A win for Ronnie, and two for John


About 20 Club members entered a total of 50 images for the annual Bird Photography Competition on Members’ Fun Evening, Wednesday 22 June.

The images were judged in three categories by all attending the meeting – about 50 members. Included was a “fun” category, in line with the theme of the evening.

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Ronnie Hazell’s Martial Eagle

What stood out, was the high quality of the entries in general.

The eventual winner of the Best Bird Photo was Ronnie Hazell, with a Martial Eagle in full flight, taken in the Kgalagadi National Park about a week before the meeting. He used the highly regarded combination of a Canon EOS 7D with 100-400 mm lens.

The other two categories – Best Fun Photo and Catchiest Caption – were both won by John Bowman.

The winning Fun Photo, of two Kori Bustards and a Tawny Eagle, was taken in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, at about 06:00 in Nov 2015.

Kori Bustards and Tawny Eagle

John Bowman’s two Kori Bustards and a Tawny Eagle

“On an early morning drive, close to our camp, Ngweshla, we came across two Kori Bustards engaged in mating performance,” John said.

“For 5 minutes the male paced around the female, followed by 5 minutes of ‘foreplay’, with the male pecking at the female’s neck.

“Then the male jumped on the female. The mating was over in about 30 seconds. The whole performance was being watched by an inquisitive Tawny Eagle. After the mating, the male chased the eagle away, and then strutted off.”

The Catchiest Caption, “Teaching children to cross the road can be quite feather-raising,” was for an image of a female Northern Black Korhaan and her chick, taken in the Kgalagadi at about 08:00 in February 2014.

Northern Black Korhaan

“Teaching children to cross the road can be quite feather-raising,” by John Bowman

“We were driving on the road south of Nossob Camp, when we came across this korhaan with two chicks. She was obviously anxious to get them across the road. But they had other ideas, and kept heading off in the wrong direction.

“Fortunately there was no other traffic. So we were able to watch them undisturbed until the whole family had gone safely across.”

The judging of the images was followed by boereword rolls and drinks. The results were announced at the end of the meeting, after three short, entertaining presentations.

Barbara Swart, recently retired, spoke about “Retirement gives you wings.” She illustrated her talk using images taken by Margie Ogston. (See separate report below.)

Peta McAdam, a book lover, talked about interesting discoveries made when she looked for books with a title that seemed to refer to birds.

Dave Shreeve told two tales of the interaction of people and pelicans in Australia.

Retirement gives you wings


Text and images by Margie Ogston

“Retirement gives you wings,” was the suggested topic for a short presentation to members at the Hermanus Bird Club annual Members’ Evening on Wednesday 22 June.

Feb 2016 retirement holiday 204

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting (Klipstreepkoppie)

Barbara Swart had recently retired from Unisa and kept the members entertained with quirky comments on her academic career, which in conjunction with many of the pictures that I had selected for the talk, provided us all with a delightful 20 minutes of light humour.

With emphasis on the freedom to move and travel, shots of various species in flight were viewed.

Barbara scanned the various National Parks and Reserves which we have frequented, and demonstrated the vast countryside and habitats in which we live and can enjoy travelling.

Feb 2016 retirement holiday 327

Green Wood-hoopoe (Rooibek-kakelaar)

During our most recent trip, the Mountain Zebra National Park, Ebb and Flow in Wilderness, and the farm Garingboom in the Karoo were visited and proved very exciting.

The Cinnamon-breasted Bunting (Klipstreepkoppie) in the Mountain Zebra Park was a lifer, as were the Red-throated Wryneck (Draaihals), Melodious Lark (Spotlewerik) and Buffy Pipit (Vaalkoester) in the Karoo.

Wilderness, as always, has special moments and the hides and forests were alive with species. Knysna Turaco (Knysna-loerie), Green Woodhoopoe (Rooibek-kakelaar) and the one lifer, a Terrestrial Brownbul (Boskrapper), kept our eyes raised to the treetops for many hours.

Retirement does give you wings of freedom, which we will continue to use.

Wake for Ron Thomson


A wake for Ron Thomson, long-standing member of the Hermanus Bird Club and keen photographer, will be held at the Fernkloof Reserve Hall tomorrow (Thursday 16 June) at 12:00 (midday).

Ron Thomson

The late Ron Thomson

Ron (77), who lived in Voëlklip, was found dead metres off a cliff near Rotary Way in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley on Tuesday evening 7 June. He had been missing since Thursday 2 June.

On Tuesday evening around 19:00, police received a call from a game ranger in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley about a car that had been left unattended on the mountain, the Hermanus Times reported. When the ranger looked down the mountainside, he spotted a body.

On the police’s arrival, they found Thomson’s body lying several metres below a cliff.

Thomson’s sister-in-law, Elaine van Zyl, said their family is devastated. Thomson’s daughter, Kerry, and granddaughter, ­Shevonne, live in Australia.

Bird Club Chairman Craig Holmes said yestersday Ron has for many years performed an audit function for the club on a pro bono basis, ensuring that the funds were being professionally and carefully managed.

Ron also served on the Hermanus Photographic Society Committee until the end of 2015.

Photo competition on Members’ Evening


Part of the fun on Members’ Evening, Wednesday 22 June, will be a Bird Photo competition, where members will be free to take part as contestants and as judges.

The meeting will be at the Fernkloof Reserve Hall. It will start at 18:00, and will include three short presentations by members, and something to eat.

Club members wishing to attend must please book with Chairman Craig Holmes (028 313 2458 or 083 227 9003 or pscholmes@telkomsa.net) for catering purposes.

In the competition, photos will be judged in three categories – Best Bird Photo, Best Fun Photo and Catchiest Caption. The rules are simple.

Each member may enter up to three bird photos. The bird or birds in the photo must have been wild and free to roam. No chickens or captured or escapee exotics.

Each photo must be mounted on or stuck to an A4-size sheet, with a caption written or typed on the same side as the photo, and the member’s name and telephone number on the back.

Entries must be handed in at the Fernkloof Hall by 17:30 on the day of the meeting. Judging will be from 18:00 to 18:30. Each member attending the meeting will have one vote in each category.

The presentations will begin at 18:30, followed by the announcement of the winners of the photo competition. Boerewors rolls will be served, and wine and soft drinks sold by the glass.

Over 400 species in 12 days


Story and images by John and Sheelagh Bowman

A summary of their presentation at the Club meeting in May.

Where in the world would you be able to tick off over 400 species in 12 days? Costa Rica. The country is only 4.2% the size of South Africa, but has a bird list of 903, roughly the same number as South Africa.

The reason for this abundance of bird life is the fairly unique make-up of the country. A spine of mountains runs from the North West to the South East of the country. Moist winds blow in from the Caribbean, while drier breezes come in from the Pacific, meeting on the mountains and giving rise to a range of six different climatic and botanical zones. The altitude goes from sea level to 3 800 metres. So there are a large number of habitats, ideal for a multitude of birds.

Most birds are brightly coloured, and many have wonderful names.

Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw

The trip, in March 2016, organised by the Cape Bird Club, started off in San Jose, after a very long flight. Even in the gardens of our hotel we saw birds like the Great Kiskadee (one of 80 flycatchers in the country) and the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl – smaller than our African Scops Owl.

On our first two days at the La Selva Biological Station, at only 35m altitude in tropical rain forest, we were overwhelmed by bird, animal, and amphibian life. Some standouts include Slaty–tailed Trogon (there are 10 Trogons in the country, 8 of which we saw), Great Tinamou, Great Curassow, and Broad–billed Mot Mot. There are 6 Mot Mots in Costa Rica, of which we saw 4.

Non-birds included Iguanas, Basilisks (huge lizards), Fer de Lance (a deadly snake) and the tiny Strawberry Poison Dart Frog. But the big hit was the Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloth, surprisingly, on the move.

Our first encounter with hummingbirds was at a restaurant on our way to a rain forest at a higher altitude. There were many, ranging from one of the biggest, the Violet Sabrewing (15cm) to the smallest, the rare Black-bellied Humming Bird (8cm). The country boasts 50 beautiful humming birds, of which our group saw 37 on the trip.

Fiery-billed Aracari

Fiery-billed Aracari

The rain forest, in the Arenal National Park, dwarfed by the impressive 1 633m Arenal volcano, featured a number of beautiful walking trails. At bird feeders outside the dining room we encountered the amazing Montezuma Oropendola, the Grey-headed Chachalaca and the Red-legged Honeycreeper, to name just a few.

On the paths we picked up a range of birds from the tiny but very active Buff-rumped Warbler, the pretty Yellow-faced Grassquit, and the large Turkey Vulture, and eventually, far off, the amazing Three-Wattled Bellbird – named for its bell-like call. Somewhat closer were our first toucans, the striking Keel-billed, and Black Mandibled.

From Arenal we climbed to a lodge adjacent to the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest, at 1500m. While the forest was quite dense, thanks to our guides we steadily picked up birds, starting with the huge Black Gaun, Prong-billed Barbet, and culminating with a pair of the amazing Resplendent Quetzals. Also a toucan, but with uppertail coverts which dangle 70cm below the male’s tail. It is rated one of the most beautiful birds in the world, and is the national bird of Guatemala.

From there, in the Curi Cancha Reserve, also cloud forest, we saw the Continental Divide, marking the meeting point of the Caribbean and pacific slopes. And we got a much closer view of the Three-wattled Bellbird.

Resplendent Quetzal

Resplendent Quetzal

From there we descended to the Pacific coast where, on the way to our hotel, we got close views of the spectacular Scarlet Macaw, wonderfully coloured and 90cm long, soon followed by close-up sightings of the Turquoise-browed Mot Mot, one of the most beautiful birds of the trip.

One of the highlights of our whole trip was a three-hour boat trip on the nearby Tarcoles River. Mindblowing was the number of largely water birds, seen at close quarters. To name just a few: Southern Lapwing, Tri Coloured Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, and most spectacular of all, the Boat-billed Heron. Also quite a few warblers et al at the water’s edge.

Next day we headed up to the Cerro de la Muerte (mountain of death), so named because of the treacherous conditions experienced by earlier travellers. This was at 3 200m, and an Andean type landscape. More very high-altitude birds, such as the Volcano Junco, a ‘different’ sparrow. A little lower down we were lucky, thanks to our guides tracking it down by call, to find the uncommon Wrenthrush – a little warbler with a striking golden-russet crown.

On the way back to San Jose we picked up our last special birds, including the beautiful Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, the Sooty-capped Chlorospingus, and Fiery-throated Hummingbird.

Among the 12 of us we saw 420 species. Of course, not everyone saw all of these, but most saw over 400. A successful and highly enjoyable trip.

June begins with Fernkloof walk tomorrow


This month gets off to a quick start for members of the Hermanus Bird Club. Ronnie Hazell will lead the monthly walk in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve tomorrow – Thursday 2 June.

All members wishing to take part must be at the parking area near the entrance, across the road from the meeting hall, at 08:00.

Bring your own refreshments.