Friday, June 13, 2014

Winter birding in Mwadui (continued again!)

As you can see from the previous two posts (please scroll down if you're interested in reading them) I've not been able to stop waxing lyrical about the many and varied birds we seen since arriving back on site just over two weeks ago! 
African Hawk-eagle (Sub-adult)

Even though the bush is quite dry now, after the long rainy season, the New Alhamasi Dam where I always took photos of many water-and-other birds, is still overflowing, there aren't many birds around there at the moment. Instead many of the birds are coming inwards (White-faced Whistling ducks, Comb Ducks, Herons and kingfishers) 

As we passed another smaller pond near the road, I asked Grant to stop. I had seen a kingfisher sitting quietly on a branch above the water. 

 Pied Kingfisher 

Further along the road, on another body of water we saw Little Grebe (Dabchick). These waterbirds were originally at the dam near the explosives magazine. I posted about a pair of Little Grebe breeding there last year. I showed the female and then the male sitting on the nest in the middle of the dam. I posted about the eggs in the nest when the parents were off and obviously taking a break. I  also wrote about the little duckling when they arrived: riding on the parent's back and finally getting on with life on their own ! 

They've obviously - for reasons unknown to us - moved to another dam and recently we saw an adult and a duckling on this new pond. The mama (or perhaps it was dad) Little Grebe kept herding the chick behind the reeds out of my line of sight. I managed a couple of photos though.

Little Grebe (Dabchick)
Little Grebe (Dabchick) and duckling

Continuing along the road (windows wound down, of course) we heard a Slate-colored Boubou calling from nearby brush. We stopped and although I tried umpteen times, I just couldn't capture this elusive bird. Meanwhile I heard the call of the White-browed Coucal (this is surprising as it normally occurs only in rainy season) and managed to capture the bird in a dry tree on the other side of the vehicle.
White-browed Coucal

A little further on a pair of Namaqua Doves flew ahead of the vehicle. Eventually they roosted on branches nearby and I got photos of these pretty doves. 
Namaqua Dove (Male)
Namaqua Dove (Female) 

Along a certain stretch of the road, are many neat nests in aa copse of thorn trees. We managed to identify the LBJ's (little brown jobs) as Grey-capped Social Weavers. 
 Grey-capped Social Weaver
Grey-capped Social Weaver near its nest
Grey-capped Social Weaver (pseudonigrita arnaudi) emerging from its nest!

In Southern Africa, in the arid regions from  North-Western Cape into Namibia, you come across the weird phenomena of communal nests. These are built by Sociable Weavers and become huge blocks of nest apartments which whole communities of Sociable Weavers use. These birds are endemic to South Africa and not to be confused with the Grey-capped Social Weaver which we see in Tanzania. The Sociable Weaver's latin name Philetairus socius and these birds build communal nests. The Grey-capped Social Weaver is known as Pseudonigrita and builds individual nests as shown above. 
Sociable Weaver nests  (image Google)
Sociable Weaver (Google image)

Grant and I have seen and photographed these South African endemics on several occasions while traveling on the bike through the Northern Cape and Namibia. However, my photos are far back in my archives, so I used the Google images above to show the difference between these and the East African Social-weavers.

Around the corner from our viewing of the Social Weavers, we came across a Grey-headed Kingfisher sitting on a branch. It always provides a wonderful photo opportunity as it sits dead still for ever so long.  
Grey-headed Kingfisher 

Grant and I both spotted a small mouse running across the road. He stopped the vehicle and I tried (in vain!) to locate the little creature in the undergrowth next to the road. Meanwhile, a small bird hopped into view on my camera screen and I snapped it!

Blue-capped Cordon-Bleu (Female)

The Blue-capped Cordon-Bleu (like the Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu which occurred in our valley in Kenya) is endemic to North East Africa. The male Blue-capped Cordon-bleu is readily identified by its entirely powder-blue head, including crown and nape. These pretty birds co-mingle with the Grey-headed Sparrows in my garden - normally around the leftovers in the dogs' food dishes!

Back in the bush, this past fortnight, as we drove along, we saw a flurry in the road ahead of us. Grant stopped, I climbed out and stood on the running board ready to snap. As I zoomed in I realized that we were seeing a pair of - what I thought was -  francolin. I took the photos and later sent them to my sister-in-law, Shelley who identified them as a pair of Black-faced Sandgrouse. I was thrilled; the only time I'd had a glimpse of these birds was very fleetingly when a small flock ran through the grass in Kenya in 2011! Here I had clear and close-up photos of them. Yay! 

 Black-faced Sandgrouse (Male)

Black-faced Sandgrouse (Female)

The Black-faced Sandgrouse is endemic to NE Africa. It's a small sandgrouse with a short tail and pale underwing coverts. Male has a distinctive face pattern, black and white breast-band and a black belly with a pale vent. The female has a diagnostic broad white breast band. 

After I'd taken almost a dozen photos of this interesting pair, they started moving off into the grass. Normally this is the only sight a birder gets of this elusive bird! 
Black-faced Sandgrouse pair, moving off into the grass! 

Still driving with our windows wound down, I heard lovebirds flying above. Grant stopped and sure enough, to the right of the vehicle, he spotted a whole flock of these beautifully, colorful birds flying in and landing on a dead tree. 

Of course, he'd not yet come to a dead stop, and I was out on the running board, camera resting on the car roof and shooting!  When I downloaded the photos I saw that I'd actually photographed a sequence of one particular bird coming in to land, aiming for a protruding branch and eventually teetering to a stop on the perch. (First three photos below)  

A Yellow-collared Lovebird comes in to land in the above three images. Other lovebirds are already sitting and socializing on the branches! 

Although I don't like to humanize wildlife, these birds are very comical (looking) and photograph beautifully. The three birds below reminded me of ladies waiting outside the church for the service to begin! 
Three Yellow-collared Lovebirds in a row 

A late-comer arrives 

 A bird flies off! 
Another straightens its coat tails! 

 Strikingly colorful and pertinently marked, these Yellow-collared Lovebirds never fail to fascinate

Eventually I had taken enough photos of these cheerful beauties and Grant and I wended our way home. 

And believe it or not, on the way back to town, just before leaving the mine road, we were blessed with the sighting of...

... you guessed it:
 Augur Buzzard! 

I'm linking this post to Wild Bird Wednesday which you can access by clicking here

I hope you all had a wonderful week. Here's wishing everyone reading this blog a great weekend ahead.


  1. Lots of beautiful bird pictures, I like the lovebirds most !

  2. Hi jo I get so excited to see all your birds as I am going to Malawi in August and then South Africa adn I am sure some of your birds must be the same. Those nests are tremendous and I love the Love Birds. So pretty. great selection of birds to look at and learn about in this post for me. Have a good weekend.

  3. Jo, so many beautiful birds in this post.. I have so many favorites.. The KIngfishers are cool. And the Lovebirds are so pretty. Awesome photos.. Have a happy weekend!

  4. What fun you had with the Lovebirds, Jo, and you saw so many other species, too. A great day for you!
    Luv, K


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