Thursday, November 20, 2008

South Africa Birding

Pin-Tailed Whydah

It's mid November and my traveling companion Bill Eden and I have recently returned from a birding/wildlife photographic safari in South Africa. Our trip took us over much of the country ranging from the pristine surrounding of Cape Town, the off shore pelagic environment of the Cape of Good Hope, along the Atlantic seaboard, the inland arid land known as the Great Karoo, the succulent forest and rugged mountains of the Cape peninsula garden route, and the internationally acclaimed Kruger Park. Our host and guides Patrick and Marie-Louise Cardwell of Avian Leisure present the country to us and deliver over 350 species of birds, many of which are endemic. Along the way we observed and photographed a wide range of wildlife in the incredible South African varied bio-diverse landscape.

The first few days of our trip are in and around the small coastal community of Simons Town. It is situated just about 10 miles north of the Cape of Good Hope on the western shore of what is known as False Bay. Bill and I explore and photograph birds in the Cape Peninsula, the Cape Point Nature Reserve, Boulders Coastal Park, the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, the Cape of Good Hope Park, and the Strandfontein wetlands. All pictures taken with Leica C-Lux and V-Lux cameras and all digiscope shots are with a Swarovski spotting scope and a Cannon 540 point and shoot camera.

Blacksmith Lapwing Plover

Cape Weaver

Southern Red Bishop

Common Chaffinch

Cape Francolin and chicks

Cape Francolin

Spotted Eagle Owl

Cape Canary

Greater Flamingos

Black-Headed Heron

Great White Pelican

Black-Winged Stilt

Glossy Ibis

Reed Comorants

Cape Bunting

Whale breaching in False Bay

Southern Double-Collered Sunbird

Cape Bulbul

Spotted Prinia

Cape Sugarbirds

African Jackass Penguin

African Black Oystercatcher

nesting Cape Cormorant digiscoped with Swarovski scope & Cannon 540

Moon over S. A. digiscoped with Swarovski scope & Cannon 540

South African Pelagic Birding

Africa Trip continued:
A big part of our S. A. birding and wildlife tour was a 30 mile excursion off the Cape of Good Hope. Patrick Cardwell of Avian Leisure hooks us up with Chris Fallows of Apex Predators tours ( in order to view the wide array of seabirds and other wildlife that forage off the bottom of the African continent.

Chris and Apex Predators are internationally acclaimed with their pictures, interviews, and documentaries seen in National Geographic, 60 minutes, CNN, and the Discovery Channel. You can see Chris’s awesome videos of Great White Sharks in pursuit of sea lions in the Discovery Channel‘s Planet Earth series. They specialize in the conservation of aquatic ecosystems to include promoting the positive awareness of the Great White Sharks.

We did not chase Great Whites, but the thrill of riding 25 foot waves photographing a mix of Shearwaters, Petrels, Skuas, Albatross’s and Gulls was quite a treat. To add to the adventure were sea turtles, sun fish, sea lions, and breaching Southern Right Whales.

The rough seas where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet did smooth out a bit as we powered our 18’ craft past the continental shelf. There we played tag with several fishing trawlers and container ships that attracted prolonged aquatic feeding frenzes. These were the same seas back in 1487 that the Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias ventured through as he rounded the Cape in search of an eastern sea trade route to India. Dias did not make it to India but 10 years later in 1497 the equally intrepid adventurer Vasco da Gama did which started a rich history that the Portuguese, Dutch, and English all played a part in. The windy, rocky cape was and is a dangerous place for seamen and many met their demise here including tragically Dias himself.

Please enjoy these pelagic pictures and short videos. Photographs are from a Leica D-Lux unless otherwise noted.

The Cape of Good Hope looking North
all of Africa is above here

Cape Gull digiscoped with Cannon 540 and Swarovski HD 80 scope

Who's on first?

Pintado Petrel

Sea Lions on the chase

Competition of the species

The Shy Albatross

Incredible aviators, Albatross's play the waves

A Sun Fish approaches our boat

Our Sun Fish pulls up along side the boat

Check out the rockin video!