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Sclater’s Lark by Adam Riley
South Africa boasts the highest total of endemic birds on the African continent. Many of these localized species are restricted to specialized habitat zones, often in remote regions of the country. The arid Nama Karoo region of Bushmanland is a prime example. This vast and seldom visited region to the north of the Cape Fynbos biome and the succulent Karoo, but south of the Orange River boasts numerous avian specialties.
Driving through Bushmanland’s network of dirt tracks, where one can go for many hours without seeing another vehicle, provides the birder with the opportunity of finding several species of bustards (including the sought-after Karoo and nomadic Ludwig’s), coursers (including the elusive Burchell’s), chats (including Tractrac, Sickle-winged and Karoo) and seedeaters (specials include the lovely Damara Canary). However, pride of place goes to the larks, and nowhere in the world can such a diversity of larks be encountered. Red Lark is endemic to Bushmanland but other specials include Grey-backed and Black-eared Sparrowlark, Fawn-coloured, Spike-heeled, Karoo, Stark’s, Karoo Long-billed, Large-billed, Sabota and Sclater’s Lark. The last mentioned species is one of the most difficult to find but by staking out certain waterholes, large flocks of these lovely larks, with their unusual upturned bills, may be encountered as they come down to quench their thirst.
Birders seldom visit this desolate area but Rockjumper’s South African Endemics Mega-Birding tour thoroughly explores Bushmanland and other remote areas of our diverse country, whilst targeting all 152 endemic and near-endemic bird species occurring. Spaces are available for our 19 Oct – 11 Nov 2010 tour to be guided by veteran birder Erik Forsyth.
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