Monday, 26 May 2014


Sunbirds - Nectar at a price

We are currently in the early throws of the winter here in South and Southern Africa and these cooler months between May - August  each year are amongst some of my favourite times for photography. 

One of the main reasons are the profuse of beautiful, colourful flowering Aloes we have here in our part of South Africa, which attract sunbirds in their droves to drink that 'sweetest' of things that the Aloes offer, 'nectar' but as so often in mother nature as we shall find out, gifts are not given freely.

Thus, this weekend saw sunbirds as our photographic quarry for my wife and I as we organised ourselves and members of one of our bird clubs (Birdlife Harties) to a Sunbird photography feast at a local nursery located near Hartbeespoort called 'The Aloe Farm' in the Northwest Province of South Africa.  Andy de Wet, botanist and owner of The 'Aloe Farm' was our host for the morning.

Photograph of a Marico Sunbird (Nectarinia mariquensis)
Marico-Sunbird (Nectarinia mariquensis)
perched on a 'Aloe' ready to take some nectar

Monday, 19 May 2014

Pied Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher - The Master Craftsman

The Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) is probably the most recognisable and thus consequently the most photographed of resident Kingfishers in South and Southern Africa. The Pied Kingfisher is one of about 10 species of Kingfisher that are seen in South Africa, some however are intra-african migrants the most famous of these being the stunning electric blue colours and distinctive call of the 'Woodland Kingfisher' a species which are a favourite and a part of the South African Bird Migration anticipated by birders in South Africa each year.

It was the call of the Woodland Kingfisher that got my wife and I interested in birds and birding initially. Did you know that most Kingfishers are not found near water and don't necessarily eat fish! I will keep that for a later post though.

Back to the Pied Kingfisher, this bird is called 'pied' due to its distinctive black and white markings (known as 'pied' in the birding world) and the Pied Kingfisher is really unmistakable when seen flying and producing its distinctive 'chirk-chirk' call  or hovering over any African body of water, although its range also extends into south and southern Asia.

 In fact it is estimated to be the third most common of kingfishers worldwide it is said. Although basically a two-toned bird it is possible and quite easy to distinguish at the very least the difference between a male and female Pied Kingfisher when seen. The male Pied Kingfisher has two full black breast bands, with the female having just a single incomplete black band on the breast. So the next time you come across a Pied Kingfisher have a closer look, male or female?

Pied Kingfisher
Female 'Pied Kingfisher' (Ceryle rudis) showing 'single' black breast band

Pied King Fisher
Male 'Pied Kingfisher' (Ceryle rudis) showing 'double' black breast band

Monday, 12 May 2014


Parasitism or Mutualism

This last weekend saw my wife and I again in South Africa's KNP (Kruger National Park), where I witnessed several happenings which gave rise to me writing this weeks blog post. In the animal and plant kingdoms there are many 'symbiotic relationships' ('living together', regardless of the nature of the relationship). These 'symbiotic relationships' are broken down further into Parasitism, Mutualism and Commensalism.

Parasitism is where one 'organism' only benefits from the 'symbiotic relationship' while the other party is actually harmed. Mutualism on the other hand is where both 'organisms' benefit from the relationship. Commensalism is where one 'organism' benefits but does no harm to the other organism.

It is possibly 'Parasitism' which I witnessed this weekend in the form of a large mammal and a bird, which was until recently thought to be the 'symbiotic relationship' known as Mutualism, maybe you have your own thoughts on the matter ?  The bird is the 'Oxpecker'  of which there are two species, the Red-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus) and the Yellow-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus africanus). The particular mammal in this instance was the humble Impala with whom this 'symbiotic relationship' has been ongoing for a long time.

Red-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus) perching on an ‘Impala’ host.

Monday, 5 May 2014

African Snipe

African Snipe – Ariel Display Extraordinaire

The fast moving African Snipe (Gallinago nigripennis) was one of the birds we saw when my wife and I took a recent trip away from Limpopo in the lowveld and the Kruger National Park to South Africa’s highveld and Johannesburg in Gauteng. 
Just to the East of Johannesburg, close to a small town called Nigel, we had a chance for an early morning visit to one of our favourite places for photographing waterfowl at a protected RAMSAR site ‘Marievale Bird Sanctuary’ a haven for waterfowl.

This African Snipe is one of over 240 species of birds recorded over the 1000ha site with over 65 of these species being waterfowl. Habitats at the sanctuary include shallow open water, reedbeds and grassland, so you can imagine the variety of habits providing a safe haven for many bird species.

Picture of a African or Ethiopian Snipe (Gallinago nigripennis)
African or Ethiopian Snipe (Gallinago nigripennis)