Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Limpopo Forest to River trip April 6th to 19th

Steve and Gloria Wilson

The first bird! LCE
With the Amur Falcons well on their way to their breeding ground, we were going to remain in the northern province of Limpopo which meant more time in the forests and also a visit into the Kruger National Park at Pafuri, a place I had never been to before.

We set off to the misty highland forests of the escarpment, only to run into a big rain front! We did as best we could in the first, but too much water and rain made it impossible to do anything.
However, we did manage to catch Steve's first ever Eagle in the form of a lovely Long-crested Eagle, an adult female.

We set off North to to the extreme north east of the country and a bush camp on the Luvuvhu River. The next day at dawn we entered the Kruger and made our way further east. On the way we stopped to watch a bird party and then I spotted a bird I had always wanted to see, Arnott's Chat!! a small family party of them! We also got Brown-headed Parrot too. Later on we found a herd of Elephants, and later Buffalo. Somewhere near Punda Maria camp, we stopped at a waterhole and there right in front of us laying in the shade of a tree was a huge female Lioness!
One of the most memorable places was Crooks Corner, the apex of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, here there was nice open grassland and riverine woodland. Saw a juvenile Martial Eagle, shame we couldn't trap here!!

Round camp we got a few nets up and caught Collared Sunbird, Southern Boubou, Terrestrial Brownbul, White-browed Robin-chat and had fly over Grey-headed Parrots! A good place for watching raptors here, we had Verreaux's, and Martial Eagle, Wahlberg's and Booted Eagles, African Hawk and Black-chested and Brown Snake Eagles, Tawny Eagle, Honey Buzzard African Goshawk, Harrier Hawk, Shikra, Cuckoo Hawk, Fish Eagle and Bateleur from camp!

We spent another 2 days after the Kruger up in the Soutpansberg mountains and again unfortunately got rained off. When there was a break, took a drive and going through a bit of plantation, suddenly came across an adult male Crowned Eagle!! I managed to get a trap down and back off, I couldn't go very far, as I had to keep my eye in things. The bird reacted and came in over the trap to land in a tree above the road!! My heart was in my mouth as I have never caught one of these magnificent eagles before. We could see the bird, looking intently at the trap, it mannered itself to make a launch, when a vehicle came round the corner, birdwatchers!!!, The eagle flew and that was that. How very frustrating!
adult male Green-winged Pytilia

Up into Mpangubwe National park next and at our private bush lodge, set a few nets. We got a nice selection of birds, Golden and Cinnamon Breasted Buntings, White-bellied Sunbirds, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape-glossy Starling, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Red-winged Starling and a Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill.
view from the ringing base!
Road trapping we got a 2nd yr male Dark-chanting Goshawk and a 3rd yr Brown Snake-eagle.

Moving west to our next area, we got Pale-chanting Goshawk and a Lanner Falcon, another juvenile male in the same spot as previous trips this year, hanging out picking off the Red-billed Quelea which must still be breeding here.

Meve's Starling
Next bush lodge, we set nets and had a very pleasant couple of sessions. To start with, we caught 5 species of Kingfisher, including another Giant Kingfisher!!! Two Woodland, Brown-hooded, Malachite and Pygmy Kingfishers. I also put up the stuffed eagle owl to get a response and was not disappointed! At one point there were 6 hornbills in the nets! Getting Red-billed and Grey, as well as Red-headed Weavers, Orange-breasted Bush-shrike, Meve's Starlings, Arrow-marked Babblers and White-throated Robin-chat! Other nets produced Greater and Lesser Honeyguides, Kurrichane Thrush and a flock of White-crowned Helmet-shrikes.
WT Robin-chat

Had to evict a Nile Monitor from Steve and Glorias room at one, point, lucky it was only a small one, but did give a good account of itself!

Heading back south, we got a pretty special bit of action, when I spotted a pair of Brown Snake-eagles on a pylon. I got a trap down and it wasn't long before the male came in and on to the trap.
While the bird was working the trap, the female decided to join its mate and then they were both on the trap! Next thing i was wrestling with a pair of very large eagles! Wow! Have only ever caught two BSE's on one trap before and a great way to finish a very pleasant trip!

The double! Brown Snake-eagles
91 birds of 48 species.

ad m Grey Hornbill

Woodland Kingfisher

The unwanted lodger!

Limpopo to KZN trip March 18th to 31st 2017

Alice Tribe, Colin Wilson, Rachel Kilby, Ray Marsh, Diane WIlliams and Peter Robinson.
Colin with a cracking ad GK

Alice with a cracking adult male LK
Starting the trip in a clockwise fashion this time, we set off north to the Limpopo Valley. Road-trapping produced Lesser and Greater Kestrels, Black-shouldered Kite and Pale-chanting Goshawks. Saw a pair of Secretarybirds which is always encouraging.

At our bush lodge on the Limpopo, the highlights were undoubtedly getting a Giant Kingfisher in a 40 foot net, in a spot where the last bird you wold thing would be a Giant Kingfisher! Then at night we dazzled Firey-necked Nightjar and called in two juvenile African Scops Owls, a good birthday present for Alice!
Road-trapping produced 2 Brown Snake-eagles a Black-chested Snake-eagle and a Lesser-grey Shrike.

Next bush lodge was in the Vhembe-Dongola region, one of many nature conservancies and Mopane tree habitat, good for raptors! We did ok on the latter, getting another Brown Snake-eagle, a second year bird, followed by an adult female Dark-chanting Goshawk and two African Hawk Eagles. The first one a spectacular catch from some 6-700m away. Two birds were sat up high on a ridge, we dropped and waited all of 2 minutes before they both came in, the female continuing and the male landing on the trap!
Rachel with an ad m AHE

Ray with an adult BCSE
Next morning on the way south now, we got another Black-chested Snake-eagle first thing, an adult and tried for a Tawny Eagle, a big juvenile bird, which came in but lost interest, trap shy.
Got another Dark-chanting Goshawk, a 2nd yr female, then two Brown Snake-eagles in quick succession! One a 1st year and an adult.
Next up we came across a Steppe Buzzard and dropped, only to realise there was a Black-chested Snake-eagle on the next pole! dropped a second trap and waited. The BCSE was not interested in his trap, but when the SB dropped to the first trap, it was too much! the BCSE flew to the first trap and we got it! It must be competition, not having another lesser predator take food in your area. The BCSE was the biggest Ive ever caught at 2.1kg's. This was followed up by getting a 1st yr Steppe Buzzard a bit later, not the same one!
Swee Waxbill

Into the misty mountains next, and here we had a few tremendous mist-netting sessions, setting nets in low scrub. We got some lovely birds. Yellow Bishops in breeding plumage, endemic Barratt's Warblers, Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, Swee Waxbills, Drakensberg Prinias, Olive Thrush, Cape Robin-chat's, Golden Weavers and African Stonechat to name a few.
Road-trapping here we got a lovely adult female Long-crested Eagle and a lovely adult Jackal Buzzard,both birds specific to this region and habitat.

OT Warbler
We dropped down into the Lowveld next, to the site next to the Kruger, so we heard the Lions at night! Netting here was slower, but got Willow Warblers and Red-backed Shrikes and the speciality former, Olive-tree Warbler, very few of these are ringed in SA and I have found a good little spot for them here, they were looking very smart now having finished moulting.

Heading back onto the Highveld grassland biome, we stopped at the escarpment to scan the cliffs for the very rare and threatened Taita Falcon. It took a few minutes, but were rewarded with a bird sitting high up above us, an adult, which took off in pursuit of some unfortunate hirundine, but what a stoop!

On the way we got another Jackal Buzzard, a 2nd year male and another adult female Long-crested Eagle. At the Farmhouse where we stay, we set the usual nets above the forest in the gorge and headed down to Newcastle to Rina Pretorius who runs the show, to ring at the Amur Falcon roost. The roost was much reduced already, with birds heading north through Africa to eventually arrive on their breeding grounds in eastern Siberia!

We got 8 Amur Falcons over the 2 nights and 5 on the last night with only a few hundred birds present where there can be nearly 40,000 birds!

Netting round the farm we got Chorister Robin-chat, Olive Thrush, Cape Batis. Road-trapping we got our 3rd Jackal Buzzard, an adult male and a retrap which had been ringed by Rina 10 years ago!!

So all in we did ok, with 187 birds caught of 67 species!

Purple Roller
LCE ad F
Colin with a Brown Snake-eagle
adult male Amur Falcon

the 10 year old retrap JB!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Limpopo trip 19th February to 4th of March 2017

Limpopo to KZN Raptor trip

Nigel and Courtney Shaw, Charlotte England, Jim and Lynda Mackiewicz and Garth Baker.

This trip was primarily a raptor trapping one, and as such we had a good and keen team of raptorphiles! It was Nigel's 3rd and Charlottes 4th trip out to SA.

We set off North this time, rain in the air, but mostly overcast, good trapping weather.

Charlotte with her Euro Roller
Courtney with a Brown Snake -eagle
On our way up to the main area we explore the Springbok Flats, a vast area, one covered in Springbok, Cheetah and many other long gone wildlife. We did get our first raptors, a Steppe Buzzard and not long after our first eagle, an adult Black-chested Snake-eagle followed by a 2nd year Brown Snake-eagle. Also here a Pale-chanting Goshawk and Black-shouldered Kite. Dropped traps for a few more BCSE's but no luck. We did get a European Roller and that night we got a Pearl-spotted Owlet.

Nigel with the first of 6 Wahlberg's Eagles
1st of 5 Lanners
Nearer the Limpopo river, we caught one of the target birds, a Barn Owl! This was a new one for Nigel Shaw and the next day our luck continued by catching 2 Wahlberg's Eagles, also a first for Nigel Shaw, not often he gets a raptor tick! Also Charlottes long awaited Lanner! an adult male.
Other birds caught were a juv female Gabar Goshawk, another tick for Charlotte! 

Heading north east, we carried on catching, and between two sites, we managed to catch 12 raptors! 3 Dark-chanting and 2 Pale-chanting Goshawks, another Black-chested SE, Gabar Goshawk, Shikra, and a pair of African Hawk Eagles, one of which had already been ringed previously by my friend John Robson in December 2002, some 15 years ago! 
juv Gabar Goshawk
Jim left with the female and Nigel with the retrap male
Around noon, we spotted an adult Martial Eagle! This was No1 target for Nigel, and we got a trap down and it was on! With baited breath we waited for the huge bird to get caught, when suddenly a vehicle came in the opposite direction and flushed the bird before it was caught!!!

Red-crested Korhaan
Next morning we went into Mpangubwe National Park and got our 2nd Lanner, a 2nd year male, which Courtney ringed. Further on I suddenly spotted a Leopard sitting in among the rocks, not 100m away! We watched it get up and walk off, way cool! Just after this we got a juv male African Hawk Eagle and then back for breakfast!
Jim and Garth with a pair of DCG's

Spotted Thick-knee
Netting round the pool produced a flock of White-crowned Helmet-shrikes and a Levaillant's Cuckoo #100 for Charlottes SA list! In the afternoon we got a Brown Snake Eagle and another Eropean Roller. After supper, we went out dazzling and got 2 Spotted Thick-knees, a Sabota Lark and a tick for me, Red-crested Korhaan!!! 
juv female Tawny Eagle

Heading south now, we arrived at our next bush camp and game reserve to find a massive breeding colony of Red-billed Quelea! This was ideal, as in attendance were several Lesser-spotted and Steppe Eagles. We drove in and managed to drop for a Lesser Spot, it cam in, but it was too wary. Further on, we came across a huge juvenile Tawny Eagle, this was Charlottes No1 target bird, we got a trap down and after some 30 minutes, it came in and we got it!! 2.7kg's!! what a lovely bird.

Lynda with a juv f AH Eagle
Later that afternoon, we got 2 Lanners a juv male and female, then at dusk, got a juv female African Hawk Eagle!! We set the owl nets and were not disappointed. In no time we caught another 2 Barn Owls, a Southern White-faced Scops Owl and a Pearl-spotted Owlet!! Going for a night drive, we went into the quelea colony to see how incredibly packed it was, thousands, and thousands of birds, all roosting side by site, breaking branches with their weight.

Bewildered SWF Scops Owl
Heading on again from here, we got another Steppe Buzzard, juv m Lanner, an adult Wahlberg's Eagle and a 3rd year Black-chested Snake-eagle. Then we got into the mountains to drop down the escarpment, but the roads were so bad, we couldn't go for the raptors in the mountains we had intended too, such as Long-crested Eagle and Jackal Buzzard.
Lizard Buzzard

Dropping down into the Lowveld we got a Juv and Adult Lizard Buzzard, ticks for NS and CE. We then continued with our big cat luck by coming across a Cheetah that had killed an adult and calf Impala! We watched this amazing sight and her nervously watching for any other predators which may have robbed her of her kills.

a dark Wahlberg's Eagle
At the next bush lodge, adjacent to the Kruger, we  set nets and got a few birds, but were seriously bothered by 000's of quelea filling up nets, so we abandoned this, but not before getting Olive-tree Warbler and another Levaillant's Cuckoo. Road trapping here produced 2 more Wahlberg's Eagles.
2nd year Jackal Buzzard

Lynda with a very grumpy Spotted Eagle Owl!
Back up onto the Highveld now, and south, some 500km to the Amur Falcon roost. Here we got 7 over both nights, of these lovely little migrants which have flown a round trip of 32,000 km excluding what they would have flown on their breeding and wintering grounds! One night, heading back to the farm house, we managed to catch a Spotted Eagle Owl, which Lynda ringed. 

Total Raptors caught; 68 of 20 species. A record species haul for one trip!

mr & mrs Barn Owl
Males and female Amur Falcons

Graeme Dunlop, Brett Fried, Erika Hentsch, Lisa Myslicki, Barbara Charlton and Pricilla Lai.

The first big expedition of the year with an majority Canadian team and Graeme from the UK.
Red-footed Falcon, 2nd yr female

Heading south to the Amur Falcon roost in Newcastle, we got a Steppe Buzzard out of 4 dropped for.
The roost as always did not disappoint, Rina Pretorius has been ringing Amur Falcons here for some 15 years and as such it is the largest roost in the southern hemisphere.
We got a total of 10 Amur's including a bonus Red-footed Falcon! The latter a rare occurrence in the roost.

Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler
We were based high up at a farm house on the KZN Freestate border where the Ncandu Forest lays in an interesting proximity to the greatly diverse and threatened highveld grassland biome. In the garden we got to catch a few very nice species including the endemic Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler and Forest Canary, Southern and Greater Double-collared Sunbirds, along with Ground-scraper Thrush and Golden-breasted Bunting, Cape White-eyes and a Common Fiscal.

moulting and scruffy Olive-tree warbler
Road-trapping in the region produced 2 Steppe Buzzards and a re-trap Jackal Buzzard which had been ringed in the same spot last February. What was really cool about the catch was that it started out as a dot up in the sky, then it locked up and in seconds was on the trap, what we call a sky catch!

Heading north to the Lowveld, we got a second Jackal Buzzard, a 3rd year bird as well as Juvenile Lizard Buzzard. The Lowveld was as always great. we were at a bush lodge right next to the Kruger, so we heard lions roaring each night!

Barratt's Warbler
Ringing in the garden was good, with some nice Palearctic migrants in the form of Olive-tree Warblers, Red-backed Shrikes and a bonus birds were a black morph Jacobin Cuckoo and 2 Magpie Mannikins, very out of range for them here. Road trapping produced a couple of Rock Kestrels.
Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Next we climbed up into the mountains and into the mist-belt first escarpment. Set up a few nets and were soon producing some very cool birds. Endemics consisted of Barratt's Warbler, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Forest Canary, Southern Double-collared Sunbird and Drakensberg Prinia. Also Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Golden Weaver and African Stonechat.

Next we continued north and en route, managed to catch and adult and juvenile Lanner Falcon! This was thanks to the masses of Red-billed Quelea breeding in the area, where the Lanners were picking them off, using a quelea as a lure worked like a charm, in fact we had to wait whilst the juv Lanner bolted a quelea it had just caught, before nailing out trap!

We lost a couple of days to rain, but then headed north up into the Limpopo Valley and on the way, got a total of 10 raptors! another Lanner, 2 Steppe Buzzards, 4 Pale-chanting Goshawks, an African Hawk Eagle, a Black-chested Snake Eagle and Greater Kestrel, as well as a retrap Pale-chanting Goshawk and a Purple Roller coming into base!

At base, we set a few nets round the pool and got a few Cinnamon Breasted Buntings, Familiar Chat, White-bellied Sunbird and Long-billed Crombec but the wind got up so we went road trapping. Got a second African Hawk Eagle, a big adult female at 1.7kg's and a Juvenile Shikra.
Night time dazzling got us European, Rufous-cheeked and Fiery-necked Nightjars but with a rising moon, struggled to get Bronze-winged Courser and Spotted Thick-knee.

Graeme with a juvenile Af Hawk Eagle
The next leg of our trip took us south west and en route got 2 Brown Snake Eagles, an adult male at 1.9kg's and another adult a bit later at 2.1kg's.

At next camp on the Limpopo River, we set nets and got Woodland Kingfishers including a 4 year old retrap! also caught Red-backed Shrikes, Meve's Starlings, Yellow-bellied Greenbul among others.

Heading south now, we road trapped to the next site getting a juv male African Hawk Eagle, juv female Gabar Goshawk, Lizard Buzzard, 2 Steppe Buzzards and an adult Black-chested Snake Eagle.
We also got an interesting Dark / Pale-chanting Goshawk! I think a hybrid, this is the second individual I have caught like this, showing dark secondaries, but with a white rump, allover quite dark, but large in size.
Our next and final camp we set some owl nets and soon had call back, Pearl-spotted Owlet and Spotted Eagle Owl, but no luck.
Next day we got an adult and juv Black-chested Snake-eagle and getting into farm land now we got an adult female Lesser Kestrel and finally a Black-shouldered Kite.

All up, we caught 49 raptors of 17 species and 127 mist-netted birds of 62 species.