The last week of August was probably the single greatest twitching saga in SA birding history, with the discovery of two firsts for the country at the same site! The only problem was, one of these, a nondescript warbler merrily swinging its tail about, defied identification. Read the whole story here, and learn a little something about ID of Upcher's Warbler.
Terns are tough - on that much we can all agree. A lot has been written on their ID in Europe and the Americas, but all from a Northern Hemisphere perspective. If a mixed flock of terns makes you want to tern tail and run, this article is for you. I discuss the Identification of Common, Roseate and Arctic Terns, as well our own special visitor from the frozen south - the Antarctic Tern. Along the way, you'll spot the odd tern of phrase - most of them not very punny. Good luck!
Do you love raptors and old school rock & roll? Then this post if for you! Check out Lieben Swanevelder's great pictures documenting an exceptionally rare raptor: the seldom seen melanistic morph of an Ovambo Sparrowhawk. But things aren't always that black and white when it comes to colour aberrations - read some of the theories here. And why is this not a dark form Gabar Goshawk? Let me know what you think!
So you think you know your Southern African bird calls? Then prove it by taking this tough test. Be warned: although these clips are all from fairly common local birds, they are unusual calls that are seldom heard and poorly known. I'll also give you some clues if you get stuck. If you get none right, don't worry...I won't publish the results :) But this just goes to show how wide the repertoires of birds are. They have a whole language, that we are only beginning to document. Good luck!
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.
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!