04 November 2009

A Taste of the Kalahari...(South Africa): October 9, 2009

The one brave soul hanging on for our extension had expressed an interest in a number of "Kalahari birds" that we do not normally go for on this trip. However, this did not phase Ken (the main guide for the tour), and so we headed north from Johannesburg for an unscheduled trip into the southern edge of the Kalahari to get some of those choice birds the tour participant Jackie had looked at so longingly in the bird book. We birded a deserted road with scrub along the side that was brimming with birds and in just a few hours there we quickly added 24 birds to our trip list. We had only just turned onto this "Kalahari Highway" when we heard the raucous, and far from melodic sound of a Northern Black Korhaan, and quickly found one "singing" from the top of a small rise, one of at least four seen during the morning and our ninth and final bustard species for the trip. A little further down the scarlet belly of a Crimson-breasted Shrike glowed at us from the low roadside scrub, and a noisy mob of ghostly white Southern Pied Babblers (see photo) also popped up by the vehicle. Better was to come though when we had to make a stop for a flock of finches barring our way up the road, that held the exquisite Violet-eared Waxbill in their midst. A large and unique "finch" sporting a bright red bill, electric blue rump and violet cheeks. Another new finch was found in the roadside scrub with a few Black-faced Waxbills, and further on down the road where a couple of striking Black-chested Snake-Eagles were found standing sentry. We searched high and low for the localized Great Sparrow, to no avail although Jackie and I were well pleased with a showy Desert Cisticola (that completed our set of all 14 possible cistics for the trip-a group of birds that has an aquired taste). And so we decided to hit the road and leave the Kalahari Highway behind, and begind our long journey to Mkhuze, although literally just before we turned to join the highway we found our way blocked again by a bird feeding the road, which unbelievably turned out to be the Great Sparrow that we'd been hunting with zero success for the past hour! A magid end to the morning. Unfortunately after re-fuelling at the local Wimpy there was little to rwrite home about the afternoon as we were cursed with slow moving trucks, and never ending roadworks all the way to our destination. The spate of roadworks brought on by the development in place for upcoming 2010 Soccer World Cup blighting our journey somewhat! Thank heavens for the morning we had had that saved our day from being a non-starter altogether!

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