South Africa’s bird life

first_imgSouth Africa ranks as one of the top birding destinations in the world, offering an unbeatable combination of variety of birds, well developed transport systems, and a user-friendly and supportive birding tourism industry.Birders from around the world come to experience both the great variety of typically African birds, migrants, and endemics – those birds found only in South Africa. These birders enjoy excellent birding, whether they are with an organised commercial birding tour or are touring independently.Of the 850 or so species that have been recorded in South Africa, about 725, or 85%, are resident or annual visitors, and about 50 of these are endemic or near- endemic to South Africa, and can only be seen in the country.Apart from the resident birds, South Africa hosts a number of African migrants such as cuckoos and kingfishers, as well as birds from the Arctic, Europe, Central Asia, China and Antarctica during the year.The birding seasonsThe southern winter tends to be dry over much of the country, but wet in the extreme southwest around Cape Town. At this time, excellent birding can be had in the bushveld and lowveld areas of the northeast, complemented by outstanding game viewing, while huge numbers of seabirds that breed on sub-Antarctic islands move north.Pelagic trips, especially those run out of Cape Town, offer the chance to see large numbers of albatrosses, shearwaters, petrels and storm-petrels.The spring season brings the first of the breeding migrants from further north in Africa, and also heralds the start of the breeding season for the resident species. As the weavers and bishops emerge from their winter browns, so the cuckoos arrive from warmer parts and the breeding season bursts into action.With the progression of spring into summer, the non-breeding migrants start to arrive from distant climes, mainly from Europe. Are these South African birds that have gone overseas to breed, or overseas birds that come to South Africa for the northern winter?Well, arguably the former, for two reasons: firstly, they spend more time in South Africa than on the breeding grounds, and secondly, the breeding grounds only became available fairly recently in evolutionary terms, following the last ice age.At this time of the year birding reaches its peak, with widespread breeding activity and most of the migrant species around. It is no co-incidence that BirdLife South Africa organises its Birding Big Day, when teams around the country compete to see the most birds in a day, during November.The summer highs continue into the New Year, until migrants start to leave during April and winter is not far away.Key birding areasThe endemics, those birds found only in South Africa, are obviously one of the major attractions for birders visiting the country. Many of these endemic species are found in the grasslands, mountains, arid interior and southwestern regions.The following areas offer exceptional birding experiences, but really great birding can be had in many other parts of the country at any time of year.Wakkerstroom: The central grasslands are a key area for birders, holding a number of special grassland and wetland species, and one of the most visited towns is Wakkerstroom, close to where Mpumalanga, the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal meet. It is an area of high grassland, marshes, hills and mountain forest patches.Wakkerstroom is visited by most of the birding tours that come to South Africa and as a result has well-developed facilities, including resident guides.The special birds of this area are Rudd’s and Botha’s larks, yellow-breasted and African rock pipits, the bush blackcap, blue and white-bellied korhaans, Stanley’s bustard, the blue, grey-crowned and wattled cranes, the southern bald ibis, and the white-winged flufftail.Cape Town: The Western Cape is another much-visited region with great birding, great wines, great scenery, great whales and great white sharks! Apart from the pelagic trips, which are good all year but best in winter, the province holds a large number of endemics and the best wader watching in the country.The endemics include fynbos specials such as the orange-breasted sunbird, the Cape sugarbird, the Cape siskin, the protea seedeater and the hottentot buttonquail. The Cape rockjumper is found on the craggy mountainsides, Knysna and Victoria’s warblers in the damper valleys, and a variety of larks in the dry interior.The West Coast National Park, which includes the Langebaan Lagoon, attracts huge numbers of waders from their Arctic breeding grounds during the southern summer, and is particularly important for the curlew sandpiper.The Langebaan Lagoon is surrounded by the heath-like strandveld where the black harrier, southern black korhaan, and a variety of smaller birds such as the grey tit, Cape penduline tit and Layard’s titbabbler, are found.Close to Cape Town, the Cape of Good Hope National Park offers excellent birding for species such as the hottentot buttonquail and a variety of seabirds, while the nearby Boulders Beach National Park at Simonstown has an accessible and thriving African penguin colony.Zululand: The north-eastern part of KwaZulu-Natal is one of the most species-rich areas of South Africa, with a tropical feel and spectacular birds to match. The rich mosaic of forests, marshes, freshwater lagoons, flooded grasslands, tidal estuaries and acacia woodland supports a fantastic array of birds.Specials of the area include the Woodward’s (green) barbet, known only from the Ngoye forest, the palmnut vulture, the African broadbill, Neergaard’s sunbird, Rudd’s apalis, Delegorgue’s pigeon, the Knysna and Livingstone’s turacos, and the southern banded snake eagle.Birding facilities are exceptionally well developed in this region, as the Zululand Birding Route is centred on Eshowe. The Dlinza Forest in Eshowe has recently opened a forest boardwalk that takes you into the canopy, and from there you can eyeball canopy species such as Delegorgue’s pigeon, the grey cuckooshrike and the crowned Eagle. You can also peer down on the secretive spotted ground thrush.Lowveld: This area is the low-lying tropical region in the northeast, largely taken up by the Kruger National Park, and bounded in the west by the Drakensberg escarpment. The low-lying bush areas hold large populations of game and birds typical of such African game reserves.Raptors of many species occur here in good numbers, including the martial eagle, the tawny eagle, the brown snake eagle, the African hawk eagle and, in summer, Walhberg’s eagle, the steppe eagle and the lesser spotted eagle.Other large and conspicuous species include the saddlebilled stork, the southern ground hornbill, the ostrich and the kori bustard. Along the western edge of the lowveld, the escarpment supports many forest- and cliff-dwelling species, including the taita falcon, the bat hawk and the cape parrot.Gauteng: Despite being the most heavily developed area in South Africa, Gauteng offers exceptional birding for visitors who have some time to spare. Around 350 different species can be seen within easy reach of Johannesburg and Pretoria, and a wide range of habitats are easily accessible.Of particular interest are: Marievale, a large wetland in the southeast; Suikerbosrand, a hilly area to the south; the Magaliesberg mountains to the north (actually in North West, but within easy striking distance of both Johannesburg and Pretoria); the Witwatersrand Botanical Gardens to the west; and the Dinokeng bushveld area north-east of Pretoria.Even within the cities a great variety of birds may be found, and garden lists often exceed 100 species. Common species in the towns include the hadeda ibis, the red-eyed dove, the speckled pigeon, the grey loerie (or “go-away bird”), the bokmakerie, the green woodhoopoe, the black-collared barbet, the olive thrush and the Cape robin.Birding facilitiesMany of the hundreds of nature reserves and game reserves throughout South Africa provide excellent opportunities for birders of all descriptions. These facilities include trails, hides, information sheets and checklists, and trained bird guides.In some areas specific birding facilities have been established, the Zululand Birding Route being a good example. In this case there is a central office that offers advice on itinerary planning and booking, including accommodation and the services of guides.BirdLife South Africa operates a birding centre at Wakkerstroom and offers accommodation and local guides.Local guides and birding experts can be hired in many places. Some companies offer specialist birding tours, lasting from a few hours to a couple of weeks. Pelagic trips to see the seabirds are offered mainly out of Cape Town and Durban.Source: South African TourismSAinfo reporterWould you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

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Terrible loss leads to celebration of a legacy in Athens County

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest What started as a heartbreaking story of loss and devastation in a small farm community was transformed into lasting legacy honoring the memory of a promising young man.With a bright future ahead, 18-year-old Noah Cox was tragically killed in late May in a tractor rollover accident while baling hay. Cox was a noted cattle showman who had multiple grand champion steer banners from the Athens County Fair. This was his last year of junior show eligibility.After the terrible loss of Cox this spring, his good friend Austin Pullins (also an accomplished steer showman) decided to finish out his market beef projects at the Ohio State Fair and the Athens County Fair. This set the stage for the early-August Athens County Junior Market Beef Show and the incredible livestock sale that followed.“When I walked into the fairgrounds I could feel it,” said Jason Langley, the Washington CH-based auctioneer from the Athens County Junior Fair Livestock Sale. “I’ve been selling down there for a number of years and there was just this quiet over the crowd. When you go to a fair sale there is usually a lot of energy and a lot of activity. When I walked in there I could feel it in the air and [Noah] not being there was a huge impact at the Athens County Fair.”The Athens County Fair Junior Market Beef Show was still fresh in everyone’s mind at the sale.“When Noah passed away his good friend Austin stepped in there to help get the steers ready and he won that show with Noah’s steer. It was the best steer in the barn. It wasn’t a feel-good situation for the judge. It was the best steer. I don’t even know if the judge knew the situation,” Langley said. “After they did that, Austin came in with his steer and got reserve champion. When the champion drive was on, Austin was in there showing Noah’s steer instead of his own. It was awesome for him to get that for Noah.”The sale then got off to its somber start.“They told me what happened and I knew it was going to be huge, even if he had placed last in the show. But how do you do this without taking away from the other kids? A group of business people from the area got together and put in money and called me with that amount of money. We sold the steer and there were eight or 10 buyers involved and that was $26,000, which is what the steer sold for in the ring. Then I gave the opportunity to the people in the crowd to donate to this. After it was all said and done, I collected an additional $37,050,” Langley said. “You talk about tears, goose bumps, hugs, cheers. It was unbelievable. It was what 4-H is all about and what agriculture is about — coming together as a community to support a young man and his family. It was a touching moment. If you can’t get excited about a story like this, I don’t know what you need. There was something like 40,000 views of the video from the auction.”In addition to the livestock sale proceeds, commemorative t-shirts were sold in memory of Noah Cox.“They started making a few and pretty soon they were making hundreds of these purple shirts and selling them and the proceeds go to a new barn they are putting up at the fairgrounds — a grooming barn at the end of the steer barn,” Langley said. “They have a tent there now but they are building this barn in his memory.”The purple shirts feature the phrase “Succeeding in the show ring of life” and more than 800 have been sold, with proceeds benefitting the Noah Cox Memorial Fund and Athens County 4-H and FFA members.Donations continued after the sale and by the next morning, the total contributions toward the sale and the Noah Cox Memorial Fund were over $70,000. The new building honoring Cox will be constructed before the 2018 Athens County Fair.The selection of the grand champion steer was a very emotional moment at the Athens County Fair. Photo by Raven Williams.last_img read more

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Ag Pushes FMD Vaccine Bank

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest By Jerry HagstromDTN Political CorrespondentWASHINGTON (DTN) — The National Pork Producers Council, the National Milk Producers Federation and the National Corn Growers Association on Tuesday urged the Agriculture Department to move quickly to implement a bank for vaccines against foot-and-mouth disease.In a call to reporters, the groups said that an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, which can affect cattle, swine and sheep, would be disastrous for meat and dairy producers and for the corn growers that sell feed to animal producers. There has been no outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the United States since 1929, but it is endemic in large parts of the world and there is a constant fear that it could spread, the groups said.“The reason for the call is to encourage them to move forward as quickly as possible” so that USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) can purchase the volume of vaccines required to effectively contain and eradicate an outbreak, said Liz Wagstrom, the chief veterinarian at the National Pork Producers Council.The groups noted that the 2018 farm bill included $150 million in mandatory funding over five years for APHIS to establish a vaccine bank. Wegstrom noted that APHIS has taken an initial step to determine what vendors might be able to provide the vaccine and that the next step would be to put out a request for proposals to supply the vaccine.The United States does not want to vaccinate without an outbreak because vaccination would lead countries importing U.S. meat and milk products to require more paperwork and because there are so many strains that many vaccines would need to be used, said James Roth, a professor in the department of Veterinary Microbiology and Preventative Medicine at Iowa State’s College of Veterinary Medicine.Instead, USDA has prescribed vaccination as the method for dealing with an outbreak. There were nine outbreaks of foot-and-mouth-disease in the United States before 1929, and they were addressed by stopping the movement of animals and stamping out the disease. But those methods are not practical today because herds are larger and animals move greater distances.At present, Wegstrom said, the vaccine is stored on Plum Island, the animal disease research facility off the coast of New York, which is being replaced by the new research facility under construction in Manhattan, Kansas.In the case of the vaccine stored on Plum Island, it would have to be returned to the vendor in Lyon, France, for reactivation before use. The plan is for the new vaccine bank to be stored with whatever vendor is chosen, Wegstrom said.While the funding for the vaccine bank is mandatory spending, the National Animal Health Laboratory Network of diagnostic institutions is dependent on appropriations, Wegstrom said. The Agriculture appropriations bills moving through Congress would provide $17 million for the labs for fiscal year 2020, but the funding is authorized for up to $30 million per year.According to Iowa State University research, an outbreak would result in $128 billion in losses for the beef and pork sectors; $44 billion and $25 billion, respectively, to the corn and soybean farmers; and job losses of more than 1.5 million across U.S. agriculture over 10 years.“If the U.S. had a large outbreak of FMD, it may be impossible to control without the rapid availability of adequate supplies of vaccine,” Roth said.Without vaccine, he said, it could take 10 years to recover. The disease would move through herds, with some animals becoming ill and recovering and others dying.“A foreign animal disease outbreak would have an estimated $4-billion-a-year impact on corn farmers, which would be disastrous on top of current market conditions,” noted Sarah McKay, director of market development at the National Corn Growers Association.An outbreak may also affect exports of animal ag products, she said.“On average, pork exports contribute 28 cents a bushel to the price of corn, so the control of infectious diseases via a vaccine bank is important not only to livestock producers but corn growers as well.”“The time to build a best-in-class FMD vaccine bank is now,” said Jamie Jonker, vice president for sustainability and scientific affairs at the National Milk Producers Federation.Jonker noted that an outbreak of FMD would interrupt the just-in-time deliveries of milk and also lead other countries to stop the imports of dairy products that are increasingly important to dairy farmers.Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at [email protected] him on Twitter @hagstromreport(AG)© Copyright 2019 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.last_img read more

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Upcoming Webinar: Planning for Contingencies on Your Caregiving Journey

first_imgPlease join MFLN Military Caregiving Wednesday, May 23 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern, for our free webinar entitled ‘Detour Ahead: Planning for Contingencies on Your Caregiving Journey.’Like many things in life, caregiving is a journey, not a destination…Even the best laid plans – or map, if you will – have unintended obstacles and barriers resulting in a change of direction. While the caregiver cannot anticipate every scenario, there are some common issues that caregivers may be able to anticipate. Too, knowing there may be detours ahead may be able to help the caregiver better cope when problems arise. This session will explore some common issues in caregiving and provide some tips for when these detours occur. We will also discuss some critical thinking/decision-making skills that can help caregivers take apart and analyze unanticipated detours. Presenter:Andrew Crocker, MSExtension Program Specialist II in Gerontology and HealthTexas A&M AgriLife Extension ServiceContinuing Education Credit Available!The MFLN Military Caregiving concentration will apply for 1.0 continuing education (CE) credit from UT School of Social Work for credentialed and licensed professionals. Additionally, Certificates of completion will be available for participants interested in receiving training hours.Interested in Joining the Webinar?To join this event, simply click on Planning for Contingencies on Your Caregiving Journey. The webinar is hosted by the Department of Defense APAN system, but is open to the public.If you cannot connect to the APAN site, an alternative viewing of this presentation will be running on YouTube Live. Mobile options for YouTube Live are available on all Apple and Android devices.This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on May 4, 2018.last_img read more

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