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South Africa (ZA)   Goa, Western India  -  Categories: Goa  -  @ 08:25:21 am

Lemon Tree Hotel, Candolim Beach, Goa - February 2008

My family and I spent a relaxing and chilled week at the Lemon Tree Hotel on Candolim Beach in Goa, India. The weather was superb, the Kingfisher beer was cold and the atmosphere was laid back. My birding was generally done in and around the hotel, before I met Gill and Jaden for breakfast. But on one of the days, I arranged a morning out with Paresh, one of the local bird guides. Images by Mike Pope

The most common bird in Goa and probably the rest of India is the House Crow - they are everywhere and in big numbers.

House Crows

House Crow

A pair of Large billed Crows were seen infrequently and only during the mornings.

Large billed Crows

Green Bee-eaters hawk from the overhead wires and bare branches and were generally found in two's and three's around the hotel

Green Bee-eater

Jungle Mynas were seen everyday on the way to the beach from the Hotel, normally in the company of Rosy Starlings

Jungle Myna

The Rosy Starlings were in various stages of plumage, with only a few in breeding plumage.

Rosy Starling

An adult Rosy Starling in full cry

Rosy Starling

This White throated Kingfisher had its territory on a small stretch of the coastal bush between the Hotel and beach

White throated Kingfisher

Spectacular colours of White throated Kingfisher in flight

White throated Kingfisher

A lone Black Drongo was seen on occassions, dark eye and jet black plumage are the distingusihing features

Black Drongo

The striking White browed Wagtail was seen foraging in the exposed areas before the beach and in the hotel grounds

White browed Wagtail

Asian Koels were one of the main contributers to the daily dawn chorus

Asian Koel

Black Kites were seen daily

Black Kite

The smaller Brahminy Kites were generally in the company of Black Kites

Brahminy Kite

On two of my early morning walks I had a small flock of Asian Palm Swifts hawking over the coastal scrub, as the day warmed up the rose higher and then disappeared

Asian Palm Swift

In amongst the flock of Palm Swifts was this slightly heavier bodied, shorter tailed Swift, that I have tentatively identified as Indian Swiftlet

Indian Swiftlet

I found the Long tailed Shrike just as elusive as the last wintering bird we have had in Kuwait in 2007/8. It really is a great looking Shrike

Long tailed Shrike

Long tailed Shrike

A Black lored Tit was seen only twice on my morning walks, feeding in the same tree as some of the sunbirds

Black lored Tit

Purple rumped Sunbirds was the common sunbird around the Hotel, this is a female

Purple rumped Sunbird

and a male from below

Purple rumped Sunbird

Swallows seen included this obliging pair of Red rumped Swallows

Red rumped Swallow

and the odd Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

I was able to catch this Greater Coucal in flight and the next day found a Lesser Coucal walking on the footpath - but no camera ready (doesnt this always happen!)

Greater Coucal

The male Oriental Magpie Robins were pretty vocal during the day

Oriental Magpie Robin

Oriental Magpie Robin

Non breeding Kentish Plovers were seen on the beach

Kentish Plover

I only had one sighting of White rumped Munia during my stay

White rumped Munia

A pair of Spotted Doves were seen on occassions in the area between the beach and Hotel

Spotted DOves

Paddyfield Pipits were found foraging in the dry grass next to the coastal shrub

Paddyfield Pipit

Paddyfield Pipit

A few species of Bulbuls were seen, including Red whiskered Bulbuls during the last few days at the Hotel

Red whiskered Bulbul

The White browed Bulbuls reminded me of the forest Bulbuls back in South Africa

White browed Bulbul

I really enjoyed the calls of the White cheeked Barbets all through the day, I photographed this bird in full cry

White cheeked Bulbul

I managed to arrange a morning out with local bird guide Paresh, who picked me up at 6am so we could head for his Indian Pitta stakeout at Aguada Fort. It was with great anticipation and excitement when we arrived at the site, but after an hour sadly had to call it an unsuccessful twitch. I was rewarded with a White chested Waterhen and this was taken at ISO 3200 around 6:30 in the morning

White chested Waterhen
From this site we headed to Carambolim Lake, which was very dry, as it had been drained for the new wall being built across it. We had a Marsh Harrier fly over

Marsh Harrier

An Indian Roller was hawking around a herd of water buffalo

Indian Roller

There were numerous Indian Pond Herons along this small watercourse

Indian Pond Heron

A Little Cormorant with an Indian Cormorant in the background

Little Coromorant

Cattle Egrets were common along the lake fringes

Intermediate Egret

A poor photograph of a suspected Geen Warbler

Green Warbler

On route to the Owl site I asked Paresh if he had a stakeout for Indian Robin and within 5-minutes we saw this male displaying co-operatively

Indian Robin

The highlight of the stop at Caramblim Lake was this pair of Brown Hawk Owls roosting in the depths of a tree

Brown Hawk Owl

Paresh also had a stakeout for Jungle Owlet which we saw very well

Jungle Owlet

There were no Jacana's at Carambolim, on the way back to the hotel Paresh stopped at a small pond outside of the capital and in amongst the floating vegetation I found both Jacana's - but only managed to photograph the Bronze winged Jacana against the light

Bronze winged Jacana

In the same pond we found a small flock of Cotton Pygmy Geese

Cotton Pygmy Geese

The next morning I was up early and walked to the 30-minutes to the Pitta site and sat patientlty for an hour without luck. Although I did find Shikra perched on the wire in the early dawn light


A female Asian Koel trying to get some sun

Asian Koel

I bumped into a group of Brit birders with their guide Lloyd Fernandez who were also looking for Pitta without luck. I gave up on the bird and continued my walk down the road to the Fort, finding a Stork billed Kingfisher

Stork billed Kingfisher

Whilst walking Lloyd stopped in his bus and asked if I wanted to join his group at a 2nd Pitta site - of course I jumped at the chance. It wasnt much further down the road from the first site and in much more pristine habitat. Again with anticipation and trepidation we followed Lloyd and within 5-minutes came across a bird preening in the undergrowth - what a moment and one of the highlights of my birding adventures. We had saturated views of this lone bird and were amazed at how cryptic it actually is, despite its bright colours and that it can disappear in the flash of an eye

Indian Pitta

Indian Pitta

Indian Pitta

The Brit group had a tight schedule and had to depart, I thanked Lloyd for his kindness and stayed a little longer with the Pitta. I found some other good birds in the process, like this Orange headed Thrush

Orange headed Thrush

Ashy Drongo's were common in this area and are dull grey below with a red eye

Ashy Drongo

A Rufous Woodpecker feeding off an ant nest, which is diagnostic for this bird

Rufous Woodpecker

Plum headed Parakeets were nesting in a nearby tree, again the light is not perfect but in the forest you take what little light you can get

Plum headed Parakeet

Plum headed Parakeet

On our last day, I took my son Jaden to explore Aguada Fort and saw the only White bellied Sea Eagel of the holiday, flying away

White bellied Sea Eagle


South Africa (ZA)   Borakalalo National Park  -  Categories: South Africa  -  @ 05:49:32 pm

A weekend at Borokalalo National Park, North West Province, South Africa - December 2007

During our December break we were able to spend a weekend in a private tented camp with our good friends, the Hutton's, Bath's and Loubser's in Borakalao National Park in North West Province. Borakalalo is the sister reserve to Pilansberg National Park adjacent to Sun City. Images by Mike Pope

One of the main features of the park is Klipvoor Dam and one of the game drives takes you along the edge of the dam, where waterbirds are abundant. Reed and White breasted Cormorants, Little Egrets and Grey Herons are fairly common.

Cormorants and Egret

Cormorants and Heron

Grey Herons patrol the fringes in search of fish and small reptiles. I caught this bird in the fading afternoon sun
Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Black Kites (yellow billed variety) are present for the duration of the summer season and are found around the dam looking for scraps and leftovers from the many fisherman
Black Kite

Pied kingfishers are common along the Moratele River below the dam wall
Pied Kingfisher

One always has to keep your eyes open on an early morning walk - both on the ground and in the bush. This Snout nosed Adder suddenly came to life as I narrowly missed standing on it
Snout nosed Adder

You also have to be careful about giving way to Dung Beetles that use the jeep tracks to roll their food source to a safe place, to lay their eggs on the ball once it is buried
Dung Beetle

After skirting the adder and dung beetles, I found this pair of Red billed Hornbills relaxing on the overhead lines
Red billed Hornbill

A Golden breasted Bunting made a quick stop before heading back to the ground to feed
Golden breasted Bunting

A female Red headed Weaver with some fine nesting material
Female Red headed Weaver

The male Red headed Weaver is striking and one of my favourite birds, here he is awaiting her turn to feed the young in the nest
Male Red headed Weaver

The nest of the Red headed Weaver is very distinctive
Red headed Weaver nest

There were many butterflies on my walks - I used to know them all by name, but now only have the family name - this is one of the Acraes

African Monarch
African Monarch

I think this is a Foxy Charaxes, a powerful and fast flying butterfly

Spotted Joker
Spotted Joker


A Brown veined White?
Brown veined White

Zebra White
Zebra White


Yellow Pansy
Yellow Pansy

Cream coloured Owl is a moth that is attracted to perfume and alcohol - as you can imagine there were a lot of these around our camp
Cream coloured Owl

South Africa (ZA)   Christmas in South Africa  -  Categories: South Africa  -  @ 02:51:55 pm

Christmas in South Africa - December 2007

My family and I had 2-weeks back home to South Africa during December 2007. We were fortunate to be able to look after our good friends Mike and Krista Loubser's house in Beaulieu, just north of Johannesburg whilst they were on holiday. They have a huge indigenous garden with a wonderful rockpool and a lot of natural habitat for birds. Images by Mike Pope

A Cape Wagtail was present most mornings looking for insects in the grass
Cape Wagtail

Laughing Doves in SA appear more plumper and darker than their counterparts in the deserts of Kuwait
Laughing Dove

This male Southern masked Weaver was collecting softer material to line his nest
Southern Masked Weaver

A juvenile Fiscal Shrike just coming into its adult plumage, as it should have an all black crown
Fiscal Shrike

I was surprised to find an eastern race of the Fiscal Shrike this far west, the eastern race is characterised by the white eyebrow
Fiscal Shrike

Fiscal Shrike

Green Woodhoopoes are normally quite comical when sitting in groups swaying backwards and forwards while they are cackling away
Green Woodhoopoe

The call of the Red eyed Dove reminds me of sunsets and sundowners
Red eyed Dove

Red faced Mousebirds love trees with hanging fruits
Red faced Mousebird

Pied Crows are opportunists and will also scavenge if necessary, like this one looks like it has
Pied Crow

I managed to photograph this Amethyst Sunbird in the dying light, the males as always som much more brightly coloured than the females
Amethyst Sunbird

I made a stop at Glen Austin Bird Sanctuary where this Black headed Heron was hunting in the tall grass
Black headed Heron

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