Sandgrouse and Sugarbirds

This is the second post this week. The first was to celebrate Adrian Lombard’s 60th birthday – wishing him many more years of happy falconery!!

This post introduces two more  bird categories – Sandgrouse and Sugarbirds.

Quite different but both ideally suited to their surrounds.

Sandgrouse

They have an usual call. Their call sounds like the squeaking come high frequency squeezing of a rubber toy.  Sandgrouse fly to waterholes in flocks of 10 to 50 birds and you can hear them coming from afar. They  arrive at a similar time every morning starting at around 9h00. Burchell’s and Namaqua Sandgrouse are fairly common in Etosha and the Kalagadigadi. I have only seen double-banded Sandgrouse in Borokalalo National Park in the North West Province of South Africa and Kruger Park.

One of numerous flocks of Burchell's Sandgrouse flying in for their morning drink at a waterhole in Etosha.

One of numerous flocks of Burchell’s Sandgrouse flying in for their morning drink at a waterhole in Etosha.

The Sandgrouse flying in from up to fifty kilometres away. They come in flocks.They drink fast and then sit in the water and shuffle allowing their breast fathers to absorb water. This water is then carried back to their chicks.

Male Burchell's Sandgrouse taking off after drinking and loading up with water in his breast feathers.

Male Burchell’s Sandgrouse taking off after drinking and loading up with water in his breast feathers.

Sandgrouse are wonderful flyers and have an amazing ability to rocket out of the water with one hell of a jump and then they are off at speed, This makes getting a decent shot tricky. You need to sit and watch which way they take-off out of the water. They give you little warning that they are about to go. It is totally absorbing trying to get decent shots of them rocketing out of the water.

Male Burchell's Sandgrouse alerted by activity among the Cape Turtle-doves on the other side of the waterhole. This is a great place for Lanner falcons to hunt.

Male Burchell’s Sandgrouse alerted by activity among the Cape Turtle-doves on the other side of the waterhole. This is a great place for Lanner falcons to hunt.

Sugarbirds

The second category is Sugarbirds. They look like big Sunbirds with long tails, a bit  like the Malachite and Bronze Sunbirds which also have long tails.

There are two types of Sugarbirds, but are found in different regions. The Gurney Sugarbird is found in mountainous terrain. My shot was taken at Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg.

Gurney Sugarbird sitting on a bottlebrush flower at Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg.

Gurney Sugarbird sitting on a bottlebrush flower at Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg.

You normally see these Gurney Sugarbirds in mating pairs. The Gurney Sugarbird also looks quite different to the Cape Sugarbird. Its tail feathers are shorter and it has malar stripes on its throat and its breast and crown are a russet red colour.

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This Cape Sugarbird is sitting on top of a Red Rapens Protea. It was feeding off this Protea. The Cape Sugarbird’s tail feathers are noticeably longer than those of the Gurney Sugarbird, maybe they help it balance better in the stronger winds in the Cape.

All I can tell you is that trying to photograph Sandgrouse taking off from the water hole or steadying my long lens in the Cape wind to get shots of Cape Sugarbirds is totally absorbing. Hours of endless fascination, learning and pleasure.

Cape Sugarbird sitting on a Red Rapens Protea flower.

Cape Sugarbird sitting on a Red Rapens Protea flower.

I hope you enjoy the additions.

Helen and I are in Kruger next week, so hopefully I can show you some interesting shots from that trip.

Until then, have fun

Mike

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