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South Africa (ZA)   Hot Springs and Dead Sea, Jordan  -  Categories: Around Middle East  -  @ 09:14:45 pm

Evason Ma'In Hot Springs and Spa, Jordan - March 2009

My family and I had a 3-day break to Ma'In in Jordan staying at the newly opened Evason Ma'In Hotel, situated 260m below sea level. This was a weekend to revitalise the soul, with time spent in the Spa and a day at the Dead Sea and I can say emphatically that it worked. Images by Mike Pope

As with any visit to a new location and country the urge to get out birding more than you should is difficult to control. I was up before breakfast most mornings to stroll around the hotel gardens and hot springs which pour out of the surrounding sandstone mountains. It is an excting time, as most birds seen could be new, the diversity around the hotel was limited but I enjoyed it nevertheless. African Rock Martins hawking over the hotel rooftop was a familiar species.
African Rock Martin

I was quite surprised to find a breeding pair of Blackbirds

Yellow vented Bulbuls were pretty common in the gardens
Yellow vented Bulbul

I was lucky to catch a large flock of migrating Cranes as they passed overhead - not a great image, but a good tick for me.

A walk down to the Spa produced a single Blackstart

Palestine Sunbirds were attracted to flowering plants in the gardens, this is the drabber female
Female Palestine Sunbird

and the unmistakeable male
Male Palestine Sunbird

The view of the Spa further down the sandstone valley from our window to give an idea of the tranquility of this hotel
Evason Ma'In Spa

South Africa (ZA)   Exploring my neighbourhood, Midrand - South Africa  -  Categories: South Africa  -  @ 08:45:33 pm

Midrand, Gauteng - South Africa - December 2008

After a relaxing 10-days in Mauritius we headed back to South Africa for Christmas with family and friends. At the same time it was really enjoyable to get re-acquainted with some birds not seen in Kuwait and enjoy the dawn chorus from my bed every morning. Images by Mike Pope

We stayed with my father-in-law in Midrand which funnily enough is situated midway between Johannesburg and Pretoria. The usual suspects were seen most days in and around the garden, the male Masked Weaver was in breeding plumage
Masked Weaver

The Cape Robin is a great bird, but can be a skulker in and around undergrowth
Cape Robin

Olive Thrushes tend to whizz about between houses, not stopping for very long
Olive Thrush

Speckled Pigeons roost on the roofs of houses overnight
Speckled Pigeon

Crested Barbets are synonomous with the bush and suburbia and their call is unmistakeable
Crested Barbet

It is quite strange to see a bird as big as the Hadeda Ibis strolling around the garden probing for food and they make a hell of a noise when disturbed
Hadeda Ibis

Another noisy bird that has colonised gardens is the Grey Loerie, made 'famous' in the movie "The Gods must be Crazy"
Grey Loerie

Overhead I saw Greater striped Swallow with material to complete its nest building
Greater striped Swallow

I saw Little Swift early most mornings as they stretched their wings after roosting for the night before dispersing into the thermals for the day
Little Swift

I have been stung by one of these wasps and I can tell you they pack a punch

I took a morning to visit two bird sanctuaries in the Midrand area - the first being Beaulieu Bird Sanctuary situated in the heart of Beaulieu suburb where Sacred Ibis was the predominant species
Sacred Ibis

Grey Heron also used the big eucalyptus to roost and build their nests
Grey Heron

As did Black headed Herons
Black headed Heron

Wattled Plovers are normally present on the mud bank of the dam and they didnt disappoint today
Wattled Plover

Crowned Plovers were seen on the manicured lawns at the entrance of the reserve
Crowned Plover

Heading out of the reserve an Ovambo Sparrowhawk dashed between the trees
Ovambo Sparrowhawk

I headed to Glen Austen Bird Sanctuary which is a perenial pan situated on the edge of Glen Austen suburb but with open grasslands on two boundaries. On the way I picked up Fiscal Flycatcher on the telephone line
Fiscal Flycatcher

African Pipit was seen singing from the top of a fence
African Pipit

The pan had some water and I found White faced Duck
White faced Duck

And Yellow bill Duck
Yellow bill Duck

One of the reasons for coming to this site was to find Yellow crowned Bishop, I found a large flock feeding on the grass seedheads, this is a female
Female Yellow crowned Bishop

and the much more brightly coloured male, this bird resembles a giant bumble bee as it zits around trying to attract a females attention
Male Yellow crowned Bishop

Red eyed Doves were seen on the telephone lines
Red eyed Dove

and overhead
Red eyed Dove

Followed by a Turtle Dove, for comparison
Turtle Dove

That brought a nostalgic end to my mornings birding, on the way home I found Red Bishops in reedbed also doing their best to attract any females attention
Red Bishop

I knew it was worth stopping at an open grassland just before home for Southern Black Korhaan. I could hear them calling, but finding them on foot was another challenge as they are very cryptic on the ground and only flush if they have to
Southern Black Korhaan

Last bird of the morning outing was an obliging Fan tailed Cisticola
Fan tailed Cisticola

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