Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Malawi: Birds of Prey

Another of the highlights of the trip was the wide range of raptors seen – not always close enough for good photos, but always spectacular.

african fish eagle African Fish Eagle – this impressive bird was probably the commonest raptor. Seen and heard frequently at Mvuu and Lake Malawi.

bateleurBateleur – plenty seen in Liwonde, readily identifiable by the unique profile with trailing legs.

 african hawk eagle African Hawk-eagle – this pair was well spotted by our guide, Abasi, from our boat on the Shire River

bb snake eagle Black-breasted Snake Eagle – this bird treated us to a superb flyover on an early morning 4x4 trip

crowned eagleCrowned Eagle – a couple seen on the Zomba Plateau, reminding me somewhat of a strongly marked, short-tailed Honey Buzzard

gabar goshawkGabar Goshawk – another flyover near Mvuu

martial eagle Martial Eagle – at least three individuals seen around Liwonde, this one carrying prey of some description as it sailed high overhead

wahlbergs eagle Wahlberg’s Eagle – several seen, this dark morph had us confused for a while, until it pinched its tail in to give a more typical narrow profile

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Malawi – just elephants!

As you’ve probably gathered from the photos from Malawi I’ve posted so far, the birding was pretty good, and the scenery was constantly superb. But both of these were surpassed by our first experience with African Elephants: we found a group of c.64 animals from a boat trip one morning, and had the privilege of watching them feeding, bathing, drinking and even wrestling at pretty close range for around half an hour. I really can’t think of a more impressive or memorable wildlife encounter – they were just fantastic! Photos can’t really do justice to the real thing… but here are the best I could do.

elephant1 elephant5elephant2 elephant3 elephant4elephant6

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Local pics

More from Malawi in a day or two, but first a few common bird photos taken locally over the last two weekends. This selection of wildfowl was taken at Fishers Green, in the Lee Valley.

drake tufted duck 2    egyptian goose    mute swan head mute swan duck pochard 2

Next, one of Wanstead’s finest – this male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker showed fantastically well, drumming and calling this morning. Not particularly obliging for photos, but they’re always a cracking little bird to see…lswoodpecker

Also following in Jono’s blogging footsteps, a Reed Bunting portrait from Rainham in this evening’s sunshine:

reed bunting 

And finally, this Goldfinch wasn’t the main attraction at Welney today… but it was a lot more accommodating than the white-spotted Bluethroat, which was very elusive and only showed briefly in a three hour vigil!


Sunday, 18 April 2010

Malawi: Mammals and other wildlife

sable antelope Sable Antelope: one of the mammal highlights of the trip, we found two of these striking animals deep in the mopane woodland around Mvuu.

waterbuckWaterbuck: fairly numerous around Mvuu, though only seen in small groups

kuduKudu: despite seeing quite a few of these handsome large antelopes, it took us a couple of days to find any that really posed for photos

rock hyrax Rock Hyrax: seen around the Safari Beach Lodge hotel, near Lake Malawi

hippo with egret Hippo: Mvuu means Hippo in the local language, and there was certainly no problem finding plenty of these along the river.

nile crocodilesNile Crocodile: another common resident around Mvuu, pretty close to our accommodation as well!

monitor lizard Monitor Lizard: after a very near miss with a large Monitor that crossed right in front of our 4x4 on the first evening, we only saw a couple more during the trip. I guess this one was around 3-4 feet long – they do get a bit bigger as well!

locust Locust: this was the first time that we’d seen the Locusts that cause so many problems destroying crops etc in southern Africa… an impressively large creature!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Malawi: waterbirds

So, after spending most of the afternoon editing photos, it’s time to publish the first batch of the results. Most of these shots were taken in the vicinity of Mvuu Lodge, in the Liwonde National Park, where a number of boat safaris provided an excellent (and relaxed) means of getting close views.

white-backed night heronWhite-backed Night Heron: generally a tricky bird to see, this was one of two seen well in dense vegetation along the banks of the Shire River.

black crakeBlack Crake: several seen around Liwonde, this individual showed particularly well from our boat.

hadada ibis Hadada Ibis: flocks of this smart ibis leaving their roost provided our regular pre-dawn alarm call at Mvuu!

little bitternLittle Bittern: one of several seen briefly around Liwonde

little egretLittle Egret: only a few noted, in marshes near Lake Malawi.

openbillAfrican Openbill (Stork): quite a common bird around Liwonde, including a ‘stack’ of approx 60 birds circling on a thermal overhead.

gw egretGreat White Egret: this shot was taken in the late evening sunshine, prior to a superb sunset (and an unsuccessful search for Pel’s Fishing Owl!)

reed cormorantReed (Long-tailed) Cormorant: another common bird seen posing close to our boat

three-banded ploverThree-banded Plover: just a single seen at Mpatsanjoka Marsh, near Lake Malawi

squaccoSquacco Heron: always a smart bird to see

white-breasted cormorant White-breasted Cormorant: ‘split’ by some authorities from Great Cormorant as a separate species

malachite2Malachite Kingfisher: I know, I know… I’ve already posted a shot of one of these. No apologies though – they’re just too stunning to ignore!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Suzanne’s shots with the new camera

Here’s a selection of birds, mammals and insects photographed during our trip - anyone keen on ID-ing the insects for us? They’re in chronological order and I took them using my new camera, a Panasonic Lumix FZ38, bought especially for my trip to Ghana in the summer. I was really pleased with how adaptable it is. It took great landscapes (see previous post), some pleasing macro shots of flowers, butterflies and dragonflies and with it’s 18x optical zoom I even got a few decent bird shots although they obviously do not compare to the Canon photos…

Sparrow weaver collecting nest materialP1000142_smallP1000145_small

Warthogs were always unnerving close to the camp!P1000148_small P1000152_small

An excellent example of just how tatty the butterflies were, it would appear that the birds are pretty good at catching them but only by their wings. This one looks like it’s been nibbled at least five times and still lived to tell the tale… P1000154_small

The crocodile was just across the river from our lodge and the sloshes in the middle of the night were quite alarming! P1000162_small

Hippopotamus' were very common all along the river…P1000169_small

This Malachite kingfisher doesn’t really compare to David’s shot posted last night but it’s just a point and shoot camera remember! P1000174_small

David struggled to get his exposure compensation right on this bee-eater but my camera did ok! P1000179_small

A rather handsome Reed Cormorant. P1000180_small

The elephants were amazing, we sat in our boat just metres away from a herd of over sixty. They even came and played in the river with us. Have you ever seen an elephant attempt a backwards roll in the water??? P1000244_small P1000248_small

Well posed Impala… P1000261_small

Lots more butterflies… P1000314_small P1000316_small P1000319_small P1000322_small P1000333_small P1000334_small P1000335_small P1000339_small

A blue-tailed skink P1000393_small

This very obliging Hammerkop was sat just outside our apartment at Lake Malawi P1000401_small P1000405_small P1000411_small P1000416_small P1000423_small

My attempt at Pied KingfisherP1000471_small

Another Reed CormorantP1000469_small

Yellow baboon P1000473_small

It took almost a week to see a House Sparrow! P1000485_small P1000493_small P1000499_small P1000502_small

Just one locust P1000504_small

A praying mantis watching me very closely as it’s sat on the wall of our apartment! P1000542_small