Full house of Coursers


Reflections on what turned out to be a fantastic day for these quirky terrestrial waders in and around Kimberley in the Northern Cape. The main and most difficult target for the day was the near-endemic Burchell's Courser Cursorius rufus, which we eventually found on an extensive dry pan. Not too far away, we found a [...]

Cuckoo vs Drongo


In December 2008 my attention was attracted by some "soft, almost raptor-like begging calls" emanating from the crown of a Burkea tree on the southern shoreline of Vaalkop Dam. A Fork-tailed Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis, was in evidence, but half-hidden in the dappled shade was this juvenile African Cuckoo Cuculus gularis. Fork-tailed Drongos are the only [...]

Franklin’s Gull at Centurion Lake


Do you remember this one? I was sitting in my office when I got a phone call to say a Franklin's Gull Leucophaeus (previously Larus) pipixcan had just been located - a potential lifer, only about 10 km from my house. I think I broke the land-speed record on my down the N1 to get [...]

Creatures of Kimberley


Some miscellaneous field notes from a trip to Kimberley in April 2008. This late in the austral summer, many of the migratory species had already completed their moult into breeding plumage, and were in immaculate condition. Large numbers of Western Yellow Wagtails Motacilla flava patrolled the shoreline of Spitskop Dam, and many of the males [...]

Specials of the Spiny Forest


South-Western Madagascar is a surreal place - much more arid than most people typically imagine Madagascar, and filled with bizzare Octopus trees adorned with dancing sifaka lemurs. The predominant vegetation in the area is called spiny forest - and for good reason, as one soon finds out when chasing after disappearing Long-tailed Ground Rollers . [...]

Miscellaneous Field Notes


This page (as well as the juvenile African Cuckoo) is from a sunny summer spent at Vaalkop Dam in December and January 2009. I'm sure that older birders will agree that there has been a massive decrease in the numbers of Yellow-billed Kites in the Transvaal (I used to see several individuals every day over [...]

Pectoral Sandpiper


The handsome little Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos was first recorded in Southern Africa in 1949. Interestingly, there has been a massive increase in the number of records since then. I have not fully traced all of these, but a quick scan of the literature shows that there were only 4 records before 1969, and at [...]


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