It was an early start to Friday 17th as well, and we went back to the Dzalanyama area to visit more communities. After a handful of visits, we drove back to Lilongwe to spend the weekend there. Saturday was the only “urban” day of my visit, and was spent walking streetwise, playing pool, going to a traditional dance and eating local food. The latter sadly made my stomach a bit upset, but it was over during the next day.
On Sunday the 19th I walked from the lodge to visit the Wildlife reserve of Lilongwe. Unfortunately a flood last week had made the trail along the river inaccessible, so many of the expected birds were not seen. A handful new bird species for the trip was found, and the reserve was packed with different stunning butterflies.
Tomorrow a new field trip is coming up, and we are going to the Ntchisi forest reserve. This is the only rainforest of Malawi. Despite being rather restricted in range, it is a very important bird area in the country.
Beacuse I went to sleep at 18:30 last night, I was more than awake at 05:15 this morning! The insect choir was really intense, but when a little before the sun appeared bird calls again dominated. It was rather frustrating actually, hearing lots of fascinating sounds, but not being able to see any of them. I had a nice breakfast, and was again picked up by Vincent, the WESM driver.
On our trip towards the flats below the forest reserve of Dzalanyama, we picked up a few guys that accompanied us during the day. The aim of the day was to visit five different communities that Birdlife Norway support in the project. These communities are all into planting trees, mainly Senna spectabilis and siamea, as well as Acacia polyacantha. The leaders of the communities showed us the results of their effort, and their plans in the future. In addition we are encouraging the communities to build and use Rocket Stoves for cooking. These stoves are many times more efficient than the traditional ways of cooking.
There were lots of impressions to consume during the day, and I was impressed by their enthusiasm and efforts. Tomorrow we will visit more communities closer, and probably inside the forest reserve. People of these communities traditionally travel into the forest reserve to collect wood for fire. The combination of producing their own wood, as well as starting to use efficient stoves is far more sustainable and efficient than the traditional routines. It was very nice to see this work having an effect on both people and nature.
Birdingwise the day was naturally less productive, We did however see a few good species, and a total of about 35 identified during the day. One of the most numerous was wintering European Bee-eaters. I summed up a total of 80 of them during the day. An adult Martial Eagle (picture above) gave great views, and an adult African Marsh Harrier and a Rock Kestrel were a new raptor species for me. Other noteworthy (new species for me) birds were a couple of Crested Guineafowls, African Pied Wagtail, a party of African Openbills, Southern Red (very common) and Yellow Bishop, the impressive Pin-tailed Whydah, Lilac-breasted Roller and quite a few Southern Fiscals.
Bergen – London- Johannesburg – Lilongwe was my travel initerary. I left Bergen in the afternoon on the 14th and landed at Lilongwe airport 24 hours later. After a couple of hours in the immigrant zone of the airport, getting visas and other stuff, I was picked up by WESM’s driver Vincent. Roadside birding during the 30 minutes’ drive from the airport, produced nice birds such as Black-winged Kite, Lilac-breasted and European Rollers and Pied Crows. We carried on to the site where I am going to be based the next ten days, at the lovely Woodland Lilongwe Lodge, where I was accommodated in a cabin of my own.
After dinner at the lodge we visited the WESM office, and I met up with a handfugl of the administration, including the CEO Vincent Kaitano. We planned the coming days, including the visitis to the IBA’s we currently are working in. Already tomorrow we’ll visit the forest reserve in Dzalanyama.
Having had only a little sleep at the flights, I only managed a little birding around the lodge and WESM’s office before going to sleep at 18:30! The afternoon birding was rather frustration with lots of birds around, but most of them only heard (and not identified). Anyway, I got great views of species like Helmeted Guineafowls, Little and African Palm Swifts, a few Swallow species, Red-throated Twinspot, Black-backed Puffback, African Paradise Flycatcher, Common Waxbill and a few more.
A few mammal species were also seen in the lodge-area, including a Bush Duiker Sylvicapra grimmia just outside my cabin, some 30 Vervet Monkeys Cercopithecus pygerythrus and a roaring Lion was heard. It was apparently in a cage not far away...
On the evening 9 December local birder Harry Dijkstra spotted a white heron flying by in Ulvik. Ulvik is as far as you can get towards the east in the Hardangerfjord, western Norway. For disoriented and migrating bird, not flying at an high altitude, the mountain walls rising around Ulvik will force any big bird to settle for a while.
Personally I was in the middle of finishing the Norwegian bird report for 2013 and 2014, and was not able to go the first days. After a few nervebreaking days working hard in Bergen, I finally managed to go see the bird 12 December.
That is exactly what happened to the heron. It proved to be a Cattle Egret, a true rarity in Norway with only six previous records. It was the forst for Hordaland county. The rare heron spent most of its time feeding for earthworms on fields along the fjord, and did not seem too happy about snow and zub-zero temperatures.
When it was last seen in Ulvik on 14 December, it was reported as rather slack and in presumed poor condition. Almost 14 days later it was re-found a few kilometers away, in apparently good conditions. It was last seen 1 January 2017.
There is a trade-off when it comes to standing out. The most spectacular are often more exposed to predators. During migration many birds form groups to avoid predation. Then it is harder for a raptor to pick out a single bird. But sometimes joining a flock isn't the best solution. At least, that was what it looked like yesterday evening.
I went on an afternoon trip to Herdla bird sanctuary to look for waders, and they were plentiful. In between a group of 70 Ruffs, a juvenile Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit fed on the fields. A young Peregrine Falcon was in the air, and they all took off. The predator accelerated and caught up with the rather stressed flock. It was only a few inches away from getting a hit. The Falcon continued to chase them, and a few unortodox moves later, a meal was secured! At the time I thought it was a Ruff in the claws of the Peregrine.
I managed to shoot some long distance shots of the hunt, and back home I was looking through the pics for the first time. The prey on the first (non successful) attack was in fact the Black-tailed Godwit. As was the second! I suppose the outstandingness of the Godwit among the flying Ruffs (flashy wingbands and another flight pattern) made the Falcon's choice easy. Unfortunately for the local rarity.
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