Friday, January 13, 2017

South Africa 2016 - Trip Report Part 3

For this particular blog I have concentrated a little more on Kruger and included a few more photographs than normal, there is so much to tell you and thus I have broken this blog/Trip Report, into 5 parts! Here I present Part 3. The final part will be a bird species list and a mammal list. I hope you can forgive the drawn out nature of these information packed day by day accounts of my tour.

South Africa and THE tour. Part Three of the Trip Report and I really hope you will enjoy the read and of course the photographs. 


Tour Leaders: Peter Jones (Worldwide Birding Tours § Co-Author, Editor) and  Wian van Zyl (Birding Guide, Main Author)


This comprehensive tour of South Africa by Worldwide Birding Tours undertook a 3-week journey across eastern South Africa, and down into the Western Cape of South Africa. Starting in Durban on the scenic Kwazulu-Natal coast, we slowly worked our way northwards taking in the rolling hills and forests of Eshowe down to the coastal forest and bushveld of the greater Isimangaliso Wetland Park, before heading up to the high-altitudinal grasslands surrounding the endemic hotspot of Wakkerstroom. Kruger was next on the agenda, where a few days were spent enjoying this true natural side of Africa, before heading onto Cape Town and the Western Cape via Dullstroom. Some time was spent on the Cape Peninsula itself, before heading up the west coast to the sleepy village of Langebaan, thereby bring the tour to an end some three weeks later. Due to the length of the tour, and variety of habitats taken in, a mammoth total of nearly 420 species of bird were found on the tour!


Day 13, 04/12/2016: Birding Kruger National Park
Waking up at 05:00 we had a brief walk around the camp before meeting our Safari Vehicle driver (Chris-man) at 06:00. We got great views of a skulking Gorgeous Bush-Shrike(took us a while to get optics on the guy). We were also rewarded with Willow Warbler and African Goshawk before leaving the camp. As we went out we got Western Osprey, Jacobin- and Levaillant's Cuckoo, White-fronted Bee-eater as well as Lesser Grey Shrike. We continued along to Lower Sabi and scanned a kettle of vultures only to be rewarded with a new species for the trip, White-headed Vulture. After having a quick bite to eat we made our way to Tshokwane Picnic outpost. En route we got Tawny Eagle, Southern Ground Hornbill, Common Ostrich, a Grey Heron surfing a Hippo and Secretarybird. Just before entering Tshokwane we had a great sighting of a lazy Leopard in a tree, legs dangling down, sheltering from the mid-day heat. Whilst having a bite to eat we got African Mourning Dove and a whole host of other regulars. En route back to Skukuza we managed to find some more Southern Ground Hornbill, Magpie Shrike and just before entering camp a perched Marabou Stork panting in the late afternoon heat. Mammals for the day included the entire Big 5 as well as Hippo, Giraffe, Kudu, Bushbuck, Waterbuck, Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, Klipspringer,etc.



Day14, 05/12/2016: Kruger National Park transfer to Dullstroom
Starting the day bright and early we were rewarded with smashing views of Scarlet-chested Sunbird whilst we were loading up the van to head out to Lake Panic hide. En route to the hide we had a great view of a clan of about 8 Spotted Hyena and shortly after that a small pride of Lions (with very inquisitive you males) just before the hide itself. We entered the hide and started off pretty quiet but soon were rewarded with the likes of Squacco Heron, African Fish-Eagle, Water Thick-Knee, African Jacana, Amur Falcons mobbing a Yellow-billed Kite, Pied Kingfisher and a Wire-tailed Swallow adult feeding a youngster. After spending quite some time at the hide we decided to drive around just before breakfast and recorded calls of African- and Black Cuckoo just before jumping in the van. On our little drive around we encountered Bateleur, Lilac-breasted Roller, Red-backed Shrike, Marabou Stork and a great Elephant bull sighting. After a hearty breakfast we started to make our way out of the park getting Saddle-billed Stork, Grey-Go-Away-Bird, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill and Tawny-flanked Prinia before exiting the park. The rest of the drive was a travel day to Dullstroom to get some Highveld Grassland birding in before our flight to Cape Town the next day. As soon as we entered the Dullstroom area we recorded Southern Red Bishop, Long-crested Eagle, Steppe (Common) Buzzard, Long-tailed Widowbird and Southern Fiscal. We continued along the dirt track to the guest house and managed African Olive Pigeon and Olive Thrush upon arrival at the guest house. Other mammals for the day included Buffalo, Waterbuck, Nyala,Kudu, Impala, Banded Mongoose, etc.



Day 15 and 01, 06/12/2016 Dullstroom (flight transfer to Simonstown, Cape Town)
The day started around 05:00 in just outside the small town of Dullstroom. The habitat and altitude here is very similar to that we had in Wakkerstroom, so most of the same species were expected. It was very misty around 05:00 and seemed to be clearing up as we left for birding but as the morning progressed it got really thick again. We did manage to get great views of Yellow-breasted Pipit(better than what we had in Dullstroom), Grey-winged Francolin, Red-capped Lark, Cape Long-claw and a species we dipped on in Wakkerstroom (which we were really hoping to get here) the Denham’s Bustard. This individual was flying a wide circle around us and gave us spectacular views of it before disappearing into the distance over a ridge. As soon as the mist got really thick we decided to make our way to Johannesburg to board our flight to South Africa’s “Mother City”, Cape Town. After stopping for breakfast en route we managed to record Cape Sparrow, Steppe- and Jackal Buzzard and had some good new mammal species with the likes of Red-hartebeest, Springbuck and Black Wildebeest. As we boarded our flight we saw our last Johannesburg birds, House Sparrow and Long-tailed Widowbird. Although not exciting it is worth mentioning that we saw these from the plane as we were taking off.



Well the 3rd installment is finished, so I am hoping you might follow the blog and read about our remaining adventures on this spectacular tour. If the idea appeals to you, why not consider joining me and Wian later this year on another of our South African adventure tours? 


Details of the tour and itinerary can be found on this link

To see other destinations we visit please visit our main site. Thank you.



Saturday, January 7, 2017

South Africa 2016 - Trip Report Part 2


At the risk of repeating myself and because of the length of this tour, 3 weeks, there is so much to tell you and thus I have broken this blog, or more correctly Trip Report, into 5 parts! Here I present Part 2. The final part will be a bird species list and a mammal list. I hope you can forgive the drawn out nature of these information packed day by day accounts of my tour.

South Africa and THE tour. Part Two of the Trip Report and I really hope you will enjoy the read and of course the photographs. 


Tour Leaders: Peter Jones (Worldwide Birding Tours § Co-Author, Editor) and  Wian van Zyl (Birding Guide, Main Author)

This comprehensive tour of South Africa by Worldwide Birding Tours undertook a 3-week journey across eastern South Africa, and down into the Western Cape of South Africa. Starting in Durban on the scenic Kwazulu-Natal coast, we slowly worked our way northwards taking in the rolling hills and forests of Eshowe down to the coastal forest and bushveld of the greater Isimangaliso Wetland Park, before heading up to the high-altitudinal grasslands surrounding the endemic hotspot of Wakkerstroom. Kruger was next on the agenda, where a few days were spent enjoying this true natural side of Africa, before heading onto Cape Town and the Western Cape via Dullstroom. Some time was spent on the Cape Peninsula itself, before heading up the west coast to the sleepy village of Langebaan, thereby bring the tour to an end some three weeks later. Due to the length of the tour, and variety of habitats taken in, a mammoth total of nearly 420 species of bird were found on the tour!
Blue-cheeked Bee Eater

Day 7, 28/11/2016: Birding Mkhuze Game Reserve
With a 05:00 start we managed to get into the Sand Forest area of Mkuze nice and early and got species such as Sabota Lark, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow and Black Cuckooshrike. The plan was to go to some hides in the area to see if we could pick up on some water birds and riverine edge birds. We managed Bearded Scrub-Robin, African Openbill, Black-winged Stilt and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. After lunch and a rest in the 34 degree heat we went out at 14:00 and did a loop around the airstrip to the same pan as this morning.  We got a Neergaard’s Sunbird female building a nest at a hide and got smashing views of Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove. We continued along the mixed woodland vegetation and got Southern Black Tit, White-crested Helmet-Shrike as well as Cardinal Woodpecker. At the hide at … pan we got Woodlands Kingfisher, Common House Martin, Blue-cheeked- and European Bee-eater and Grey-tit Flycatcher. The heat was getting the better of the group so we decided to jump into the vehicle and continue along back to camp and just before arriving we got a couple of White-backed Vultures perched in a tree.
Bearded Scrub Robin

Day 8, 29/11/2016: Mkhuze Game Reserve transfer to Wakkerstroom

With another 05:00 start to the day we made way to the Kumasinga hide (which unfortunately was under construction) to hunt down the Pink-throated Twinspot. En route we came across Crowned Eagle (which only showed briefly) and a Tawny Eagle perched in a distant tree. After passing some White-backed Vultures in a dead tree we managed to get to the hide’s parking area. It took a good 45 minutes before we could pick up on the Twinspot’s soft, high pitch contact call. We got great views of them repeatedly showing themselves briefly very close to us. After being well satisfied with the Twinspots we went past the Airstrip to look for 2 Cheetah’s that were reported by another guide, unfortunately they’d moved off by the time we got there. We did manage to get great views of Crowned Lapwing and Red-backed Shrike. We carried on to another hide and got Blue Waxbill, Cardinal Woodpecker, a skulking Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike and a nesting Little Bee-Eater. Once we were at the hide we go African Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Stork, Great egret, Emerald spotted Wood-Dove, Wood Sandpiper and Trumpeter Hornbill. A beautiful displaying Purple-banded Sunbird perched in front of us whilst we got a few more views on Pink-throated Twinspot. On our way out we got Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill and a quick view of a Eastern Nicator. En route to Wakkerstroom we managed Steppe Buzzard, African Paradise Flycatcher, Blue Crane and a Long-crested Eagle. We arrived at the Guest House around 16:30 and had a walk around after checking in. We got great views of Southern Red Bishop, Cape Weaver, South African Shelduck, Pied Starling and Red-knobbed Coot. Mammals for the day included Zebra, Giraffe, Baboon, Vervet Monkeys, Nyala, Impala, Slender Mongoose and we got a great view of a Leopard Tortoise (although not a mammal)!
Giraffe a real feature of Mkhuze Game Reserve

Day 9, 30/11/2016: Birding Wakkerstroom

With our breakfast packs loaded and high in spirits, we headed out again at around 05:00 to tackle Wakkerstroom for some grassland birding. We picked up “Norman” (Our local guide) and started off with Buff-streaked Chat, Capped- and Mountain Wheatear, Cape Bunting, Red-winged Francolin and Sentinel Rock-Thrush. After continuing along, the wind picked up to gale force speeds and made birding difficult. Even though the wind made it tough, we managed to track down Yellow-breasted Pipit and Eastern Long-billed Lark of which both were our target species for this specific road. We fueled up in town and made our way through the Wakkerstroom farmlands and managed to record Southern Bald Ibis, White Stork, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Spike-heeled Lark, Blue Crane and Grey-crowned Crane. We had spectacular views of Jackal Buzzard as well as Red-capped Lark and constantly passed Steppe Buzzard perched on the power line poles. Struggling to track down Rudd’s Lark we decided to continue and came upon a dam with Greater Flamingo, Maccoa Duck, Southern Pochard, South African Shelduck and a whole load of Red-knobbed Coots. We made our way to a spot to look for Botha’s Lark and managed to get absolutely great views as well as photos of these magnificent little specimens (a lifer for PJ at last). On our way back to town we got Grey-winged Francolin and African marsh Harrier. Once we finished our late lunch we managed to find Southern White-bellied Korhaan and ended the day in high spirits, as it should be.
Sentinel Rock Thrush - What's not to love?


Day 10, 01/12/2016: Wakkerstroom transfer to Kruger National Park
With a later start to the day than usual we departed from Forellenhof Guest House (absolutely amazing place and highly recommended) at around 09:00 and headed straight for the world renowned (and rightfully so) Kruger National Park. We managed to record a few good species en route which included Whiskered Tern, Greater Flamingo, Long-crested Eagle and a big group of Yellow-billed Kites circling over the freeway, hawking on a termite eruption. As soon as we checked in at Crocodile Bridge reception we continued straight for Lower Sabi Rest Camp agreeing to only stop for great finds. Not long upon entering the reserve we came across a family of 6 Southern Ground Hornbill right next to the road pecking in amongst a Rhino Midden (toilet) digging up beetles and all sorts, after filling half a memory card and facing serious heat we continued with our journey to the rest camp. Some other species that we recorded included Magpie Shrike, Lilac-breasted Roller, African Openbill, Saddle-billed StorkWahlberg’s Eagle and many more common birds within the park. Considering that today was mainly a travel day we recorded a fair amount of good birds and arrived in Lower Sabi with great excitement for what the next few days may in the Kruger would bring. Mammals included Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Blesbok, Impala, Kudu, Giraffe and Zebra.
Long-tailed Widowbird - Amazed it could fly with this tail...


Day 11, 02/12/2016: Birding Kruger National Park
With an early start to the day we decided to go out to Sunset dam and the low level bridge for some birding before our Safari Vehicle Driver arrived at Lower Sabi. We managed to get phenomenal views of White-crowned Lapwing, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver and some Ruff at Sunset Dam. When we crossed the river we managed Reed Cormorant, Green-backed Heron, African Fish-eagle and Little Swift. As soon as our driver arrived we hopped into the vehicle and made our way along the Southern area of Lower Sabi and got great views of Wattled Starling, Lilac-breasted-, European and Purple Roller. Upon driving past a carcass in the distance we managed to identify Lappet-faced-, Cape, White-backed and Hooded Vulture off the main road. We continued along and after some good views of a couple of lions in the shade trying to escape the African sun, we got Southern Black-tit, Black-crowned Tchagra, Brown-crowned Tchagra. We made our way around the area after a picnic stop and got Orange-breasted-, and Grey-headed Bushshrike and Long-billed Crombec. We ended the day in a hide recording Wood Sandpiper and Woodland Kingfisher. After a long, yet not too tough, day we arrived at camp and carried on birding after the rain.
Lilac-breasted Roller


Day 12, 03/12/2016: Birding Kruger National Park
Waking up to roaring Lions on our second day in Kruger we set out at 05:00 to see what the day held. Before we left camp we got great views of White-browed Robin-Chat, Terrestrial Brownbul and Saddle-billed Stork. As we pulled in at Sunset Dam we got up close and personal with Black-crowned Night-Heron and Pied Kingfisher. After getting some good views of 3 big male Lions we continued south along the main road in search of all things feathered. We soon got Brown-headed Parrot, Purple Heron and Lappet-faced Vulture. We continued on to a hide where we had some Elephant drinking water and recorded White-browed Scrub-Robin and Wood Sandpiper. As we slowly made our way back to camp we managed to get great views of 2 African Hawk-Eagle’s as well as Martial Eagle. We then made our way to Skukuza and had a pretty quiet drive there, only managing to get African Harrier-Hawk, Little Bee-eater and Tawny Eagle in flight. After checking in and a late lunch we set of for Lake Panic hide. Because of it being a Saturday the hide was fairly busy, but we managed to grab seats and were delighted with the likes of Squacco Heron, Pied Kingfisher and African Fish-Eagle. We also went to the nursery and the golf course, mainly to hunt down Broad-billed Roller, what an amazing bird that is. Mammals for the day included Lions, Elephant, Buffalo, White Rhino, Waterbuck, Giraffe, etc.
Martial Eagle


Well the 2nd installment is a wrap, so I am hoping you might follow the blog and read about our remaining adventures on this spectacular tour. If the idea appeals to you, why not consider joining me and Wian later this year on another of our South African adventure tours? 

Details of the tour and itinerary can be found on this link


To see other destinations we visit please visit our main site. Thank you.



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

South Africa 2016 - Trip Report Part 1

Because of the length of this tour, 3 weeks, there is so much to tell you and thus I have broken this blog, or more correctly Trip Report, into 5 parts! The final part will be a bird species list and a mammal list. I hope you can forgive the drawn out nature of these information packed day by day accounts of my tour.


South Africa and THE tour. Part One of the Trip Report and I really hope you will enjoy the read and of course the photographs. 


Tour Leaders: Peter Jones (Worldwide Birding Tours & Co-Author, Editor) and  Wian van Zyl (Birding Guide & Main Author)

This comprehensive tour of South Africa by Worldwide Birding Tours undertook a 3-week journey across eastern South Africa, and down into the Western Cape of South Africa. Starting in Durban on the scenic Kwazulu-Natal coast, we slowly worked our way northwards taking in the rolling hills and forests of Eshowe down to the coastal forest and bushveld of the greater Isimangaliso Wetland Park, before heading up to the high-altitudinal grasslands surrounding the endemic hotspot of Wakkerstroom. Kruger was next on the agenda, where a few days were spent enjoying this true natural side of Africa, before heading onto Cape Town and the Western Cape via Dullstroom. Some time was spent on the Cape Peninsula itself, before heading up the west coast to the sleepy village of Langebaan, thereby bring the tour to an end some three weeks later. Due to the length of the tour, and variety of habitats taken in, a mammoth total of nearly 420 species of bird were found on the tour!


Day 1, 22/11/2016: Durban Umhlanga to Eshowe
After some discussion the night before around the dinner table we decided to have a relaxed start to the day due to traveling fatigue. We ended up birding around the lodge and the lodge arranged access to their neighbor’s property. We started off with Olive Thrush, Tambourine Dove, Lesser Striped Swallow and had a calling Green-backed Camaroptera in the garden canopy constantly evading us. As soon as we entered the neighboring property we recorded Red-capped Robin-Chat as well as Southern Black Flycatcher. Walking around the property we further recorded Magpie Mannikin, Olive Sunbird, Crested- and White-eared Barbet and managed to get smashing views of African Paradise-Flycatcher. After breakfast we went for some birding at the Umhlanga Lagoon reserve whilst waiting for the rest of the client’s flight to arrive. Here we recorded Yellow-, Village-, Thick-billed-, Spectacled- and Southern Brown-throated Weaver. There was a misty rain that started to fall as we entered the forest vegetation and birding quiet down quite a bit with calls of Southern Boubou, Sombre Greenbul and Green-backed Camaroptera to entertain our ears. After covering some area in the reserve we continued on to “Blue Lagoon”, which is where the Umgeni river mouths into the Indian Ocean. Here there was a plethora of Grey-headed Gulls, Yellow- and Lesser Crested Terns as well as a Caspian Tern. We walked along the estuary and managed to come across Goliath Heron, Common Sandpiper, Sanderling, Common-ringed Plover and Pied Kingfisher. After the great birding at Blue Lagoon we went to pick up the remaining 3 clients from the airport only to find that they took a Taxi to the Lodge we were staying at. As soon as we picked them up at the lodge we made way to our next destination, Birds of Paradise B&B in Eshowe. We ended the day with a smashing 78 Species, which is great considering the difficult birding conditions thanks to the weather. Mammals for the day was just a single Red Duiker

Pied Crow

Day 2, 23/11/2016: Birding Ongoye Forest, Amatikulu and Mtuzini
Today we had an early start meeting Sakhamuzi( Local BirdLife Guide) at 05:00 at Birds of Paradise Guest House. The weather started off pretty misty and rainy so we decided on starting around the Mtunzini area before making our way to Amatikulu Game Reserve. Before arriving in Mtunzini we went to a private farm(access was organized by Saki) and we quickly got smashing views of Collared Pratincole, African Pipit, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Pin-tailed Whydah, Yellow-throated Longclaw and Woolly-necked Stork. Some movement in the distance caught our eyes and upon further inspection we realized this fairly large black and white bird was in fact a Palm-nut Vulture, a special we got pretty quick and easy. We continued on to Ongoye Forest, specifically for Green Barbet and saw it literally minutes after getting out of the vehicle. We also managed African-Emerald Cuckoo, Grey Cuckooshrike, White-eared Barbet and a quick glimpse of Narina Trogon. From here we continued on to Umlalazi and managed to come by an African Hoopoe feeding next to the road in town. As we entered the reserve we got Trumpeter Hornbill, Purple-banded Sunbird, Common Sandpiper and Blacksmith Lapwing. Other species recorded here were Common-ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Malachite-, Pied- and Giant Kingfishers and Afrian Fish-Eagle. We carried on to Amatikulu and en route stopped at a spot to get smashing views of Narina Trogon and a quick glimpse at Purple-crested Turaco. Once we arrived at Amatikulu our main focus was the Swamp Nightjar and managed to flush it to get e decent view and a record photograph of it. After a late lunch we ended off the day in the Dlinza Forest in Eshowe and mainly found the same species though some excitement was created in the form of our main target bird to end of the day a beautifully marked bird, Spotted Ground Thrush. After a long and busy day we ended back at the Guest House and had a Woolly-necked Stork sitting on the floodlight of the tennis court.

Woolly-necked Stork

Day 3, 24/11/2016: Birding Dlinza Forest transfer to St. Lucia
Having an early start on our last morning in Eshowe, we went to the Dlinza Forest Board Walk at 06:00 as the gates opened. Upon arrival we came upon Red-backed Shrike and White-necked Raven. We entered the Forest and tracked down Trumpeter Hornbill, Grey-, Olive- , Collard- and Greater Double-Collared Sunbird. We had a single African Green Pigeon from the tower as well as some views of Purple-crested Turaco. On our way back along the board walk we managed to get smashing views on a skulking Narina Trogon. Cape Batis and Chorister Robin-Chat entertained us lower down and we located a calling Red-Chested Cuckoo. After breakfast at the lodge we packed up and head to a dam north of Eshowe where we had great views of White-backed Duck, Hamerkop, Jackal Buzzard, African Fish-Eagle and finally a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird. After the dam we made our way to St. Lucia and managed Wooly-necked Stork, Pied Wagtail, Long-crested Eagle and several Yellow-billed Kites. After a hasty check in we went on an afternoon boat cruise on St. Lucia estuary and amongst the countless Hippo around we saw flocks of Common- and Little Terns following the boat wakes, allowing us to get amazing photos. As we were sipping on cup of coffee (which our skipper “Bonga” made) we were surprised to see a Common Sandpiper jumping from hippo to hippo walking around on their half exposed bodies. The day ended off with some Yellow Weavers and a Brown-hooded Kingfisher as we entered the bay where the jetty was. Mammals for the day included Hippopotamus, Slender Mongoose, Red Duiker and Vervet Monkey.

Smiley Hippo

Day 4, 25/11/2016: Birding St. Lucia

Starting the day at 05:00 we had great views of Black-bellied Starling as well as Trumpeter Hornbill whilst waiting for “Themba”, the local guide to arrive. After his arrival he arranged with us a recently BirdLife qualified guide, “Bongiwe”, to accompany us. We started the morning off with the iGwalagwala trail within the town boundaries and quickly got Yellow-bellied- and Sombre Greenbul, Black-backed Puffback, glimpses of Brown Scrub-Robin and a calling Buff-Spotted Flufftail. We continued along the trail and located Eastern Nicator, Livingstones Turaco and Dark-backed Weaver. Upon finishing the trail we managed smashing views of Green-backed Camaroptera(Everyone got to see it this time), Purple-banded Sunbird and close views of the Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird a mere couple of feet above us. From here we moved on to where the St. Lucia Estuary mouths into the Indian Ocean and immediately took off with Pink-backed Pelican, Yellow-billed Stork, Grey- and Goliath Heron and African Spoonbill. Scanning through the various waders we managed Sanderling, Common Sandpiper, Little Stint, White-fronted- , Common-ringed and Grey Plover and an African Fish-eagle. Whilst we were mesmerized by the stunning scenery and plethora of avifauna a European Honey-Buzzard decided to circle above us and provided us with smashing views of it. We decided to head to the sewage plant and were greeted with Wood Sandpiper, African Jacana, Black-headed Heron and a wonderful Crowned Hornbill. We also managed to call out Yellow-breasted Apalis, Burchell’s Coucal and a Grey-headed Sunbird. Just as we were about to leave a Golden-tailed Woodpecker decided to distract us and put us off course. We continued on to where the bridge crosses the estuary and got astonishing views on the Brown-throated Weaver. Ending the day in the Crocodile Sanctuary parking lot we got great views of a duetting pair of Black-Collared Barbets and a lone Brown-hooded Kingfisher across the road.

Brown-throated Weaver

Day 5, 26/11/2016: Birding Cape Vidal/iSimangaliso Wetland Park
With another early start to the day we met “Pindile” (our local guide) and made our way to Cape Vidal within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. We quickly came across Rufous-naped Lark, African Pipit, Yellow-throated Longclaw and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. The habitat was a bit different than the dominant forest vegetation we’ve been in the last couple of days and the open grassland proved to be a very productive area. We further recorded African-wattled Lapwing, White-faced Whistling-Ducks and African Jacana at a watering hole and a good view over the estuary from a vantage point provided us with White-breasted- and Reed Cormorant, Ruff, Eurasian Curlew, Great- and Little Egret and an African Darter flying across the water. After the view point and a much needed breakfast nibble in the parking lot we were discussing the possibility of Southern Banded Snake-Eagle and within a few hundred meters spotted one on a powerline post, posing for all to see. After great photos of this guy Brown Snake-Eagle also appeared as well as countless Steppe(Common) Buzzard. Once we were at Cape Vidal we managed Southern Grey-headed Sparrow and mere vocalization of Green Twinspot, unfortunately we couldn’t locate the Twinspots. On our way back to St. Lucia we had spectacular views of a Western Osprey perched in a tree overlooking a dam. After some much need coffee we went to the Estuary mouth and recorded most of the same species only adding Black Heron to the newly found list. And a walk in the afternoon provided us with Crested Guineafowl, African Goshawk, Livingstone Turaco and once again tantalizing vocalization of Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher. Mammals for the day included Red Duiker, Greater Kudu, Impala, Waterbuck, Cape Buffalo,et.

Brown Snake Eagle

Day 6, 27/11/2016: St. Lucia transfer to Mkhuze Game Reserve

Waking up at 05:00 we made our way to the iGwalgwala trail within the town vicinity. We managed to record some species we missed as well as get some optics on some birds we got to see previously but not too well. We started off with great views of Brown Scrub-Robin after a hard search. We managed to get the individual in the scope and have smashing views of him. As we continued we tried calling out Green Malkoha, there was an immediate answer but is was not too be. After long and hard calling we got glimpses of Blue Mantle-Crested Flycatcher and managed to find Trumpeter- as well as Crowned Hornbill lurking about. A walk around to the estuary provided us with wonderful views of Rudd’s Apalis and we got mostly the same waterbirds with only having a Lesser-masked Weaver recorded as new. After some grocery shopping we made our way to Mkhuze and immediately got Laughing Dove, Red-billed Oxpecker(perched on a donkey before the reserve) and Cape Glossy Starling. After settling in we went on the “Bushveld Loop” and got great views of African Pygmy Kingfisher, Green-winged Pytilia and Golden-tailed Woodpecker. Mammals for the day were Impala, Nyala, Giraffe, Bkue-Wildebeest, Red and Common Duiker, Chacma baboons and a Thick-tailed Bushbaby (Greater Galago)

Southern Fiscal

Well that about sums up the 1st installment and hope you might follow the blog and read about our remaining adventures on this spectacular tour. Why not consider joining me and Wian later this year on another of our South African adventure tours? 

Details of the tour and itinerary can be found on this link

To see other destinations we visit please visit our main site. Thank you.



Monday, November 2, 2015

EU Inaction Threatens Vultures

Despite proof that diclofenac kills vultures and other carrion feeders, the EU approved and continues to allow the use of this harmful veterinary drug. Despite the proven toxicity of this drug, the chemical company responsible, in full knowledge of its harmful impact on wildlife, continues to peddle and promote its use in Europe. Even more remarkable is Spain, under the guise of the Spanish Agency for Medicines, approved this harmful drug for use by veterinarians on pigs and cattle within Spain. Serious questions really need to be asked how this has happened?

In December 2014 the European Medicines Agency (EMA) had published their long awaited technical position on the vulture-killing drug diclofenac, following a request from the European Commission, they confirmed that veterinary diclofenac does represent a real risk to European vultures, and therefore recommended that a number of risk management measures should be taken to avoid the poisoning of vultures, including more regulation, veterinary controls, better labeling and information and/or a ban of the drug.

The EMA´s position fell short of recommending one or more of the possible solutions listed as they did not have enough elements and/or remit to evaluate their effectiveness, although they recognize that only a ban would reduce the risks to zero. It was up to the EU Commission to decide if they would start a formal referral process reviewing the marketing authorization of veterinary diclofenac (approved for sale in 5 EU countries, including Italy and crucially Spain, which holds 90% of all European vultures). Veterinary diclofenac is marketed by the Italian company FATRO, which used loopholes in the EU risk assessment guidelines for veterinary drugs to get it approved in Italy and Spain, in spite of a solid and massive body of evidence about its impacts on vultures and other wildlife.


Veterinary diclofenac has caused a massive decline in vultures in the Indian subcontinent (95% declines of several species, driving to extinction some of the most abundant vulture species in the world in the last 20 years), and was finally banned there. Vultures provide key ecosystem services, removing tons of livestock carcasses from the countryside, and helping to control disease.

Due to the high standards of drug control in Europe, compared to countries like India, conservationists had not been overly worried about instituting a diclofenac ban in Europe. In fact, nine vulture conservation projects had already received 10.7 million Euro (nearly $15 million) between 2008 and 2012. It is thus puzzling that in the spring of 2013, the Spanish Agency for Medicines authorized the use of diclofenac by veterinarians on pigs and cattle within Spain. Other European countries are also marketing diclofenac —in Italy, it is available under the name Reuflogin for use on horses, cattle and pigs.

Spain contains eight of Europe’s ten vulture species. Of these, four are considered rare and threatened, and receive some protection under European law. The Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) is Endangered and the cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus) is Near Threatened, while two others, the griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) and the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), have benefited from decades of conservation efforts and have gradually recovered population numbers.


A technical report on diclofenac published by the Vulture Conservation Foundation emphasizes the magnitude of Spain’s role in vulture conservation: “With more than 70,000 griffon vultures (90% of the European population), 5,000 cinereous vultures (97% of the European population), 3,000 Egyptian vultures (85% of the European population) and 300 bearded vultures (67% of the European population), Spain is the most important country on the continent for these species—and for some of them (e.g griffon and cinereous vulture) the most important country in the world.”

Okay, fast forward to November 2015 and what is the EU doing to prevent the danger to ‘our’ European vultures? Well I can do no better than to quote Chris Bowden (RSPB’s Globally Threatened Species Officer, and Programme Manager of the consortium of ‘SAVE’ partners – Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction) from his recent guest blog  on Mark Avery’s Standing up for Nature.

"The latest headlines for European vultures remain that one Italian pharmaceutical company, ‘Fatro’, recently managed (under the radar) to get diclofenac licensed for veterinary use in Italy and then with EU approval, when they surely knew all about the story in Asia. Unfortunately, no-one concerned at the EU was sharp enough to spot this and prevent it from happening. It was only when Fatro extended their market to Spain two years ago (Spain holds 80% of Europe’s vultures), that anyone noticed. Conservation groups concerned with the welfare of world populations of vultures, mistakenly assumed that this couldn’t happen in Europe – how so very wrong and embarrassing that has proved to be! It isn’t that conservation groups don’t have support from some of the higher bureaucratic spheres and veterinarians, but once the approval had been given (and despite various pleas to the company concerned and to the EU to ‘do the right thing’), it is now clear we must await dead vultures proved to have been killed by the drug – something that takes huge efforts, expertise and some considerable expense to demonstrate, before any veterinary diclofenac ban will be declared for Europe. The only steps agreed to are some additional labelling, and the excuse that regulations will be adhered to more strictly – something we already have evidence is not entirely the case. It wouldn’t be quite so exasperating if there weren’t viable safe alternatives such as meloxicam available to the vets. The combination of the Vulture Conservation Foundation, BirdLife Partners from Spain, Italy, UK and the Secretariats in Brussels and Cambridge as well as motivated individuals, zoos and veterinary organisations has so far succeeded in raising the issue, but not getting the step we really need".

So what can we do? How can we be kept up to date with the current situation, not just in Europe but also elsewhere? There are a few organisations working together to fight for our vultures and also a petition to add your voice to those of us concerned for vulture welfare and conservation.

You can add your voice (or signature) to the campaign here.

Get any further updates and background here from VCF.


And some good news. Iran bans diclofenac see here.

Credits.
Vulture Conservation Foundation
Mark Avery
Chris Bowden
RSPB
Birdlife International
Vulture Specialist Group
SAVE
VULPRO
#LoveVultures