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Select Specials: Bushmanland

Burchell’s Courser

This endemic is undoubtedly the most frequently missed special in Bushmanland, and its elusiveness is attributable to its nomadic tendencies and low population density. The best places to search for it, and the recommended strategies, are given on p.90. In the non-breeding season, large nomadic groups may be seen in almost any open area. While today it is very much associated with arid areas from the Namib to the Karoo, the bird wanders widely, and small numbers move in winter into the higher-rainfall wheatlands of the southwestern Cape, and into the grasslands of eastern South Africa. It was once even described as regular in western KwaZulu-Natal, although it no longer occurs there.

Red Lark

This little-known bird, whose nest was only discovered as recently as 1986, is the only species whose global range is totally restricted to Bushmanland. It is, however, reasonably common in its localized sandy habitat. Red Lark occurs in a number of colour forms, though recent research has shown that these are not sufficiently different from each other to warrant individual species status. Generally speaking, the rich reddish-backed ‘dunes form’ occurs on the red dunes in the northwest of the region near Aggenys (see p.95), while the browner-backed ‘plains form’ is found in the east of the region (around Brandvlei for instance; see p.89). The males engage in conspicuous aerial displays, during which they call frequently.

Sclater’s Lark

Largely restricted to this region, Sclater’s Lark is one of the enigmatic specials of Bushmanland. Suggestions on finding this inconspicuous bird, and its habitat preferences, are offered on p.91. It is unique among local larks in that it lays only one egg, a phenomenon shared by several other unrelated species (such as Double-banded Courser and Karoo Korhaan) that co-habit its harsh habitat. Parent birds undergo huge thermal stress while sitting on the nest, which is situated on exposed rocky plains. Once the egg has hatched, small stones are placed in the nest to break up the chick’s shape and add to the camouflage. Although still locally somewhat nomadic, artificial stock-watering points on farms must have benefited this species as, conveniently for birders, it needs to drink regularly.

Black-eared Finchlark

This is a characteristically nomadic species that moves around in large numbers in response to rain and often irrupts into areas where the grass is seeding. Care needs to be taken in identifying the females, which may resemble other larks and finchlarks. Breeding must occur rapidly due to limited favourable conditions, and males hover butterfly-like during their characteristic display flights. The nest cup, lined with grass and distinctively surrounded by an earth and spider-web mix, is usually built at the base of a small shrub. Curiously for a lark, this species sometimes nests in loose colonies.

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27/09/09: Dalton Gibbs reports back from Gough Island! Read the blog!

26/09/09: New Cape Town Pelagics trip report from trips of 12 and 19 September 2009.

30/08/09: British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water proved very successful, with sunny weather and over 20,000 visitors. Callan's "Birding Namibia and the Okavango" was the most highly-attended lecture on the Saturday, with over 240 people. Congratulations to the winners of the Birding Africa competition and the African Bird Club raffle that we helped sponsor!

12/08/09: New Cape Town Pelagics trip reports from August and July 2009. Highlights: Little Shearwater and more!

07/08/09: The sub-adult Black Sarrowhawk visits our garden again! Read on about Raptor Research in the Western Cape.

27/07/09: Cape Town's Verreauxs' Eagle Chick has grown! And its sibling never had a chance to hatch. See the pictures of the chick, its nest and the breeding pair. Find out more about the Western Cape Raptor Research Programme.

27/07/09: To follow modern nomenclature and systematics, we've adopted the IOC World Bird List, Version 2.1.

13/07/09: The 8th African Bird ID Challenge has launched! Win a 50% discount on a Cape Town Pelagics trip, a copy of Southern African Birdfinder, or African Bird Club membership for 1 year.

6 July 09: Cape White-eye research in our garden.

2 July 09: Cape Town's Verreauxs' Eagle Chick has hatched! See the pictures of the chick, its nest and the breeding pair. Find out more about the Western Cape Raptor Research Programme.

2 July 09: Campbell Fleming, a Cape Town scholar, avid birder and photographer, joined Birding Africa last month as an intern. Click here, to see what he got up to.

2 July 09: New pelagic trip reports from the Cape Town Pelagics trips in June 2009. Highlights: Slenderbilled Prion and Leach's Storm Petrel

30 july 09: Our latest Cape Fynbos and Karoo trip reports feature Hottentot Buttonquail, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler and other fynbos and Karoo endemics...

26 June 09: Tungsten mining threatens RAMSAR site, South Africa's Verlorenvlei. Read the Media Release.

22 June 09: Claire Spottiswoode, one of the Cape Birding Route founders, was part of the exploratory team at Mount Mabu. The mountain is part of the newly discovered largest rainforest in Southern Africa.

11 June 09: A colour-ringed Black Sparrowhawk visits the Birding Africa office garden. Read why it's a 10 months old male!

14 June 09:
Wildlife at the office of The Cape Birding Route, Birding Africa and Cape Town Pelagics.

31 May 09:
Michel Watelet wins the 7th African Bird Club & Birding Africa ID Challenge. Test your African birding skills and WIN a Birding Africa Cape town day trip or a copy of the Birdfinder!

30 May 09: A tragedy unfolds at Kommetjie south of Cape town as 44 beached False Killer Whales were shot. Click here for more details and pictures.

14 March 09: Raptor Watch in Cape Town on 14 March 09