Categories
Birding

Vagrant

We went to Bontebok National park on Sunday. On the way down to swim in the Breede River we noticed a bird we didn’t recognise. Out came the birding books and the camera as this tiny, sparrow looking bird dodged in and out of the road margins.

The only bird that matched the description, had one small issue. It was completely out of range. The southern most border of its range was north of Ceres in the Tankwa Karoo. Diagnostic feature? Solid black under wings.

An SUV thundered past and the bird took flight.

Black under wings A communal “Oh!”

We get home and consult the experts and they agree that what we saw was a vagrant Black Eared Sparrow Lark.

Pardon the awful picture but seeing as how the picture is now on the Rare Birds webpage with my name attached it cannot be all that bad.

Categories
Birding Photography

Nest making

A double collared sunbird female collecting cotton scraps from stakes we used to support plants.

Double collared sunbird collection cotton for nesting
Double collared sunbird collection cotton for nesting
The male looks on
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Birding Photography

Random photographs

Some photographs from our trip to Riviersonderend

Categories
Birding National Park Photography

Random Photos

We went to the Bontebok National and got some great pictures.

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Birding Photography Riviersonderend

Garden Birds

Seen in our garden in Riviersonderend

Cape White Eye

Cape Sparrow on the grape vine

Red Bishop

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Birding

Cleaning Penguins

On 23 June 20 years ago the ship MV Treasure sank off Cape Town spilling tons of bunker oil into the sea. The penguins of Dassen and Robben Islands were badly oiled. Various environmental organisations led by Cape Nature organised the rescue and cleaning of the oiled penguins. I heard an appeal for volunteers. So after work at 4 I volunteered.

I was met by an enormous man called Big Mike and I was handed a waterproof suit and told to carry boxes of penguins from the fleet of army trucks that rolled in in a steady stream.

Now penguins have sharp beaks and they were sorely unhappy so they would peck at any unguarded human flesh the could reach as I learnt when carrying soggy, disintegrating cardboard boxes the evening before. Vicious beaks would appear out of breathing holes at every opportunity. Amazingly I did not get pecked, but it was seriously close a number of times.

At about 10 the stream of trucks stopped. At about the same time a local pizza chain provided free pizzas. After what passed for dinner, I was told to help build pens out of porta pools donated by a local pool company. At 12 I nodded to Big Mike and headed off home.

Next evening after work I went back and spend the first part of the evening cleaned penguin excrement out of the porta pools. Then I got the job of building runways to guide penguins to a specially constructed and filled pool. That done we dismantled empty penguin pools, washed them thoroughly and rebuilt them.

I watched them feeding penguins. The penguins were getting sardines packed with antibiotics. The feeders for the most part had bandages on their hands where they had been pecked except for one woman who was completely unscathed and faster than anyone else. Someone would pass her a penguin and she, sitting on an upturned bucket would clasp the furious creature between her knees and wave an enticing hand over the penguins head. The penguin would lunge at the hand, she would catch the penguin in mid peck, jam its beak open, drop a sardine into its throat and clamp the beak closed before the bird had any idea of what had happened. She was absolute magic to watch.

At some stage, I snarled at someone, “I hate penguins!”
“Why are you here then?” obvious question.
“So my grandchildren can hate them too.”

At midnight I went home, showered, slept and reported for work the next morning. That evening I went back but the line of volunteers was long. I was relieved that someone else would be there as I was tired.

It was one of those pinnacle experiences that you remember forever.

Last week I got an email from Cape Nature advertising the opening of their hiking trails and it had this paragraph:

“This month marked on the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s worst environmental disaster. On the 23rd June 2000, the bulk ore carrier, MV Treasure was battling tempestuous seas in a storm off the coast of the Western Cape when the vessel foundered and sank, causing 1,300 tons of oil to seep into the ocean. This put the two large colonies of African penguins on the nearby Robben and Dassen islands in grave danger. What happened next has been called the largest animal rescue ever attempted.”

So, it turns out that not only did I have the rare and privileged experience of rescuing penguins but purely by accident I was part of a world record. 😊

See the Cape Nature page on this rescue effort.

Categories
Birding Photography

Gymnogene

Or African Harrier Hawk. We occasionally see this magnificent raptor in the Cape Town CBD. This time a neighbour spotted the bird and called us. It was sheltering from a Cape winter storm in a palm tree. I managed to get some pictures. The problem was that it was quite dark and rainy. Also the neighbour had fire burning and the smoke drifted across our line of sight. The troubles of birding photography.

Categories
Birding Photography

Processing RAW Photographs

They say you should should only photograph using RAW images but I have not put any effort into learning the processing packages. A recent picture of a Juvenile Fiscal Flycatcher had bad contrast and lighting, It was ideal for post-processing using DarkTable. The result was pleasantly surprising. Here are the results of my initial efforts. Probably with more practice the results will be better, but I am quite pleased with what I achieved.

Badly lit juvenile Fiscal Flycatcher

This is the original pictures. Note how little detail is visible on the back of the bird and how the colours are muted.

Processed Fiscal Flycatcher

Here is the same picture after processing. The difference is quite marked.

Categories
Birding

Klaas’ Cuckoo

Great excitement in the household when we spotted a Klaas’ Cuckoo in Gardens, Cape Town. We had heard vague whispers of its call, but not enough to be sure. Then one morning during lock down, it came to cheer us up. Isn’t she a beaut?

Categories
Birding flower Photography

Birds on the Tecoma Capensis in Riviersonderend

Sunbirds are incredible fliers and they love the honey suckle in our garden.

Femail Malachite Sunbird
Hovering
And landed.
Cape Turtle Dove. I cannot resist photographing them, they are just so beautiful