This is the Southern African Rare Bird News Report issued at 20h00 on Monday, 09 December 2013. Information has been gleaned from various websites, email groups as well as from individual observers who have passed on their sightings. This report cannot be taken as being totally comprehensive as it is based only on information made available at the time of writing. All bird sightings reported here are reported in good faith based on information as provided by the observers. Any inaccuracies are totally unintentional and the writer cannot be held liable for these. For those who may have only joined the group recently and are interested in finding out what has been seen in the past, previous reports can be viewed at http://groups.google.co.za/group/sa-rarebirdnews
Before I get going with the formal report, there are just a few other items that I want to mention first…
Firstly, some of you are probably aware that Mark and Alisha Kirk have been doing a Big Year this year in which their primary target was to achieve 800 species seen in a calendar year (you can follow their progress at http://markalisha.blogspot.com/). They made it slightly tougher in that both of them had to see each species together in order for it to count on their list. Well, this afternoon, a little bit of Southern African birding history was made when Mark and Alisha became the first birding couple to ever achieve this milestone (only a handful of individuals have achieved it before) by cracking their 800th species on Mount Gorongosa in Mozambique with a gorgeous Green-headed Oriole, not a bad species to get as the milestone bird! Huge congratulations to Mark and Alisha – you have done a fantastic job of getting there and we look forward to following the last days of your challenge to see how far you will still be able to push it…! So, to all the birding couples out there, there is the challenge for you – see if you can equal or better Mark and Alisha’s amazing total…J
Then, just following on from what must be the undoubted blocker of 2013, Southern Africa’s first ever ORTOLAN BUNTING at Namibrand in Namibia last month, I have now received a linked through to the photos of the bird rather than the frame grab off the back of the camera with a cellphone. Those of you that are friends with me on Facebook would have probably already seen this when I posted it there, but for those who haven’t, why not pop through to http://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_donald_photos/ and go and depress yourselves even more. Based on these photos, it would appear to be a 1st winter individual (i.e. young immature) and the greyish tones on the head would seem to point to it being a male.
Lastly, just following up on the mega alert that was sent out shortly after the last formal report on Thursday about the WHINCHAT at Palmwag Lodge in northern Namibia (Southern Africa’s 18th record of this species), I have received further photos of this bird from one of the observers, so thought I would just include another shot of it. There has been no further news of the bird so far, but the site is rather remote, so it is perhaps understandable. However, the first South African birders were due to arrive at the site this afternoon so, hopefully, there will be some more news in due course…J
Whinchat at Palmwag Lodge
© Anton Samuelsson
Ok, let’s get on to the more current news now, shall we…
Starting in the Western Cape, the BLACK HERON at Thesen Island in Knysna remained on view throughout the weekend whilst there was a bit of a surprise when news was broadcast of a COMMON MYNA in Bellville (the bird has apparently been in the area for a little while now, but I am still waiting for further information on it). Elsewhere, a BLACK TERN at De Mond Nature Reserve yesterday was a good find whilst at least one GREATER SAND PLOVER was still present there as well. Also of interest were 2 LUDWIG'S BUSTARDS reported yesterday from the farmlands close to Paternoster.
The Northern Cape produced a bit of a surprise earlier today when an adult and juvenile LESSER MOORHEN were located in Augrabies Falls National Park, well south and west of their usual range!
In the Eastern Cape, there was a small influx of VIOLET-BACKED STARLINGS on the weekend with a pair of birds reported near Queenstown whilst another individual was seen on a farm just outside of East London.
Up the coast into Kwazulu Natal, the immature CRAB PLOVER at the St Lucia estuary was still present until at least Friday whilst more exciting news was of an adult EGYPTIAN VULTURE seen on Friday soaring over the road between Ixopo and Highflats. Rumours have persisted of an, as yet, undiscovered remnant population in this area and the intermittent sightings from the area suggest that this may well be the case. Also on Friday, several CASPIAN PLOVERS were still on view at Mpempe Pan whilst, earlier today, a pair of RUFOUS-BELLIED HERONS were watched near Lake Bhangazi at Cape Vidal as they harassed a Leopard there!
Black Heron at Thesen Island
© Hirsh Aronowitz
Common Myna in Bellville
© Jermaine Davids
In Mpumalanga, the SOUTHERN BROWN-THROATED WEAVER was still on view yesterday at Crocodile Bridge in the Kruger National Park whilst, close by, a single COMMON MYNA still persisted at Sunset Dam too. At Mabusa Nature Reserve, the SHORT-TAILED PIPITS as reported previously were still around and are attracting quite a lot of attention from local birders who are all making the pilgrimage to go and see these birds, for many of them it being a rather surprising lifer to close to home. Also of interest for provincial listers, a RUDD’S APALIS was located on a private farm near Komatipoort a little while ago and is still apparently present, only the second known site for this species in the province.
In the Free State, a single GREY PLOVER was located yesterday at a pan north-east of Verkykerskop, another good inland record.
The North-west Province also got in on the action producing a single CUCKOOFINCH yesterday at Kroondal Dam.
Common Myna at Sunset Dam
© Hugo le Roux
Rudd’s Apalis near Komatipoort
© Ehren Eksteen
The big surprise in Gauteng came on Saturday morning when a FRIGATEBIRD species was seen soaring over Hartbeespoort Dam in a north-westerly direction. Unfortunately, the views obtained were not conclusive to be able to identify it to species level, but it was thought to most likely be a Greater Frigatebird. What a great bird for the region and not even unprecedented following on from the individual that entertained so many people a number of years ago at Rust de Winter Nature Reserve.
Also of interest in the province, a EUROPEAN HONEY BUZZARD was reported from Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve on Thursday afternoon.
Jumping across to Mozambique, a EUROPEAN HONEY BUZZARD was reported near Goba yesterday.
And finally, in Namibia, the Walvis Bay area continued to entertain on the weekend with no fewer than 32 RED-NECKED PHALAROPES still present as well as a single RED PHALAROPE whilst the PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER also remained on view throughout the weekend.
European Honey Buzzard at Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve
© Lennard Vroom
Please remember to send through your details to be included on the various listing clubs that are hosted at www.zestforbirds.co.za. This website also has an extensive rarities gallery that has many additional photos of a number of rarities that are mentioned in these reports.
Thank you to all observers who have contributed their records. Please continue to send through any reports of odd birds as well as continued updates on the presence of rarities already previously reported, no matter how mundane you think they may be. Even if you think someone else has probably sent in a report, rather send the report yourself as well. The only way to improve this service and to make it as useful as possible to everyone is if it can be as comprehensive as possible.
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