My Birding Year 2014

At this time of year the favourite articles in newspapers and elsewhere are those looking back at the past year, covering everything from general news to politics to sport and plenty of others, so unfortunately I am following suit by looking back at my busy birding year – the good news is that, as usual, you are free to skip the boring verbiage and check out the photos, some of which you may even find of interest.

It has been a busy year for Gerda and myself from many points of view – we have never done as much travelling, both locally and internationally, as we have over the last 12 months and at times we’ve felt it was too much and decided not to be quite so ambitious in future, but it certainly made for an interesting year…….

January

The year started, as it has over the past couple of years, in Mossel Bay where we have a second home and I used the opportunity to do some quality atlasing in the Southern Cape on three separate days – 6th, 14th and 24th(“atlasing” is the recording of bird species in an area called a Pentad, defined by coordinates, about 8 x  8 kms in extent, with the data collected going to a database at the University of Cape Town). The rolling hills of the area surrounding the small town of Albertinia, just 50 kms from Mossel Bay, and further south towards Gouritzmond, were my targets over this period, as they have not been atlased very frequently to date.

Grey-headed Gull, Mossel Bay
Grey-headed Gull, Mossel Bay
Gouritz River
Gouritz River
Cape Rock Thrush, Gouritz River
Cape Rock Thrush, Gouritz River
Denham's Bustard, Albertinia
Denham’s Bustard, Albertinia

We did a quick trip to the Western Cape from the 15th to 21st, visiting the family and enjoying some diverse birding in Kommetjie, Worcester, Karoo Desert Botanical Gardens and the Hex River Valley. See my post on “Western Cape Quickie” for the details of this trip.

Kommetjie
Kommetjie
Swift Tern, Kommetjie
Swift Tern, Kommetjie
Karoo Desert Botanical Gardens, Worcester
Karoo Desert Botanical Gardens, Worcester
Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Worcester
Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Worcester
Hex River Valley
Hex River Valley

Shortly after getting back to Mossel Bay we returned home to Pretoria, over-nighting at Kuilfontein Guest farm outside Spingfontein in the Free State, which was a nice opportunity to fit in the minimum 2 hours of atlasing required for a “Full Protocol” card.

Kuilfontein, near Springfontein in the Free State
Kuilfontein, near Springfontein in the Free State

The month was concluded in grand birding style, starting on the 29th, with a trip to Punda Maria in the far north of Kruger National Park, one of the prime birding spots in South Africa, for the annual Birding weekend run by the West Rand Honorary Rangers. We combined this with the “Pel’s Pursuit” also run by the Honorary Rangers – unfortunately it did not  result in us seeing the sought after but elusive Pel’s Fishing Owl. On the way to Punda Maria we stopped at Entabeni forest to see if we could spot the Bat Hawk that frequents the area, but dipped on that one as well.

Entabeni forest
Entabeni forest
Insect and offspring, Entabeni forest
Colourful grasshopper and offspring, Entabeni forest
Punda Maria
Punda Maria
Fish-Eagle and Martial Eagle eye each other
Fish-Eagle and Martial Eagle eye each other
Walk along Luvuvhu River
Walk along Luvuvhu River
White-fronted Bee-Eater, Pafuri
White-fronted Bee-Eater, Pafuri
Limpopo River in flood at Crooks Corner
Limpopo River in flood at Crooks Corner
Green-winged Pytilia, Pafuri
Green-winged Pytilia, Pafuri
Pink-throated Twinspot, Moz border KNP
Pink-throated Twinspot, Moz border KNP
African Elephant, Punda Maria
African Elephant, Punda Maria

February

After all that hectic birding in January, February was a much quieter month, as we got back to our Pretoria routine – a couple of atlasing outings on the 11th and 22nd took me to the area around Delmas and Devon in the south-east of Gauteng, familiar territory where I have done a fair amount of atlasing previously and which always has a surprise or two.

Cape Longclaw, Devon
Cape Longclaw, Devon
Amur Falcon, Devon
Amur Falcon, Devon
Red Bishop, Devon
Red Bishop, Devon
Black-winged Pratincole, Devon
Black-winged Pratincole, Devon

March

More atlasing on the 10th and 21st, this time covering the area north-west of Potchefstroom while visiting son Stephan and family who live there, as well as the Vlaklaagte area north of Bronkhorstspruit

Vlaklaagte early morning
Vlaklaagte early morning

April

Time to travel again and we set off on an extended trip (covered in detail in my earlier posts on “Four Parks and a Wedding”) to the Southern and Eastern Cape – the places we visited and spent a few days in each were :

De Hoop Nature Reserve on the coast south of Swellendam – 10th to 13th

De Hoop NR - Koppie Alleen
De Hoop NR – Koppie Alleen
Cape Robin-Chat, De Hoop NR
Cape Robin-Chat, De Hoop NR
Puff Adder, De Hoop NR
Puff Adder, De Hoop NR
De Hoop NR - where the birds go, there I am, not far behind
De Hoop NR – where the birds go, there I am, not far behind

Camdeboo National Park on the outskirts of Graaff-Reinet – 26th to 28th

Camdeboo - Lakeview tented camp
Camdeboo – Lakeview tented camp
Karoo Scrub-Robin, Camdeboo NP
Karoo Scrub-Robin, Camdeboo NP
Pririt Batis, Camdeboo NP
Pririt Batis, Camdeboo NP
Camdeboo NP - Valley of Desolation
Camdeboo NP – Valley of Desolation

Mountain Zebra National Park near Cradock – 28th to 30th

Mountain Zebra National Park
Mountain Zebra National Park
Mountain Zebra, in the Park created for them
Mountain Zebra, in the Park created for them
Blue Crane, Mountain Zebra NP
Blue Crane, Mountain Zebra NP
Secretarybird, Mountain Zebra NP
Secretarybird, Mountain Zebra NP
White-backed Mousebird, Mountain Zebra NP
White-backed Mousebird, Mountain Zebra NP
Ground Squirrel (Xerus inauris), Mountain Zebra NP
Ground Squirrel (Xerus inauris), Mountain Zebra NP

Addo National Park an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth – 30th to 4th May

Black-backed Jackal, Addo NP
Black-backed Jackal, Addo NP
Pale Chanting-Goshawk, Addo NP
Pale Chanting-Goshawk, Addo NP

In between we visited De Mond Nature Reserve for some estuarine birding and I spent time atlasing the Gouritzmond area including a first visit to Vöelvlei

De Mond NR
De Mond NR
Cormorants and Gulls, De Mond NR
Cormorants and Gulls, De Mond NR

May

While in Addo, I heard about a Bridled Tern at Cape Recife near Port Elizabeth and took an early morning drive on the 3rd to see if I could spot it, but it wasn’t to be seen, although it had been seen the previous day and was seen for a couple of days thereafter – luck of the draw!

Our return trip to Pretoria on the 4th meant another overnight stop opportunity to do some atlasing – this time at Oudekraal Guest farm near Bloemfontein.

Oudekraal guest farm
Oudekraal guest farm
Spike-heeled Lark nestlings, Oudekraal guest farm
Spike-heeled Lark nestlings, Oudekraal guest farm

During the rest of the month I managed to fit in a couple of days of atlasing, firstly on the 16th covering the coal mining belt around Kendal in Mpumulanga, not an attractive area but no shortage of interesting birds, then more of Potchefstroom on the 26th when we paid a short visit to Stephan and family.

Kendal Power Station
Kendal Power Station
Disused mine avenue, Kendal
Disused mine avenue, Kendal
Vlei in the mist, Potchefstroom
Vlei in the mist, Potchefstroom
White-browed Sparrow-Weaver (deformed bill), Potchefstroom
White-browed Sparrow-Weaver (deformed bill), Potchefstroom

Koos and Rianda invited us to visit Verlorenkloof resort during their timeshare week, which we did on the 30th for a couple of days, enjoying some superb mountain and forest birding

June

The 16th saw us travelling to Durban for our timeshare week at La Lucia just north of Durbs – La Lucia and the adjoining Umhlanga Rocks are good for beachfront and garden birding and I also fitted in visits to two special birding spots in Durban itself, Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve and Durban Bayhead Nature Reserve which adjoins and is almost part of Durban harbour, both excellent birding venues.

Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula Krameri), La Lucia
Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula Krameri), La Lucia
Kenneth Stainbank NR
Kenneth Stainbank NR
Collared Sunbird (Hedydipna Collaris), Kennethe Stainbank NR
Collared Sunbird (Hedydipna Collaris), Kennethe Stainbank NR
Brown Commodore (Junonia natalica natalica), Kenneth Stainbank NR
Brown Commodore (Junonia natalica natalica), Kenneth Stainbank NR
La Lucia beach
La Lucia beach
Cape Cormorant (Phalacrocorax Capensis), La Lucia
Cape Cormorant (Phalacrocorax Capensis), La Lucia
Sandwich Tern and White-breasted Cormorant, Durban Bayhead
Sandwich Tern and White-breasted Cormorant, Durban Bayhead
Black-throated Wattle-eye, Durban Bayhead mangroves
Black-throated Wattle-eye, Durban Bayhead mangroves
Durban Bayhead Nature Reserve
Durban Bayhead Nature Reserve
Durban Bayhead - boardwalk into the mangrove swamps
Durban Bayhead – boardwalk into the mangrove swamps

I closed out the month with an atlasing session around Verena which lies north-east of Bronkhorstspruit.

Misty morning, Verena
Misty morning, Verena
Coqui Francolin, Verena
Coqui Francolin, Verena
Black-shouldered Kite, Verena
Black-shouldered Kite, Verena

July

From the 5th to 11th we enjoyed a week at Sanbonani timeshare resort near Hazyview in the Mpumulanga lowveld with Stephan and family – a superb birding venue and 10 minutes away from the Kruger Park, which we visited twice during the week.

Kurrichane Thrush, Sanbonani
Kurrichane Thrush, Sanbonani
Black Cuckooshrike (Female), Sanbonani
Black Cuckooshrike (Female), Sanbonani
Rhino, Kruger NP
Rhino, Kruger NP
Little Bee-eater
Little Bee-eater
Red-billed Oxpecker, Kruger NP
Red-billed Oxpecker, Kruger NP

On the 19th I atlased in the Leandra area – scruffy in parts but productive for birding.

Shelley's Francolin,Leandra
Shelley’s Francolin,Leandra
Spike-heeled Lark, Leandra
Spike-heeled Lark, Leandra
Country bridge, Leandra
Country bridge, Leandra

August

Our long-awaited and -planned trip to North America began on the 7th and took us to :

Calgary and the Canadian Rockies – 9th to 15th

Black-capped Chickadee, Calgary
Black-capped Chickadee, Calgary
Barn Swallow (American) , Bow Lake Alberta
Barn Swallow (American) , Bow Lake Alberta
Clark's Nutcracker, Bow Summit
Clark’s Nutcracker, Bow Summit

Seattle – 15th to 17th

Glaucous-winged Gull, Seattle
Glaucous-winged Gull, Seattle

Cruise to Alaska and the Inside Passage – 17th to 24th

Tufted Puffin, at sea - the year's highlight!
Tufted Puffin, at sea – the year’s highlight!
Black-footed Albatross, at sea
Black-footed Albatross, at sea
Bonaparte's Gull, Juneau
Bonaparte’s Gull, Juneau
Steller's Jay, Skagway
Steller’s Jay, Skagway
Tufted Puffin, Glacier Bay
Tufted Puffin, Glacier Bay
Bald Eagle, Ketchikan
Bald Eagle, Ketchikan
Glaucous-winged Gull (Juvenile), Inside Passage Alaska
Glaucous-winged Gull (Juvenile), Inside Passage Alaska

Eastern Canada – 25th to 31st

Bald Eagle, Englishtown Nova Scotia
Bald Eagle, Englishtown Nova Scotia
Cormorants, Bird Island Nova Scotia
Cormorants, Bird Island Nova Scotia

September

Continuation of our Canada trip – 1st to 6th after which we returned home

Further atlasing in the Vlaklaagte area on the 22nd and near Potchefstroom on the 29th saw out the month

Eastern Clapper Lark, Vlaklaagte
Eastern Clapper Lark, Vlaklaagte
Black-shouldered Kite, Vlaklaagte
Black-shouldered Kite, Vlaklaagte
Southern Masked-Weaver, Potch area
Southern Masked-Weaver, Potch area
Suricate family, Potch area - very curious about my movements
Suricate family, Potch area – very curious about my movements

October

Back in Potchefstroom for Stephan’s birthday, I atlased an area north-east of Potch on the 20th

Borakalalo Nature Reserve which lies north-east of Brits in the North West province (now that’s a bit confusing) was the venue for a morning’s birding on the 24th, after hearing about the presence of a Pacific Golden Plover. This time I was lucky enough to see it easily and well and celebrated by atlasing the area and enjoying a picnic with Gerda who went along for the ride.

Pacific Golden Plover, Borakalalo NR
Pacific Golden Plover, Borakalalo NR
Southern Black Tit, Borakalalo NR
Southern Black Tit, Borakalalo NR
Black-winged Stilt, Borakalalo NR
Black-winged Stilt, Borakalalo NR

Just a few days later, on the 29th, I tried for the Pectoral Sandpiper seen there during the previous few days, but dipped on this vagrant. Nevertheless I had a wonderful day of close-up birding and photography of the abundant water birds that gather there.

Three-banded Plover, Marievale Bird Sanctuary
Three-banded Plover, Marievale Bird Sanctuary
Pied Avocet, Marievale Bird Sanctuary
Pied Avocet, Marievale Bird Sanctuary
Squacco Heron, Marievale Bird Sanctuary
Squacco Heron, Marievale Bird Sanctuary
Hottentot Teal, Marievale Bird Sanctuary
Hottentot Teal, Marievale Bird Sanctuary

November

On the 7th I targeted a few pentads in the rural area near Mkhombo dam, not often visited by atlasers. The area can best be described as scruffy and arid but still produced a few surprises.

Rufous-naped Lark, Mkhombo area
Rufous-naped Lark, Mkhombo area
Great Spotted Cuckoo, Mkhombo area
Great Spotted Cuckoo, Mkhombo area
White-throated Robin-Chat, Mkhombo area
White-throated Robin-Chat, Mkhombo area

Then it was time to return to Punda Maria from the 13th to 16th for the “Punda Mania” birding event which is the 3rd one that George Skinner and I have done together and was as intense and challenging as before.

Sunset at the lek, Punda Maria
Sunset at the lek, Punda Maria
Little Swift, Luvuvhu River bridge
Little Swift, Luvuvhu River bridge
Pygmy Kingfisher looking dazed (apparently flew into the restaurant window at Punda Maria camp)
Pygmy Kingfisher looking dazed (apparently flew into the restaurant window at Punda Maria camp)
Sunrise near Punda Maria
Sunrise near Punda Maria
Pennant-winged Nightjar, Punda Maria
Pennant-winged Nightjar, Punda Maria

Straight after that Gerda and I travelled to Matekula Country Estate, which lies 35 kms beyond Machadadorp, to join Alastair and Anne plus a few friends for a couple of days at this venue.

Almost before we were ready, we found the year was rapidly running out as we packed once again for the trip down to Mossel Bay for our end-of-year long visit. On the way we stopped over at Abbotsbury Guest farm near Graaff-Reinet – a lovely place with some good Karoo birding.

Abbotsbury guest farm near Graaff-Reinet - the cottage we had for our overnight stay
Abbotsbury guest farm near Graaff-Reinet – the cottage we had for our overnight stay
Karoo choir - hey you in the second row please face the front!
Karoo choir – hey you in the second row please face the front! Let’s do Silent Night in C Sharp

December

Time for some final atlasing for the year starting with Mossel Bay itself which I do a few times while staying here. On the 5th it was the turn of Riversdale which is very poorly atlased to date and I added loads of species to the records.

Then on the 26th I atlased the area north of Albertinia which produced very good totals and some specials.

We joined Andre and Geraldine on a day trip to Calitzdorp on the 27th and I was thrilled to find a Cape Siskin in the Robinson Pass on the way there – a bird I have been trying to track down for some years and a great way to round off the year.

More of the same next year? I certainly hope so!

All the best for the New Year!

 

 

6 thoughts on “My Birding Year 2014”

    1. The Bald Eagle was lured towards the boat with some fresh Mackerel out of a bucket – the difficult bit was focusing on him as he dived down towards the water to grab it!

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