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Archive for December, 2008

Way back in April we travelled to the Karoo NP for Araminta’s first camping trip. The Karoo NP is (aptly enough!) situated in the Karoo close to the town of Beaufort West.

It is a place of spectacular scenery:

I took the opportunity to complete a pentad for the Southern Africa Bird Atlas Project. I managed 43 species with 2 lifers – Yellow-bellied Eromela (Eromela icteropygialis) and Karoo Long-billed Lark (Certhilauda subcoronata). I did not find either of my two target species- Ground Woodpecker (Geocalaptes olivaceus) or Short-toed Rock Thrush (Monticola brevipes). I did see some nice birds however, including:

Rufous-eared Warbler Malcorus pectoralis.

Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk Melierax metabates.

Karoo Long-billed Lark Certhilauda subcoronata.

Verreaux’s Eagles Aquila verreauxii sunning themselves.

There were plenty of mammals also, including:

Rock Hyrax (Dassie) Procavia capensis.

Red Hartebeest Alcelaphus buselaphus.

Cape Mountain Zebra Equus zebra zebra.

Greater Kudu Tragelaphus strepsicoros.

Springbok Antidorcas marsupialis.

We went on a night drive where the best sighting was a glimpse of two Aardwolf (Proteles cristatus).

I saw a few reptiles including this Leopard Tortoise Stigmochelys pardalis:

There were some interesting invertebrates as well, including:

Koppie Foam Grasshopper Dictyophorus spumans.

Scorpion Opistophthalmus karrooensis.

I spotted a number of butterflies which have been submitted to the Southern African Butterfly Conservation Assessment’s Virtual Museum:

As yet unidentified Lycaenidae Butterfly.

Painted Lady Butterfly Cynthia cardui.

As yet unidentified butterfly (Colotis sp.).

Another still to be identified Butterfly (probably an Opal Chrysoritis sp.).

Yellow Pansy Butterfly Junonia hierta.

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On the 4th of October, 2008 I went on my first pelagic trip. The trip was run especially for Ruth Miller & Alan Davies who are attempting to see more bird species in a year than anyone else. their adventure is called The Biggest Twitch. The pelagic was organized by Zest For Birds a non-profit group that runs these trips regularly out of Cape Town, South Africa.

After an early start we left the harbour on board the Zest II, a converted Navy tender. The harbour brought the usual gulls, cormorants, terns & gannets, as well as a number of Southern Right Whales (Eubalaena australis).

Once clear of the harbour we spotted the first of the pelagic species (and my first lifer of the day) – a White-chinned Petrel (Procellaria aquinoctialis). These were one of the commonest species encountered on the trip.

White-chinned Petrel (Procellaria aquinoctialis)

Also spotted on the way out were Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta), Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus), Great Shearwater (Puffinus gravis), Northern Giant Petrel (Macronectes halli), and Pintado Petrel.

Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis

Immature Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta)

A number of trawlers were visible on the horizon & we headed towards one. The crowd of birds in its wake was unbelievable!

Cloud of seabirds feeding in the wake of a trawler. That’s Table Mountain and Cape Point in the background.

Our species total rapidly increased: Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross (Thalassarche chlororhynchos), Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophris), two species of timy storm-petrel: Wilson’s  (Oceanites oceanus) and the less-common Black-bellied (Fregetta tropica) which looked like butterflies as they fluttered between the waves.

Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophris)

The species list continued to increase as we followed the trawler’s wake: Sub-antarctic Skua (Catharacta antarctica) and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross (Thalassarche carteri). Suddenly a cry went up “White back!” (Only 4 Albatross in the region have white backs.) It was a young Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans), the largest of all albatrosses having the largest wingspan of any living bird. Though not fully grown it was an amazing sight and definitely a highlight of the trip.

Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans)

The final new bird seen in the feeding frenzy was a single Southern Giant-petrel (Macronectes giganteus) which differs from the Northern Giant-petrel in the green tip to its bill. (The Northern has a reddish-brown tip.)

Feeding seabirds in the wake of a trawler.

Heading back to Cape Town we added one more pelagic species to our lists as fleeting glimses were had of 2 Soft-plumaged Petrels (Pterodroma mollis).

An absolutely fantastic experience that every birder should undertake at least once in their life. I added 16 new species to my life list and had an amazing time.

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