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.

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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
Categories
Birding

Sacred Ibises Collecting Nest Material at Rondevlei

It is nearly spring and all the birds at Rondevlei are building nests. It has always amazed me the amount of building material
an ibis will carry in its beak to the nesting site. These pictures give you a typical but brief day
in the life of a nest building ibis.

First off, they seem to do quite a bit of hanging about with the mob on any warm sandbar

But then some or other time the impulse to build gets going.

Here is an ibis coming in to land. Not very gainly, but they seem to survive which is all that really matters.

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This is a dense reed patch and they pull it apart to get building material.

Hey! Don’t stand on me. The terrapin at the feet of this ibis never moved an inch in the time I was there,
so I guess he wasn’t really concerned about being stood on.

This guy got himself all tied up in knots.

And, off they go, carrying the bits and pieces to a reed bed in the middle of the vlei.

Categories
Birding

Red Eyed Dove in the Yellow Wood

A Red Eyed Dove and a fledgling came to visit

 

Categories
Birding Cape Town Photography Sea Travel Western Cape

Birding on the Symphonia

We went on a cruise with 2000 other birders looking for pelagic birds.

We got some really great shots and had a really good time. We left Cape Town in the late afternoon

Lions head and Table Mountain

The sunset was marvelous

Then next day, the birds

And then back again.

There is a video here

 

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Categories
Birding Cape Town

Birding Trip Down the Cape Peninsula

We were approached to test an app for logging birds during a competition. The organisers needed people to log birds from all over the country in an arbitrary manner. We volunteered.

My wife Amanda and I live in Cape Town on the slopes of Table Mountain.

Table mountain is the  base of a triangle of land, a peninsula and being really original, we call it “The Peninsula” but we may on occasions refer to parts of it as the “South Peninsula”.

The first European name of “The Peninsula” was the “Cape of Storms” so named by a very wind blown Portuguese explorer who was blown past the tip of Africa and had to beat his way back to find land again. This picture of a yacht under a single genoa sail and trailing a sea anchor will give you and idea of the power of our local wind.

Winds can gust up to 70 km/h which is when  the harbour is closed, people get blown off their feet and buses get blown over. Cape Town is beautiful, but you do not really want to go out in one of our serious gales. You can see pictures of a serious winter storm here. We did, and survived. We reserved tent in the Smitswinkel Tented camp for Saturday evening and set out at 12 on Saturday morning to our first stop, Milnerton Lagoon. The mountain on the right is Devils Peak

It doesn’t look windy but at that stage it was blowing at about 30 km/h. The white spots you can see in the water are Greater Flamingos. In the following picture, Pied Avocecs work the mad flats.

Having scored about twenty bird species we moved on to Intaka Island and still in sight of  a bit ofTable Mountain and Devils Peak through the construction site. The cloud you can see is the Table Cloth and only arrives when the wind is really moving.

Intaka island is a water reclamation site for Century City. It really is a special place surrounded by the city and is open to the public. You can take a ferry from the big shopping centre and cruise at your leisure around the whole area. Read more about Intaka here. We scored the cute picture of the day here too.

Red Knobbed Coot chicks just starting to fledge.

Bath time, weavers in partial mating plumage. We moved onto Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens where we “knew” there were baby owls to be seen. No such luck they had moved on. But the scenery and the flowers made up for it.

The top picture is a Mountain Dahlia and the bottom one is an unusual picture of a King Protea. Normally they are shown fully open. This one is partially open which, I think makes a nice difference. Kirstenbosch is in the Fynbos Biome which has the most species of plants (9000 ) in any biome but it is also the smallest biome in area. See more on Kirstenbosch here.

We moved on towards Smitswinkel bay and we both assumed we knew where the tented camp was. Down by the sea, at Smitswinkel bay.

You can see the settlement with the end of the peninsula, Cape Point, in the distance. The only access is down a gravel path so we loaded our bag with sleeping bags, dinner and a bottle of bubbly and set off down.

Only to find that the tented camp was back up the slope and 2 km further. Please note that the bay is a jealously guarded piece of property and visitors are not really welcome. So we climbed back up, drove the 2 km and found the tented camp.

Nestled in a grove of wind blasted flowering gums, it is one of the overnight stations for the four day Hoerikwagga Hiking Trail which traverses the Table Mountain chain.

The accommodation is basic, but comfortable. Problem is that when the wind is blowing the tent thunders quite dramatically.

By this stage we had gotten 44 birds and were seriously considering going straight home, but the Cape Point Nature reserve was right next door, so next morning we headed that way.

Looking back toward Cape Town, the sea blown flat by the howling wind. The wind was really strong, we watched with some amusement as a Cape Longclaw flew up, was blown backwards, gave up and took to walking.

Everlastings. The hillside was covered in them.

A Black Headed Heron caught and lost a snake, then stood staring into the bush the snake had vanished into for a long while before giving up and moving on.

This is a screen shot of the BirdLasser App we use for tracking our sightings. A great app, limited to South Africa.

In all we got 62 birds, which considering the wind was not a bad score

Categories
flower Hiking Western Cape

Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve

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Terrapin in the Sun

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Fiscal Fly catcher and babies

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Tortoise

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Tortoise

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Flower in terrible dry conditionsimg_4149

Rooikat Trail, Vrolijkheid Reserve

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Family Outing

 

Categories
Birding Travel

Bird Tree – Groot Brak

We went to Groot Brak River to attend a bird identification course. Before leaving we wandered around town and found this amazing tree. The tree is a huge Norfolk Pine just near to the river. In day light it appears as if it is dying. All the top leaves are stripped off.

However at night, the tree is alive with birds. The following pictures were taken in the early evening.

From a distance it doesn’t look like much. However, the closer you get, the more amazing it becomes. I estimated 100 birds. I was wrong. I will leave you to count.

There are at least 11 occupied nests in the tree. The following sequence is of a heron approaching its nest.