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saints win, marsh owl wins

2012-01-08 - 1:59 p.m.

pintail whydah & cape glossy-starling copyright 2012 by elaine radford

Don't know how many whackadoo typoes, misidentifieds, and forgot-to-put-ems I'll be posting during my South Africa trip, but any and all error correction will have to wait until I'm back.

On the afternoon of Jan. 7, we had a siesta while B. went to collect the stray lambs from the cancelled flight. I took a short swim and then another brief stroll. Some birds from the Benoni area that I may or may not have mentioned before:

  • Black-Headed Heron
  • White Rumped Swift
  • Great Crested Grebe -- not sure if I mentioned it before, but this time I had an up-close view
  • Black-Crowned Night-Herons -- which they announced with a loud and unpleasant croak
  • Speckled "Rock" Pigeon
  • Dark-Capped "Black-Eyed Bulbul

Then 8 of us went out to dinner, and the manager thought we were Germans and there was much discussion in German, although I don't know if it was in High German or if it was in the Swabian German of our German members of the group. Two of the guys I knew from previous tours, and while we were sitting around waiting for B. to return with the van, the bottle of wine we split three ways turned into two bottles of wine. So, finally, we couldn't figure out what had happened with B. and we decided to take a cab. That's right. An 8 person cab. But this story has a happy ending, because the manager called our B&B owner, and he drove half of us home, and the restaurant manager drove back the rest of us.

I am probably not supposed to mention that anybody got confused driving on the wrong side of the road and took off in the wrong direction for like two hours and got lost in the countryside so forget you read that. I slept badly, but I woke up pretty early anyway, because I suddenly realized that the Saints game might be playing. Stumbled onto the porch and, as I was setting up my computer, I spotted a very nice African Olive Pigeon. I couldn't get the game to stream, and maybe it doesn't stream, so it's a weird way to watch a game. I keep hitting the little circle-y arrow thing to refresh the screen. "It's 7 minutes remaining and the Saints are up by 14," and so forth. Ultimately, we crushed the turkeys, and I could finish my breakfast in peace.

In the parking lot, I got Red-Faced Mousebird and we ALL got the official first raptor of the trip, wonderful views of African Gymnogene.

Along the way to Marievale, we observed our first Black-Shouldered Kites, who seemed to be scuffling. Some other first of trip roadsides: Sacred Ibis, Crowned Lapwing, Longtailed Widow Bird. Zitting and Levaillant's Cisticola. Fan-Tailed Widowbird.

Fan-Tails and Long-Tails don't like each other much, and I noticed the Long-Tails hassling the Fan-Tails a few times.

It was much later in the morning when we arrived at Marievale, compared to my first trip, which makes sense since we were seeking raptors. However, we still didn't have much luck in the harrier department. A distant "BVD" of African Marsh Harrier and that's it, as far as I know. Some other new species:

  • Goliath Heron
  • Barn Swallow
  • Spurwing Goose
  • Pintail Whydah
  • Red-Billed QUelea
  • African Spoonbill
  • Red-Billed Teal
  • African Jacana

We next visited a private cattle ranch where we were invited to see a Secretary Bird nest. The adult high-tailed it over the hill when we got close, and we had to climb a ladder to look down into the nest. It was hot as Hades, and I was a bit worried about two of the youngsters, although they were by far the biggest two. They were just zonked out in the heat. The smaller guy in the middle is the one who looked up, his eyes dark with intelligence.

Here we had our first -- excellent -- look at Steppe Buzzard. Exiting the ranch, we saw great numbers of Glossy Ibis but also if you looked the other way, a somewhat huffy male Common Ostrich surveying the scene with his wings held out.

On to Suikerbosrand, where we added Black-Winged Stilt to the trip list. We had a researcher who knew of a Grassland Owl next but apparently the Owls had left. Instead, he flushed an astonishing number of Marsh Owls. Impressive views from every one point, a Marsh Owl was coming right at me and I looked him directly in the face. I would have to say that the Marsh Owls put on the show of the day.

A hailstorm came up from nowhere and we dashed for the van. Finally, we headed for the Amur Falcon roost or gathering area. It was more like a bunch of power lines that anything else, but it held dozens if not hundreds of these fine birds. We all got great looks, and we also added African Wattled Lapwing and Swainson's Spurfowl to the trip list. There was enough lightning to get scary out by the power lines, so we returned to the B and B, where we had time to wash up before we returned to the same restaurant where we ate the night before. We were greeted with enthusiasm, perhaps because we overtipped the night before, and I think we got the best waiter in Benoni. Well, it's raining like hell again, which is making me sleepy. Don't know when I'll have internet again so...for now...I vote Marsh Owl the best bird of the trip. Who wants to beat him?

To continue to part 5, click right here.

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