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Archive for November, 2007

Back in September, two friends – Weiers and Adrian – and I, made a trip to the Tankwa Karoo National Park. The Tankwa Karoo area is renowned as a great birding spot and also in spring, for its wildflower display. I had travelled once to the area in with my wife in 2006.

Part of the Karoo, the area is flat & dry and forms part of the Succulent Karoo Biome. Geologically it is very old.

Typical Tankwa Karoo landscape.

We left Somerset West at 6am and headed along the N1, turning off onto the R46 before Touwsriver. We then travelled along the R355 – (in)famous as the longest stretch of road in South Africa without a town – 250kms (yes I’m aware that this is nothing when compared with Australian distances!) towards the national park. Map here. We saw a number of birds along the way – although nothing new – including good numbers of various raptors: Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk (Melierax canorus), Yellow-billed Kite (Milvus parasitus), and Jackal Buzzard (Buteo rufofuscus). Our first stop was Eierkop – a rocky outcrop close to the side of the road where we spotted Yellow Canary (Serinus flaviventrus), Brimstone Canary (Serinus sulphuratus), and one of the target species for the trip, Black-headed Canary (Alario alario). Weiers spotted a Black-headed Canary nest & I was able to get some shots of the female, though not of the male.

Also spotted were Rock Kestral (Falco rupicolis), Cape Bunting (Emberiza capensis), Dusky Sunbird (Cinnyris fuscus), & Familiar Chat (Cercomela familiaris). There was a fantastic display of flowers including carpets of yellow daisies – Gazania lichtensteinii – Yellow Gazania.

We then turned onto the P2250 where we spotted Red-capped Lark (Calandrella cinerea) and Large-billed Lark (Galerida magnirostris). We had an unexpected mammal sighting soon after – a pair of Bat-eared Foxes (Otocyon megalotis):

Other target bird species included two bustards – Karoo Korhaan and Ludwig’s Bustard. We missed Karoo Korhan (Eupodotis vigorsii) but had good views of a number of Ludwig’s Bustards (Neotis ludwigii). They were not easy to photograph though (well I need a bigger lens, a 300mm just doesn’t cut it).

Just inside the gates of the park itself we spotted two more of our target species: Double-banded Courser (Rhinoptilus africanus) and Namaqua Sandgrouse (Pterocles namaqua). No pics of the Double-banded Courser, but here is one of the Namaqua Sandgrouse:

Once in the park we headed up over the Roggeveld Escarpement. We passed this old cemetery on the way:
The view from the top was spectacular and there were more wildflowers blooming:

We didn’t see all the birds hoped for but unexpected bonuses like the Bat-eared Foxes and of course the superb display of wildflowers made it a fantastic trip.

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We recently moved house into a much less urbanized area. This means that there is a lot more wildlife than in our previous house. This week has been a herpetologically rich one.

A Common Slug-eater (Duberria lutrix).

And found while dismantling an old wooden shed, first one Marbled Leaf-toed gecko (Afrogecko porphyrus) then…..

Lots!

Last night I spotted this gecko on an outside wall. I’m not sure if it is a different species or just another Marbled Leaf-toed Gecko.

All of the above will be submitted to the Southern African Reptile Conservation Assessment (SARCA) virtual museum.

Other recent non-herpetological finds include the following rescued from the claws of our cat. I believe it is a Mouse Shrew – possibly Myosorex varius.

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