22 May is International Biodiversity Day – and we celebrated the day in a very special way in the veld. The day started early with chilly temperatures, but by 07:45 the mistnets were up and the ringing started in all seriousness. A good diversity of birds were caught and ringed. We had four retraps at a site where not that many birds had been ringed before – so the research project is paying off already with a good number of retraps. This shows that these species frequent that area and have not dispersed far beyond this piece of natural habitat along the banks of the Orange River. Species recaptured were: Orange River White-eye, Southern Red Bishop, Southern Masked Weaver and Karoo Thrush. Other species ringed included Karoo Prinia, Neddicky, a good number of Red Billed Quelea and Cape Robin-Chat. 61 species were totalled for the SABAP2 data sheet.
Burchell's Courser showing the blue-grey head
A farmer in the district alerted me about a pair of Blue Cranes that had settled on his farm. So in the afternoon we went to investigate. We atlased the pentad as well – and had a few very special sightings. On the way to the area where the Blue Cranes settled, Elsabé had good luck to photograph (though a bit far off) Burchell's Coursers. There were 5 birds in the small flock and this observation was a first for the pentad. The Blue Cranes were nowhere to be found in their usual spot.
We moved to a lucerne field under pivot point irrigation – and here we got a few good surprises. The Blue Cranes were foraging in the newly established part of the field. We could get near enough to get a decent pic or 2. A little way off (out of camera range) a pair of Grey Crowned Cranes were feeding. These birds had been observed here more than once before. And to our surprise a single Ludwig's Bustard was patroling the short karroid shrubs just off the edge of the irrigation field. This was a very first for this area. Two korhaan species were seen as well in the shrub and grassland around the same pivot – Northern Black Korhaan and the endangered Blue Korhaan. The last special sighting of the day (with dusk setting in fast) was a single Lanner Falcon quartering the area for prey. Large numbers of Egyption Goose as well as Spurwinged Goose were observed as well. A total of 53 species were counted for the SABAP2 data sheet.
It is interesting to see the terrestrial living birds – large and small – re-establish themselves in areas where farming becomes more conservation and environmentally friendly. Where farmers do not allow hunting with dogs, even the small bird species like pipits and larks become more abundant as they are not disturbed too much by people moving through the veld with packs of hunting dogs.
Photo's: Elsabe van der Westhuizen