Tuesday, 14 August 2018

More photos taken in France on the West Coast near La Rochelle.

More photos taken at Les Oiseaux du Marias Poitevin - Parc Ornithologique. As always, if my ID is incorrect please let me know and I will make changes to the post.

Eurasian coot (Fulica atra). The coot feeds on pondweeds and invertebrates. Unlike ducks, coots bring their food to the surface before eating it. The nest, a mound of dead reeds, is usually built amongst emergent vegetation. From mid-March, between 6 and 9 speckled eggs are laid. The eggs are incubated by both parents for up to 24 days. The chicks leave the nest a few days after hatching and reach independence at around 8 weeks of age. Two broods are produced in a year, but occasionally a third brood may occur.

Common Pochard (Aythya ferina). Food is plants and seeds, snails, small fish and insects. Typically a diving duck, diving and swimming underwater for food, but they will also up-end and feed with just their head under the water. The nest of a Common Pochard is a shallow depression in thick vegetation, usually within 20-30 feet of a lake or river shoreline. Females incubate the eggs and tend to the young after hatching, but the young must find their own food.

Common shelduck (Tadorna tadorna). I commented on another blog recently that I would have to travel North to see Shelduck having forgotten that I had seen them on the West coast some time back! 
It frequents estuaries and mudflats, shores of salt and brackish water lakes, and usually occurs only in salt water, mainly in Europe. But it also needs fresh water for drinking. It feeds on aquatic invertebrates such as molluscs, insects and crustaceans. It forages in shallow water by upending and head-dipping. Most pairs persist from year to year. They move to their territorial feeding areas by late March and regularly visit potential nest-sites, usually, several nests can be close together. They move after the chicks have hatched, and the chicks of a colony often form crèches where some adults guard them. They fledge about 45-50 days after hatching and are independent as soon as they can fly. Females are sexually mature at 2 years, and males at 4-5 years. The adults moult after the breeding season and cannot fly for 25-30 days.

Golden Eye out of breeding plumage perhaps, confirmation required please.

As above.

Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus).  Native to Africa, Egyptian Geese were introduced into Europe as decorative additions to wildfowl collections, both private and in urban parks, and also as zoo animals. On 2 August 2017 the Egyptian Goose was added to the list of Invasive Alien Species of European Union concern. 

Gadwall (Mareca strepera).  This bird forages mainly while swimming by taking items from the surface, or by dabbling with head submerged, sometimes by up-ending, occasionally by diving.  Feeds mainly on aquatic plants.  The nest (built by the female) is in a shallow depression, built of grasses, weeds, lined with down.  Generally 8-11 white eggs. 2 or more females sometimes lay in the same nest. Incubation is by female only, 24-27 days. The young leave the nest shortly after hatching, and the female leads the young to water where they find their own food; often seen on more open water than young of other dabbling ducks. Young are capable of flight 48-59 days after hatching.

Glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus). It feeds mainly on insects like grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, locusts and small reptiles, frogs and fish. Usually feeds in small flocks and probes bill into the mud and shallow water. The nest is a compact platform of twigs or reeds lined with leaves. 3-4 eggs are laid and incubation is 20-23 days. This is a migratory species, with most European birds wintering in Africa.

Eurasian Goosander  (Mergus merganser).  They are a group of fish-eating ducks with long, narrow, serrated beaks that are ideally adapted for grasping slippery prey but it will also take insects, molluscs, crustaceans, worms, amphibians, and even small mammals and birds. Somewhat unusually for a duck, it nests in cavities in trees, either in natural hollows or in holes made by woodpeckers. If suitable tree holes are not available, this species will also use artificial nest boxes, cliff ledges, rock crevices, hollow logs, holes among tree roots, or even old buildings.  The nest cavity may be lined with down from the female’s breast, she lays between 6 and 17 creamy-white eggs which are incubated by the female for 28 to 35 days....

The young are well developed at hatching and leave the nest hole at just one or two days old.  They jump to the ground from the nest and are led to water by the female. Although the female care for the chicks for several weeks, the chicks catch their own food, initially eating aquatic insects before starting to eat fish from about 12 days old.  The female abandons the young before they become capable of flight at about 60 to 75 days old.

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Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Photos taken in France on the West Coast near La Rochelle.

These photos were taken at Les Oiseaux du Marias Poitevin - Parc Ornithologique.  As always, if my ID is incorrect please let me know and I will make changes to the post.
Pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) is a distinctively-patterned black and white wader with a long up-curved beak. They feed on aquatic insects and their larvae, crustaceans and worms. Avocets nest in loose colonies of up to 150 pairs. Colony size and density are determined by the availability of suitable nest sites, distance to water and risk of predation. The nest, built by both sexes, is a shallow scrape on bare mud or in sparse vegetation...

The female lays her clutch of 3-4 pale buff eggs with black markings at 1-2 day intervals any time between mid-April and late June. Incubation begins with the second or third egg. Both sexes incubate for 23-25 days. The young can run about and feed themselves within a few hours of hatching. Both parents care for them.

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) lives mainly in freshwater and saltwater marshes also mudflats, shallow lakes, coastal lagoons, flooded fields and rice fields. It feeds on aquatic insects. It is a migratory bird, moving to the ocean coasts in winter. European birds winter in sub-Saharan Africa. They are often seen in flocks of 10 to 20 birds, also in mixed flocks with other species of shorebirds. The Black-winged Stilt nests in small colonies of 2 to 50 pairs,  mated pairs vigorously defend their nest site and territory. They may nest in mixed groups with avocets. The female lays 4 eggs between mid-May and mid-June. Incubation lasts about 25 days, by both parents. Chicks leave the nest very soon, remaining hidden in aquatic vegetation. They are fed by both parents.

Canada goose (Branta canadensis). In the early 17th century, explorer Samuel de Champlain sent several pairs of geese to France as a present for King Louis XIII. The geese were first introduced in Britain in the late 17th century as an addition to King James II's waterfowl collection in St. James's Park. They were introduced in Germany and Scandinavia during the 20th century, starting in Sweden in 1929. In Britain, they were spread by hunters, but remained uncommon until the mid-20th century. Their population then grew from 2200–4000 birds in 1953 to an estimated 82,000 in 1999. Once a protected species, they are now on a list of 100 invasive species posing a serious threat to biodiversity in Europe.

Western Cattle Egret  (Bubulcus ibis).  It frequents wet areas such as freshwater swamps and rice fields, but also meadows, pastures and open grassy areas, mainly with cattle. It feeds primarily on insects and crustaceans, but it also catches amphibians, fish, lizards, small birds and rodents  It moves by walking in a steady strut and stabbing quickly with the bill to catch its prey.  The male performs courtship displays to attract females. Both go to the nest-site where the nest will be built, and usually, the copulation takes place at the nest-site....

When one mate returns to the nest, a “greeting-ceremony” is given, displaying the back feathers and flattening the head feathers.  They nest in reedbeds, bushes and trees, up to 20 metres above the ground, not necessarily near water. The nest is made with sticks and some vegetation and can be reused year after year.  The female usually lays 3-5 eggs and incubation, by both sexes, starts when the clutch is complete. They incubate for 22-26 days. Chicks beg for food aggressively and they are very competitive with each other. At 2-3 weeks of age, they can climb in the vegetation. They remain near the nest and still beg for food. They are fairly independent at 45 days, and make short flights. At two months, they can fly to the feeding areas. 

A very shy Black Swan! (Cygnus atratus) It is the emblem of Western Australia. Its black silhouette appears in the Coat of Arms of the state. This bird is not indigenous to France. It feeds almost exclusively on plant matter such as aquatic plants, algae and pondweeds. It is largely monogamous, and the pair bonds are life-long....

The female lays 5-6 greenish eggs. The incubation lasts about 36-40 days, shared by both parents. The chicks can feed and swim just after hatching. They are sexually mature between 18 and 36 months of age.

I am hoping that one of my readers will give me positive identification here.  I initially thought they were imported Blue-winged Teal, but with no white on the face, I have changed my mind.  So help is required, please.

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Wednesday, 1 August 2018

The first of my posts on birds in our garden here in the Charente, France.

We have been offline for a couple of days and my goodness I am so far behind.....

A few photos of birds from our garden that I started getting ready last week!

House Sparrow, female – (Passer domesticus) Our most common bird in the garden here in France.

Eurasian Hoopoe feeding young in the garden – (Upupa epops) summer visitor here, last year we had two adults and three youngsters on our lawn at the same time. A very striking bird with a very distinctive oop-oop-oop call.

European Robin – (Erithacus rubecula). You put your right wing up and your left wing down, do the hokey Pokey and you turn around… Probably one of the best know robins due to its regular occurrence on Christmas cards. We only ever see them in our garden in winter, I have yet to discover where our visitor goes in summer!

European Greenfinch – (Carduelis chloris) A regular visitor in winter to our garden and sometimes a summer visitor as well. The female is somewhat drabber in colour with far less yellow on the wings and tail.

A close up of the above.

Hawfinch – (Coccothraustes coccothraustes). Quite a large finch with dominant colours and a very powerful bill. A one-time visitor last winter.

Common Blackbird getting ready for his date! - (Turdus merula). Looking around to see who may be watching...

Making sure he is spotlessly clean.

Checking and preening before looking for his mate. Generally, around in the garden all year but not in large numbers. A very rich singing voice when relaxed and not agitated.

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Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Post number 18 Birds from Southern Africa

These are photos again taken by my friend, Christelle Miller, while in the Kruger national park in May 2018.
Thanks go to Christelle for allowing me to use these photos on my blog.

I think next week I will take a break from South Africa, although I still have a number of Christelle's photos still to go through. I will turn to Europe for a couple of weeks with my own photos.

As always, I hope that my identification is correct, please let me know if there should be any mistakes.

Egyptian geese (Alopochen aegyptiaca).

African fish eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer), it feeds extensively on fish, in some areas it preys on flamingoes and other water birds. They live in pairs close to the streams. The nest is huge and made with sticks. The female lays two white eggs. Incubation lasts about 42 to 45 days, shared by both parents. Chicks remain at the nest for about 65 days. They can fly at about 70 to 75 days of age but are reliant on their parents for another 2 months. If you have never heard the call of the fish eagle, one of the best sounds in Africa, click here.

Great egret (Ardea alba), One of the most widely distributed birds in the temperate and warm tropical belts of the world. The staple diet is fish.  They live in colonies near salt and freshwater bodies, swamps, streams, and ponds. They build large nests of sticks, twigs, and leaves high up in trees. Female egrets usually lay pale bluish-green eggs, and incubation takes 3-4 weeks. Hatchlings are covered in soft white downy feathers. Both parents take turns to incubate the eggs and protect and look after the newborns.

Natal spurfowl or Natal francolin (Pternistis natalensis). It can be seen alone or in groups of around ten. This is a ground foraging bird. It forages at dawn or late in the evening. The diet of the Natal Francolin consists of mostly insects, roots, bulbs, molluscs, fruit and seeds. Their nests are just a small shallow scrape in the ground that is lined with grass. They use thick cover to keep their nests concealed. The female can lay up to seven eggs. The eggs are a cream colour and they take about 21 days to hatch. They breed all throughout the year.

Red-billed buffalo weaver (Bubalornis niger).  They are found in dry savannas and sparse woodlands They forage on the ground, taking various arthropods, but also various seeds and fruits. These birds breed in colonies and the males may be polygamous, each controlling 1-8 nest chambers and up to about 3 females. The nest is a huge, bulky mass of interconnected thorny twigs, divided into separate complexes with multiple egg chambers, each with a nest built by a female, consisting of a ball of grass, leaves and roots. Each female lays 2-4 eggs, which she incubates alone for about 14 days. The chicks are mostly fed by the female alone and fledge 20-23 days after hatching.

I think this is an African barred owlet (Glaucidium capense) It is a small owl, partly diurnal. Calling occurs mainly at dusk and dawn. Often observed on open perches scanning for prey even during the day. Roosts within cover, often in a natural cavity in a tree.  It feeds on small mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs, insects, scorpions and caterpillars which are normally caught following a short flight from a perch. Both sexes sing to proclaim their territory, most frequently before breeding. The nest site is usually a tree cavity between 10 to 20 foot from the ground. 2–3 eggs are laid from September to November. The young are fed by both parents but only in the dark, fledgling after 30–33 days and they become independent after 7–12 months.

Cape glossy starling (Lamprotornis nitens). Sexes are alike but the male is a bit larger. It eats insects, fruit, nectar and scraps of human food, doing most of its foraging on the ground. It is a monogamous, cooperative breeder, meaning that the breeding pair may be assisted by up to 6 helpers, who often remain with them through many breeding seasons. It usually nests in tree cavities, but it may also use a hole in a riverbank, metal pipe or even a post box. It adds coarse material such as twigs into the cavity after which it adds a lining of dry grass or dung. It often uses the same nest over multiple breeding seasons. It lays 2-6 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female. The chicks are fed by both parents and helpers, leaving the nest after about 20 days after which they remain with the group for at least week.

Southern white-crowned shrike (Eurocephalus anguitimens). male and female are alike, generally seen in flocks. It feeds on the ground and in foliage, mainly invertebrates. It is monogamous unless its mate dies and creates a nest in branches of a tree or shrub. The bird lays eggs which are white in colour and number between 2 to 5.

The Grey Heron (Ardea cinera). This is a particularly tall bird, standing at about a metre in height, males and females are similar. They are wading birds that favour areas like marshes, dams, lakes, lagoons, rivers and reservoirs. It is happy to eat whatever fish, crustaceans and other animals it can find in the water in which it wades.  It is a monogamous bird that will likely stick to an established heron nesting area, set up by previous generations in their natural habitat. These are called heronries. This bird will breed in a colony or as an individual, using flat nests in the tops of the trees.  These nests are constructed using sticks and twigs, and are then lined with grass and fresh leafy branches. The male presents the female with these building materials in a rather ritualistic way before she proceeds to construct the actual nest.  The female usually lays between three and six eggs during autumn or in the early part of winter. The male and female take turns to incubate these eggs for almost four weeks before they hatch. The tiny chicks are fed fish by means of regurgitation. They will take between 20 and 30 days to fledge.

The marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumenifer).  Their name comes from the French word “marabout”, which means 'ugly. It is sometimes called the "undertaker bird" due to its shape from behind: cloak-like wings and back, skinny white legs, They stand an average of 1.52m (5ft) tall. An average weight for this species is 9kg (20lbs). Their maximum wingspan is 3.19m (10.5ft) across. Their bill measures 26-35cm (10-13.8in). Male marabou storks are larger than the females. This species is a carnivore. Most of their food comes from scavenging by flying high above the ground. They will feed upon most varieties of live and dead prey including lizards, frogs, insects, rats, mice, birds, fish, crocodile eggs, young crocodiles and snakes. Marabou storks make their home on open savannahs near swamps, river margins and lake shores. They may even locate near fishing villages where they can steal scraps. Birds will congregate in groups ranging from 20 pairs to several thousand. Males first come and establish a territory. Then he greets newcomers with an inflated throat pouch. Soon he will accept a courting female into his territory. The pair then start to build their nest. This is constructed of sticks on a cliff side, in a tree, or on top of buildings in villages. Into this nest, two to three eggs will be deposited with a two to three-day interval between each. After 29-31 days they chicks will hatch.  It takes 13-15 weeks for them to be ready to fledge. Only one of the three chicks will make it to this stage. Four years after birth the chicks will achieve sexual maturity.

Three-banded plover, or three-banded sandplover (Charadrius tricollaris). It hunts by sight for insects, worms and other invertebrates. The nest is a simple scrape in sand, mud or shingle and the female usually lays one or two eggs. The most interesting part of the breeding cycle is the nest scraping ceremony. The male pushes his chest into the ground and then rotates his body to make a nest scrape while his back legs move backwards kicking up the sand. The male then moves away from the nest scrape, tail raised and neatens up the scrape by picking up and discarding fragments. The female then moves in for an inspection, also picking at fragments before moving away. The male will make several scrapes before the female is happy and chooses one! Once an egg has been laid it is incubated for 26-28 days before a perfect little chick hatches. Both adults care for the chick for up to 42 days. It will begin to fly at around 21 days.

Red-winged starling (Onychognathus morio). The adult male has glossy black plumage with dark blue sheen overall, except on the wings where the primary flight feathers are bright chestnut with narrow blackish tips. The female is very similar in plumage, but she has a brownish-grey head, chin, throat and upper breast. This bird frequents the mountainous areas with rocky outcrops and gorges, with access to vegetated feeding grounds although often now seen in urban areas. It feeds on numerous fruits, berries, seeds and nectar. It also consumes animal food such as amphibians and various insects Unlike numerous starlings, the Red-winged Starling builds its nest on a ledge, on a rock or cliff, but now also on buildings, and sometimes on leaf bases of palms. The nest-site is often reused for several successive years.  The nest is made with mud, grass, rootlets and sticks, and lined with finer grass, horsehair and also non-natural materials. The female lays 2-4 eggs and incubates over about two weeks. The male feeds her at the nest during this period. The chicks are fed by both parents, and they fledge about 22-28 days after hatching. 

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Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Post number 17 Birds from Southern Africa

These are photos again taken by my friend, Christelle Miller, while in the Kruger national park in May 2018.
Thanks go to Christelle for allowing me to use these photos on my blog.

I hope that my identification is correct, please let me know if there should be any mistakes.

Fork-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis). They still-hunt by sitting very upright on a prominent perch, much like a shrike. They are usually solitary and form monogamous breeding pairs. They are aggressive and fearless, regularly mobbing or attacking much larger species, including birds of prey if their nest or young are threatened, or their territory is compromised. Two to four eggs are laid in a cup nest in a fork high in a tree.

Green-backed Heron (Butorides striata).  This bird has a specially adapted bill which helps it hunt for fish, crabs, shrimp and other aquatic animals in the water.  It also eats insects such as butterflies, bees, wasps, locusts and ants. It is a monogamous bird which means that the bird finds and breeds with one partner for the rest of its life. The bird lays between 2 to 6 eggs and they are coloured blue, green. The bird builds its nest above water as a means of protecting itself from predators and to be close to its main food source which includes fish, shrimp and frogs.

Natal Spurfowl (Pternistis natalensis). The Natal Spurfowl feeds on the ground and in foliage, mainly on Invertebrates, Fruits or Seeds. It is monogamous unless its mate dies. They create a nest on the ground laying between 2 to 7 eggs. The preferred habitats for Natal Spurfowl are woodlands, river areas and hilly regions.

Red-crested korhaan (Lophotis ruficrista). It is omnivorous, feeding on invertebrates, especially termites, beetles and grasshoppers, and plant matter, especially seeds and fruit, foraging on the ground, picking up food items with its bill. The male puts on a spectacular courtship display to multiple females, who solely incubate the eggs and raise the chicks. See also Part 10.

African White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus). They may be the most numerous of African vultures. It has gregarious feeding habits. It feeds mainly on carrion. It can be found in big numbers when food resources are abundant. These birds are adapted to feed on soft tissues, and cannot rip open large carcasses with thick skin.  It makes its nest in trees, and breeds in loose colonies. The nest is small in size, for these large vultures. It is located at the top of a tall tree in their territory and often along streams. It is a platform made of sticks, and the interior is lined with grass and green leaves. The female lays one single egg. Incubation lasts about 56 days, by both parents. Chicks are fed by both adults and may fledge at about 4 months.

African hawk-eagle (Aquila spilogaster). Both adults are similar in plumage, but the female is larger than male, and she is more heavily streaked on underparts than male.  They live in open woodlands and scrubs, where it can find rocky cliffs and wooded streams. is a secretive bird of prey, often seen alone, but also sometimes in pairs......  

 It searches for prey while flying, but also from a perch. It may catch prey taking it from the ground, or performing a dashing aerial manoeuvre.  The nest is located in a fork, in a tall tree, along wooded river banks. It is made of sticks.  The female lays one or two eggs. Incubation lasts about 43 to 44 days, shared by both parents. Only the strongest chick is reared if there is more of one egg.

Giant eagle-owl (Bubo lacteus). Africa’s largest eagle-owl, The female is substantially larger than the male and has a rounder facial disk.  It occupies a number of different habitats, including dry savanna, open woodland, open grassland, agricultural land and riparian habitat such as rivers, marshes and floodplains, but is largely absent from bare desert and dense woodland. Large trees are required for nesting, and nests are usually found in open woodland, adjacent to floodplains Due to the large size of the Eagle Owl, they need to consume larger types of prey than other species of owls. Their diet consists of rabbits, mongoose, and plenty of types of small game. They also consume rats and pigeons if they are readily available in their area of residence. These owls have a very long breeding season. It lasts from March until September. The females will usually have two eggs, but sometimes only one. They will incubate them for about 28 days. She will remain with the eggs from the time they leave her body until they hatch. It is the job of her mate to bring her back enough food for survival.   The first egg to hatch is the one that is the most likely to survive. The parents will feed this one immediately and continually. If they have enough food available they will feed both of the young. However, if food sources are scarce the second one will get no food at all. Sadly, it will die within a day or two. The young can fly when they are about 9 weeks of age.

Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) See also in Part 4. This particular hornbill species’ diet consists mainly of invertebrates that are readily found on the ground (including spiders), as well as lizards, snakes and amphibians.   It mates between September and December. The female will make her nest in a tree or a cliff hollow and will usually lay two eggs. Interestingly, she will lay the first egg about four days before the second, giving this chick the opportunity to be stronger than the other. Only one chick will survive to fledgling stage.  They are on the endangered list.

Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos). The lappet-faced vulture is one of the most aggressive of African birds. It possesses one of the strongest beaks, usually arriving last to the carcass due to its ability to tear off flesh (such as skin, tendons, and other coarse tissue) that is too tough for smaller scavengers. They have a wingspan of almost 3 metres....

It frequents steppes and deserts with isolated trees such as flat-topped acacias where it may build the nest.   It needs open and arid areas, including mountains and semi-desert.  It usually lives in a pair, but flocks of up to 50 vultures can be seen mixed with other raptors around carcasses or at water. It dominates all other birds of prey around the food, performing some displays such as bounding attacks, but it spends more time in these displays than feeding, and it returns later to the carcass.  Pairs nest solitary, and build a large, bulky, flat nest (about 2 metres of diameter), with small sticks on a thorny tree-top. The interior is lined with dry grasses. The female lays only one egg in the middle of the nest. The young fledge at 125-135 days after hatching.  They do not breed until they are about 6 years of age and they are on the endangered list.

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