Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Summer Birding in the Tanzanian bush

Before I get so excited about the WONDERFUL birding we've done over the weekend, I would like to post my bloom in solidarity with blogger friend, Lori in Western New York. They've had the most sever winter and she's posting a flower a day until the snow melts. I offered to do the same!

My contribution for today is the pineapple flower which grows in my South African garden. Known scientifically as Eucomis autumnalis the pineapple flower is a species of flowering plant in the family Asparagacea. It's native to South Africa and is a summer flowering deciduous bulbous perennial. The flower stem to 40 cm rises from a basal rosette of broad waxy leaves. It resembles a pineapple, (in my photo a rather slender pineapple!)  hence the common name! 
 Eucomis autumnalis aka the pineapple flower

During the week, the company General Manager visited the site and as he always insists, he stayed in the cottage behind our house. The first evening we were sitting in our garden chatting when I heard the high-pitched call "shreeeee" from a nearby tree. A moment later a Barn Owl landed soundlessly on a tree branch above us. 
 Barn Owl in our garden

On Saturday morning Grant and I set out on our first-of-the-weekend birding trip. As usual as we pass through the boom gate, I look into the bush. Why? For birds sitting there waiting for me to photograph them, of course! 

And sure enough, on a thin branch of a nearby shrub, sat an LBJ. When we downloaded them and sent them to Jez for identification, he came back with Rattling Cisticola!

My first photo subject on Saturday was a Rattling Cisticola 

Quite a while later and quite a way into the bush, I photographed another LBJ thinking it was a flycatcher. When Jez came back with the ID he said it was a Rattling Cisticola which thought it was a flycatcher, by the erect stance it took on the bush. (I thought I'd post it here below just to show how similar to a flycatcher it was although it IS a cisticola!) 
 Rattling Cisticola again, but this time looking a lot like a flycatcher 

Before we saw the second Rattling Cisticola, we spotted a variety of beautiful birds. The first one we came across was along the mine road: a Silverbird. These seem to be in abundance at the moment and make for easy photo opportunities because they sit for ages while you click away!

As we left the main mine road and drove towards the magazine, I asked Grant to stop. You may have gathered by now that I have a very patient husband who stops, then has to reverse and then go forward a few centimeters to an exact spot so that I can get my shot! Anyway he stopped and I snapped away at a black bird perched on a bush in the middle distance. 

Purple (Dusky) Indigobird (Purple Widowfinch)

Just a few meters along the road, we stopped again; this time Grant had spotted the flash of red which landed on the wire above.  
 Black-winged (Firecrowned) Bishop

 At the explosives magazine, Grant stopped so that I could photograph some wild dagga blooms for my friend Lori. While I did so, we noticed a small flock of sunbirds flying into the shrubs. At first I only managed to capture a female (with her back to me!) Soon though, and calling shrilly, several males flew in and hung on the stems. 
 Hunter's Sunbird (Female) 

 And a glorious Hunter's Sunbird Male 

As we'd stopped for the above photos just before reaching the explosives magazine, I was looking forward to seeing the kingfishers that we normally spot on the barbed wire here. And there it was...
Woodland Kingfisher

And just beyond this, perched within the framed pipe which houses the security lights, was a Roller.
Lilac-breasted Roller

Then we left the mine area and headed for the bush. I've often posted about Bee-eaters sighted here in our area but this time, we spotted a bird in a bush near the road. It was a Little Bee-eater, something I hadn't seen since living in Kenya! 

 Little Bee-eater

And further along we stopped - again - while I zoomed in on a small bird which was partially obscured by foliage.  I 've posted about this bird before and as Jez had identified it for me the first time I captured it, we knew it was a Silverbill. 

While I was photographing the Silverbill above, Grant scanned the tree tops and spotted a large bird perched in the quite far distance.  He told me to keep a lookout while he drove in that general direction (still along the road!). And sure enough, there was a raptor, unknown to us.  Although I had quite clear photos, I couldn't find the exact bird in our book. At first we thought it was a Martial Eagle but the latter [adult] doesn't have a pure white bib. We had to send it off to Jez for his kind consideration. He came back with a positive ID:

 Black-chested Snake Eagle

While driving further along, me with my window wound down, I heard the swizzling, buzzing chatter of bishops.  Focusing on a glorious splash of red on top of a bush, I zoomed in on another Black-winged, (Fire-crowned) Bishop. Only this time he was displaying! 
 Black-winged (Fire-crowned) Bishop in full cry! 

I was thrilled to capture this handsome lad displaying to tempt the rather drab females in the vicinity!

As we drove along I noticed a black-headed bird at the top of a dead tree. Grant stopped;  I stood on the running board, leaned my camera on the car roof and snapped away - at what I thought was a Dark-capped BULBUL, of all things! When I downloaded the photo, I saw that it had a stubby bill and was larger than a bulbul. Grant and I checked under cuckoos but couldn't find anything to match my "bulbul". We ultimately sent the photos off to Jez who came back with the positive identification: Greater Honeyguide. I was furious with myself. For the past year, Grant and I have both been hearing the call of the Greater Honeyguide. It has a distinct call of "whit-purr" which sounds like "Victor"!   No matter how often we tried to spot it, we just didn't. And here I'd photographed the bird and all the time I didn't know it! I promised myself that never again would I be blase about a subject, be it a bird or other wildlife. Yet, on Sunday afternoon, I almost made the same mistake. Be sure to read the second part of this post - today or tomorrow - to see how this happened. 

 Greater Honeyguide

With all the rains, the dam is very full and the birds seem to be way over to the other side. The road is also churned up and we didn't go all the way around as we normally do. However, on the edge of the road, where the water has gathered in quite large ponds as well, I saw a Little Egret fly in and sit in between the grasses.

Little Egret

Driving back towards the mine road, we saw a pair of Hamerkop in the large pool of water across our way. We stopped and while I was taking photos, a third, fourth, fifth and more Hamerkop flew onto a mound nearby. As I focused on what seemed to be the leader of the flock, we heard it issue a raucous cry. I managed to get one photo of this bird with its bill open but as another mining vehicle was approaching, I had to abandon all ideas of getting any more! 
A Hamerkop issuing a warning cry at the lady with a camera to its left and a vehicle approaching from its right! 

As I've only posted about the birds we saw on Saturday morning, I will continue this posted later on today or by tomorrow. I link today's post to Wild Bird Wednesday which meme you can access by clicking here

Here's wishing all my blogger friends a happy mid-week!



  1. Wow! You saw a fantastic array of birds in one outing.

    I really don't have so many in my "backyard" but if I were to go to the bog there would be many there. That is far away from me and I'm not that much of a birder though I like to see other's efforts.

    Today I noticed the LBJs came back to my small garden. They have been away for quite some time. It was nice to see them foraging.

  2. So many beautiful birds and wonderful captures for the day, Jo!! I really shouldn't whine about our weather as it has been SO much worse in other places!! We're actually seeing a break in the weather, have had some blue skies and mild temps!! I am thankful for them, too!! Enjoy the remainder of your week!!

  3. Oh, Jo! I love all the photos! You always capture the birds in such beautiful settings, and stances, etc. I love the Barn Owl! I've never seen one in person....except maybe at the zoo! And your Silver Bird reminds me of our Robin. I love seeing the different birds that South Africa and Australia have. So unique and beautiful. OH, big memoir is finally available on KINDLE!! :)

  4. Wow what an amazing collection of beautiful birds. Your captures are fabulous.

  5. As always I am amazed by all the birds you have around there. My pineapple flowers haven't started flowering. They are looking a bit tired this year so I hope something didn't get into them

  6. Jo, what a wonderful series of birds. Such a nice variety and beautiful and colorful birds. The Lilac-breasted Roller is gorgeous and the Hamerkop is a cool looking bird. Great shots and thanks for sharing your birds. Have a happy day!

  7. Thats an amazing set again ajao, I can't imagin being able to sit out , and suddenly a Barn Owl come sit in your garden, fantastic.
    All the best Gordon.

  8. Golly Jo, if I saw that many spectacular birds in a year I would be ecstatic and jumping out of my skin.
    Your post is like a walking bird book. Such a lot of of glorious colours.

  9. Gorgeous birds all of them. I love the owl.

  10. I have not seen all these birds before. Keep that beautiful Barn Owl safe!:)

  11. Wow! I cannot guess how much time it took you to see all those marvelous birds and get those great shots!


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo