Saturday, 27 August 2011

Capetown kingfisher

Continuing the urban kingfisher theme-this morning I had a very enjoyable visit to Rondevlei Nature Reserve, as part of my first visit to Capetown. Thanks in large part to the generous hospitality of my colleague Susie, the jetlag recovery and orientation to being in a new country was (almost) seamless. While Capetown has the usual unfortunate drawbacks of african cities, it is blessed with a great network of parks and reserves which support a fantastic diversity of birds. Rondevlei Nature Reserve forms a part of the False Bay Ecology Park, and is tucked between the coast and the bustling metropolis. In the park have been counted 320 plant species, including 17 endangered, 235 bird species, including 7 endangered, 29 reptile species, 23 mammal species, 8 amphibian species, 2 of which are endangered, and the reserve is also home to the Cape’s only hippopotamus population. All this within the city bounds. With the area of land undergoing urban development continuing to grow exponentially, this is a great example of the importance of allowing for nature conservation within our towns and cities. 

Despite the best attempts of the weather to thwart our efforts to get our bird geek on, we were able to spot and identify a large number of bird species that were new to me. We were lucky to spot a goliath heron (Ardea goliath), well outside it's normal range. Although there was no shortage of competition for the most exciting observation, the prize has to go to the malachite (Alcedo cristata), a fairly common small kingfisher-one of the smallest in Africa. We had lingered in one particular hide a bit longer than the others, not because there were any more birds there, but it was in a spot sheltered from the building southerly wind. Although the malachite only lingered long enough for a few rushed pictures, it was enough to expose the depth of my geekiness by getting the heart racing. 

I'm now in Windhoek, in the heart of Namibia. I'm giving a seminar at the university on urban bird research, and another public lecture hosted by the Namibian Scientific Society on bird conservation in New Zealand in a few days. Until then I'm looking forward to seeing what avian gems the urban wilds of Windhoek can throw at me.

Malachite kingfisher, Rondevlei Nature Reserve, Capetown. 

A more geographically minded goliath heron, within it's normal range (lower Zambezi, 2008).

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