Cuckoos and Starlings

This post introduces two new bird categories – Cuckoos and Starlings

Cuckoos

Many of this bird species are secretive and not often seen. They are generally parasitic breeders and many migrate north in winter. They vary enormously in size and colour.

I have found these birds quite difficult to photograph as they are very wary and fly off if you get closer than about 30 metres.

DSC_6903

Often Cuckoos will be heard before they are seen and when seen are often perched in thick bushes.

I had been waiting for ages to get a reasonable shot of a Diederik Cuckoo and finally on my last trip in Mashatu I got this hot below. Again, we could not get close enough and the perch did not offer a clean shot, but I will take what I am offered when I am offered it.

A Diederik Cuckoo overlooking the vlei at Mashatu. This was the only one I managed to take a shot of but you could hear them all over the reserve early in the morning.

A Diederik Cuckoo overlooking the vlei at Mashatu. This was the only one I managed to take a shot of but you could hear them all over the reserve early in the morning.

I would love to get a good shot of a Klaas’s Cuckoo which is also a beautiful emerald green – striking colouration in the sun. I have seen a few but never been able to get a decent shot of one. I will keep searching!

The Red-chested Cuckoo with the distinctive  ‘Piet my vrou” call is heard so often but I just never see them. One birder suggested they often sit close to the tree trunk rather than at the end of the branch. I cannot confirm this as I haven’t seen one yet.

This is one category of birds that I will have to keep trying to get better shots of – refinement needed.

The second  new category of birds are the Starlings

Starlings

Many of these birds are a glossy blue in colour, but not all. Starlings are smaller than the bigger Cuckoos but bigger than thrushes. Most Starlings are not nearly as secretive as many Cuckoos. Most Starlings are striking in colour from the gorgeous Plum Coloured Starling, now called the Violet-backed Starling to the Glossys to the more bizarre Wattled Starling.

Long-tailed Starling in Mashatu - an unusual pose.

Long-tailed Starling in Mashatu – an unusual pose.

There are many long-tailed Starlings in Mashatu and are usually seen in pairs or small groups unlike Glossy Starlings which can be found in large groups thronging the picnic and camp sites in Kruger Park. Away from all of the people in a secluded fig tree along the beautiful Olifants river in Kruger, I saw this Plum Coloured Starling. I have not seen this bird more than twice. The colouring is absolutely magnificent.

A Plum-coloured Starling in a fig tree along the Olifants river in Kruger

A Plum-coloured Starling in a fig tree along the Olifants river in Kruger

In my last trip to Mashatu, I saw many flocks of Wattled Starlings, all chattering at the same time. They seem to enjoy following the Elephant as they foraged through the grass disturbing all the insects.

A male Wattled Starling - certainly unusual facial features. There were many flocks of these noisy birds following the Elephant as they foraged and stirred up the insects in the grass

A male Wattled Starling – certainly unusual facial features. There were many flocks of these noisy birds following the Elephant as they foraged and stirred up the insects in the grass

Wattled Starling males are unusual but certainly not beautiful. Besides sightings in Mashatu, we often see Wattled Starlings in Kruger Park too.

I added the Hoopoe and Wood-Hoopoe category a few days ago and also added to the Cheetah, Lion and Elephant shots taken on my recent trip to Mashatu, in south eastern Botswana.

I hope you enjoy the additions – more to come next week.

RHINO POACHING – latest statistics as at 3 Apr 13

http://www.uniteagainstpoaching.co.za/index.php/statistics

While the international efforts to combat the scourge of rhino poaching is increasing, the number of rhino poached in South Africa so far this year has increased to 203.

Poaching
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
KNP
36
50
146
229
425 145
MNP
0
0
0
6
3
GP
0
7
15
9
1
LIM
23
16
52
74
59 13
MP
2
6
17
31
28 10
NW
7
10
57
21
77 18
EC
1
3
4
11
7
FS
0
2
3
4
0
KZN
14
28
38
34
66  17
WC
0
0
0
6
2
NC
0
0
1
0
0
Total
83
122
333
448
668  203
 

 

Data from Environmental Affairs as at 3 April 2013

Hopefully, if nothing else comes out of the latest BRIC meeting in South Africa the MoU will slow the killing rate.

Rhino alive 2

We have a lot worth preserving in South Africa, but the wildlife, birds and habitat seems to be coming off second best.

Knowledge, awareness and appreciation can help us see that our ‘glass is not half full but bountiful’. IT WILL NOT STAY THAT WAY IF WE CARRY ON THE WAY WE ARE GOING – INTER-GENERATIONAL FAIRNESS – WHAT WE WILL LEAVE OUR CHILDREN???!!!

Our natural beauty is all around us – just stop for a minute and look and listen!!

Have fun

Mike

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s