Saturday, October 27, 2007

A few notables from Sudan

During a recent 3-day visit to Nimule, Sudan I did not have leisure for focused birding but did see some nifty ones along the way. Here are a few highlights, most of them typical of that area but of interest to one who is seldom there:

* Grasshopper buzzard (Butastur rufipennis)
* Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus) - formerly much more common across Africa than at present
* Flappet lark (Mirafra rufocinnamomea) - much in evidence with the males passing high overhead in their signature wing-snapping display flights
* Zitting cisticola (Cisticola juncidis) - another common species there that draws attention to itself by its display flight; it is named for the "zitting" call that the male emits as he follows an undulating pattern at fairly high altitude, before plunging back down into the long grass where they live and breed
* Northern red bishop (Euplectes franciscanus) and black-winged red bishop (Euplectes hordeaceus) - these similar spectacular species are found alongside each other in the bushy grassland around Nimule

A pair of long-crested eagles (Lophaetus occipitalis) in flight

A tawny eagle (Aquila rapax) that passed over the location of one of the eye-glasses clinics that we conducted a little east of Nimule

Thursday, October 25, 2007

honeyguide & cuckoo

A day or two ago I stepped outside and heard the distinctive, repetitive double-note of a greater honeyguide (Indicator indicator). These fellows are fairly nondescript and tend to stay high in a tree, so are hard to glimpse even when you can hear them not far away! I didn't have the leisure to pursue this one, but it was nice to hear after a number of months without that particular call in the neighborhood.

I've had two brief sightings the past few days of Levaillant's cuckoo (Oxylophus levaillantii), both times flying across my field of vision for just a second or two. This is the largest cuckoo that we have in the area, as far as I know--very striking with largely black plumage, crested, with white wing patch and white or black underparts, depending on the color phase of the individual bird.

Also heard a Klaas's cuckoo (Chrysococcyx klaas) calling yesterday. These are common throughout the region, but I had not heard one for a while.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Njeru & Mabira

Back in September we had several delightful days in the Njeru area, beside the source of the White Nile, where it empties out of Lake Victoria. One morning some of us drove the short distance to Mabira forest in search of any interesting birds and other forest denizens we might come across. My combined list from the lakeshore and forest was 122 species seen and/or heard, even though the number from our forest walk was lower than usual. A few of the more noteworthy:
  1. African hobby - two pairs and a single
  2. White-faced duck
  3. Black and white shrike-flycatcher
  4. Golden-backed weaver
  5. Brimstone canary
  6. Brown-crowned tchagra
  7. Emerald cuckoo (calling at Kingfisher resort, male and female seen in Mabira)
  8. Common (brown-throated) wattle-eye
  9. Osprey (several)
  10. Black-crowned waxbill
  11. White-browed scrub robin
  12. Levaillant’s cuckoo
  13. Yellowbill
  14. Little green sunbird
  15. Black-necked weaver
  16. Cassin’s hawk eagle
  17. Buff-spotted woodpecker
  18. Speckled tinkerbird
  19. Yellow-throated tinkerbird
  20. Blue-headed coucal
  21. White-breasted negrofinch
  22. Buff-throated apalis
  23. Ross’ turaco
  24. Gabar goshawk
  25. Yellow-throated longclaw
  26. Velvet-mantled drongo

Sunday, October 14, 2007

On Kenya roads

Five days in Kenya last week -- many hours on indescribably bad roads and a fair bit of moving about in Nairobi -- no time for focused birding, but I did take note of several interesting species in passing.

Hoopoe (Upupa epops) -- one flew across the road as we left Nakuru town; probably the African version, but in that part of Kenya could perhaps have been the northern race

Lilac-breasted roller (Coracias caudata) -- a common enough species, but I never see them in Mbale and indeed could never tire of seeing any bird so splendid

Olive thrush (Turdus olivaceous) -- a familar garden bird in Nairobi and other suitable highland areas, but again not present in Mbale, where it is replaced as in most of Uganda by the very similar African thrush (Turdus pelios)

Common (Cape) robin-chat (Cossypha caffra) -- another highland bird, somewhat more drably turned out than its more common cousin the white-browed robin-chat (Cossypha heuglini); but all robin-chats are spectacular in their own way

Dusky turtle dove (Streptopelia lugens) -- seen on the road just east of Eldoret town in the higher forested area around Timboroa

Augur buzzard (Buteo rufofuscus) -- noted four or five of these magnificent buteos on various parts of our journey; always associated with mountainous or hilly areas

Crowned crane (Balearica regulorum) -- Uganda's national bird, but may be more common in Kenya, depending on locale; I always look for them around Eldoret, where there were quite a few this time, especially in the open country around the junction of the Kitale road and the A104 just west of Eldoret town

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A little sunbird

I don't remember ever seeing a purple-banded sunbird (Nectarinia bifasciata) before, but we do seem to have come across one just outside our gate a couple of days ago. The considerably larger (14 cm v. 11 cm) marico sunbird (Nectarinia mariquensis) is not uncommon in Mbale, and I've often wondered if the size differential would be all that helpful in distinguishing these two species from each other in the field. They have almost identical plumages. Anyway, I was glad to notice that the purple-banded does look quite a bit smaller than the maricos that we have in the neighborhood, and its beak is shorter and appears less curved.

A few other notes from along the way...

Saw a steppe/common buzzard (Buteo buteo) on Wanale mountain Sunday, as well as a common kestrel or two (Falco tinnunculus).

Heard a buff-spotted flufftail (Sarothrura elegans) in a swampy patch near our house a few days back.

Have seen several African blue flycatchers (Elminia longicauda) out and about, and, to my particular delight, a male paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone viridis) with the gorgeous long tail streamers of his breeding plumage.

Observed a solitary bronze-tailed glossy starling (Lamprotornis chalcurus) on a utility line Monday - may have been a vagrant, since there seem to be no others around currently, and they are normally found in pairs or small flocks.

Our black / yellow-billed kites (Milvus migrans) are back in force. I watched one stoop down behind a hedge yesterday and come back up with a chick from a domestic chicken brood in its talons.

Can't remember if I posted about having a black goshawk / sparrowhawk (Accipiter melanoleucus) visible and calling in the top of a mahogany tree not far from our house a week or so back. We come across these here only occasionally.