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Found 36 results

  1. With the increasing popularity of this topic and the "beginners luck" that all of the new 2016 participants have had, I thought I should be the first to start this year, in the hope that it increases my total. Here are a couple before we leave for the Kruger next week, where hopefully we should get at least 100 (???!!??) Following on from the suggestion from @@JohnR in http://safaritalk.net/topic/16171-tdgraves-big-year-2016/page-21 I took out the "optimum" combination of Canon 7D mark ii, 100-400 mark ii and 1.4x extender mark iii a couple of days ago when the sun was out. There weren't that many birds around, but he was right, this combination is much better than even then new lens on the 5D mark iii So here are my first couple of birds of 2017
  2. As last year, I left Selinda in the middle of the morning and landed at Kasane at noon. A driver was waiting for me. The formalities at the two border posts were carried out, as usual, without problems. Two hours later, we reached Hwange Town where we turned right and quickly arrived at Mbala Gate where my guide of last year, Washington Sibandi, was waiting for me. He was again my guide but only for the three first days. For the two last days, I joined Adam Jones, who was guiding a keen photographer who was in camp for fifty-five days. For information, the journey to the camp is about 2 hours and a half if you do not see anything spectacular on the way. In this year of heavy rains, the situation was similar to that of Selinda ; water everywhere, on the roads and on the plains. Hwange had, moreover, given itself some airs of Okavango. So apart from hippos, shy elands, solitary elephants and some plains game, we did not see a lot of mammals. No matter what, we were again able to focus on birds and smaller creatures. There were nevertheless some good and interesting sightings of lions, leopard, martial eagle, spotted eagle owls and…… bullfrogs. Concerning the camp itself, nothing more to add to what I wrote in the report on my stay last November : still a great place with great people. The day of my arrival, between Masuma and Shumba, we found the Masuma pride making its way on the road. Unfortunately, it did not stay there and disappeared very quickly on the left side in the mopanes and the kopjes. When we arrived at the camp, we were told that four lions, two females and two sub adults, called the Super Models, had been spotted nearby. Photo taken in the space between the hood of the vehicle and the windscreen, turned down on it. One of the two dominant males of the Masuma pride, Liam or Mandla, seen near Masuma. Another lion, this one nomadic, was heard roaring every night and even seen by other guests feeding on a dead elephant.
  3. Show us your birds in flight photos. Please include details, where, when etc and camera/lens specs. Thanks, Matt.
  4. Friday 9th June, Today truthfully is a lie-in for us, as we are woken at 7am and are able to pack our final things before breakfast and a 5 minute walk to the Airstrip. No problems here with weighing luggage, queues through security checks, passport control, no thoughts even to look at our onwards ticket or any jostling for seat positions on the plane. The 12 seater Safari Air flight lands gracefully with a very young looking lady pilot, two guys in luminous jackets are on board who are hitching a lift to the next lodge so Mac, Denise, Peter and I take our seats as Aaron loads our luggage and after sad goodbyes we are in the air in seconds rather than minutes and winging our way to Leroo La Tau which is a Safari lodge situated on the Boteti river and the next stop on our incredible trip. A couple of photos taken from our sundeck, literally we have the perfect 'Room with a view' of the Boteti river. Another easy landing 50 minutes later and before the four of us are off the plane, our luggage is already stowed in a Safari vehicle awaiting us. Leroo is at the end of a twenty minute, very bumpy sand road and Chemical our driver gets us there safely. This lodge is owned by the same company as Camp Okavango and also Safari Air. Everything is very familiar to us as the format of trips, meal times and rules are the same, even the free bar and free laundry services, both of which are a huge bonus. We are shown to our rooms with sweeping views of the river, from the large wooden decked balconies. The rooms aren't quite as large as our previous one as they hold one double and one single bed, but again with fabulous bathrooms. The view from the deck later that afternoon includes herds of Zebra, Impala and Elephant so we can't complain. It is magic. The hot African sun is shining on us and before long we will be on a game drive with T.S. our guide who will look after us throughout our stay. It's a great system and it works wonderfully well. He answers our questions, takes us out and about and at the end of each day escorts to our rooms. There is a strange rule here that as soon as it is dark we are taken to and from our cabins by a member of staff as evidently roaming animals, including a wayward Elephant who drank the entire swimming pool water supply dry, meander into the camp and frighten the guests. After a very filing brunch we unpack and make the most of our wonderful balcony watching birds and animals come to feed or drink and very soon it is time for a high tea of savoury snacks and delicious cake and then we are off on our first game drive in the Makgadikgadi National park which is within the Kalihari desert. We have to firstly take a boat for 10 minutes along the Boteti river to get to the opposite side where the Safari vehicles are kept. Once seated comfortably the six of us, we have been joined by two Americans Alan and Beth, listen to T.S. who tells us the name of every bird along the river bank where we stop every few minutes for fantastic photo opportunities, it's an amazing vista and I only hope the pictures I've taken do it justice. There are the herds of Impala along the way, we see Hippos, Ellies, Giraffe and Kudu as we meander for miles around the sandy road structure. It's bumpy and the gorse bushes and Acacia trees are lethal as we speed past, it's difficult at times to keep out of the way of their thorns. We have been driving for over an hour when a message comes over the radio to say there is a Lion close by, so we head in the hopefully right direction and within 15 minutes we see a Lioness coming out of an enclosure of shrubbery and long grass. We are silent but utterly speechless at what is happening yards in front of us. She walks to the back of this tightly covered area where we quickly realise she has some cubs. We park within meters of the covered enclosure and see there is a Lion inside eating a black and white striped meal. Sadly for the Zebra, he is on the menu today and it turns out to be one of the three cubs that is enjoying this good feast. As I've said before, this is nature in the raw, it's not the most pleasant part of life, but I try and equate it with me tucking into a gorgeous peppered Ribeye steak, we all eat to survive and Lions hunt, kill and eat their prey. These three cubs, our guide tells us are 15 months old, all males who will slowly gain their wonderful manly manes at around 3 years of age. To be honest they aren't much smaller than their Mother now, but she is still very much in charge and it's unbelievable to watch her wash their faces as they play and cuddle just like any close family unit. We sit for easily 40 minutes clicking away, taking videos and marvel at the luck we've had at being able to be a part of this. As we decide, as the sun is setting to head back to Camp, the Mum moves away to rest on her own whilst the boys play and just as we leave one of the lads bounds towards the back of our vehicle for a few strides, as my heart pounds he gives up, just like a little boy who's taken on too much he decides it's not what he should be doing so goes back to rejoin his brothers. We arrive back at camp to prepare for our own dinner and to sit and recall to the other guests an afternoon we surely will never forget. Saturday 10th June Morning game drives can be very different to afternoon ones. I can't say it's my favourite time at such early hours. Being woken at 6am, getting ready in semi darkness and having breakfast, but I have to mention the sunrises in such remote areas are out of this world. Like my first vision of a Botswana sunrise when we were aboard our plane from Heathrow they just take your breath away. Our boat ride to the game park at this unearthly hour shows the Hippos are wide awake. We see at least 14 of them frolicking in the reeds and their heads bob up and down. I've loved the sound of them and that definitely will be one of my lasting memories from this amazing African adventure. Hippos up close are terrifying, we know they only eat grass and aren't in the slightest bit interested in using us as a food supply but when a couple of tons of raw angry Hippo comes too close you have to very gently get out the way. All records show they are the most deadly creature against humans in Africa but not because they want to eat us, just because we get in their way. We have a great morning taking loads of pictures and enjoy a restful siesta before we head back to do it all again in the twilight. We see all the usual creatures but the last half hour before we return brings not one but two amazing highlights. Firstly out of nowhere a Lioness literally walks nonchalantly within yards of us, looks me straight in the eye as she wanders past and I try very hard to snap a steady picture whilst my nerves are shredded. Secondly as it's nearly dusk and we are hurrying to get back to our boat before complete darkness falls, a large herd of Elephants are having fun washing and swimming in the river, but decide to get out just as we are passing. There are so many bushes, trees and dead shrubbery littering our path it's impossible to, so we have to wait. We move gradually forward trying to hurry them along but one waves his huge ears furiously at us and trumpets so loud it scares the living daylights out of us. The river at this point is too deep to navigate through with our vehicle plus the water is full of Elephants going through their cleansing ritual. One bull Elephant is not amused that two Safari vehicles are taking up his space but eventually we find a gap and get through successfully without upsetting the boss too much. Scary moment! Back at camp we sit around the bar enjoying nibbles and the gorgeous South African wines whilst we wait for another superb meal. The waiting staff, chef and guides here are just as harmonious as our previous camp so they sing and dance around the long dining table before dinner is served. As they dance we are plucked from our seats and everyone of us join in clapping and humming along. It's a very special time. The food on this trip has been stunning, varied and thoroughly enjoyable. We've experienced Carpaccio of Springbok, also grilled Kudu, just like steak. Impala pie, just like chicken! As well as delicious Hake, Pork, Lamb and a multitude of vegetables and salads.. Sunday 11th June Our last full day in Botswana and I have to say I'm exhausted. Another 6am call and we're on our way for one more game drive with all the usual suspects around. There are so many beautiful and interesting birds along the river and each day there seems to be some weird and wonderful named variety we haven't seen before. I've never been a twitcher and I must say before we arrived in Botswana I never dreamt I'd enjoy taking photos of birds but this has been a joy! Due to the variety of size and colour we have seen. But the one bird I'd never even thought about is gracefully stepping through the bush around 100 yards beyond our truck. We dare not try and get any nearer because once they take off at speed running, we would never catch sight of it again. Yes we have spied an Ostrich! All alone but happily wandering around, no doubt catching bugs for its breakfast. It's quite a wonderful sight to see and except for Kudus, Impala, Ellies and my favourite Hippos, he is the highlight of our morning. Peter and Mac join T.S. on the afternoon drive but Denise and I decide it's time to chill on the deck, watch the river and whatever presents itself and get prepared for tomorrow when Peter and I move on to South Africa and just one more interesting part of our trip. A beautiful lonesome OstrichMy smiling baby Hippo, isn't it gorgeous? Here is an array of bird pictures taken around the Boteti river, some named (hopefully correctly!!!) some not During our trip, these birds are so plentiful in all parts of Africa we just called them H.G.F. They are, of course, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, but they are funny!Red-billed Hornbill African Fish Eagle I believe a pair of Secretary birds, but I'm happy to be corrected.Starling A pair of little Bee Eaters, perfectly perched for me in opposite directions to show their plumage . A beautiful pair of Saddle-billed Stork My all time favourite a Lilac breasted Roller! Always found at the top of a tree watching everything around. Perfectly beautiful.
  5. I have been doing safaris in India since 1990. But never thought i would get so lucky ever. It was December 2014, i was searching for Wild Elephants in Dudhwa National Park. Saw them at a distance of about 50 meters, it was late evening, dipping light, mist did not help, and i started to take photographs. Suddenly noticed some crouching movement between myself and the Elephants, Focussed and i could not believe my luck, a Tiger. he was stalking the baby elephant, maybe a month old, and the cow Elephant was very cautious. The Elephants would trumpet, try to scare the Tiger away, but he remained focussed, with a mission possessed, and did not leave his ground. Having watched the scene for over 20 minutes we had to leave the park as the safari time had come to a close. Left with a heavy and a praying heart that God save the baby. I left Dudhwa after 2 days, it was only after 7 days that my driver called and said, "' Sir the baby is safe, and i saw him today during the safari", was i releaved would be an understatement. Sharing the images here. Detailed article titled The Dudhwa Drama on below link www.naturesafariindia.com
  6. We left Selinda in the middle of the morning and landed at Kasane at noon after a stop at Savute to board a few extra passengers. A driver was waiting for us. The formalities at the two border posts were carried out, as usual, without problems. Two hours later, we reached Hwange Town where we turned right and quickly arrived at Mbala Gate where our guide, for the next five days, was waiting for us. Along the gravel road that leads to Sinamatella, we saw some kudus and warthogs and a breeding herd of elephants. During the five days that followed, we only saw a few solitary males but no more herds. Why? Simply because of the weather. Indeed, all along this route, the weather gradually deteriorated and when, late in the afternoon, we arrived at Camp Hwange, the sky was dark. It’s the only cheetah seen throughout the trip. It’s a male who was on arrival near the camp. The following days, we found its tracks without seeing it again. As you can see, the sky was already threatening. The following day (and night), it rained, in a regular way, of a light rain, the sky remaining overcast, with the consequence that a lot of mammals, in dispersing, had left the proximity of the artificial water holes. The following days, the sun was back with however, which did not help things of course, the passage, at the beginning of the evening of the second day, of a violent thunder storm which lasted less than an hour bringing nearly twice as much water than the twenty-four hours of rain from the previous day. We were on a game drive, close to the camp, more precisely at Shumba Pan, when we saw, in the distance, the black clouds approaching. We got back immediately. We had hardly arrived until the elements suddenly broke out in the form of torrential rains limiting visibility to barely twenty meters. The amount of rain was so high that the Kalahari sands could not absorb it fast enough so that a water depth of a few centimeters remained on the ground during the storm. Another result of these first rains was the appearance of scorpions and snakes, mainly non-venomous. It’s also the time for the nuptial flight of termites to occur. Those termites make the happiness of all, mammals, birds, reptiles, batrachians, adding to their daily menu. So we did not see a lot of animals (I think that my quota of mammals for this trip had been reached during the previous ten days in Botswana ). I had a similar experience, in the same weather conditions, in 2004 in Selinda, also in November. The first two nights and early mornings, we heard the roaring lions but then could not find them; we saw leopard spoors and even found the remains of a prey (duiker) in the teak forest but there also without seeing it or them. No matter what, we were able to focus almost only on birds; around 125 species were seen and identified. I had never even seen some species before, such as eurasian hobby, indian myna and the melanistic form of the gabar goshawk, but also steppe buzzard and african cuckoo. Some might tell me it was a hit and miss. I do not see it that way. Indeed, I really enjoyed those five days at Camp Hwange, one of the best camps I have been given to visit in Africa during the last twenty years. Unlike a lot of camps, Camp Hwange is not part of a group ; it’s the property of professional guide Dave Carson. It’s a great camp because emphasis is placed on high level guiding and safari experience. There are eight rooms, all facing the water hole. They are constructed so that you can observe what happens there whether you are in the shower, in front of the sink or even in bed. The camp is managed, with a great sense of hospitality, by Zimpro guide Julian Brockstein and his wife Ashleigh. The other guides are the veteran Spike Williamson, Adam Jones, who recently obtained his pro licence, and two learners. One of them, Washington, was our guide during the five days. I was surprised by the level of competence of this one that already exceeded that of quite a lot of guides of other African countries. Julian taught me a lot of things, which I did not know, about less prestigious creatures like the common egg-eater (it's a non-venomous snake without fangs) because he found, after the storm, three of them in front of my room. It also taught me that the scorpions are luminescent, when exposed to the light, all particularly the starry nights of full moon and a fortiori when one points at them a flashlight. And, less important certainly but nevertheless good to take, the food is gorgeous. To find out more about Camp Hwange and the tests that a Zimpro guide has to go through to obtain his license, I urge you, if you have not already done so, to read the interview that Julian Brockstein gave two years ago to @@Game Warden. http://safaritalk.net/articles.html/_/articles/julian-brookstein-zimbabwe-pro-guide-camp-hwa-r45 By the large number of bones and skulls (at one time I thought I had discovered the elephant cemetery ), as well as dried elephant dung, found on the concession and especially around the water hole, I told myself that the animal activity had to be great in the dry season. This was confirmed to me by the guides, increasingly as we move forward in the dry season. What makes October the best month to get there. It seems that then and especially around Masuma dam, the lions regularly kill elephants. Masuma Dam November 2016. Masuma Dam, May 1998. Dead elephant at Shumba Pan.
  7. "Why Costa Rica ? What's there to see ? How expensive ? Not letting you blow your money again !!", said, She Who Must Be Obeyed "How about Zika? ", asked my eldest daughter, up to date with latest news "Where is that place ? ", asked my younger daughter. Hers was the easiest question to answer I have been targeting a proper rainforest and swampland experience for a while, especially after reading so many excellent reports of Pantanal and Brazilian Amazon. But it is not a cheap experience. I'm willing to spend some cash within reasonable limits but for four of us (the girls are treated as adults for most purposes now) with private guides it was costing an eye watering amount. The same with Grizzly Bear viewing in Alaska, which I was discussing in another thread today. And it was not possible to leave the kids behind, not yet, just a few more years to go !! So I started looking for alternatives and Costa Rica was heavily promoted by my good friend Xelas who also happens to be a Destination Expert on CR in Tripadvisor. So I guess he knows a thing or two about CR. I started researching and came across a few excellent reports from @@Alexander33, @@SafariChick , @@Atdahl and of course from @@xelas. Tripadvisor is also a good source of planning, if you know how to traw through thousands of same queries. I started feeling that spending 3 weeks in CR would give me a reasonably comparable experience at a lower cost. Of course I was aware that jaguars and a few other species will not be present, but one can't have everything. And most importantly it was possible to self drive with help of guides when needed. I generally do not like the idae of being driven around. So armed with my knowledge I tried to sell CR to my family members. One big plus point was that BA had just opened a new route of direct flight from London Gatwick to San Jose, thus avoiding the dreaded US customs. San Jose caused more confusion with my family as they thought we'll have to fly to USA Anyway for people who are not very familiar with Costa Rica , here are a few fact checks. Let's start with the map to show tiny the place is !! The national flag Now some important info which I was hoping would clear all the confusions of my family members and generate interest. Because of my profssion I'm very used to public speaking and I mentioned chocolate every other sentence to keep the interest going Costa Rica : The Rich Coast. National motto: Pura Vida (Pure Life), a very appropriate motto indeed ! Pura Vida means everything here. The Land of “ Tico” and “Tica” : nickname for Costa Ricans. Capital : San Jose, Juan Santa Maria Airport, not San Jose California !!! My kids know one of my favourite songs is Dionne Warwick's : " Do you know your way to San Jose ?" so they immediately started making fun of me !! Time zone: 6 hours behind UK. Flight time : 11 hours, So expect serious jet lag !! Language : Spanish. It is now time for girls to show that the money I am spending on their Spanish classes at school is well spent. It was indeed helpful as I was struggling after Buenas Dias and my exprssion suggested Mui Mal English spoken but mostly in touristy places. Currency : Colones. US dollars readily accepted in big touristy places and we found ATMs in all touristy places. National Food : Galo Pinto : rice, beans and meat combination. Great dish, I vouch for that !! Delicious !! Chief exports : Coffee, chocolate and banana and Tourism. High emphasis on Chocolate Tourist routes: Pacific Coast , Caribbean coast and the Central mountains ( least explored region). Large number of Volcanoes ( several active ones, one of them decided to vlow a few weeks before we were due to rravel) and many waterfalls. Osa peninsula : the richest Biodiversity in the world, even more than Amazon rainforest. Don't just believe me , check Nat Geo. Ha Ha Pantanal : in your face !!! Very dense rainforests and cloud forests with rain more than 300 days a year. And I can again vouch for that after wearing wet socks for 3 days!! Main attractions : Resplendent Quetzal bird and hatching of Olive Ridley turtles ( in May-June) and frogs, insects, beaches and rainforest in general. Weather : cold and dry in mountains all the time and rains in July in most of the areas. Sadly July is the only time that we could go. Famous people (actually the only Costa Rican I knew of) : Kaylor Navas. Currently the best goalkeeper in the world, plays for Real Madrid. Football to us, soccer to you guys across the pond. Costa Rica is the only country with no regular army. That appealed hugely to my vegetarian Jain wife, who hails from the same place as Mahatma Gandhi !! And my family members were all sold , so it was time for me to make some serious preparations. I guess that is enough for a prologue and let's meet the Prince of Costa Rica now
  8. Relaxing video with lots of action in 26 minutes.
  9. This trip to The Gambia seemed a long time coming. It was booked way back in March, more than seven months previously. A lot can happen in seven months, not least a Brexit vote which of course has played havoc with the valuation in the pound, but ironically also seen a drop in demand for travel to The Gambia. Why did we book so early? Well my travel companion Alan also needed to fit in a pre Xmas trip to Goa, I needed to fit in a trip with my o/h Claire, and as we were booking through our Gambian guide, we needed to confirm availability of accommodation "up river" before someone grabbed them all! This trip was all about going further inland than either of us had ventured before. The objective to see one or two bird species not found on the coast. We'd been as far as Tendaba on our last trip, this time we wanted to go as far as Janjanbureh, the former colonial capital previously known as Georgetown. We knew we had to go early in the season, pre Xmas in fact, to see one of the specialities, the Egyptian Plover, so with that in mind we caught the second charter flight of the season out of Manchester airport on 6/11/2016. Our plan was 2 nights on the coast, 5 nights inland, 3 nights on the coast and back home again. I had considered getting Claire to fly out and join me for the the latter part and indeed extending my stay but that would have made life awkward for Alan getting back from the airport. I wasn't going to leave Claire on the coast alone and she certainly didn't want to travel up river as the accommodation is basic. It was easier to leave her at home ! Now that would be mean and selfish wouldn't it? Me enjoying some winter sun whilst she was suffering the cold and damp of a British winter ! Simple solution, I booked a separate package tour for the two of us back to The Gambia, 10 days after the first one ended! And so to our first trip with just Alan and myself. Our anticipation and expectations were high, we had after all been before and knew what to expect, well of the places we had already been anyway. Up early at 4.30 am, I picked up Alan from his home on the Wirral and we were sat enjoying our first beer of the trip in Manchester airport at 7.00am on a Sunday morning. It's part of the tradition now, something that has to be done! Our flight arrived 40 minutes early, a taxi to the pre booked hotel, the Bakotu , had us ready to catch the last hour of daylight for a quick appraisal of the local area around Kotu before meeting our guide for the forthcoming trip. Our first impressions were that there weren't many birds around on the mud flats at Kotu Bridge! Very strange. I grabbed a couple of shots of a Little Bee-eater and that was about it really. We paid our guide the money for our trip upfront in £ notes and he went off to cash it before the exchange rate dropped any further. He had been given the option to quote in Dalasai way back when the exchange rates looked a bit dodgy but had opted not to in the hope that he would gain on a £ recovery. That was to be his loss, not ours but he had been given the chance to secure a fee in local prices. On our last visit the exchange had been 70+ dalasi to the pound. It was currently standing at 52. We ate in the hotel that first night and I noted that the prices of a meal seemed to have risen as a result. Oh well, such is life. TBC
  10. As a "veteran" of the big year, I am embarrassed that so many new faces are getting involved in this and I am yet to post a single photo. And it's April! We did have a lot of photos to process from our recent Kruger trip, so I'm using that as an excuse and I'm sticking to it! I like @@Peter Connan 's idea of numbering them, which should make it easier to come to a total, although the mysterious prize promised by @@Game Warden has never been awarded, AFAIK....... So I will start with the new species that we managed to spot in the Kruger National Park and go from there. P.S. please forgive me for any misidentifications, it is bound to happen again sooner or later
  11. Summer is here and before it gets too hot I took a couple of short breaks south of Perth, WAs capital city where I live. First stop was Mandurah, a large Estuary/canal tourist town, about an hours drive south. For me, the drawcard here is Dolphins. There’s a lot of them, some literature says about 100, so you would be unlucky not to see them. I took a little boat ride out into the Estuary, problem was they were so close it was impossible to fit them into the frame. We ventured a little further out to where three rivers converge into the Estuary. Osprey towers seem to be going up everywhere now so seeing them is easy too. The next morning we had breakfast on the Boardwalk in town, again the Dolphins kept us entertained as we enjoyed our Lattes. My next stop was Dunsborough, a gorgeous tourist town about three hours South. The beaches are pristine, clear blue water and white sand, and you can always find a deserted one outside the busy Xmas/Easter holidays. It is also on the path of the “Humpback Highway”, the route the Humpback Whales take on their annual migration to and from their Antarctic feeding grounds. We spent a few hours on a Whale watching Tour. Geographe Bay Whale watching Boat to the right Firstup, more Dolphins Then we locate a couple of Mother and Calf pairs So we didn’t see any exciting breaches, tail slaps etc, but heck, just to see these Mum and bubs relaxing in these resting grounds was great. They did go right under the boat at one point and popped up the other side, they were pretty relaxed. As we left the beach later I noticed and Osprey pair on the nest with a pair of chicks. Our Osprey sure are doing well. Dunsborough as well as being coastal sits amidst some beautiful bushland, so we get some really nice birds and some are terrific singers. These are three of the best and its not unusual to have them all singing at once. Grey Shrike Thrush Rufous Whistler Golden Whistler No singing from this one though, just speed and stealth, Collared Sparrowhawk The garden is also home to two types of Lizards The Bobtail The Skink
  12. Well I have written an entry on my blog page to see if it's possible to just paste it here so let's see what happens! I'm lucky enough to get away on quite a few holidays each year so it's easy to overlook what has been happening locally, even to the extent of overlooking what you have had the pleasure of seeing. This year has been no exception. Way back in January regular visits to the resident Black Redstart on a nearby headland to both photograph and feed began to pay dividends with the bird becoming very confiding. It wasn't the only bird that benefited though. It was regularly bullied by the resident Robin and a couple of Dunnock were quick to spot an opportunity for an easy meal too. I'm lucky enough to live in a woodland setting too so my bird feeders are pretty popular during the winter months and a pair of Sparrowhawks take advantage of the feeding. I'm not in to driving long distances for my birding preferring to put the money towards holidays instead. Wife Claire and I plan to take a break both before and after Christmas. This year we went to Cuba for most of February. The cold and damp of winter is a bit off putting but the need to get a "photo fix" had me venturing over to Anglesey, an island just along the coast from where I live. In recent years attempts have been made to eradicate the alien Grey Squirrels and encourage the spread of the native Red's. It's worked incredibly well and now this is one of the best spots in the UK to see Red Squirrels. Birds such as over wintering Jays benefit from the food put down for the squirrels too. And just along the road the Maltraeth marsh area holds over wintering Pintail ducks as well as the odd rarity. One of the best spots in the UK for watching Starling murmurations is right on my doorstep at the local RSPB nature reserve. They put on an incredible show as they gather in stunning formations before dropping down to roost in the redheads. Your imagination can go wild and they are truly a magnificent sight to rival anything the natural world can produce anywhere in the world. Another rarity in the southern half of the UK particularly is the Black Grouse. They gather at dawn every morning at their usual lekking spot and you need to get there well before first light to avoid any disturbance. It's an hours drive to the site but the unearthly hour I have to get up does reward those who make the effort. In to April and May it's wonderful to see the new growth and spring flowers that bring with them the arrival of the summer migrants. One of the first to return to our garden is the Chiffchaff The delight of hearing him for the first time soon becomes a bit of an irritation with his constant Chiffchaff call as he claims his territory. The numbers have increased in recent years too and we have several pairs in and around our garden. It's a nice reward to see their offspring later in the summer too. One of the more furtive birds is another regular summer visitor, the Blackcap. They feed mainly on insects but on their first arrival eek out their diet with Ivy berries too. I have plenty of them around and about. One of my favourite shots of the year was this group of newly fledged chicks. A sight I hadn't seen before and it was truly heart warming. Their last moments together before splitting up and heading off their own separate ways. Hopefully they will end up back here next year. We had a pretty miserable spring here this year, wet and damp. I had arranged a week's photography trip to Iceland with my regular travel companion and near neighbour Mike. We were watching the weather there with trepidation. It was still covered in snow in the area we were booked to stay. As it turned out we had better weather than here in the UK. By the time the weather and light had improved sufficiently most birds had bred and their chicks fledged. I have to admit to being a fair weather birder when at home. I just caught up with a Grey Wagtail family before they parted company. and while I was at it, the local Dipper population is quite good. it's love of fast running water and mountain streams make it more unusual in other parts of the UK. I have two regular haunts for photography. One is the garden, the other my local reserve. Both can seem a little devoid of new interest at certain times of the year so when I heard there was a Great Egret at the reserve it was worth a visit. They may be common in other parts of the world but they are still a rarity in the UK although less so each passing year. The local reserve used to be one of the best spots in the UK for photographing Stoats, particularly when they have a new litter who come out to play. Unfortunately sightings have become quite rare this last couple of years as it's presumed they have moved their dens after floods a couple of years back. I had one brief glimpse this year but managed to capture the action. Back in the garden one mammal that was definitely an unwanted guest, well after he's been photographed anyway, was this Brown Rat. One of the downsides of feeding the birds, this fella had no hesitation of climbing to the feeders and stealing all he could. That meant we withheld feeding for a few weeks until we were sure he was gone but with it went some of our birds too. They come back eventually though. Mammal sightings in the UK are not that common. There are plenty about but most are nocturnal like the Badgers. This was only my 4th sighting ever and yet they live just down the road. I don't think this youngster was long for this world I'm afraid. This one had definitely already departed. A passer by spotted him lying by the side of the footpath so I decided to take advantage of his demise. Seeing a live Mole is a rarity as they spend nearly all their time underground. This near perfect specimen was as good as you will get so I gave him a brush and put him in one of the nearby mole hills for a more dignified and realistic shot. Nobody has noticed he's an ex-mole so I'm sharing my dark secret for the first time. Well the UK summer can be a bit sparse for subjects and I'll try anything. Come the Autumn and we do get the odd migrant dropping in on their way south. Over in Anglesey, a Wryneck had been reported and I had to go. This is a species that was at the very top of my wanted list for several years. Along with pal Mike we had hoped to see one on trips to Hungary and Bulgaria but had failed. Now we had a chance and what a chance it turned out to be! Usually they are seen on the East coast of the UK, not the West where I am. It was a 90 mile round trip but well worth the effort and I went twice in an attempt to get a decent shot. After the first visit I was pleased to have at least got this shot. but the return was even better with the bird showing magnificently. Just look at that tongue which it uses to probe for insects! The bird was happy to hunt, groom, stretch and even yawn. I felt it was a monkey off my back, but the wait and previous frustrations had been well worth it. Within a fortnight we had another extremely rare visitor, this time a Booted Warbler right on the doorstep virtually. These are resident in Siberia in the summer and head south to India for the winter. This one was way off course. During the week it was present birdwatchers from all over the UK arrived to take a look. It was feeding well it seemed. But it was loosing it's tail feathers. We already knew that it's chances of survival were slim but now it was more or less a certainty there would be no happy ending. Here one day, vanished the next, my guess is that it fell prey to a Sparrowhawk or such like. Sadly that's what usually happens. Only yesterday we had a Hoopoe down at the local reserve. Again, very unusual birds in the UK. I didn't get around to going to see it as I have seen many on my foreign travels. I won't see this one for sure. Within 24 hours it had met it's demise, taken by a Peregrine Falcon in front of witnesses this time. So that brings my local Welsh year up to date. Maybe not a great deal to some but the fact that unusual sightings are rarer and more difficult to come by makes them all the more precious. I have made a couple of trips in to England but that's all. With winter now really starting to take a grip it's time for me to migrate too. Next stop The Gambia until then...cheers!
  13. So, let us see if it is possible to view my Vimeo-videos here on Safaritalk. Yes! Here I present red-throated loon, grey-headed woodpecker, green woodpecker, black woodpecker, white-throated dipper, grey wagtail, pied wagtail and common sandpiper. All from Dalarna in almost middle Sweden.
  14. Seeking help from the birding experts and enthusiasts to identify the following birds from Tswalu, SOuth Africa! thanks much Pix 1: could this be a fiscal shrike ? Pix 2 : that's an African red eyed bulbul on the right. but not sure what bird is on the left? it looks like a Mackinnon's shrike.
  15. Don´t worry this won´t be one of my usual 20 page+ monsters. And actually this was not a proper "safari" at all - no such thing in Austria. But we had such a good time at Lake Neusiedl last weekend (Wednesday to Saturday) and saw so much that I felt this deserved a little trip report of its own. The Alps (where I live) have fantastic landscapes, and some interesting animals can be found but it´s quite a challenge, especially to get into photo range. The East of Austria is much lower, fewer then no more mountains, undulating hills, and then just open plains - this is the start, the Western tip of the "Puszta", the Hungarian steppe. And here is Lake Neusiedl, the largest endhoreic lake in Central Europe - and a paradise for birds and other animals, especially to the East of the lake, the so called "Seewinkel". The extensive reed areas of the lake and many shallow water bodies (some of them saline) attract thousands of birds, especially during migration times - like right now. Most birds fly around the Alps, they don´t like to cross mountains, and so their routes often lead them straight here. Many of them are just visitors, but there are also many breeding species. More than 350 bird species have been confirmed here, and so birders from near and far, all over Europe, travel here to rack up their species list or take photos of waders especially. It´s the only place in Austria where people don´t look at you very suspiciously if you walk around with binocs and a big lens which you point at bushes. And it´s of course a very good place for my "Big Year" thread. :-) Which is also the place where most of my bird shots will be posted but here are a few for a start: Northern Lapwing (look closely - actually two of them) Common Kestrel Goldfinch Pheasant Western Yellow Wagtail Long-Eared Owl Wood Sandpiper
  16. ......something catches your attention out the corner of your eye. Your brain goes into automatic mode and spits out a warning 'Birds circling, slowly. Has to be a kill. Go and see what is there' It takes a few seconds for you to realise: a) you are in Europe b ) you are sat at your desk c) you are located in the outskirts of a major city and finally d) they are in fact seagulls Please tell me I am not the only one who goes into automatic safari mode at odd moments. If you are also so afflicted, please feel free to share your experiences
  17. Similar to the thread on Marievale found here: http://safaritalk.net/topic/13778-marievale-bird-sanctuary-south-africa/ this is not a trip report per se, rather some images and general information about a specific location. In the Western Cape there are a number of birding spots, including Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and Intaka Island. One of perhaps the lesser-known and certainly least touristy of these is Strandfontein. In actual fact it is a water purification works. The birding area is a series of controlled ponds lying outside the "industrial area" of the facility. It is placed just next to the beach at Muizenberg, but there is no access from the coast road, and the facility is reached from the M17 in Grassy Park through Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve. The turnoff is at S34.05364 E18.52926. Follow the single tar road through the Seekoeivlei reserve, and eventually one arrives at a road between two large ponds absolutely teeming with birds. At the end of this road is the gate to the facility. The main birding ponds are reached by turning right onto a dirt road right in front of the gates. This is what it looks like from above (Google Earth image):
  18. Can anyone help with an ID on this raptor seen in Kaziranga National Park? My first thought was Changeable Hawk Eagle and that's what I have listed, but now I'm not so sure. The feathering just doesn't match any other images I've Googled, and the eye should be much brighter yellow, even given the dim light. Any other thoughts? This is just a briefly processed photo for ID purposes only
  19. This TR has been delayed by my trying to finish my big year in time http://safaritalk.net/topic/14834-tdgraves-big-ish-year-2015/, but also as @@Alexander33 and I were in Tswalu at the same time and he was doing his TR, I thought I'd leave it a while. However, we are off to the Kruger in two weeks and I did not want to have two TRs hanging over me, so I thought I'd at least make a start on this one before leaving, but there may be a long gap...... Given the brilliant (from our perspective) exchange rate, we thought we'd go back to South Africa again in September. The original plan had been Namibia, but given that it is relatively cheap anyway, the savings were more apparent in South Africa, especially at high-end lodges, such as Tswalu. So we thought we'd go back and base the trip around Tswalu. We had been to Tswalu in the Summer of 2012 (Jan) and really enjoyed it. We had been intrigued that the guides had mentioned it was one of the best places in the world to see rare nocturnal creatures, such as aardvark and pangolin and that in winter, these were visible in the daylight at the extremes of the day, as temperatures were lower. We had been very lucky during our last trip and had "ticked off" all of the desert/rare species that we had not previously seen (except for the pangolin). But fleeting glimpses under a spotlight are not conducive to photography. Despite booking in February, we struggled to get accommodated in Tswalu as it is peak season and exceedingly popular. They have a 5 nights for 4 offer, which I wanted to do, but there were no free rooms for 5 nights, so we did the 4 nights and fly free offer. However, the only way we managed that was because our friend (a TA) managed to persuade them to let us have a family suite for the price of a normal room! After the success of our visit last year to Mashatu http://safaritalk.net/topic/13650-mashatu-madnesstuli-tastic-our-first-trip-to-botswana-august-sept-2014/, we really wanted to include that as well, so we did and we added a night compared with last year. This will be in a separate report, as it is in Botswana. So that left us a choice of where else to go. As we would fly to Tswalu and drive to Mashatu, somewhere between the Tuli block and Johannesburg seemed appropriate. We did not feel like the long drive to Sabi Sands was worth it for three nights, on top of everything else. I wondered about Marakele National Park, but our friend suggested Welgevonden. This was the place that we fell in love with safari. We had been travelling to South Africa annually for a while and thought that we would like safari. Before taking the plunge on an entire trip to a safari destination (we already had Zambia on our minds), we thought we'd go somewhere for three nights to see if we liked it, instead of a beach or other destination, as a sort of glorified B&B. Of course we did. So back in January 2009, with our entry level DSLR and a 70-250mm lens, we had three days in the bush in green season and we loved it. The lodge which we stayed at then had burnt down and was still in the process of being rebuilt, so our friend suggested Makweti, which seems to be one of the top-end lodges looking online (these are the sorts of clients he deals with). So the trip was completed with three nights here. It was an ideal lodge for us, as there are only 5 rooms. Having finally worked out the British Airways reward flight programme, we were lucky enough to travel business in both directions, although this meant travelling on weird days. So, as an added bonus, our trip was longer than usual. We flew out on the Thursday night and back on the Monday night, extending by three days our normal trips. We filled this with a trip to our friends' lodge on a game farm. We have only been there in January before, so thought it'd be interesting to compare to "peak" season. Also, we had never been there with our TA friend and he and his family came as well. So our itinerary was: 3 nights Ditholo Wildlife Estate, Limpopo, RSA (our friends' lodge) 4 nights Tswalu Kalahari, RSA (31/8/15-4/9/15) 1 night Johannesburg 5 nights Mashatu tented camp, Tuli block, Botswana (5/9/15-10/9/15) 3 nights Makweti, Welgevonden, RSA (10/9/15-13/9/15) 1 night Johannesburg Here we go....
  20. All, My wife and I are heading to Tanzania for 14 nights across May and June for our second safari and I'm looking for recommendations to round out our camera lenses. Our experience with wildlife photography is in settings where we were able to get closer than we probably will be in the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Manyara, so I'm not exactly sure how to supplement what we have. When we were in Sabi Sands and Timbavati our 70-300 was sufficient for nearly every circumstance. The only problem we had was the reach for some birds. Tanzania will probably be very different I imagine. We have two DSLR camera bodies, Nikon D100 and D7000. The D100 is currently at Nikon getting the auto-focus worked on, but we plan to take both with us along with an Olympus Tough for video. Our current lenses are a Nikon 70-200 VR, 70-300 VR II, and a 18-55mm. My plan was to bring one of the two VR's to use with the D100 and then rent something with greater reach for the D7000. I was initially thinking of the Nikon 200-400 f4 VR II, but someone suggested to me that I might be able to get similar results using a teleconverter with my 70-300. I've also read some reviews that suggest other options such as the nikon 400mm f2.8. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
  21. OK, so given that @@Peter Connan has got things going and I have finally finished my TR, I thought I ought to start this, given that half of the year has already gone.... These will all be from our January trip to the KTP and hopefully I can add to it with some from the garden and our next trip in September. I'll start with all the new species we saw.....
  22. 1) Name of property and country: Erongo Wilderness Camp, Damaraland, Namibia 2) Website address if known: http://www.erongowilderness-namibia.com 3) Date of stay, including whether Green Season, Shoulder season or High season pricing (if known). Green season, March, 2015 4) Length of stay: 2 nights 5) Why did you choose this camp or lodge to stay in? Based upon what? I read fantastic reports on TA about this property, their amazing views and their great walks. 6) How did you book the property, direct or agent? Were your enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently? I did the initial research and then contacted Discover Namibia who arranged everything. 7) How many times have you been on Safari? 4 times 8) To which countries? South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Namibia. 9) Which properties have you been to previously that you are comparing this one to? A wilderness/nature version of Mowani 10) Was the camp/lodge fenced? No, but there wasn’t too much around to be worried about 11) How many rooms/tents does it have? I think about 10 rooms 12) What tent or room did you stay in? Did it have a good view? Was it overlooked or private? We had views from one of the room’s balcony and the communal area had a breathtaking view over a small valley. 13) How comfortably furnished was the room/tent? The rooms were large, comfortable, well furnished and clean. We enjoyed our time mainly at the communal area and the outside viewing area enjoying the views, drinks and snacks. 14) Did you like the food? If yes, please state why. If no, please state why. The food was fantastic. 15) Was there a varied menu offering multiple choice? If vegetarian was a suitable alternative offered? (Did you have to request this in advance?) Yes there were different things on offer. 16) What is the default dining arrangement? Single tables or communal dining? Do the guides/managers host at mealtimes? Single tables, no hosting. 17) How good were the packed breakfasts/lunches if staying out on game drives? Did not take advantage 18) What are the game drive vehicles? Please include photo if possible. Open 4WD but we didn’t use it. 19) How many guests per row? Up to 3 in each row but normally 2. 20) How long were the game drives and were they varied in the routes taken? Guided walks were offered free of charge and lasted between 2-4 hours. 21) What are the standard game drive times? Are game drive times flexible: i.e., if agreed in advance, can you go out earlier than suggested and stay out later, i.e., not returning for lunch but taking supplies with you? Walks were determined by weather and which track we would take. 22) Is this a private conservancy/concession, and what is the vehicle/lodge density like? Private and no other guests around. 23) If in a National Park, what is the vehicle density in the immediate vicinity? 24) Are you able to off-road? yes 25) Are there rotation policies for sightings i.e., You face the risk of queuing or being bumped from a sighting. N/A 26) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings. Very good birding, no large mammal sightings, the area was chosen for its stunning nature and walks. 27) How was the standard of guiding? Brilliant. 28) If you had a bad experience with a guide, why? Did you report the issue to management, and if so, how did they deal with the issue? N/A 29) If you had a very good experience with your guide, please give reasons why: Friendly, helpful, informative, happy and fun. 30) Were staff attentive to your requests/needs? The staff were extremely helpful and happy during our stay. 31) Does the property support a local community conservation initiative. If so, please provide brief details and website address if known. Not sure. 32) Safaritalk trip report link: 33) Any other pertinent details you wish to add: Just what we needed after being on the road for 3 weeks. The Erongo Wilderness Lodge is an oasis that provides beautiful large tented accommodation with fantastic bathrooms and huge decks overlooking the surrounding landscape dotted with massive boulders and wildlife. The staff are extra special and always on hand to provide you with whatever you need including yummy meals and refreshing drinks. The guided walks are fantastic and definitely worth waking up early for because the breakfast you get when back in camp is one of the best in Namibia. We were lucky to experience wonderful, refreshing rains during the evening/night which made the sleeping temperatures lovely and allowed us to rejuvenate. Wifi and a lovely pool was an added bonus. We also visited the San Living Museum which was up the road and it was absolutely brilliant! Would definitely recommend.
  23. Encouraged by the warm and positive reaction to my Namibia trip report, I have decided to try my luck once more. This was our third trip to Costa Rica; we love this country, so very different than Namibia yet so similar. Friendly locals, great nature, good infrastructure ... self-driving and exploring on your own is easy and rewarding. A recent trip report by @@SafariChick was very detailed, so I will not try to repeat much of what is already known about this country. As always, photos can describe much better than my words. This was our itinerary: 20.6.2013 VCE-FRA-NEW-SJO Alajuela Adventure Inn 21.6.2013 Alajuela - Santa Teresa Santa Teresa Otro Lado Lodge 22.6.2013 Santa Teresa Santa Teresa Otro Lado Lodge 23.6.2013 Santa Teresa Santa Teresa Otro Lado Lodge 24.6.2013 Santa Teresa Santa Teresa Otro Lado Lodge 25.6.2013 Santa Teresa - Tarcoles Tarcoles Cerro Lodge 26.6.2013 Tarcoles Tarcoles Cerro Lodge 27.6.2013 Tarcoles - Cabo Matapalo Cabo Matapalo Bosque del Cabo 28.6.2013 Cabo Matapalo Cabo Matapalo Bosque del Cabo 29.6.2013 Cabo Matapalo Cabo Matapalo Bosque del Cabo 30.6.2013 Cabo Matapalo Cabo Matapalo Bosque del Cabo 1.7.2013 Cabo Matapalo - Uvita Uvita Tiki Villas 2.7.2013 Uvita Uvita Tiki Villas 3.7.2013 Uvita Uvita Tiki Villas 4.7.2013 Uvita Uvita Tiki Villas 5.7.2013 Uvita - Alajuela Alajuela Adventure Inn 6.7.2013 SJO-IAH-FRA-VCE Highlight of the trip was Bosque del Cabo. It is a special place, and this is reflected also in its prices. Luckily we were invited by some Fodor's fans who have their biannual GTG there so we were able to get their special rate also. Driving is a way to explore Costa Rica. We rented from Thorsten at Wild Rider for the third time and again his services were up to his reputation. The car was a Hyundai Tucson. If there are any questions, just ask. I am a DE for Costa Rica on Tripadvisor so I have to be well informed and always willing to share with others !
  24. Birdlife International needs your help to implement their campaign to save vultures across Africa. Did you know that 7 of Africa's 11 vulture species are on the brink? 7 species are either classed as "Endangered" or "Critically Endangered" on IUCN's Red List of Species. While vultures in Southern Asia are now COMING BACK from almost total extinction, Africa's vultures are now in more danger from poisoning (direct and indirect), harvesting for traditional medicine, electrocution, habitat loss, decline in food availability, and disturbance at breeding sites. If you have the means, however small that may be, it would be very helpful if you could contribute to Birdlife International as they work with thousands stakeholders on the ground across Africa to save these vultures from extinction. Please visit: https://kriticalmass.com/p/saving-natures-clean-up-crew and www.birdlife.org to find out more. If you're on Facebook, please share posts from Birdlife's vulture page on your own personal page (and relevant bird, conservation, raptor pages you may be on) If you're on Twitter, please use the #lovevultures tag and share the links widely. I recently shared one titled: "Vultures: So hardcore they eat anthrax for breakfast" Just so you know, Birdlife International is one of the oldest conservation organizations in the world and has had many successes in bird and habitat conservation through their many local partners across the globe. They are well-respected, transparent, and results-driven. Thanks!
  25. I'm starting far too late for this to resemble a big year but I did manage to at least photograph some species on my recent trip to Zimbabwe and Zambia.

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