Ngoye Forest: saw the barbet, got the T-shirt

Welcome to Ngoye Forest! If you're a birder, you will end up here sooner or later, as this relict 3,900 hectare forest patch in the rolling hills of KwaZulu-Natal is the only place in southern Africa to see Green Barbet (aka Woodward's Barbet, if you're so inclined), among many other endemics. There is even now a tarred road right through the forest, so no excuses! I tried something a little different with the layout this time - hope it works!

By | April 18th, 2016|Birds, kids, Places, Reptiles|0 Comments

Desert babies

My friend Justin Rhys Nicolau sent me this remarkable picture which he took in Namib Desert. I admit that I was stumped as to these two babies' identity (which I'm sure was Justin's devious plan all along). Can YOU guess to which species these two cuties belong? I'll give you some clues: it is a Namibian near-endemic which is sometimes active at night and spends part of its life in underground rodent tunnels...

By | April 18th, 2016|Birds|0 Comments

Cute as a button!

Black-rumped Buttonquails, Turnix nanus, are certainly some of the most elusive and tough-to-see-properly of Africa's birds. Ringers Ursula Franke-Bryson and Tom Bryson couldn't believe their eyes when the little bundle in one of their mistnets at Mutinondo Wilderness in northern Zambia turned out to be this poorly known species. Read on to hear why I think buttonquails are probably some of the planet's weirdest birds!

By | April 18th, 2016|Birds, Conservation, Waders|6 Comments

LBJs available again!

Some good news that a lot of birders (I hope) have been waiting to hear. My book, CHAMBERLAIN's LBJs, is now available again in print (as well as a downloadable eBook version). If you think I'm exaggerating when I say that LBJs are among our most spectacular, thrilling, interesting, sought-after and memorable birds, this book is just for you.

By | January 13th, 2016|Birds, Books|0 Comments

Fun with queleas

Africa's Red-billed Quelea is possibly the planet's most numerous bird species, with a global population of around 1.5 billion birds. Here are some videos to show what you can do with an abundance of queleas, a lot of bird seed and a little patience.

By | January 7th, 2016|Birds, Videos|4 Comments

Recycling mynas

Am I the only birder who secretly likes mynas? Despite their bad reputation, you have to admire their tenacity and adaptability. This post solves a mystery that has intrigued me for several years, and highlights a behavioural quirk of mynas that actually contributes to environmental conservation. Recycling!

By | January 7th, 2016|Birds, Conservation|7 Comments

Avian Architects

How many palm strips does it take to build a weaver nest? Foolishly, I dedicated a morning of my life to determine the answer to this question. In the process I discovered some fascinating aspects of weaver life, and gained even more appreciation of these beautiful, talented and energetic birds. Guess the answer, before you continue!

By | January 7th, 2016|Birds, Videos|2 Comments

Mountain Pipits: A piece of the puzzle

Mountain Pipits are regarded as breeding summer visitors to the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, and the adjacent Drakensberg. But after years of research and atlasing, we still don't know where these enigmatic birds disappear to in winter. A recent sighting of a migrating party of Mountain Pipits at Ezemvelo, Gauteng provides at least one piece in the puzzle.

By | October 22nd, 2015|Birds|5 Comments

Curiouser and curiouser: Brown-backed Honeybird displays

Despite being the epitomy of the term LBJ, Brown-backed Honeybirds are fascinating and curious creatures: brood parasites that can digest waxy scale insects and establish their territories by incredible aerial maneuvers. But there is still a great deal that we don't know about these easily overlooked birds - hopefully my observation on previously undescribed courtship behaviour and calls can contribute one piece to the puzzle.

By | August 30th, 2015|Birds|5 Comments

Sharing is Scaring: mimicry in Black-bellied Starlings

If you're a Black-bellied Starling and you want to outcompete your frenemies to hook up with a GF, the most chillaxing way is to do it vocally. Talk the talk, gansta, by copying all the birds you hear around you, obvs. I try my hand at teen slang, and analysis of the vocal repertories of Black-bellied Starlings - possibly Africa's most under-rated mimic. If you're too lazy to read the post, just listen to the audio clip where I isolated mimicked phrases from 11 other species in a 22s recording. Peace!

By | August 29th, 2015|Birds|2 Comments