Sunday morning Grant and I took a slightly different route to start our birding excursion for the day. Instead of heading for the dam and beyond, we drove west up the mountain to where Grant's men have a field service workshop under a group of acacia trees. We were off to see some active Cordon-bleu, Purple Grenadier and Superb Starlings' nest in these trees.
However, as we travelled slowly up the mine road, we looked out for birds. Up ahead I spotted a Greater Blue-eared Starling chasing a bird from a tree but, instead of this bird taking flight, it flitted around the trunk disappearing from our view. We stopped and waited. Within a few seconds, the starling had retreated to a branch higher up and the other bird crept around the tree trunk. A woodpecker - a Bearded Woodpecker! It obviously had a nest somewhere nearby and was looking for food on this tree trunk.
The Bearded Woodpecker is a large woodpecker with a diagnostic bold black-and-white face pattern. It has barred (not plain) back, wings and tail. Both sexes have dark underparts which are finely barred white. The male has a red hindcrown, black in female. (No prizes for guessing which gender the bird below is!)
The Bearded Woodpecker (female)
Another image showing the diagnostic markings of the female Bearded Woodpecker
While we sat watching this busy little female, another woodpecker landed on the branch above and began pecking at the wood. This one (also a female) was a Grey Woodpecker, a lifer for me and Grant.
The Grey Woodpecker is a medium-sized plain woodpecker with a grey head (red hindcrown in male), golden-olive upperparts and red rump. Belly patch is red, orange or yellow or sometimes - as in my photo below - indistinct.
Grey Woodpecker, female
By the time we arrived at the field service workshop, the Grenadiers and Cordon Bleus had left their nests. The Superb Starlings (both parents) landed on their nest and fed their young, but the sun was so high that I could't get a decent photo.
On the way back down the road, when we reached the trees where we'd seen the woodpeckers, I saw the starling land on the trunk and disappear. We stopped the vehicle, got out, walked around the tree and saw a nest hole about two meters up. While we watched a bill appeared, then a head and a starling flew out of the nest hole. Now we knew why the starling was chasing the woodpeckers from this tree. It has a nest here!
We spotted many other birds, not least hornbills, cuckoos, barbets, weavers, white-eyes, flycatchers, bee-eaters, a coucal and robin-chats. I aim to do a post on the hornbills in the near future. For more birds around the world, click here