Birding Blog January 2018

Another new bird has turned up at The Cavern – the Dark-crowned Yellow Warbler. It’s probably been here all along because it’s typical of scruffy vegetation in the Mistbelt and berg foothills, but is uncommon and fairly secretive.

The predicted heavy rain mercifully fell only at night – no interruptions to our outings. The kingfishers were at their best, four species – Malachite, Half-collared, Giant and Brown-hooded – in one hour before breakfast one morning.

Otherwise we were lucky with species not seen very often – Forest Canary, African Firefinch, Olive Woodpecker and Lemon Dove. This last haunts the darkest places on the forest floor, looking for fallen fruit. This alone makes it semi-nomadic because any fruiting episode is patchy, and there is no certainty that conventional frugivores will leave any surplus to fall before it is all eaten. On top of this the Lemon Dove normally flees at the first moment that it thinks it has been seen.

There were lots of Willow Warblers – reputedly the most abundant Palaearctic migrant in South Africa, but being small and busy is often overlooked. It has a huge breeding range. In Britain at the western end the plumage is a definite if restrained yellow; moving east into Siberia the birds are drab greyish. We usually see only the yellow ones here, but in some years, and this is one, Siberian birds are here too.

Bushbuck seem increasingly tame, three sightings, one dozing in full view in the garden.

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