Red-billed Hornbill

Just one photo today.  As we get ready to say goodbye to Africa, at least for the time being,  I was struck by this photo of a Red-billed Hornbill that we took in Livingstone last year at Mosi-Oa-Tunya park.  Hornbills symbolize Africa to me although they are found in Asia as well.  The colors of the leaves show that this was taken in dry season, but it reminds me also of fall in the U.S..  So this is my melancholy, autumnal, dry season photo that suits my mood for today. 

Despite leaving Africa for now,  I hope to continue publishing some of the many photos we have taken over the last 5 years and also photos of birds wherever I might be finding myself in the future. (Hint: There will be a lot from Ohio, and hopefully some from Costa Rica in the near future.)   Things will probably slow down here for about a month while we move and celebrate the holidays as well as reconnect with friends.  I hope to manage a post or two, but then plan to pick back up to my goal pace of two posts per week by the middle of January.

Thanks to all my readers and I enjoy all of the comments  I have been getting.  Hope you enjoy this photo as well.

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For more  bird blogs, visit the links at  I’d Rather B Birdin’  and Nature Footsteps Winged.

Sunbirds in the Yard

It is always a pleasure to watch the sunbirds in the yard.  There are quite a few species in Zambia and we have three that have visited the yard.  The first species hangs out here year round and helps make the yard cheerful.  This is the Variable Sunbird. 

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The second most common sunbird in the yard is the one in my header picture, the Amethyst Sunbird.  He is also called the Black Sunbird which you can see in the second photo below.  The purple iridescence on his throat is only visible when the sun hits it at the right angle, so he often looks plain black.  He usually only comes to the yard in May, June and July which seems to coincide with the flowering of this purple flowered tree.  I do not know the name if this tree, but I wish I did because the flowers are gorgeous!  You can see it in the background of many of these photos, as all the sunbirds love it, not just the Amethyst.

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Finally we have occasionally been visited by a Scarlet-chested Sunbird who is also attracted to this tree, though he is by no means a regular visitor.

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Here are a few photos of the females of these sunbirds.  Honestly I cannot tell them apart in these photos as they tend to be drab olive.  If I had to take a guess, the first one shows a mottled chest, maybe?,  so probably the Amethyst, and the following two seem plainer of chest so maybe the Variable.  But really I have no idea. Usually when out in “the field” or the yard, I just wait for a male to show up to tell which female it is. 

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Sunbird (9)

 

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Lastly,  a picture of a juvenile Variable, looking very scruffy, but only a few more weeks and I am sure he was looking gorgeous!

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For more great bird blogs try Wild Bird Wednesday  and  I’d Rather B Birdin’.

Grey Crowned Crane

Bird of the Week

Another special bird that we saw in South Luangwa was the Grey Crowned Crane.  I have seen this bird in so many zoos in the U.S. and you see it photographed so often that it has become a bit of a cliché.  However, it is infinitely more exciting to see this bird in the wild than it is in the zoo.  Sure, when you see it in the zoo, it is beautiful.  But they have it all caged up and it just doesn’t seem like a big deal next to a tiger or a polar bear or a snow leopard.  But when you find a group of these in the wild, flying free, then they seem like the magnificent majestic monarchs that they really are.

Crowned Crane

 

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In the last picture, the bird in the back is apparently a juvenile, with no red on the cheek patch and a only a small pink wattle.  It was probably still with its parents as there were a total of three birds in the group.  What can I say about these birds?  Gorgeous!

For more great birds, try Wild Bird Wednesday and NF Winged.

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Two weeks ago we spent a week in South Luangwa National Park.  It is considered Zambia’s premier game park but we had never been there before.  We have been to Kafue National Park many times while living in Zambia.  It is only 3 to 5 hours drive from Lusaka, but S. Luangwa is over 9 hours.  With three kids and a tight budget, flying isn’t an option so Kafue is the natural choice.  Finally we decided to take the plunge, and make the 9 hour drive.  The main goal of this trip was not to see birds.  (I know, how can I say that!!)  But with the whole family along, it is not practical to focus on birds.  LBJ’s have to be ignored though colorful or interesting birds can occasionally be stopped for.  Just don’t let them interfere too heavily with the search for a leopard or lions making a kill.

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This black-necked heron was just outside the lodge in a tree on the river bank.  I loved the photo Jonathan got.

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We saw this juvenile Ayer’s Hawk-Eagle flying overhead on our first game drive.  It turned out to be my only lifer for the trip.

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South Luangwa is known for its large breeding population of bee-eaters and we were there in the midst of the breeding season.  Many Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters were there nesting in holes in the river bank.  One morning this was the back drop for a pride of lions that was eating a hippo they had caught in the night.  I enjoyed watching the wheeling flight of the bee-eaters in and out of their nest holes almost as much as I enjoyed the lions.

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So many bee-eaters are there, that the birds will make use of any piece of driftwood they can find to make a perch.

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South Luangwa is also known for Lilian’s Lovebird.  These small parrots are mostly green with a red face and white eye-ring.  They are very beautiful as a flock flies up from feeding on the ground to take cover in the trees.  The green is very vibrant.  They live in flocks and we saw many of them were eating seeds on or near the ground and then they would startle and fly up into the trees in  a cloud.  They were shy and difficult to get photos of.

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So many beautiful birds.

To see more bird blogs try the links at  NF Winged or the Bird D’pot.

October and November Birds in the Yard

Lots of interesting things have been happening in my yard the last few weeks.  The most recent was an addition to the yard list of this female Red-backed Shrike.  I saw her this morning while drinking my coffee on the porch.  At first I had no idea “who” she was.  She was acting very different from all of my usual yard birds except perhaps the bulbuls.  She was sitting out in the open hawking insects from a rather low perch in the bougainvillea.  I could tell she was not a bulbul, but what other bird would be hawking insects like that?  She was quite far away from me, so after a few minutes of watching her I decided to get a little closer.  I was worried I would spook her and send her flying away before I could get a good look but I needn’t have been.  She never spooked even when I got relatively close.  At this point I got her identified as a red-backed shrike.  After I watched her a little bit longer, I went inside to check my field guide to make sure I had it right. After double checking Jonathan’s photos, as well, I was sure that I did.  So first time to see this bird in the yard. 

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After I went inside, Jonathan got all of these shots including the one below where she was expelling a pellet.  I was a bit sorry to have missed that, although actually admitting that I wanted to see it sounds a bit gross. 

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Other happenings around the yard include this nesting bulbul or pair of bulbuls.  I originally saw a nest through the window of a less used room in the house.  Most likely they can’t see through the window very well so it is a good observation point for me to check on them without disturbing them too much.  Jonathan got these photos for me from outside, but the nest is much more hidden from most angles besides the window so it is pretty tough to get photos.  The first one is one of the birds sitting on the nest which I hope you can make out a bit and the second is what looks like two eggs in the nest.  (Jonathan had to get on the roof and look down into the bush to get that one.

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Finally, the White-browed Robin-Chats have been all stirred up for several weeks.  Rather than their usual skulking selves, hiding in all the bushes,  they have been coming out into the open and singing loudly at all times of the day.  At one point one even came up onto the front porch singing loudly.  He seemed to be claiming it as part of his territory though I can’t really be sure.  They do seem to be acting territorial, but it is hard to tell exactly what is going on with them.  Mating season I suppose.

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Here is one singing his heart out right in front of the house.

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Great backyard birding in Zambia!

Linking Up:

For more great bird blogs check out NF Winged and I’d Rather B Birdin’: The Bird D’Pot.