Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Limpopo Jan - Feb 2016
juv and adult male Amurs
Phil and Hugh Hanmer, Andy and Susan Jones and Eugene Hood

We started this trip off by heading south east from Johannesbug to the town of Newcastle in KZN where the largest known roost of the migrant Amur Falcon occurs. This small raptor arrives in late December having flown all the way from the Russian - Chinese border, some 16000km. And here in this small town they congregate every night in the tens of thousands.
We got to the site and with the coordinator Rina, set a couple of nets and despite 2 hours lost to rain, we managed to catch 16 birds over the two nights including a Red-footed Falcon!

In the garden of the accommodation, the next morning we got some cool stuff in the nets. Forest and Cape Canary, Olive Thrush, Dusky Flycatcher and Greater Double-collared Sunbird.

Next stop was the Lowveld and the Greater Kruger area. Here was a marked contrast to the habitat we had just come from. Netting in the grounds of the lodge in thorn scrub was spectacular, and the most exciting was catching not one but 6 Olive-tree Warblers! These are the first I have caught in SA. Other Palearctic migrants included Marsh and Willow Warblers. 
Hugh and the first Steppe Buzzard
Moulting Olive-tree Warbler
Stierling's Barred Warbler 900!
Leaving here we dropped for an adult Tawny Eagle which was still at its roost. The bird came in straight away and we had our first Eagle, and what a gorgeous bird! 2.6kg of fury! This is a very difficult bird to find usually, as numbers are in decline due to poisoned baits set for Jackal as well as direct persecution.

Susan and her huge Tawny!
Green Twinspot a forest jewel!

Up in the Afro-montane forests of Magoebaskloof we set nets in the first and were soon extracting some beautiful birds. Green Twinspot, White-starred Robin, and a very interesting reaction from a pair of Narina Trogons, when I put the stuffed eagle owl next to the net, how we never caught them is a miracle!

Heading further north, we caught a Steppe and Jackal Buzzard before leaving the mountains, getting down onto the hot savannah again. Here we picked up another Steppe Buzzard and our first adult Black-chested Snake Eagle as well as Rock Kestrel, Pale and Dark Chanting Goshawks.
Eugene and Susan with 2 Steppes

The next two days we carried on and got several more Chanting Goshawks, and in the camp one night managed to get 2 Pearl-spotted Owlets. Also here we did well for Purple and Lilac-breasted Rollers of which we got 4 of each in total.

adult male Lanner
Had a bad spate of birds getting off traps at one point, loosing a Brown and a Black-chested Snake Eagle as well as an African Hawk Eagle, but made up for it with a cracking adult male Lanner Falcon later on!

Our last camp was right on the Limpopo River and on the way we got a 2nd year African Hawk Eagle and another couple of Chanting Goshawks. Setting nets in the afternoon, we caught two retraps, a Marsh Warbler from exactly one year ago as well as a Woodland Kingfisher from the same session, and another Woodland Kingfisher from 3 years ago! We also got a pair of Meve’s Starlings and Blacksmith Plover.
Af Scops Owl
Woodland Kingfisher

During the night we managed to get an African Scops Owl.

On the way back to Johannesburg, we got another adult Black-chested Snake Eagle when we drove through the spectacular Waterberg region, a National Biosphere reserve.

Our last day was sadly compromised by rain and cold weather as we had arrived at Vulpro a facility which traps large numbers of the Cape Vulture for wing tagging and releasing. Sadly the birds had just not come out of roost on this cold and wet morning.

In the end managed to ring 38 raptors of 15 species in all, a record 16 Amurs and the Tawny a real bonus!

Gtr Double-collared Sunbird

lovely eagle

Phil with his ad BC Snake Eagle
a fierce looking Shikra

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