Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Late Summer, Limpopo 15th to 27th April with Kevin Henderson and Gerry Thomas

Cape Grassbird
With most of the Amur Falcons well on their way back to Asia, we didn’t go south to the Newcastle roost, instead we started in the Magoebaskloof area. Lots of forestry plantation, indigenous afro-montane forests and heathland scrub where we got a few nets up.
Morning netting produced a couple of nice endemics in the form of Cape Grassbird, Drakensberg Prinia, as well as Golden Weaver, Tambourine Dove and Olive Bushshrike.

Our first raptor run found us set up on a Long-crested Eagle, unfortunately too intent on watching for mice in the grass below it and not seeing out trap. however someone else did, and in came a ‘Buteo’, me thinking it must be a late Steppe Buzzard. However when we caught the bird, my instincts told me we had an endemic Forest Buzzard. It was probably an early arrival, having migrated up at this time of year from the E Cape where they breed.
One other raptor caught was an adult male Rock Kestrel.
Mountain Wagtail

Whilst doing net rounds we had been pestered by a lark female African Goshawk which had so far managed to get out of the net each time it had gone in after something. But sooner or later it had to happen and we caught this lovely young bird. Other new and exciting catches here was a beautiful MOUNTAIN WAGTAIL, got in a spring trap at the edge of some waterfalls, this species filling in the niche its Grey counterpart does in Europe.

En route to the next site we got 2 early Greater Kestrels, one when dropping for a Black-chested Snake Eagle that watched as 2 adults with a juvenile all descended onto the trap with just the youngster getting caught!
a dark Forest Buzzard
Then followed 2 adult Pale-chanting Goshawks, an immature Gabar Goshawk and then after loosing a BC Snake-eagle off the trap, had a brilliant run of 4 BC Snake-eagle’s in a row, one, a bird of 2.1kg, is one of the biggest I’ve caught. 9 raptors for the morning!
female African Goshawk

Came across an adult and juvenile Peregrine at one point, not something you see everyday, got a trap down, but not at all interested!
Also tried for a Gymnogene which landed next to the trap, took a stab at it, then cleared off!   Watched a pair of Kori Bustards in a large field.

At the next site, we put nets up round the pool, sadly the Barn Swallows had disappeared where we had caught a BTO control last time, but we got a few interesting things. I finally got a Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling as well as a Yellow-throated Petronia, both ticks for me!

Rock Kestrel
We were in a lovely valley of giant Baobabs now in the Limpopo river valley. We spotted a large eagle on top of one of these majestic trees and got a trap down. It came in immediately, a Tawny!! the bird hit the trap so hard, it knocked the mouse out of the trap and took it!! What a bizarre incident! 
A bit later on we got a Brown Snake Eagle, a bird of 2.2kg’s. That night we were treated to the sounds of big cats in the locality, a Leopard ‘coughing’ across on the ridge near us and a bit further away a Lion roared for some of the night.

Next morning we got an adult male Shikra and a juvenile Gabar Goshawk in quick succession. Had to wait at one point when a herd of Elephants crossed the track and we watched a pair of Klipspringer sunning themselves.

Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling
Heading west, we got into even drier country and were seeing no raptors on the way. We got to the next camp with just a Purple Roller to show. That night though, we mist-netted a Pearl-spotted Owlet, such aggressive little things!

First thing out on a raptor run we got an adult female African Hawk Eagle at 1.840kg, the male came in too, but took off when she was caught. That afternoon at camp, we were enjoying a beer on the verandah, when a Little Sparrowhawk flew into the dead tree across the backwater. I quickly got a Quelea into a trap and stuck it out on the lawn and the reaction was immediate! And we had a nice adult female bird all of 114g!

Leaving the Limpopo valley on the 23rd of April, we saw a small flock of some 12 Barn Swallows. There are a few Lesser-grey Shrikes around still and the odd European Bee-eater still moving north.

adult female Lanner
Little Sparrowhawk
We came across a pair of Lanners, the female was scoffing down dove with the male looking on peevishly. We got 2 traps down, a quell and a mouse, given the nature of this species, the male will go for the Quelea and the female the mouse. The female immediately showed great interest and the male started bombing the Quelea, but nervous. eventually the female flew down to the mouse with her meal, she just couldn’t let it go in case the male got it! It was too much for her, so she flew back up to the pole and hovered down the rest of her meal before returning to the mouse and we caught her! Talk about greedy! What a lovely adult bird at 740g.

The next site was in the foothills of the Waterberg national biosphere reserve where we got another juvenile Gabar Goshawk and an adult female African Hawk Eagle. We also saw 2 different flocks of some 20 and 30 odd House Martins. Also saw a Secretary bird and a group of 7 Denham’s Bustards.

In all 22 raptors ringed of 14 species in difficult dry conditions. Steppe Buzzards would have put our totals up a great deal, but given the late date we had no migrants to work with.
Olive Bush-shrike

Tambourine Dove

Familiar Chat
Kevin with a Brown Snake Eagle

African Hawk Eagle 

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