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Alex Rogers

Alex Rogers' Big Year 2019 (a slow starter!)

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Alex Rogers
Posted (edited)

Hi all - @Peter Connan invited me to post up here - I was reluctant to initially (as I can't compete with the quantity or quality of so many BY posters) - but then reading further into the philosophy of Big Year, I decided it is exactly what I need - a fun place to track my own sightings, join a bunch of like-minded people in a faux-competition, and just provide focus and purpose to my own beginner bird photography. 

 

A bit about me - 50-ish, born & bred South African, 20 years an Australian. I've always enjoyed birds, spurred by countless trips to Hluhluwe and Umfolosi as a kid with my enthusiastic birder mother. No real focus on birding per se, but have always had a pair of binoculars which occasionally come out on our regular camping trips around Australia. I joined a local bird survey group last year, and got more interested in surveying the birds in our little local reserve. My natural geek instincts were kicked into overdrive when I discovered eBird and how that can help structure our surveys, as well as develop my life list and contribute in a little way to the world's biggest citizen science project. And I recently decided to re-kindle a long-time interest in photography, prior to a safari in Africa with my family. So I bought a Nikon P900 bridge camera (for its amazing zoom capacity) and am now learning to use it slowly, and having fun documenting not just our holidays, but using photography to supplement and enhance my everyday birding. It is harder than it looks.... but I love a technical challenge, as well as the focus it brings to my observations and understanding of birds. 

 

I've also really benefited from and enjoyed the contributions to this site - fantastic to have such an passionate mix of amateur and pro with similar interests. So I'll have a crack at the Big Year, with a mix of African and Australian birds - and despite the late start I'll try to make a respectable showing (doubtless with a good few dodgy record shots thrown in!) 

 

So lets start ... no time to lose!

Edited by Alex Rogers

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Alex Rogers

I started our SA/Botswana trip with a visit to Blythedale on the KZN north coast - not a birding trip per se, but a few opportunities. Many of the pics are poor quality as I wrestle with the limitations of the camera and my own as a photographer - hopefully you'll see some improvement over time .

 

1) Speckled Pigeon on the beach 

 

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2) Hadeda Ibis. The call of the hadeda took me straight back to my childhood, as they were one of my mother's favorite birds

 

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3) African Fish Eagle - we had regular patrols from the pair nesting at the nearby lagoon. Not the best shot (and a heavy crop), but at least clearly identifiable

 

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4) Woolly-necked stork - my first - I was really struggling with hand-holding at full zoom. 

 

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5) I was a little more successful with the Goliath Heron taken at the wonderful Sappi Stanger wetlands

 

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6) African Stonechat was new to me

 

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Alex Rogers

Our Botswana trip started in Khama Rhino Sanctuary

 

7) Kori Bustard - what a wonderful bird

 

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8) Tawny Eagles - a wonderful sighting of territorial display (fighting off a Martial Eagle) and mating. Extremely long range and hand held made it very tricky to photograph, but I got a couple of record shots

 

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9) Less dramatic but always fun are the Helmeted Guineafowl

 

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10) Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill were common from here on - but always enjoyable. This guy was engaged in a bout of "shadow-boxing" with his reflection in the car mirror 

 

DSCN0473.JPG.f9180931cd657a0145c0a830edb4fc57.JPG

 

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Kubu Island was next - what a magical place. Also home to a lot of smaller birds, which stretched my budding photographic skills to the breaking point - as well as challenging my ID skills. 

 

11) African Red-eyed Bulbul - a very adaptable bird, we found them all over our trip in a wide range of habitats. This shot catches the eye-ring well

 

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12) Marico Flycatcher - I needed help from a Safaritalk expert to ID this bird - while adorable, it is very LBJ, and being fluffed up in the morning cold didn't help. 

 

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13) Southern Grey-headed Sparrow

 

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14) Kalahari Scrub-Robin. This was my "bird of Kubu" for sure - they were so cheeky and confiding, they would scurry around your feet looking for crumbs to the point that you worried for their safety

 

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15) Cape Glossy Starling

 

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16) Violet-eared Waxbill. I only got a fleeting shot at this stunning little bird, so its a rubbish shot. I do have some lovely mental images from viewing them in the shadows with a good set of binoculars, but I can't share those.

 

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17) I used unscrupulous measures to lure in this Acacia Pied Barbet - setting out some water in this very thirsty campsite

 

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Next stop Maun for a little re-stocking, and some more campsite birds

 

18) White-browed Robin-chat. Fierce little hunters, they were first up and last to retire, scouring the campsite for bugs

 

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19) We saw the first of our Southern Red-billed Hornbills here, and many more as we went further north

 

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20) The Arrow-marked Babblers were a constant amusement - they were into everything going on. This guy was investigating our camper trailer, and vocally scornful of the quality of our glassware. 

 

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21) I'd never had a proper look at the Red-billed Buffalo-weavers before

 

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Alex Rogers

And then on to Moremi, or Khwai Mbudi to be more precise, where we based ourselves for a few days of game and bird watching. What an amazing place. 

 

22) Wattled Crane. These 3 beauties were regular visitors to the opposite bank of the river - I never got a great shot, but loved looking at them. DSCN0593.JPG.fd04be059f10652a73b78f5ae7f407c5.JPG

 

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23 Great Egret

 

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24) African Jacana

 

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25) For a bird we saw a lot of, I had few opportunities to photograph a Lilac Breasted Roller, and stuffed them all up. Doesn't do it justice, but I'm claiming it. 

 

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26) But my "bird of Khwai" was the Openbill, who were obliging enough to pose for me often enough and in sufficient quantity for me to get some decent pics. Here is a little series of one fishing for snails: 

 

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Nice portrait - love the water streams off his bill

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Fishing

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Success!

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Catch cleaned and ready for consumption. I read up on them, and contrary to what I thought, they don't use the open bill like a nutcracker, it simply gives them the right leverage and angle to get the lower tip of the bill into the snail, winkle out the operculum and fish out the snail itself. You try doing that with no hands... Luckily snails don't move fast!

 

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They roost in trees at night, which also make good wing-drying spots

 

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27) Lesser-striped Swallow. Had fun watching these on the wing over the river, but never came close to catching one in flight - my admiration for the Safaritalk BIF brigade is only reinforced. But I eventually got quite a nice study of one on the bridge where they nest. 

 

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28) Red-billed Spurfowl - or "Tactical Chicken" as my oldest kid named them - he reckoned their "weapons" and habit of charging from cover to cover meant that they were military spies. They certainly eluded my lens, while we had lots of good sightings, I have a "bottoms" shot for the record only .

DSCN0770_cr.jpg.fa2b80ca4e13fb719726f8eaf594f560.jpg

 

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Alex Rogers
Posted (edited)

And then on to Kasane, where I did a river cruise and a bit of bird spotting around our riverside campsite. I would love to go on a dedicated birding trip off Kasane, the birdlife on the Chobe River islands was extraordinary. But I enjoyed the opportunity from my tourist-trap barge anyway: 

 

29) Yellow-billed Oxpeckers at work. The poor buffalo were quite threadbare - I believe lots of species really don't enjoy their attentions much, and elephants wont tolerate them .

 

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30) African Spoonbill

 

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31) There were vast flocks of Spur-winged Geese - somehow I only got this shot. 

 

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32) Marabou Stork were also present in great numbers. I was a little more successful with capturing them. 

 

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Handsome chap. Don't you just want to snuggle into his downy chest feathers? 

 

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33) The Grey Heron added a little more elegance

 

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34) Egyptian Geese in large numbers

 

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Even the campsite had some lovely birds, some new to me

 

35) I struggled to identify this Yellow-Bellied Greenbul for some time, a new bird for me

 

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36) and this Collared Palm-Thrush was a completely new type of bird for me. We were just on the edge of his distribution range, so a nice sighting for me

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37) Sociable Weavers should be sociable, right? But this guy was on his own.. (Actually identified as Village Weaver with some help from this forum)

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until I "accidentally" scattered some rusk crumbs. (No tricks are too low)

 

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Edited by Alex Rogers

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Alex Rogers

Finally we ended up at Livingstone on the Zambian side of Vic Falls. Not a great deal of birding was done, more lounging poolside or paddling down rapids. But I did capture a couple. 

 

38) is the Pied Kingfisher. Another incredibly adaptable bird, I saw them fishing in the sea at Zinkwazi, and the river at Zambesi, and every waterhole in between - but damned if I could get a halfway decent pic. Practice practice practice. 

 

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39) African Pied Wagtail is a bit better. This one is on her (or his) nest on a rock on the very brink of the Victoria Falls

 

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40) White-browed Sparrow-weaver was a new bird for me

 

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41) I was so keen to photo the Blue Waxbill - this was as good as I got. Such a lovely bird

 

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42) African darter

 

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43) Black-collared Barbet across the river & far far away

 

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Alex Rogers
Posted (edited)

And then it was back south, JHB via a stop at the Tuli Block, where I had my final "safari birding"

 

44) Ring-necked Dove

 

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45) Maeve's Starling. I tried forever to get these common, charismatic birds on film, but getting the light just right is hard! This was as good as I got, decent enough but I want more :-) 

 

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46) White-fronted Bee-eater. A technically poor shot, but I quite like the silhouette and hint of colour anyway. 

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47) Red-winged starling

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Arrow-marked Babbler - dupe, just cos I like the shot

 

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48) Yellow-billed stork - on the dry Limpopo riverbed. 

 

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Juvenile. Note the white legs - first time I'd seen/noticed urohidrosis (the habit in some birds of defecating onto the scaly portions of the legs as a cooling mechanism). A good example of how photography is improving my eye for detail / knowledge of the birds

 

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49) Little Egret

 

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50) Hamerkop

 

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51) Three-banded Plover

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Edited by Alex Rogers

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Posted (edited)

And so to JHB - then end of our safari - but not the end of the birds. My brother's house and nearby Braamfontein Spruit were fertile hunting grounds. Interesting to note that garden photography can be harder than game photography! The light was subdued, and the critters small.

 

52) Cape Sparrow

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53) Southern Masked-Weaver

 

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54) Thick-billed Weaver (female). Identifying female weavers is tough. 

 

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55) Fiscal Flycatcher

 

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56) Cape Robin-chat

 

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57) Grey Lourie (or Go-Away Bird, if you must)

 

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58) Crowned Lapwing

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59) African Wattled lapwing

 

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60) Blacksmith Lapwing

 

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61) Karoo Thrush

 

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62) African Black Duck

 

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Just for fun - Egyptian Goose gosling

 

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63) Rose-ringed Parakeet. Wasn't expecting to see these - apparently a successfully breeding &  integrated feral species  in JHB & DBN suburbia 

 

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Edited by Alex Rogers

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Posted (edited)

So what are we going to do now that we are back from safari? Well, show you some Australian birds, I guess. My local ponds and reclaimed forest is a good spot for birding, so lets see if I can document some of those while improving my photography. 

 

64) Galah - common, but pretty cool

 

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65) Crested Pigeon - a bit aggro looking, but just because he is fluffed up on a cold morning

 

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A more conventional shot

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66) Sulphur-crested cockatoo - not a great pic, but one for the numbers

 

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67) Spotted Dove

 

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68) Grey Teal (neither grey nor teal, really, but there you go - some unimaginative Aussie nomenclature) - prettier than the name

 

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69) Australian Wood Duck 

 

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70) Pacific Black Duck

 

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71) Red-browed Finch - one of my favorites, but quite hard to photograph - I'll be trying harder

 

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72) Red-rumped parrots

 

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73) New Holland Honeyeater. Lovely bird, very fast, but sometimes perches

 

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74) Superb Fairy-wren. This young chap is just getting his breeding colours - I'll be doing a lot more as the colours come in

 

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75) Rainbow lorikeet - noisy devils, but one of my favourites. 

 

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Yes I do feed them occasionally

 

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76) Grey butcherbird. Has the most beautiful liquid voice. This is a juvenile, the head will go black later. 

 

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Edited by Alex Rogers

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Tdgraves

Welcome to the BY @Alex Rogers

 

your sociable weavers are not, i’m afraid....

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Alex Rogers
52 minutes ago, Tdgraves said:

Welcome to the BY @Alex Rogers

 

your sociable weavers are not, i’m afraid....

 

Thank you for the welcome - and for the correction. Yes, you are quite right. I think I'm mixing up my villages with my sociables - do you agree? 

 

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Dave Williams

Welcome Alex, the African birds help me prepare for an upcoming trip, the Australian ones are interesting to see as I am still undecided if I will ever make the journey to the opposite side of the world!

 

Yes, definitely not Sociable Weaver but like me someone else isn't prepared to take the 100% plunge on the ID!!!! Without a male in full plumage they look like a choice of Village or Southern Masked to me. @Galana will rescue us!!

 

I hope you don't mind me commenting on you photos but I think the ones where you don't try and fill the frame with the subject look much better. The Nikon camera has indeed got a huge zoom but it gives a better quality image the less you push it to the maximum zoom length.

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lmSA84

@Alex Rogers - welcome! That's a great collection of images to start with. For what it's worth I think the Openbill stork profiles are my pick. 

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TonyQ

Welcome @Alex Rogers - good to have you onboard. A great start and I hope you continue having fun!

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pedro maia

Welcome, you just started and already have a respectable number of birds (and some very nice ones), I suspect you´ll be one more that will end the year in front of myself in the BY (which is ok, I´m way ahead of my expectations ;)).

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Zim Girl

Welcome to BY @Alex Rogers, and what a great start already!!

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Peter Connan

Welcome Alex, and as others have said, great start. Thanks also for the interesting tidbits.

 

As for swallows in flight: that's why we buy the big cameras. With a bridge, it would be just luck.

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PeterHG

A warm welcome to this beautiful thread @Alex Rogers ! You certainly jumped in with an excellent mix of SA and Australian birds. Some special ones, too, like the Wattled Cranes and the Palm Thrush. Keep them coming.

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Alex Rogers

Thanks for all the kind & welcoming comments :-) 

 

On 8/5/2019 at 5:46 PM, Dave Williams said:

I hope you don't mind me commenting on you photos but I think the ones where you don't try and fill the frame with the subject look much better. The Nikon camera has indeed got a huge zoom but it gives a better quality image the less you push it to the maximum zoom length.

 

On the contrary, that's partly why I'm here, I'm very grateful for constructive criticism and advice. Yes, I'm guilty of zooming as much as possible by habit, not always necessary or desirable as you point out. I've noticed it makes the compositions more cramped and boring, as well as much harder to position the subject (or even find the subject, the viewfinder is really poor). I hadn't considered the image quality aspect too - thanks for that, I'll try to keep it in mind. 

 

On 8/6/2019 at 2:31 AM, Peter Connan said:

Welcome Alex, and as others have said, great start. Thanks also for the interesting tidbits.

 

As for swallows in flight: that's why we buy the big cameras. With a bridge, it would be just luck.

 

Yes, I'm not expecting too much from my camera, and I have a long way to go before I'm squeezing the best out of it - but I'm not sure that birds on the wing wing is ever going to be its forte.

 

So - I'll wait for them to sit! Welcome Swallows (77) are our most common swallow, and this guy lives under the pier at Manly Wharf with a few of his mates. He was sunning himself as I got off the ferry this morning, and was quite approachable. 

 

DSCN1591.JPG.4cc8bfd52fa341b31ef551549795062b.JPG

 

Even gave me a little song

DSCN1582.JPG.3d014a00c96990555fb57778e7fcdbc8.JPG

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Alex Rogers
On 8/5/2019 at 5:46 PM, Dave Williams said:

Welcome Alex, the African birds help me prepare for an upcoming trip, the Australian ones are interesting to see as I am still undecided if I will ever make the journey to the opposite side of the world!

 

We'll have to tempt you over - not so much Safari, but outback birding is pretty good. 

 

Seaside birding too! 78) is probably our most ubiquitous seabird, the Silver Gull. So for this entry I'll give you a little story, and a few silly shots :-) 

 

My morning commute: 

 

DSCN1709.JPG.f4ab64b84d510416df71c73e3f4bbe1f.JPG

 

The old ferries make a glorious backdrop for the Silver Gulls to pose against

 

DSCN1724_cr.jpg.d85facd9e05bb85e8469aec297babc9c.jpg

 

But its not easy looking that smart. You've got to wash...

 

DSCN1624_ed1.JPG.bb710879c409164457e0b8a3dd021aa3.JPG

 

Then preen preen preen

 

DSCN1637_ed1.JPG.9c4c4c36dcba6068462b4700a80a4922.JPG

 

DSCN1643_ed1.JPG.3662dd82607a328003514ae7e36ace1b.JPG

 

Preen like nobody's looking

 

DSCN1636_ed1.JPG.8aef334936cbac112978d7f06b930ca0.JPG

 

All the tough bits

DSCN1672_ed1.JPG.7514048f84e7067e9275bc2bfb7584c0.JPG

 

Shake it all about

 

DSCN1655_ed1.JPG.80eae723f06b2dc5b7d8c6211fc5b6d4.JPG

 

All the way to the top

 

DSCN1653_ed1.JPG.f4ee9de306075c517ee3f7a03b1c0212.JPG

 

OK, call the ferry, I'm ready. 

 

DSCN1682.JPG.f906e2935dcc90c3d4dfceeb57549311.JPG

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xelas

Another warm welcome to the Big Year @Alex Rogers! It is a great hobby, and even when the year is super lazy there are ohers to post all those fabulously colourful (or not) birds.

As for your statement about faux-competition, I am sure that The Tortoise and The Hare would have something to comment :D.

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Galana

Welcome @Alex Rogers.

Good to see you on here. I am the only one that gets a distinct feeling of Deja vu with some of your earlier shots? Methinks you were out birding with a regular.

And a P900 user too. You did well to get an inflight shot of that Eagle with it.

Others have already commented that your otherwise extremely sociable Weavers were not Sociable Weavers.

If pushed I would go for Village.

35.  If you want a decent score then you need to know which Greenbul you are recording. Coincidentally with a certain Baked Beans purveyor there are 57 varieties in Africa. Your subject is a Yellow-bellied Greenbul. Now go get the other 56.:P

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Alex Rogers
5 hours ago, Galana said:

Welcome @Alex Rogers.

Good to see you on here. I am the only one that gets a distinct feeling of Deja vu with some of your earlier shots? Methinks you were out birding with a regular.

And a P900 user too. You did well to get an inflight shot of that Eagle with it.

Others have already commented that your otherwise extremely sociable Weavers were not Sociable Weavers.

If pushed I would go for Village.

35.  If you want a decent score then you need to know which Greenbul you are recording. Coincidentally with a certain Baked Beans purveyor there are 57 varieties in Africa. Your subject is a Yellow-bellied Greenbul. Now go get the other 56.:P

 

Hello Galana - thanks for the welcome and comments. 

 

The deja vu may have come from seeing many of these pics on a Botswana trip report I did earlier - unfortunately most of my birding is solo, although I'm joining some bird groups in Aus as my interest grows. 

  As for the Greenbul - yes, I'll be sure to be more precise - I can tell I'll have to step up my game in this fierce competition :-) I believe there are 5 greenbuls in Southern Africa (this one clearly a Yellow-Bellied as you say, and the only one on the Kasane region). Unfortunately I won't have an opportunity to see any more this year - so I'll have to focus on Aussie birds (not a bad thing)

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