A bird paradise

“‘Tinktinkies’ or ‘Klopkloppies’?”  Now I know what my grandmother always talked about - Cisticolas!” exclaimed Mercia Komen of Doornrandje on a bird walk on 8 December.  “Afrikaans names for birds and flowers are so wonderfully descriptive!   We saw the Wing-snapping, the Zitting and the Desert Cisticola.  These tiny birds fly so fast that their wings appear to be vibrating.  Add that they fly so high that they ‘pop’ out of sight in a flash....almost like magic.” 

The bird walk, arranged by the Crocodile River Reserve committee, was led by bird fundi, Anthony Paton, starting from “The Sheds” off Gemstones Road in the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy.   “This group quickly proved to be adventurous, patient and persistent - a recipe for a very good bird outing,” commented Anthony.  “Birding diverse micro-habitats in the Conservancy resulted in a very good list. We recorded 70 species, including an excellent sighting of a pair of Great Spotted Cuckoos, which pursued each other in flight, passing almost directly over the group.”

Great spotted cuckoo

Great Spotted Cuckoo   

Janet Webber of Hennops River agreed.  “My son Brendon and I were so glad we went.  It was really wonderful to learn more about the birds of our area and link them to the various habitats.  The highlight for everyone was the Great Spotted Cuckoo, but my special favourite was the Northern Black Korhaan breeding pair.”  Mercia appreciated seeing one of her favourites, the Paradise Fly Catcher.

Paradise flycatcher

African Paradise Flycatcher 

Anthony did hear the call of what he thought was the White-bellied Korhaan but without a second call to confirm, it could not be added to the list.   “I do think our ‘sighting of the day’ - the Great Spotted Cuckoo - may have made up for that - the first ever report in this pentad.” 
For Anthony’s detailed report on the sightings, go to www.veldtalk.co.za and to www.crocodileriverreserve.co.za
 
Vultures and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

“This was the most singular five minutes of my life!” exclaimed Kerri Wolter, manager of the Vulture Programme (VulPro) after talking with the British Royal couple at the Tusk Trust’s inaugural Awards for Conservation in Africa in London in September.  Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and second in line to the British throne, presented the awards at the prestigious Royal Society.  He was accompanied by his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

VulPro

Kerri speaking to the Duchess of Cambridge (Photo: Vulpro newsletter) 

Kerri’s success in VulPro being shortlisted resulted in a surge of global media interest. CNN, BBC World News, Sky TV, the Mirror Sunday People as well as South African media all gave VulPro and Kerri’s nomination considerable cover.

“This has drawn the plight of vultures to the attention of many people previously unaware of it,” said Kerri.  “Prince William said he’d hereto been unaware of the problems faced by vultures or that they were endangered.”

It seems that Eskom and the Department of Environmental Affairs are also unaware of, or indifferent, to the vultures’ problems.  The DEA has given permission to Eskom for a massive 400kV powerline straight through the vultures’ feeding and migration area near Hartbeespoort Dam.

Kerri says this 40km powerline could result in many vulture deaths.  “They are electrocuted when they collide with powerlines.  I simply cannot fathom why the DEA has approved this - they are aware of the vultures’ migration patterns.”  She has provided maps to DEA and Eskom showing these patterns and suggested another route. Eskom has not responded to her queries in spite of the fact that they are one of VulPros financiers! (Beeld)

No place to call home

“What a devastating thing to watch!” exclaimed Tyrone McKendry of the Gekco Conservancy in Kyalami.  “On Friday afternoon, 8 November, we stood helplessly watching a pair of African Grass Owls (Tyto capensis) fleeing from ferocious flames as their nesting site was completely destroyed in a matter of minutes. A fire that was mysteriously started on the vacant land next door to the nesting site could have serious repercussions for the future of the Grass-Owls in Kyalami.”

Grassowl fire  

The nesting site had been active for over eight years and the property owners purchased that piece of land just to ensure the protection of the owls, Tyrone added. “These habitat specialists require very dense grass in order to build their nests and tunnels in which they spend their days.  Sites like this one are becoming fewer and fewer as development increases and suitable habitat is destroyed. Fires are now happening so frequently that the owls are forced to move out of these areas completely in search of suitable habitat and sufficient food.”

Tracking Secretary birds

Spotted a Secretary bird lately?  Ernst Retief, Regional Conservation Manager of Birdlife SA, Gauteng and North West, wants news of where these stately birds are seen and, especially, nesting.

Farmers were requested via articles in the Farmers’ Weekly and Landbou Weekblad to report secretary bird nest sites on their properties. More than 30 farmers responded. “The nest sites will be monitored and we will consider fitting tracking devices to the nestlings when they are seven to eight weeks old,” says Ernst.

“Currently we have tracking devices on four birds and our target is to fit devices on eight to 10 birds.”

For news and to post your sightings and pictures go to the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/secretarybirdconservation.

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