Birding Blog B February 2017

Birding weather was hot and windy, but the birds didn’t mind. Thirty-nine species in the garden before breakfast, just four short of our best ever. Included were four  kingfishers – Great, Half-collared, Malachite and Brown-hooded. Red-necked Francolins were very vocal. This is a cryptic species of forest edge, rarely seen. Black Cuckoos were also in full voice, but Red-chested were silent; they must have a short breeding season here.

Other species certainly have not, evidence provided by Greater Striped Swallows. Some of this season’s chicks have fledged already, and two breeding pairs were preparing for a second brood by collecting fresh mud from a rain puddle. This will be used for repairs, rather than a completely new nest. Actually, old nests may last for years, held together by the bird’s very sticky saliva.

The nearby Amur Falcon roost at the Tower of Pizza has declined since last year. In the swirl of birds in the gathering gloom it’s difficult to be accurate, but this time there were maybe 500. Last year it was more like 2000. Impressive nevertheless.

About 40 Bald ibis roosted nearby. They too gather just before dusk. Their breeding season is already over. The preferred nesting site is a rocky ledge with small depressions, presumably to prevent eggs rolling away. Dry season waterfalls, with pot-holes created by grinding boulders are ideal. But chicks must fledge before the rains return so nesting begins early, usually in July.

Palm Swifts are another bonus at the ToP. They nest only in old tall palms where hanging dead leaves make a secure curtain. Such palms are not native to KZN, so the swifts were probably confined to northern Botswana until 100 or so years ago.

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