Burchell’s Coucal… Beauty and Beast..

Burchell’s Coucal (Centropus burchellii)

A coucal is one of about 30 species of birds in the cuckoo family. All of them belong in the subfamily Centropodinae and the genus Centropus. Now that should give you a hint as to the Beast side of the bird…

This bird is so beautiful, shy and yet such a beast when it comes to it’s eating habits. It is well known for its haunting call, that once begun by one, is joined by all in the area    Click here to get a quick version of the call.

It has a chestnut-brown back and similar wing feathers and a long tail that flops along as though it has no control over it, with marked bands in its upper parts. with a flattish head that it often pulls back as though to hide itself.

Unlike many cuckoos, coucals are not brood parasites. On the other hand they do have their own reproductive peculiarity: all members of the genus are to varying degrees sex-role reversed so that the smaller male provides most of the parental care. Typical “henpecked male syndrome”.

The  Burchell’s Coucal eats any prey smaller than itself, and it’s not small, (40 cm long and approx. 180 grams) it has a particular liking for young nestlings and the eggs of other birds. It will seek out and eat off the nest whatever it can find, and for this reason I call it a beast… but then I suppose this is nature in the raw…..

The first two photos I played with, I wanted to get something which a friend of mine is going to try and paint… what do you think..??

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Kimberley, Northern Cape…

Kimberley is the capital of the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, this city has considerable historical significance due its diamond mining past. As well as the siege during the Second Boer War. Notable personalities such as Cecil Rhodes and Barney Barnato made their fortunes here, and the roots of the De Beers company can be traced to the early days of the mining town.

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In 1871 a 83.50 carat (16.7 g) diamond was found on the slopes of Colesberg Kopje on the farm Vooruitzigt belonging to the De Beers brothers. It’s told that the cook for prospector Fleetwood Rawstone, made the discovery on Colesberg Kopje after he was sent there to dig as punishment. Rawstorne took the news to the nearby diggings of the De Beer brothers, and this sparked off the famous "Rush" which, was more of a stampede. Within a month 800 claims were cut into the hillock which were worked by two to three thousand men. As the land was lowered, so the hillock became a mine, and in time, became the world renowned Kimberley Mine.

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From mid-July 1871 to 1914, 50,000 miners dug the hole with picks and shovels, yielding 2,722 kg of diamonds. The Big Hole has a surface of 17 hectares (42 acres) and is 463 metres wide. It was excavated to a depth of 240 m, but then partially filled with debris reducing its depth to about 215 m; since then it has accumulated water to a depth of 40 m leaving 175 m visible. Beneath the surface, the Kimberley Mine underneath the Big Hole was mined to a depth of 1097 metres.

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Kimberley was the initial hub of industrialisation in South Africa in the late nineteenth century, transforming the country’s farming economy into one more dependant on its mineral wealth.

The old town is still well preserved and has displays depicting the olden days… I’m sure the Pub never looked so clean and tidy… more dirt and spilt beer, I’m sure, was the order of the day…..

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On 2 September 1882, Kimberley became the first town in the southern hemisphere to install electric street lighting….

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The town even had their own Fire house equipped with the latest fire fighting equipment…. wonder how often this worked.??? For that matter I wonder how long it took to get to the fire…????

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Yellow Weaver.. the Master Builder

Yellow Weaver (ploceus subaureus).

This little master builder will congregate with his fellow men and build nests near each other, hoping to attract a female of the specie. It does look quite hilarious when a female shows up, with all these men now competing against each other for her attention..

The Yellow weaver can only be found along the East coast of South Africa, I’m not sure how far north it is found but probably up into Mozambique..

It is a smallish bird only 17cm. long … feeds on flying insects that it captures on the wing… and like other weavers it does enjoy a bit of nectar from flowers…

The weaver family is known for their intricately built nests… woven material that is collected from all sources with a hanging entrance… very neat and strong..

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African Barred Owlet.. Little Guy.

African Barred Owlet (Glaucidium capense).

The species is frequently found in woodlands and forests. It may also occur in more open savannah and along rivers. It is partly active during the day making it a little easier to see. It feeds on insects, and small rodents and birds may also be eaten.

Now I’ve just discovered more than that I don’t know… I cant tell you even what size they get to… they kept flying away when I alighted with my measuring tape… so all I can tell you is they are small…. maybe that’s why the name Owlet…. Their call is nothing special and can be heard by clicking here

So here are some photos…. (and these didn’t even talk to me… just gave me the beady eye..)…

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Lilac Breasted Roller.

Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus).

The average size of the Lilac Breasted Roller is 14.5 inches. The washed green head is large, the neck is short, the greenish yellow legs are rather short and the feet are small. The beak is strong, arched and hooked-tipped. The tail is narrow and of medium length. The back and scapulars are brown. (Damn this sounds like a lot of people I know)….

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The Lilac Breasted Roller feeds on grasshoppers, beetles, occasionally lizards, crabs, and small amphibians. They take prey from the ground.

To feed they swoop down from an elevated perch next to their prey and eat it on the ground or return to a perch where they batter it before swallowing it whole. (Missed the battering in these two photos)

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Rollers get their name from their impressive courtship flight, a fast, shallow dive from considerable elevation with a rolling or fast rocking motion, accompanied by loud raucous calls. Click on link to hear a sound recording..    click on arrow below bird on web site.

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