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This week I have been (unfortunately) out of the bush, so have put together another installment of some of the bird shots I have taken over the past six weeks. People often ask when is the ‘best time’ to come to the bush, and if you have any interest in birds, that time is definitely now! Many of the migrants, like the cuckoos and the raptors, have returned, but we are still eagerly awaiting some later arrivals such as the bee-eaters, kingfishers, and European rollers. Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
A juvenile Black Stork rests at Nanga Pan, on Marthly. Now that summer is upon us, we're seeing a much wider variety of the storks especially.
I was quite excited to get another shot of a Malachite kingfisher recently. These little birds can take you by surprise: usually they are seen close to water; naturally, as they are aquatic feeders. On two occasions recently however they appeared in random locations during our game drives, including at the active hyena den which is nowhere near water!
One of the migrants to recently return... the Violet-backed, or Plum-coloured, starling. It is difficult to give justice to the brilliant iridescent plumage of the male of this species, particularly as they prefer being in thick cover, and you have to be very patient with them to come out once you've spotted them. Here, one did perch in the sun momentarily, and you can see a bit of the deep purple colour... but watch this space as I am determined to get a nice photograph of this stunning bird!
A Pied wagtail sits atop some elephant dung in the Sand River at Taylor's Crossing. Wagtails will give any hesitant birder confidence in bird identification, their exaggerated tail movement is impossible to miss!
A Southern pale chanting goshawk looks for prey, its feathers being ruffled by the wind. Even though this is not a rare bird, it is not common to see one in our area, so we were quite happy to come across this one on Marthly. It was searching for lizards in one of the rocky outcrops.
A Yellow-billed stork searches for food at Taylor's Dam: fish, frogs, or crabs perhaps. They walk through the water stirring up prey and 'blindly' grasping with their bills until they catch something. This method seems to work very well especially in shallow waters like this. He caught a small fish shortly afterwards!
Some Helmeted guineafowl peck at the ground in the afternoon sunlight.
The Red-chested cuckoo is a migrant, one of the first to return to Southern Africa in the summer. Usually another 'heard but not seen' bird
This juvenile fish eagle has been frequently seen close to camp, most likely the offspring of the pair that gives guests wonderful shows during breakfast and lunch on the deck.
One of my favourite birds is the Black-collared barbet, a bird heard far more often than seen out in the open like this. They are usually in pairs and have an incredible 'duet' call which is always so flawless that you won't believe it's two birds synchronizing unless you actually see them doing it.
A Reed cormorant tries to dry off by perching on a high branch above the Sand River.
A while back I posted a photo of a large brood of Egyptian geese: 9 chicks in total. They are getting much bigger as you can see, although unfortunately their numbers seem to have decreased.
These beautiful little birds - Blue waxbills - are often seen around camp but rarely sit still to pose for a photo.
A chick of one of the Crowned plover pairs who claim territory in the open areas around our airstrip. For the following few days, we drove by the nest area to see it again, but could only see the parents. We assumed the chick had lived only a short life, as we had also seen a snake nearby, and know that lots of other predators would be out for this little one. However, about a week later we saw the chick again - a testament to how well concealed they can be when they want to! Also, when looking for it, we may have fallen into the trap of following the parents - a 'distraction' mechanism they use to lure potential predators away from the chicks.
An unlikely pair? Not really, believe it or not! This brave little Fork-tailed drongo is taking advantage of the elephant inadvertently flushing insects from the vegetation while he feeds. You will often see these birds amongst groups of herbivores, especially larger ones like elephant and rhino... either that or pecking at the heads of large birds of prey that they don't want in 'their' area! There is no shortage of confidence in the Fork-tailed drongo!
I know they're not birds, but I wanted to include a pic of another one of the 'smaller things' around the bush lately. The dung beetles have been out in swarms and make for very exciting sightings! Generally you will see a dung ball being rolled by the male, with the female clinging to the side, like above... but being able to secure a dung ball and a female was no easy feat. The hot spots for dung beetles are usually 'middens' (frequently used dung piles) of territorial mammals such as rhino, where there are sometimes hundreds of beetles fighting to create a ball. This male was constantly fighting off others try to 'steal' his ball, and had to push it at high speed through rough terrain to try and get away from the chaos of the midden. He will eventually bury the ball, and the female will most likely lay her eggs inside so that when they hatch out, they can feed on the dung ensconcing them.