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South Africa (ZA)   Winter in South Africa  -  Categories: South Africa  -  @ 05:42:02 pm

Winter birds, Gauteng, South Africa

I escaped the oppresive heat of Kuwait at the end of July and joined by family in South Africa for a well deserved 10-day break in the highveld winter. Images by Mike Pope

In between catching up with family and friends there was little to no time for any local birding. However, one morning and in between taking action shots of my son during his tennis coaching I managed to capture a few local birds in our park inside Kyalami Estates in Midrand. Fiscal Shrike are common all year round and are opportunistic predators

Fiscal Shrike

Grey Loeries have adapted to urban environments where they were not quite as common 10-years back

Grey Loerie

Indian Myna's are found all over South Africa - unfortunately. They can be quite aggressive with other garden birds, often chasing them out of their garden patches

Grey Loerie

The Hadeda Ibis or more affectionately known as the Goliath Sunbird, as it has also habituated urban environments

Hadeda Ibis

A Streaky-headed Seedeater or Canary, dong just as it's name suggests

Streaky-headed Seedeater

Mallards are classified as invasive species and are creating havoc by interbreeding with our indeginous ducks. I believe it is legal to cull them


We spent a morning at the Monte Casino Bird Garden in Fourways and enjoyed the bird show. The show is predominantly designed to create awareness about pollution, protection and conservation of our biodiversity and specifically birds. Local and other birds are used to substantiate the objectives of the show. This juvenile Ground Hornbill is one of the Big 5 birds

Ground Hornbill

One of the more powerful Buzzard species, Jackal Buzzard

Jackal Buzzard

Spotted Eagle Owls can be found in gardens with big trees and palms

Spotted Eagle Owl

The Barn Owl was used to raise some cash for the bird show with children having their pictures taken with the Owl

Jackal Buzzard

This comical Toucan didnt always co-operate


One of the many Scarlet Ibis in the one of the large outdoor avairies

Scarlet Ibis


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


South Africa (ZA)   Kirkmans Kamp, Sabie Sand Reserve  -  Categories: South Africa  -  @ 10:45:55 pm

Kirkmans Kamp, Sabie Sand Reserve, Mpumulanga, South Africa - July/Aug 2008

This is an overdue posting from our vacation back to South Africa in the summer/winter break at the end of July. If anyone is looking for the therapeutic tranquility of the African bush, I can highly recommend Kirkmans Kamp, in the private Sabie Sand Reserve on the western border of the Kruger National Park. Images by Mike Pope

On route to the lowveld, we stopped for breakfast at a quaint restaurant in Dullstroom. I found this Groundscraper Thrush feeding in the gardens

Groundscraper Thrush

We eventually reached the lodge and soaked up smell and sounds of the bush after a year in the desert of Kuwait. The sounds were familiar and music to our ears. We spent 3-days at Kirkmans and enjoyed every minute. The majority of visitors come for the fantastic game sightings, but we just appreciated the bush and everything we saw. Our room was a distance from the main lodge and gave us a great view over the river and plains below us.

Our rooom in the Bush

A flowering tree (I forget the name) was the centerpiece for the breakfast in the garden and it was visited by many sunbirds. The male Scarlet chested Sunbird really does stand out when the light catches its plumage

Scarlet chested Sunbird

A male Marico Sunbird

Marico Sunbird

A male White bellied Sunbird

White bellied Sunbird

The grounds around the lodge were very productive and produced many photographic opportunities in between the morning and afternoon game drives (safari's). Ashy Flycatchers were easily approached near our room

Ashy flycatcher

Black Flycatchers hawk from trees and ambush insects in flight and on the ground

Black Flycatcher

Kurrichane Thrushes foraged near our room after the morning drive

Kurrichane Thrush

A White throated Robin Chat was vocal early morning and late afteroon

White throated Robin Chat

Starlings were represented by Burchells Glossy Starling, the largest of the starling family

Burchells Glossy Starling

And Greater blue eared Starlings

Greater blue eared Starling

Small groups of Arrow marked Babblers made themselves known before they were seen

Arrow marked Babbler

The male Chin spot Batis is a smart little bird

Chin spot Batis

Southern Grey headed Sparrows foraged for scraps around the tables

Grey headed Sparrow

Away from the manicured gardens I came across Blue Waxbills

Blue Waxbill

Together with small flocks of Red billed Firefinches

Red billed Firefinch

and a lone Yellow fronted Canary

Yellow fronted Canary

Yellow billed Hornbills are the comical birds of the bush, you can easily spend time watching their antics and their call is one that will always evoke memories of the african bush. This one was trying to delicately dispatch of an earthworm with its oversized bill.

Yellow billed Hornbill

Once out on the daily safaris, the focus changes to looking for game and the Big 5, although at Kirkmans the drives are well balanced to ensure that guests have the best safari experience. In between game spotting, Im obviously still looking for birds and our rangers considered this on our drives. Our tracker spotted this small Barred Owl roosting in a thicket

Barred Owl

Crested Francolins are really vocal during the dawn chorus

Crested Francolin

Helmeted Guineafowl forage in small groups and are also hunted by small cats and raptors alike. I have heard a single Guineafowl make more noise than a herd of 10 elephants passing by my tent at night, whilst camping in Tanzania.

Helmeted Guineafowl

Along the Sabie River we found a hunting Hamerkop, this strange birds builds enormous domed nests in forks of large trees.


Green backed (Striated) Herons are innovative hunters and sometimes use tools to attract their quarry to a fateful end.

Green backed Heron

Purple crested Louries are more often heard than seen and when you do it is normally a flash of crimson wings through the canopy. This one landed above us whilst we were sitting quietly at a leopard sighting

Purple crested Lourie

July is winter in SA and is generally better for game viewing as the bush is brown and the absence of foliage allows better sightings. White crested Helmet Shrikes generally forage in small flocks moving quickly from tree to tree

White crested Helmet Shrike

Winter is generally not good for Raptors, but vultures were represented by White backed Vultures

White backed Vulture

And Hooded Vulture

Hooded Vulture

The only small accipitor seen was this Shikra


African Hawk Eagles are generally seen in pairs and hunt Guineafowl as part of their prey

African Hawk Eagle

An adult Gymnogene (African Harrier Hawk), a strange raptor that can clamber up the sides of trees an pull barbet and hornbill nestlings out of their nests by using their double jointed knees


A male Bateleur, easily identified in flight by its very short tail and tight rope walker jizz


A juvenile Bateleur can take up to 7 years to develop adult plumage (if memory serves me correctly)


The call of Africa - African Fish Eagle

African Fish Eagle

It would be sacriledge not to show any mammal sightings after a visit to a private lodge, in this posting. I will start with a a few of my favourite antelope, the first being the Kudu. This small herd came down to drink, but were nervous and tentative as would be expected


I think Waterbuck are one of the most photogenic antelope in the bush, especially with some backlighting


We were fortunate to come across an African Wild Cat on a night drive, I used the pop up flash on my 20D with acceptable results

African Wild Cat

The Big 5 are generally what most visitors want to see at Kirkmans, but we were also fortunate to come across a Wild Dog kill in the reeds of the Sabie River. They made very quick work of a Bushbuck, this is to ensure they dont lose their kill to other predators. These painted dogs are endangered and threatened, so it is always a priveledge to witness a sighting such as this

Wild Dog kill

Generally nothing is left of the kill for other predators to scavenge, this leg will be chewed into manageable pieces by their powerful jaws

Wild Dog kill

This young Spotted Hyena was too late, but was still chased off by the Dogs guarding what was left of the carcass

Spotted Hyena

For those that may not know, the Big 5 are made up of: Rhino (White or Black), this is a White Rhino told by its large flat straight lip

White Rhino



Buffalo; generally in large or smaller bachelor (dagga boy) herds. They appear generally docile, but dont be fooled by this outwardly bovine appearance. Although they make great photographic subjects with the character in their faces


Lion; this female was lying in ambush for an early breakfast - not quite as docile looking as those you see generally passed out under a bush in the heat of the day


These two male Lions were in prime condition and are not to be taken lightly


And lastly Leopard; these elusive cats are generally the toughest to find - we were fortunate in seeing Leopard on every game drive during our stay. This was a large male marking its territory early one morning



South Africa (ZA)   Beaulieu, Midrand, South Africa  -  Categories: South Africa  -  @ 05:17:47 pm

The Loubsers Garden, Beaulieu, South Africa - July 2008

I was able to take a short break during the summer to get back to South Africa to visit family and friends. We stayed overnight with our good friends Mike and Krista Loubser and surprisingly I was up early after a party to capture some of the winter birds in their expansive and natural garden. Images by Mike Pope

Aloes generally flower in winter on the highveld and a pair of Black eyed Bulbuls took the opportunity to feed on this plant

Black eyed Bulbul

Three species of Plover were seen in the garden, this is an obliging Crowned Plover

Crowned Plover

The Wattled Plovers were a bit more skittish. In breeding season, the wattles are generally more elongated and pronounced

Wattled Plover

Speckled Pigeons were roosting on the roof of the house, I caught this one as it departed

Speckled Pigeon

Male Cape Sparrows are quite striking birds

Male Cape Sparrow

Sacred Ibis pass overhead from the roosting site

Sacred Ibis

Grey Loeries have a very distinctive call that is one of the sounds of the bush

Grey Loerie

A small group of Cape White-eyes were gleening in this Karee tree

Cape White-eye


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

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