Lilac Breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus)

As summer arrives, we have many new visitors in the form of feathers. With their beautiful colours and impressive flying skills, we have quite a few keen birders coming through the lodge. I enjoy watching all our summer migrants, but one of my favourite to photograph is the Lilac Breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus). I have sat for some time watching, and waiting for them to fly away to get the perfect action shot.

They usually prefer open woodland and savanna, sometimes alone or in pairs, it perches conspicuously at the tops of trees, poles or other high vantage points from where it can spot insects, lizards, scorpions, snails, small birds and rodents moving about at ground level.

They have quite a distinguishable lilac colour on their breast, and a unique set of tail feathers which separate out into two distinct ends, quite different (but often confused with) to the other roller in their family, the European Roller.
If you enjoy your birds, whether looking at to appreciate or to take photos of, summer is a good time for birds, especially all the colourful ones we don’t see during the winter months.

Story by Kevin (River Lodge)
2014/01/18

Dark Chanting Goshawk Hunt

There are sightings and then there are sightings. While most first time safari goers are looking for The Big 5 sightings and other things like a Lion killing a Buffalo, people who have been on safari over and over and over again are looking to build up their safari sighting profile with more exotic, or unattainable, sightings. For some, like Twitchers, they’re looking for Lifer Birds like Pel’s Fishing Owl, or for big cat specialists, their looking for unusual interactions between species or for specific Leopards, etc. For myself I am always looking for the unusual, the different, or the once in a lifetime type sighting.

The other day, my guests and I were fortunate enough to witness a sighting in the different, or even once in a lifetime category. W were busy looking for Lion, when one of my guests asked me to please stop and back up as he’d seen a bird he was interested in. As we reversed there, on the left hand side of the car not more than half a meter from us, sat a Dark Chanting Goshawk on a very low branch. We stopped and chatted about it for awhile. The Goshawk was very calm, not moving, just enjoying the day. After five minuets or so, the bird still had not moved, which is unusual. It was a full grown adult, not a juvenile, so he should had carried off after sitting so close to the vehicle for so long.

Then, to my delight, the Goshawk jumped to the ground and started hop-walking towards a very small bush. He then started to jump and flap on top of the bush, moving this side and then that. For twenty-five minutes we watched this beautiful raptor try and hunt something out of a thorny bush. There were no audible noises coming from the small shrub, so I could not for the moment ascertain what type of creature the bird was after, but I explained to my guests that they usually eat small mammals like mice and shrew and also other smaller birds. I’ve even seen one eating a fully Crested Francolin.

As we were reaching the 30 minute mark of this fantastic sighting small little squeals started coming from the bush. Bingo! A mouse and the Goshawk had obviously finally hit home with his sharp and slightly curved at the end beak. A few seconds later in a furry of half opened wings and squeals the Goshawk emerge with a baby field mouse in his beak struggling and pleading. He then proceeded to fly up the tallest tree he could find to consume his hard earned meal. FABULOUS and unusual sighting indeed!    

By: Noelle DiLorenzo – River Lodge Ranger

Big Birding Day 2010

Every year in November birders from across South Africa get together and try to identify as many birds as they can within a 24 hour period.  The competition is organised by BirdLifeSA and the results are used to establish which birds occur where, as well as other information about numbers and distribution of rare birds.

At Kapama we have some especially good sightings, particularly of the big cats.  But we also have a huge variety of birds here.  So on the 27th of November tracker Vusi Nkosi, ranger Jordan Jacobson and I set out to see how many of the birds we could find.

While many people find the birds intimidating and think that they are hard to identify, once you break it down they become much easier to recognise.  Once you exclude those that don’t occur in your area, you can then narrow it down further by looking at which family they belong to.  From there you can look at the sizes.  This should then leave you with a handful of birds to sort through.  By this process of elimination you can identify many birds quite simply.  Another big clue to the different species is to listen out for their calls.  Interestingly many of the more drab, shy and seldom seen birds have quite distinctive calls that offer instant identification to any avid birder.  Again, with the calls there is a huge variety and it can seem overwhelming.  How could you possibly identify a bird from just a few notes?  And you can’t even see it?  Well if you think about it, how many songs can you identify just from the first few notes?  Even songs you may never have heard for years.

In the end, using both sight and sound we were able to identify 154 different bird species.  Most of these species we were able to see simply driving around, while some we found walking along the Klaserie River.  Unfortunately, even though we looked for a few “special” birds we were unable to find them. Those on the “specials” list included the Pel’s Fishing Owl, Narina Trogon and the White Backed Night Heron.  These birds are lifers for many birders and even for the guides who are out here every day.

Next year we hope to improve on these numbers and even though we came first in our category for birds we should be able to find at least 50 more species, and get past the 200 mark.

Mike Kirkman – Senior Ranger, Kapama Karula

A Sighting To Remember

A sighting to remember.

On a lovely sunny spring morning driving on safari we had an experience that was really special.

We spotted four southern ground hornbills Bucorvus leadbeateri three adults and one immature; these are a really endangered species of bird, the same family as the common yellow-billed hornbill.(The same bird as zazu in the lion king movie.)

They feed on a great variety of prey including snakes, baby birds, insects, frogs, squirrels and different lizards including chameleons they live normally in in groups up to about 11 normally the breeding pair and about 9 sub-adults. They nest in tree hollows roughly 5m off the ground the nest is usually lined with dry leaves, the ground hornbill is found all the way from Kenya to South Africa. The total population is estimated at about
1500-2000.

On this occasion we witnessed the large female bird eating a flap-necked chameleon. What a special sighting..

From Brett have a good day and see you in the bush