Kalahari Blog

Adventures of a field biologist and wildlife photographer living and working in the Kalahari.


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Birds of the Kalahari – Part 1.

I’m on holiday in Cape Town at the moment so I finally have access to some good internet! I will upload a load of pictures and prepare a bunch of posts that I have been meaning to get up for a while and hopefully all I’ll have to do when I get back to the Kalahari is to click “post”!

There is quite a high diversity of birds around the reserve and this post is a collection of photos showing just some of the birds I see on a daily basis. It is by no means an exhaustive list as there are many more birds I see daily that I have not managed to get a good image of. I will have another post showing some of the rarer birds I have photographed very soon.

Yellow Hornbill

These Hornbills tend to hang around in pairs or small family groups, there is a family of them that hangs around the farmhouse and they tap on the kitchen window demanding bits of bread that people sometimes feed them. I have seen them use their large beaks to dig in the sand for insects and this one somehow managed to catch a bat in the tree next to the farmhouse! It was trying to kill the bat before swallowing it by bashing it against the tree but was having difficulties due to a lack of hands with opposable thumbs!

Yellow Hornbill

Yellow Hornbill

A Yellow Hornbill eating a bat.

A Yellow Hornbill eating a bat.

Cape Glossy Starling

There are lots of these starlings around and they are just as common as blackbirds in the UK but with the iridescent plumage and bright orange eye they are better looking. The often follow the Meerkats around (as do many other birds) waiting for them to uncover ants and other small insects.

Cape Glossy Starling

Cape Glossy Starling

Lilac-Breasted Roller

Rollers are some of the most colourful of all African birds. They get their name from the display flight they have where they fly up high and tumble back down. Whilst they may have pretty plumage, they also make a pretty awful noise. They are quite common but quite difficult to get pictures of because they tend to sit right at the top of trees and don’t let people approach very closely however they don’t seem to be too afraid of cars so you have to be lucky enough to get one close to the road.

Lilac-Breasted Roller

Lilac-Breasted Roller

 

Fork-Tailed Drongo

The Fork-Tailed Drongos are one of the most interesting and most intelligent birds in the Kaklahari. If you watched the Kalahari episode of the BBC’s Africa you will have seen the Fork-Tailed Drongo’s kleptoparsitising (stealing food from) the Meerkats. The footage from that segment was actually filmed at the KMP. The Drongo’s have several false alarm calls which they use to scare the Meerkats enough so they can steal their food. The Meerkats only tend to react once to each particular alarm call however the Drongos have several calls that they cycle through when the Meerkats don’t react. Apart from the Meerkats the Drongos also kleptoparsitise other bird species and have a sentry call which attracts social weavers, this is believed to be a mutualistic behaviour as the Drongos snatch up any insects that the foraging weavers flush out and the weavers gain an extra pair of eyes to look out for predators. The reserve is also the base for researchers working on the Drongos.

Fork-Tailed Drongo

Fork-Tailed Drongo

Fork-Tailed Drongo.

Fork-Tailed Drongo.

Sparrow Weaver

These weavers build small round nests you see hanging from trees out of grass, they are quite loud and also follow the Meerkats about looking for unearthed insects. Like many species in the Kalahari (including Meerkats) Sparrow weavers are cooperative breaders.

White-Browed Sparrow Weaver in evening light.

White-Browed Sparrow Weaver in evening light.

White-Browed Sparrow Weaver.

White-Browed Sparrow Weaver.

Social Weaver

These weavers build huge tent shaped nests in which colonies of up to several hundred weavers live. They often choose to build their nests on telegraph poles and are responsible for power shortages when the nests get too heavy for the poles to handle. Many other species also used the abandoned compartments of the weaver’s nests such as Pygmy Falcons. Cape Cobras are often found in them looking to eat the weaver’s chicks. Like the Sparrow Weavers they are cooperative breeders.

Sociable Weaver at the nest.

Sociable Weaver at the nest.

Sociable Weavers being sociable.

Sociable Weavers being sociable.

Pied Babbler

The Pied Babblers are yet another cooperative breeder and live in groups of 5 to 15. In many ways they behave much more like Meerkats than other birds for example they have a sentry system and inter-group conflicts happen in a very similar way to Meerkats. There is also a project running on these birds based at the KMP.

Pied Babbler.

Pied Babbler.

Kalahari Scrub-Robin

Very curious but quite shy little birds with a characteristic tail flick they will hop right up to you sometimes if you sit very still but will retreat into dense bushes if you move.

An inquisitive Kalahari Scrub-Robin.

An inquisitive Kalahari Scrub-Robin.

Red-Eyed Bulbul

These guys hang around in the trees around the farmhouse eating the berries.

A Red-Eyed Bulbul eating a berry.

A Red-Eyed Bulbul eating a berry.

A pair of Bulbuls looking for insects.

A pair of Bulbuls looking for insects.

Namaqua Sandgrouse

Large flocks of Sandgrouse fly over everyday when I’m out with the Meerkats but catching them on the ground is far more difficult. They make a very distinctive noise which I will forever associate with being out in the field collecting data.

Namaqua Sandgrouse pair.

Namaqua Sandgrouse pair.

Namaqua Sandgrouse female.

Namaqua Sandgrouse female.

Marico Flycatcher

Seemingly quite boring plumage but these guys have a lot of character and watching them hunting small insects on the wing is very cool.

Marico Flycatcher

Marico Flycatcher


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Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM Review

I will try to keep this review fairly brief as there are several more reviews and much discussion about this lens elsewhere (see this discussion: http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=934592). I have put the good/bad points and a conclusion at the top for easy access.

 

UPDATE:  My review of sigmas newest version of the 120-300mm, the OS “Sport”.

 

Some pictures of the lens with my 7d attached (yes it was raining!):

Image

Image

Good points:

  • Good image quality wide open, amazing when stopped down even just 1-2 3rds of a stop.
  • Takes 1x and 2x teleconverters (great IQ with 1.4x)
  • Good price
  • Build Quality is good (apart from lens hood)
  • Zoom
  • Very good image stabilisation

Bad points:

  • Reliability (a massive negative for some users, not so much for others)
  • AF maybe not as great as it could be (although it’s still good)

Conclusions

Continue reading