Sunday, 20 October 2019

La Digue


Mahe: Seychelles

I flew out of Abu Dhabi early morning on 20th October. It was an uneventful flight & I arrived slightly early just after mid-day. Jill was there to meet & greet me & we transferred to the villa. I must say it was the shortest transfer ever being all over 200 m! However, one couldn't have walked it as it was incredibly steep climb to the villa. 

I sat on the veranda looking over the airport & bay. There was a little forest behind me on the side of the cliffs. My first surprise was a Seychelles Kestrel sat in the tree in the garden! What? I rushed to get my camera, but it flew off & what a weird weak flight it was. I wasn't expecting it to be so small, it is tiny!

Madagascar Fodies were the commonest birds, the males being amazingly bright red. Seychelles Bulbuls were calling & gave good views but the light was poor. Madagascar Turtle Doves were around & sat on next doors house. A couple of Seychelles Sunbirds were playing hide & seek & by the end of the day I had seen Seychelles Blue Pigeon. What a smart bird this is! A White tailed Tropicbird flew in from the bay & 3 Cattle Egrets were on the airport runway.

Delana, Laurens & Anelle were late getting in, as their flight from South Africa was delayed. We celebrated their arrival with a tropical rum punch! Then it was early to bed as the ferry to La Digue is very early in the morning.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Tantabane: Francistown

The small hill in the background is where the 
Boulderchats are.

Up early on 7th October & we set out for our Boulderchat twitch. We went to the spot in the Birdfinder but we drew a blank, so we went to the Tantabane Game Ranch a little further down the road. First impressions were good & we saw a couple of distant kopjies in the distance. We enjoyed a nice relaxed breakfast by the side of the dam & then a short walk to the top of the kopjie & within minutes were enjoying great views of a pair of Boulderchats, sometimes at point blank range. We also saw an African Cuckoo up close, but I couldn't get any photos!


I haven't seen this species since 1989,
 when I lived in Zimbabwe.

Once thought to be a Zimbabwean endemic, 
now known to be present on kopjies in extreme
 eastern Botswana north of Francistown.

Burnt necked Eremomela

Common in acacia woodland.

Looking across the dam towards the restaurant.

Saddle billed Stork

Grey Heron

Green backed Heron

African Fish Eagle


Wood Sandpiper

Pied Kingfisher

We then returned by a rather circular route & checked out another dam before birding the original dam again. A Wood Sandpiper flew by & in the distance I could see a tiny crake feeding. It was a Baillon's Crake! This is a very rare bird in southern Africa & extremely rare in Botswana, with less than 20 records. We manage to stalk the bird down to 20-30 feet but it was very happy to play hide & seek in the rocks & tiny bits of vegetation by the side of the dam. At its closest, it was around 15 feet away but I couldn't get any shots then as it was very quick, in & out of the available vegetation & rocks.

Southern Ground Hornbill

This dam close to the main road proved a popular
 afternoon spot for Vultures & Storks.

We were both surprised to see such numbers
 in what is basically cattle country.

White backed Vulture

Their crops were full, so they had recently fed 
on a carcass somewhere.

Marabou Stork

Lappet faced Vulture

Yellow billed Kite

Southern Yellow billed Hornbill

Emerald Spotted Wood Dove

Brown hooded Kingfisher

European Bee-eater

Crested Barbet

Groundscraper Thrush

Chinspot Batis

On our way out we checked out a dam close to the main road as Marabou Storks & various Vultures were drinking & resting. It was an incredible site & we managed to get quite close to get some photos.

Best birds:

Little Grebe; Grey Heron; Green backed Heron; Marabou Stork 15; Saddle billed Stork 1; African Spoonbill 5; Sacred Ibis; Hadeda Ibis; Egyptian Goose; Red billed Teal; Lappet faced Vulture 8; White headed Vulture 1; White backed Vulture 95; African Fish Eagle 2; Tawny Eagle 1; Gymnogene 1; Yellow billed Kite; Swainson's Francolin; African Jacana 3; Black Crake 4; Baillon's Crake 1; Greenshank1; Wood Sandpiper 3; Common Sandpiper 1; Blacksmith Plover; Emerald Spotted Wood Dove; African Cuckoo; Pied Kingfisher; Brown hooded Kingfisher 3; European Bee-eater 5; Lilac breasted Roller; Southern Ground Hornbill 3; African Grey Hornbill; Southern Yellow Billed Hornbill; Common Scimitabill 2; Crested Barbet; Lesser Striped Swallow 2; Fork tailed Drongo; Black Headed Oriole; Southern Black Tit; Arrow marked Babbler; Groundscraper Thrush; Boulderchat 2; Familiar Chat 4; Burnt necked Eremomela 3; Long billed Crombec; Rattling Cisticola; Chinspot Batis; African Pied Wagtail; Tropical Boubou; Southern White crowned Shrike; White crested Helmetshrike; Common Puffback; Cape Glossy Starling; White bellied Sunbird; Marico Sunbird; Blue Waxbill.


Giraffe; Waterbuck; Impala; Klipspringer; Tree Squirrel.

The gang from Francistown!

We then returned home to Riccus & Shallene's home & enjoyed burgers & beer in their garden. A lovley ending to a very fruitful & unexpected day.

Kubu Island

We drove south from Kasane early morning on 4th October, seeing three Lionesses crossing the road 150 kms north of Nata. I was driving, so my camera was packed away but Delana managed to get a few record shots with her camera.

Three Lionesses.

Great to see them outside of a game reserve.

We had an unscheduled stop in Nata as two of the hinges on our back window of the truck had shorn through. An hour later, we were on our way again with our window working perfectly. There is a lot to be said for a good bush mechanic!

As we drove south the area totally opens up
 into grassland.

Few animals & birds can live here in the dry season,
 as there is no surface water.

The edge of the vast pan can just be seen
 in the distance.

Female Northern 
Black Korhaan


Spotted Dikkop

Double banded Courser

At Nata were turned west, & after 18 kms south, on an increasingly rough dirt track. It was 92 kilometers to Kubu Island our destination for the next two nights. It took us close on four hours of sometimes tough driving.

Our first view of Kubu Island.

Kubu Island is a small island surrounded by the vast Sua Pan. It is isolated & incredibly beautiful but due to the lack of surface water there are few species of birds & animals present.

We were meeting Riccus, Shileen & their three boys. They were driving from the south (a much easier route) & us from the north. We made camp & after a couple of hours they arrived. We had picked a lovely campsite which could accommodate us all.

There are 46 Baobab trees on the island
 in a very small area.

Kubu Island is an isolated granite rock island on the western edge of Sua Pan. The earliest inhabitants were nomadic hunter gatherers & there is still a little evidence of their occupation. There are magnificent rock formations & plenty of superb Baobabs. It is a winning combination & we all enjoyed our time there.

Dusk from the campsite.

Delana walking to the top of the island.

Up the hill on Kubu.

Shileen & Riccus

Sunset from the top of the island

Dawn the next day.

We went for a walk cum drive around the island.

One feels very small in this landscape.

Looking from the island to the grasslands/pan.

Information on Kubu.

Just for scale!

Lilac breasted Roller

Acacia Pied Barbet

Our campsite.

The boys had brought their off road bike along.
They had a great time driving over the tracks
 close to the pan.

Southern Ant-eating Chat

Looking back, Kubu Island is in the distance.

These couple of days were not really for birding & the species is very limited here. We recorded only 46 species: best being Steppe Eagle; Double banded Courser & plenty of Eastern Clapper Larks on the southern grasslands. It was a pleasant two days though in a very different setting than what one normally finds. It was also nice to spend time with Riccus, Shileen & their three boys.