Rufousnaped Lark

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Monday, November 23, 2015

UK Oct 2015 (Part 3) - Lands End to Weymouth

Once again the bed at Lands End Hotel was very comfortable, I don't know what they make them of but they are definately not like the ones they have here in SA. If I could get one like that here I would most definately.....what is this blog all about again....oh yes, the birds I saw on the trip.

Morning at Lands End

One of the first birds I saw for the morning was another couple of lifers in the form of a few Great Black-backed Gulls with a couple of Shags on the rocks below the hotel. don't know why they call them that but I did think of a few funny scenarios when telling friends about what birds I had seen.......nope, I'd rather not say but I'm sure you have a good imagination.

Great Black-backed Gulls

European Shag

Time was running out so we headed off from Lands End, down the narrow country roads once more to the quaint little town of Mousehole (pronounced Mowzel locally). A really small village with narrow streets and houses with small doorways.

Mousehole Harbour 

We spent a bit of time here, after parking on the harbour wall we took a walk around the town and I was able to get a few photos of the local birds. Herring Gulls were plentiful as usual in the coastal areas and there seemed to be a lot of immature birds. These I identified as first winter birds?

Herring Gulls - 1st Winter Birds?

Down on the beach in the harbour I noticed some small waders running along the beach. We took a stroll down and as we got closer, we realised that they were Turnstones....not at all shy like ours in SA. I sat down in front of their intended path and managed to photograph a few before they got nervous and headed back up the beach away from us..


One thing that was a challenge was the light, it was overcast a lot of the time and I had to play with the ISO settings to get the shutter speed up fast enough to get sharper images. After we left Mousehole, we headed up  to Weymouth with the cloud cover getting thicker and thicker and the light fading badly.

We got to Weymouth and checked into the Riviera Hotel. After dumping our bags in the room we headed off to explore the town and I discovered that there was a bird sanctuary on the outskirts. RSPB Lodmoor! The light was really horrible by now and it was decidedly more miserable than the last few days had been. Taking a stroll around the reserve I got another few birds for the trip.

Eurasian Teal - Male 

Northern Lapwings

Eurasian Spoonbill - Immature

Eurasian Blue Tit

Eurasian Coot
And that was it for the day, it started to drizzle and after spending some trying to photograph a snipe and a distant Dunlin we headed back to the hotel for a meal and bed..Hopefully it was one of those soft comfortable ones again?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

UK Oct 2015 (Part 2) Lynton to Lands End

We had a nice stay at the North Cliff Hotel in Lynton, the bed was extremely comfortable and the room was very cosy. It was with great effort that we got up to continue our journey, so late in fact that we opted to skip the tour of the flood museum at Lynmouth and carry on to next overnight stop at Lands End.

Lynton to Lynmouth Railway

We drove down along the coast through Bude and Bodmin until we reached the Bedruthan Steps where a giant supposedly used the rocks to cross the bay at high tide when the beach is completely submerged.

Bedruthan Steps

This was eventually where I managed to get to grips with some birds, I noticed small flocks of birds that kept landing and taking off along the cliff edge. With some patience and a bit of stalking I eventually managed to photographed them and what did they turn out to be, pipits.....Rock Pipits.

Rock Pipit (Anthus Petrosus) x 3

I really enjoyed these birds and sat and watched them for quite a while. Their high pitched piping contact calls are very un-pipitlike in my opinion and when I first saw them flying around I thought that they may be some form of euplectids? It was strange for me to see them in flocks as our pipits are mainly loners or at least associate in loose groups.

While watching them I picked up a different bird sitting right on the edge of the cliff. On closer inspection, this turned out to be a male Northern Wheatear in non-breeding plumage..

Northern Wheatear - Oenanthe Oenanthe

Unfortunately I only got the one shot as in my excitement to photograph the bird I didn't check my settings properly and completely blew the rest. Notice all the "miggies" flying around his head, as I walked along the path I had to keep dodging them so that I didn't get a face full, I imagined it was like a Star Wars movie and I was flying through a meteor field, hahahaha (I'll never grow up...).

Another bird I enjoyed watching was this Stonechat (Northern?), which is a familiar bird here in SA but this one looked somehow different, not as neat and colourful as ours but a little scruffy and grizzled looking (according to my Collins fieldguide this should be spring plumage?).


One bird that I heard almost everywhere I stopped was the European Robin which is very vociferous and extremely furtive at the same time. It took me a while to realise that the calls I was hearing (which sounded very sunbirdlike at times) belonged to this bird. I tried everything to get the bird in the open but as you approach them they go quiet and disappear, eventually out of frustration I played a Willow Warblers call from my Roberts Multimedia and out popped the robin..(he probably thought that it was spring and the warblers had returned).

European Robin

A real Christmas card type photo don't you think? It looks like snow in the background but its actually the light coloured roof shingles of the shed behind him...

One group of birds that were also very common on our trip were corvids. They seem to be everywhere but are very wary and don't really allow a close are two of the species we saw..

Carrion Crow


With that we left Bedruthan steps and headed off again through the hedgerows to Lands End where the sun was shining and we got some nice sunset shots and another difficult to photograph birdie..

Lands End Hotel

Lands End Panorama

We walked the paths around the hotel, enjoying the scenery and taking lots of photos. then just before the sun disappeared behind the horizon I caught up with a tiny bird which had been teasing me all day, they just don't sit still for a minute. It wasn't really a competition quality photo but at least I had a record shot of a Winter Wren..(its on the right hand rock by the way ;-) )

Winter Wren

And that was it for the day, we went to the hotel pub and spent R450 on two toasted sandwiches with crisps and salad and two beers....the restaurant food was even more expensive!! Imagine what food you could buy for that amount here in Pretoria???

Well at least the room was nice, the bed was again very comfortable and we slept well. The view from our window was also great!!

Lands End Hotel window views!!

 Part 3 to follow shortly.....Lands End to Weymouth

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

UK - Oct 2015 (Part 1)


Its been a while so I decided to prise myself away from the television and work and write a few lines. The Lazy Birder was sent to England for a weeks training and while there decided to spend a week touring the countryside a bit. The training was held in Swindon in Wiltshire (everybody asked "what on earth are you going to Swindon for?"). It was a smallish town when I was last there in 2005 but has grown a lot and the traffic has increased dramatically (I think I must have done a few roundabouts more than once when getting stuck in the wrong lane for my exit).

Swindon Town from the Jury's Inn

I remembered that the birding at Coate Water wasn't bad from the last time I was there, but that was in the summer and being Autumn this time around all was a bit quiet. Save for the ducks and geese lining up for a free hand-out.

Coate Water mixed flock
After the training, we headed off to Oxford for a bit of a historical tour of this University town and then travelled down to see the roman baths at Bath! The light wasn't very good as it was overcast most of the time we were travelling so had to up the ISO to as much as 3200 on my Canon 50D but the results weren't too bad. Check this one of the Mallard..

Male Mallard - Thames River Oxford
The Wood Pigeons are huge compared to ours here in SA. They were probably the most common bird we saw there. Ever noticed how the white stripes on the wings in flight resemble similar stripes painted on some Spitfires in WWII ?

Wood Pigeon - Oxford

Magpies are very common as well but extremely wary and really difficult to photograph. I managed to get a fair shot in Oxford on the outside walls of Christchurch. He didn't sit for long though before he flew off to sit in the leafy interior of a young Oak tree.

Magpie - Oxford

We had decided to visit Cardiff as well but it was quarter finals day and the Irish were playing Argentina in Cardiff, needless to say the roads were packed and we decided to turn away and head for the coast. On the way we went through Avesbury and in the village of Littleworth I saw a Red Kite fly over but wasn't fast enough to photograph it before it disappeared over the roofs of the village houses. While there I got my first pictures of White/Pied Wagtails which were also wary and difficult to photograph (are the farmers shooting birds?)

White Wagtails - Littleworth Oxfordshire

Further down the road we came across Dunster Castle (built around 1086), hidden away in the trees on a small hillock overlooking the village of Dunster and in the grounds I noticed a European Jay foraging in the long grass, he too didn't stick around for a photo session.

Dunster Castle - Somerset

European Jay - Dunster Castle

I noticed there was a National Park in North Devon so we had to take a look. The North Cliff Hotel in Lynton was our first overnight stop, which had beautiful views over the Bristol Channel with Swansea's lights twinkling in the distance.

North Cliff Hotel - Lynton

Exmoor National Park is nothing like the parks we have in SA by the way, with farmlands stretching out over the horizon in both directions from the road. The views are amazing however with so many green rolling hills, not like the brown grasslands of the Highveld of SA that we had just come from.

Exmoor National Park

Arriving in Lynton, Herring Gulls dotted the pier and I managed to creep up close enough for a full frame shot although the light wasn't great.

Herring Gull - Lynton (Exmoor National Park) North Devon

After getting settled at the hotel, my wife and I headed off to find a pub that had the TV on the quarter final between South Africa and Wales. We found The Queens pub where we ordered a pint and an 'arf a lager and settled in to watch with some locals (and a few Welshmen I noticed by the accent) luckily my Bok shirt was under the warm one (just in case). When South Africa won in the dying minutes with a lucky try, I had to keep the reaction subdued so as not to upset anyone. I couldn't resist flashing the Bok shirt when no-one was watching however.

Watching rugby in The Queens pub in Lynton
After the game I got to chatting to some of them who congratulated me (as if I had any effect on the outcome of the game) and they left. Later on we passed one of the staunch Welsh supporters who muttered in his broad Welsh accent "oh no, not twice in one day, its like rubbing salt in the wound"

Part 2 to come shortly!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Well, miracles never I am again blogging for the first time in months! I have had complaints from a few friends who have missed the piccies and waffle I used to enjoy posting on this site,,,so here is another one from last weekend.

Last Sunday the 7th of September a friend, Adolf Joubert, and I headed off to the Seringveld to see what birds were around. I have changed my strategy a bit since I last posted as I have decided to bird more and photograph when the opportunity arises which makes the ordeal less frustrating in my opinion. Adolf doesn't agree on this as he feels, no picture, no tick, but he is fairly new to the sport so time will tell.

The day started at 04:00 with a quick shower, packing some nibbles and then the trip to fetch Adolf and the drive to Seringveld. We arrived in the dark with the hope of picking up an owl or the odd nightjar but it was deathly quiet and nothing moved except our car..

As the light strengthened we had reached the end of Rinkhals road where we turned back with the sun now behind us! All we had seen up until then were silhouettes of Groundscraper Thrush and Fork-tailed Drongo. Moving back up the road we were surprised with a Lizard Buzzard sitting on one of the powerline support poles. This is not a bird I have seen regularly in our region so was quite excited that the day had started so well.

Lizard Buzzard x 2

It wasn't long after that, that we heard a Brubru calling and seeing that Adolf had not seen one before we decided to wait it out for the bird to get closer. Shortly after stopping, the bird flew into a nearby tree and started to call. It was completely unperturbed by our presence and allowed us to walk around the well branched tree for an open shot of him. I enjoy these birds as they have a very distinct call, beautiful markings and always appear so neat.


With two new birds for the year list, things were going very well. We had seen quite a few common birds by this stage...Yellow-fronted Canaries, Black-crowned Tchagra, Streaky-headed Seedeaters, Pearl-breasted Swallows and Whitebellied Sunbird amongst others.

Further along the road we saw White-fronted Bee-eaters, Amethyst Sunbird, Green Woodhoopoes, Hamerkop, Southern Black Tit, Cardinal Woodpeckers and my favourite for this area, Striped Kingfisher. Previous pics I had taken of this species had always been on the telephone or power-lines but this chap was conveniently perched on a low-level branch watching for insects in the grass below....lucky day indeed!!

Striped Kingfisher

Unfortunately our time was limited as I had an appointment back in town at 13:00 so we had to start moving back home. The house at the T-junction of Rinkhals and the Bynespoort road has beautiful gardens and lawns and we have often found some goodies here. Sunday was no exception as we found Chinspot Batis, Cape Robin-chat, Blue Waxbills, Black-collared Barbet and at last I found the Striped Pipit that is often reported in this area but I have never seen here.

Striped Pipit

Then just as we thought we should call it a day, we found a watering point that was very busy with birds coming in to drink and bathe. We got Crested Barbet, Karoo Thrush, Kurrichane Thrush, Cape White-eyes and a Yellow-fronted Tinker Barbet that kept coming in and out (or was it four individuals)?? We battled to get good images of this guy as he was moving around and preferred the shady areas with extremely busy backgrounds. This was the only fairly decent shot I could get for the record!

Yellow-fronted Tinker-barbet

With 40 species on the list it really was time to move, so reluctantly we drove off down the last stretch of road only to find another three goodies for the list...White-throated Robin-chat, White-browed Scrub-robin and a Long-billed Crombec....

Not a huge list for the day but we had some really good sightings and were able to spend some time with the cameras. The watering point is definitely a place to stop at and we would have spent more time there if time was in our favour..

And that is it for now, I am sure I will be posting soon again! See ya!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Recent Birding outings

Howzit? I haven't had to time to blog lately (honestly :-)) with my recent change in circumstances and starting a new company, its been rush, rush, rush over the last few months. I have however done a few birding trips which I thought I would share,. One of them included a sighting of the elusive White-backed Night-heron which I am sure is on a lot of peoples wish lists. I also went out to Mkhombo Dam again which is an area I really love to visit. Just a pity it is so far from home. Oh and Getaway website used one of my photos for their site recently which you can see at

Firstly, the White-backed Night-Heron....I sent my wish list through to a good birding bud who noticed that I hadn't seen this bird and so on the following Sunday I met up with him at a bridge crossing a small stream on one of the back roads through Mpumalanga, parked the cars and after a 200m walk next to the river came up with this chap or chapess on the opposite bank of the river (So if you are reading this, thanks Richard ).

I have done a couple of birding trips to Mkhombo, the first was in November where Phil Penlington and I went looking for the Chestnut-banded Plovers and came up trumps for a change with some good views and great photos of adult breeding and non-breeding birds..

Breeding Chestnut-banded Plover

Non-breeding Chestnut-banded Plover

We also saw an Osprey that had just caught a fish.

 Another interesting spectacle was a large flock of mixed Egrets and Spoonbills feeding in the shallows just off shore. They kept in a tight group, wading or flying forward in stages whilst feeding constantly. They kept this up for about 100m with the Black Egrets seeming to try to stay ahead of the group all the time. They would fly forward, spread their wings over their heads to form a canopy as they normally do and then fly off again as soon as the larger birds caught up.

Black Egrets flying off ahead of the flock
Here they land ahead of the feeding flock again

They immediately assume hunting position with backs to the wind

Here they start to move forward again as the flock catches up

We also got this very interesting looking Yellow Wagtail in moult which looks like it could the flavissima race (the British race) of this species but I dare not speculate for fear of being ridiculed by those in the know.. although I have probably already opened myself up for some serious body shots....

Yellow Wagtail
Mkhombo is great for waders as well and some of the common ones are...

Little Stint

Ruff - getting his waltz all wrong

Wood Sandpiper (with Little Stint in the background)

Common Greenshank

Common Ringed Plover

In Late December JP was up in Pretoria from the Lowveld to visit in early Jan so he and I also did a trip to Mkhombo to try and find the Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwits and Chestnut-banded Plovers which had been seen there but unfortunately we dipped on all of them. One plus point was that we came across the inland race of the White-fronted Plover which got me/us pretty excited initially.

White-fronted Plover

There were plenty of Yellow Wagtails around in different plumage's, which made identifying the races a bit tricky but I think they were these:-

Motacilla flava flava moulting adult

Motacilla flava flava - male in breeding plumage

Motacilla flava flava - non breeding plumage

Motacilla flava flava - 1st winter bird?

Motacilla flava flavissima moulting male (I think this is the same bird as the first Yellow Wagtail image at the top of the page but taken two weeks later)

As far as bushveld birds were concerned we found a Juvenile Great Spotted Cuckoo which had found a huge caterpillar and was beating it to death on a convenient branch. There didn't seem to be much left of it when I took this photo.

Juvenile Great Spotted Cuckoo

More excitement came in the form of my first confirmed Icterine Warbler ( I think all the others may have been Willow Warblers). It's a bit embarrassing to admit this by the way...seeing as I have been birding for the last 20 years...

Icterine Warbler - note yellow colour and GREY legs :-)

Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters are plentiful and we saw them on both occasions sitting on the numerous petrified tree stumps scattered around the shore just waiting to shred a tyre. The bee-eaters are fairly approachable and allow a photo session as long as you stay in the vehicle.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

On both visits there was a flock of Greater Flamingos made up mainly of juvenile birds and a few adults. It looked almost like a type of creche?

Greater Flamingos

Finally, what would an African bird watching outing to a dam be without the old Fish Eagle, this guy always seems to be at the same place near the dam inflow.

African Fish Eagle

There is not going to be much time for birding or blogging this year by the looks of it but I will try to sneak out now and again for some photos and a story....

Oh and one more photo to make the mouth water and keep the brain ticking over..

Mystery Eagle - taken in a pine forest in Mpumalanga

Hahaha.....with that I say...toodles!!