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“It was way beyond my expectations”

21 Jan
Long-tailed widowfinch in full flight. Photo Russell Kingston

Long-tailed widowfinch in full flight. Photo Russell Kingston

Members of the RFCG EcoTour to Africa enjoying a hike in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Guests on the RFCG EcoTour to Africa enjoying a hike in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Photo Eelco Meyjes

Pelicans with a late afternoon storm breaking  at Nata Bird Sanctuary. Botswana. Photo Eelco Meyjes

Pelicans with a late afternoon storm breaking at Nata Bird Sanctuary. Botswana. Photo Eelco Meyjes

” It was way beyond my expectations and was really my trip of a lifetime ” Sheena de Jager-Miles, President of the Queensland Finch Society Brisbane, Australia. The recent RFCG Weaver, Widow and Whydah EcoTour to South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe was a wonderful experience enjoyed by all participants.

Not only did the group have the opportunity to see many of Africa’s most spectacular finches , but they also saw a huge amount of game which included the Big 5 ( Elephant, buffalo, lion, rhino and leopard ) as well as a very impressive variety of Africa’s 968 bird species, many of them  migrants, that can be found during the summer months in the southern African region.

Strong interest for doing a similar 23 day tour has already been indicated.( See the Kruger National Park, Botswana and the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe ) For those finch enthusiasts that may wish to participate on the next tour please contact either Russell Kingston at indruss@bigpond.com or Eelco Meyjes at editor@avitalk.co.za. All tour participants will be required to sign an indemnity form prior to departure. All profits are donated to the Rare Finch Conservation Group.

The Rare Finch Conservation Group is registered in South Africa as a non-profit organisation and is dependant on donors and sponsors to carry out its finch conservation work in the wild. For more info visit http://www.rarefinch.org or write to the secretary at editor@avitalk.co.za

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RFCG EcoTour to Africa is sold out

19 Jul
Sua Pan. Nata Bird Sanctuary. Botswana.Home of two of the worlds six or so species of flamingoes. Photo Eelco Meyjes

Sua Pan. Nata Bird Sanctuary. Botswana. Home of two of the worlds six or so species of flamingoes. Photo Eelco Meyjes

 The 23 day RFCG EcoTour to South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe in November/ December is sold out. The tour has been designed to take maximum advantage to see many of the wonderful weavers, whydahs and widow finches in their summer nuptial plumage ( Some of these magnificent finches that our guests can expect to see are: Long-tailed Widowbirds, Red-collared Widowbirds, White-winged Widowbirds, Golden Bishops, Red Bishops, Pin-tailed Whydahs, Paradise Whydahs, Shaft-tailed whydahs, Steel-blue widow finches, Black widow finches, Village indigo birds, Dusky indigo birds, Masked Weavers, Red Billed buffalo weavers, White browed sparrow weavers and with a bit of luck the spectacular Broad-tailed Paradise whydah as well as the Fan-tailed Widowbird plus many of their host species such as Melbas, Violets Ears,  Scaly feathered finches, Common waxbills, black faced waxbills plus many, many more )
We will be looking for Red Billed fire finches and Blue waxbills next to the mighty Victora falls in Zimbabwe. Phote Eelco Meyjes

We will be looking for Red Billed fire finches and Blue waxbills next to the mighty Victoria falls in Zimbabwe. Phote Eelco Meyjes

The trip will include a 6 day stay in the world famous Kruger National Park at different camp sites. From there the tour will move onto Botswana to experience the majestic and silent beauty of the Okavango Delta. A 3 day stop over near the Chobe game reserve, in Northern Botswana, has also been included not to mention a visit to the mighty and thunderous Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe where we should see red billed fire finches and blue waxbills in the Victoria Falls rain forest nature reserve. All along the route, between these three countries, the group will stop at various key locations to see many of Africa’s most beautiful finches.

Safari tent accommodation example at Nata Lodge. Botswana. Photo Eelco Meyjes

Safari tent accommodation example at Nata Lodge. Botswana. Photo Eelco Meyjes

Accommodation will be comfortable and every effort will be made to ensure that this tailor made finch safari is a truly once in a lifetime experience for all our guests. The tour will be hosted by Russell Kingston and Eelco Meyjes.

For more information on future tours for finch enthusiasts to Africa and Australia please contact RussellKingston indruss@bigpond.com or Eelco Meyjes editor@avitalk.co.za.

All profits are donated to the Rare Finch Conservation Group which is a registered non-profit organisation

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Africa Calls…only 2 places still available on the RFCG EcoTour to Africa

17 Jun

Sunset at the Chobe River  in Northern Botswana

Sunset at Chobe River in Northern Botswana. Photo Eelco Meyjes

Africa is well known for its impressive reservoir of wild game and spectacular variety of finch species. Many of the finch species are endemic to the African continent and cannot be equalled anywhere else in the world. A limited number of two places are still available for this exciting 23 day RFCG EcoTour to South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe in November/ December this year.The tour has been designed to take maximum advantage to see many of the wonderful weavers, whydahs and widow finches in their summer nuptial plumage ( Some of these magnificent finches we can expect to see in the wild are: Long-tailed Widowbirds, Red-collared Widowbirds, White-winged Widowbirds, Golden Bishops, Red Bishops, Pin-tailed Whydahs, Paradise Whydahs, Shaft-tailed whydahs, Steel-blue widow finches, Black widow finches, Village indigo birds, Dusky indigo birds, Masked Weavers, Red Billed buffalo weavers, White browed sparrow weavers and with a bit of luck the spectacular Broad-tailed Paradise whydah as well as the Fan-tailed Widowbird plus many of their host species such as Melbas, Violets Ears,  Scaly feathered finches, Common waxbills, black faced waxbills plus many, many more )

Quietly gliding along in a Mokoro dugout canoe, in the Okavango Delta, Botswana looking for finches Photo: Eelco Meyjes

Quietly gliding along in a Mokoro dugout canoe, in the Okavango Delta, Botswana looking at finches Photo: Eelco Meyjes

The trip will include a 6 day stay in the world famous Kruger National Park at different camp sites. From there the tour will move onto Botswana to experience the majestic and silent beauty of the Okavango Delta. A 3 day stop over near the Chobe game reserve, in Northern Botswana, has also been included not to mention a visit to the mighty and thunderous Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe where we should see red billed fire finches and blue waxbills in the Victoria Falls rain forest nature reserve. All along the route, between these three countries, the group will stop at various key locations to see many of Africa’s most beautiful finches.

Safari tent accommodation example at Nata Lodge. Botswana. Photo Eelco Meyjes

Safari tent accommodation example at Nata Lodge. Botswana. Photo Eelco Meyjes

Accommodation will be comfortable and every effort will be made to ensure that this tailor made  finch safari is a truly once in a lifetime experience. The tour will be hosted by Russell Kingston and Eelco Meyjes. For more information on this exciting 23 day weaver, whydah and widow finch safari to Southern Africa please contact Russell Kingston indruss@bigpond.com or Eelco Meyjes editor@avitalk.co.za

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Masked Weavers. Are they really master nest builders ?

10 Jan

Bookings are now open for the RFCG Weaver,widow and whydah EcoTour to South Africa and Botswana in Nov / Dec 2013.The Masked Weaver ( Ploceus velatus ) certainly isn’t a rare and threatened finch. In Southern Africa it is one of the most common birds to be seen. But the above 4 minute video footage is very rare and interesting to look at because it gives us some insights to what we may not have known before. In December yours truly was lucky enough to capture, on video, a Masked Weaver building his nest.( These little birds are sometimes also referred to as Southern Masked Weavers ) As we know in the world of finches many of us believe the Masked Weaver to be the ultimate master nest builder ( or is he really? ). We also know that his hen will inspect the nest first before she will finally accept him as a mate. The above footage shows a Masked Weaver building his nest from start to finish.

Filming the Masked Weaver during a light drizzle

Filming the Masked Weaver during a light drizzle

Some interesting behind the scenes facts that our supporters may enjoy. The footage filmed was done over a 10 day period. The camera was locked off on a tripod during this time and a total of 20 hours of video material was filmed to make the eventual 4 minute video clip. During the 10 day period no less than 5 nests were built and destroyed on the exact same branch.( Some were built and destroyed quicker than others, depending on how much the hen was distracting him at the time, and if it was raining quite hard. He would continue to build even if it was a light drizzle ). On average each nest took a full day and a bit to build and he could destroy it in 2 to 3 hours. The reference books will sometimes tell us that the hen will destroy the nests, but that happens only when she has used the nest. Sometimes at the end of the breeding season many of these nests are left behind and used by other birds.  

 If you look very carefully, at the YouTube video clip, you will see that not all the footage is of the exact same nest being built. In some instances the nest is slightly further away from the 3 leaves at the end of the branch than in others.The film footage of all 5 nests under construction was used in the final edit to give the impression that it is the same nest being built from start to finish. By having the camera in the locked off position, on a tripod, it allowed one to match dissolve the video footage. What is even more interesting is when I stopped filming to go on holiday for 10 days and then came back, guess what ?…The poor little guy was still building and destroying nests. That means in total he may have built 10, or even more nests, and eventually worked out that he may have chosen the wrong location… or perhaps the wrong profession, or even worse after all that hard work did he simply sing out of tune ?
For more info on the 2013 RFCG EcoTour contact Russell Kingston at indruss@bigpond.com or Eelco Meyjes at editor@avitalk.co.za
                                   SEE – CONSERVE – ENJOY

Book now for the next RFCG EcoTour to Africa

11 Dec

Seeing Africa’s wonderful Weavers, Widows and Whydahs is our plan for the next RFCG EcoTour to Southern Africa. This tailor made tour will allow finch enthusiasts to admire these eclipse birds in full colour plumage of which nearly all are endemic to the African continent. These finches belong to the Ploceidae and Viduanae family of finches. The 22 day trip will be from 23 November to 14 December 2013, so book now and avoid disappointment.
An example of a comfortable tented hut with a/c in the Kruger National Park

An example of a comfortable tented hut with a/c in the Kruger National Park

Guests will travel in comfort to the world famous Kruger National Park, Zimbabwe and Botswana before heading back to Johannesburg and Pretoria to visit some of the best aviculturial facilities in South Africa. Accommodation will be clean and comfortable and every effort will be made by your hosts Russell Kingston and Eelco Meyjes to ensure that this will be an experience of a lifetime.

For more information contact Russell Kingston at indruss@bigpond.com or Eelco Meyjes at editor@avitalk.co.za. All profits are donated to the Rare Finch Conservation Group which is registered as a non-profit organisation. The RFCG is currently raising funds to support its planned phase 3 field initiative in Uganda to try and find one of Africa’s rarest finches the threatened and elusive Shelley’s crimsonwing. ( Cryptopiza shelleyi )
This will be our last blog for the year so we would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all our valued donors, sponsors and friends for their ongoing support and wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.
                                   SEE – CONSERVE – ENJOY
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