2019-08-11: Birds in the dark

Last week, I featured hornbills for my topic of the month, and this week, it is birds in the dark.  I had started typing out birds at night, but one of the images was taken at daybreak, and I thought it best to try and be accurate 🙂

I was very fortunate to have several different owl sightings during my travels, as well as two nightjar sightings.  The nightjars were by far the easiest to photograph, as they tend to lay in the road after dark, and if you are lucky you can drive the vehicle fairly close to them and use a spotlight.  Owls are a more challenging one, unless you are lucky enough to find them very close to the road, and not spook them when driving up.

This past trip, the first owl sighting I had was on my first evening game drive, and it was rather exciting.  I spotted this owl far away on a tree, and as we watched for a few moments, we realized it had a kill it was working on.  The terrain made it impossible to drive any closer, so I had to do the best I could with a 400mm lens and a bit of cropping; the quality isn’t fantastic, but the moment was definitely memorable.

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A Verreaux’s eagle-owl on a scrub hare kill.  Lion Sands River Lodge, May, 2019

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I had one eagle sighting while in the Timbavati, of a pearl-spotted owlet, but unfortunately by the time I got the attention of our ranger to stop, the owl was in flight and all I got was a butt shot as it flew away.  And not even a decent butt shot; it’s completely blurry and not worth sharing.  There’s always next time though 🙂

The rest of the sightings of birds in the dark all came while staying at Chitwa Chitwa with Harley as our guide.  Harley really seemed to enjoy pointing out birds, and identifying the ones that I would randomly point at (generally small raptors which I still have a terrible time identifying).

The southern white-faced owl and the spotted eagle owl were seen within about 10 minutes of each other while heading back to camp for dinner; and then the pair of Verreaux’s eagle owls were spotted the following morning as we set off from camp.

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A southern white-faced owl.  I’ve been lucky enough to see this species a couple of times before.  Chitwa Chitwa, South Africa. May, 2019.

Nightjar’s are a common bird to see on game drives at night, but a lot of times they fly away before you have a chance to capture a picture.  This past trip, I was fortunate to have two sightings of different species that I could get decent images of.

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A fiery-necked nightjar.  I would have struggled to identify this on my bird app if the song hadn’t been described as “Good lord, deliver us” which was the description our ranger Harley used when talking about them.  Chitwa Chitwa, May, 2019.
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A rufous-cheeked nightjar.  Very similar to the fiery-necked nightjar from beak to wing, but this one has white patches on the end two tail feathers (thank you, Roberts Bird app!)
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A spotted eagle-owl.
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A group of Verreaux’s eagle-owls, spotted early morning on a drive at Chitwa Chitwa.  There were actually 3 in this group, but I couldn’t fit them all into one frame as one was in another tree, hidden behind the trunk until it took off.

I hope you enjoy my selections for the week.  Wishing everyone a fantastic week ahead!

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