we managed to get a Black-chested Snake Eagle and another African Hawk Eagle, both adults. 
Spotting a Wahlberg’s Eagle flying overhead, we dropped a trap for the bird and after a single turn, the bird spotted the the trap and down it came, nothing as exciting as watching this happen. called a ‘Sky Catch’ it just goes to prove how these raptors rarely miss anything.
Red-Rumped Swallow 3rd record for SA!
When not finding raptors, we were content to trap Purple and Lilac-breasted Rollers.

Next site further upstream of the Limpopo had just had 70 mm or rain! There were swallows everywhere and a nice acacia thicket full of all sorts warblers and things!

B-C Night Heron
African Snipe
One afternoon whilst catching Barn Swallows, Sam had extracted a swallow and declared it a RED-RUMPED SWALLOW! In disbelief we even got the book out just to make sure, but sure enough, there were the new black under-tail coverts coming through and the neck collar of this juvenile, which is probably the 2nd South African record of this species! The National rarities coordinator was informed and photos sent off.

3 Avocett
Next trip was to the south and a wetland near Johannesburg. Sadly we had to say goodbye to Charlotte who had to return to Canada.

The wetland proved to be quite productive, with many warbler species in the reeds, Great, Lesser Swamp, Sedge, Little-rush and African Reed. 
There was only one spot to get nets up over the water and we got several African Snipe along with 3 Pied Avocet, Red-billed, Hottentot and Cape Teal and a cracking adult Black-crowned Night Heron.  

On the last day we went via the Devon Birding area and found an active colony of South African Cliff Swallows under a bridge and ringed some 30 odd birds including 2 Greater-striped Swallows.

And that was that. 609 birds ringed of a record 
115 species!
Charlotte with an adult BC Snake-eagle

Sam Bayley with a Shikra

Mat Prior with a juv Jackal Buzzard

Matty and I with the BTO control BS
Juv and adult Af Hawk Eagles on one trap!

Re-billed Oxpecker

Long-crested Eagle

Wood Owl

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