Petronias are charming little fellows. Like the related pipits, they walk around on the ground or along tree branches, pumping their tails. Even their calls sound more like pipits' than true sparrows. However, unlike pipits, they nest in tree cavities...or in this case, in a scalding hot metal umbrella stand, which they packed full of feathers.
The first twitchable Temminck's Stint in 29 years - it didn't take much convincing to get me on plane from Jo'burg to Cape Town! I enjoy a quick mid-week twitch as much as the next guy, but this was also a valuable opportunity to take some field notes on a bird that I have only seen in Asia. Includes a short video of the experience. PS: An American Golden Plover and Red-necked Stint were also present at the site - birding heaven!
Any guesses? I found out...the hard way. Before all the counting began though, I made a short "tutorial" video that points out the main feather tracts of a bird, and their respective functions. If you have a few minutes to spare, I am sure you'll find this illuminating. And what a stunning little bird the Black-throated Canary is (or at least, was, before I yanked its feathers out).
The wait is (almost) over! Chamberlain's Waders is currently being printed in Cape Town - the printers have promised me that a big truck full of books will arrive at my house on 10 December 2016...get your pre-order in today.
My book Chamberlain's LBJs is now available from NHBS in the UK. If you're NOT based in South Africa, buying the book directly from NHBS is highly recommended (our beloved SA postal service is somewhat less reliable of late). NHBS has excellent shipping and reasonable prices. But be warned: while you're browsing, the temptation to stock up on other great natural history titles will be overpowering!
Hard to believe today, but the Great Snipe used to be so common in South Africa that it was hunted in large numbers by snipers (yes, that's where the word comes from). It then disappeared for about 80 years. However, could two separate sightings in January 2015 herald a return of this spectacular wader? That would be great indeed.
Has Dave Deighton done it again and discovered a new species - the Pelagic Nightjar? I'm afraid not. Nevertheless, his photos of an Eurasian Nightjar migrating over the Mediterranean in broad daylight deserve to be seen. You can also hear me reminisce about my first kiss, and see some plagiarized stuff from Peter Ryan - on a potential vagrant with a superheroic name.
We can all contribute to conservation in our own way. In my case, as the illustrator (and editor, graphic designer, cartographer) for the new 2015 Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. These are my ten favourite illustrations, with a little background on the artwork and the bird featured. I hope my passion for this project, and for the species it aims to protect, comes through in the art.
I am very proud to announce my new book: CHAMBERLAIN'S WADERS - the definitive guide to southern Africa's Shorebirds. Following in the footsteps of Chamberlain's LBJs, the book includes more than 600 new paintings, covers the ID and biology of 80 species and is packed with extra info. Watch this video to get a sneak peek at what the book will look like when it's done (towards the end of 2016).
How common is hybridization really? Probably more common than you think. Some estimates suggest that at least 9% of all bird species have interbred in the wild. A case-in-point is this apparent male hybrid between a Great Sparrow and Cape Sparrow that Ursula Franke-Bryson ringed in Namibia. I hope that this short guest blog from Ursula will entice birders to keep an eye open for the unusual – even with birds as everyday as sparrows!