Kalahari Blog

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


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New Blog! New Website!

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I have finally completed my brand new website! There is also a brand new blog to go with it!

From now on I’ll be posting what I get up to on my new blog rather than the Kalahari blog as I’m not in the Kalahari any more. There will however be a few more posts on the kalahari blog which I haven’t got round to writing yet! If you want to receive updates from my new blog click the link below and then click “follow me” in the corner.

Hopefully I will have some lens reviews coming up and of course there will be lots of pictures!

Check out my new website here: www.robinhoskyns.co.uk

And my new blog: https://robinhoskyns.wordpress.com/

My new website has got a few new images that I’ve not shown before and a bunch of my favorites on for now but soon I’ll be uploading lots of new galleries to the archive section.

Thanks for looking!


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Birds of the Kalahari – Part 2.

This is a follow up to my first bird post that had some of the birds that I see on a daily basis. This post has birds that are slightly rarer or a bit more seasonal.

See the first post here: Birds of the Kalahari – Part 1.

 

Swallow-Tailed Bee-Eater

There were a pair of these Bee-eaters that used to hang around the pool in the summer, picking off the dragonflies that were around. Hopefully they come back when it gets warmer.

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Pygmy Falcon

These are the smallest birds of prey in Africa, they are probably a bit smaller than a blackbird. They use unoccupied chambers in the Sociable Weavers nests to roost in so waiting by one of the weaver’s nests will give you a good chance of seeing one.

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Pearl-Spotted Owlet

Another very small bird of prey, they aren’t much bigger than the pygmy falcons. The bird books say’s that “they stare furiously at intruders” and that was definitely true of this one.

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Martial Eagle

From two of the smallest birds of prey to one of the largest, these guys are huge. Martial eagles are one of the main predators of the Meerkats but can also take much larger prey. The meerkats will run and hide in a bolt hole if one flies over or stand and bark if they see one sitting in a tree. Last week someone spotted one flying over with the dominant male of one of our groups in its talons!

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Acacia Pied Barbet

Very cool little bird, we had a pair nesting in a tree right next to the farmhouse. I sat with my camera and waited for them to return and was lucky to catch one poking it’s head out.

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Shaft-Tailed Whydah

I have only seen one of these and luckilly it was from my hide that I have set up by one of the cattle watering holes. They are a brood parasite of the Violet-Earred Waxbill (another cool bird that I haven’t managed to get a good picture of).

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Red-Headed Finch

Another bird only seen at my hide.

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Bennett’s Woodpecker

There are loads of woodpeckers around as there is a lot of dead trees. I often here them pecking however getting pictures is a little more difficult. They all look very similar but this is one of the rarer ones that happens to forage more on the ground.

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Namaqua Dove

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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