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Ken Borland


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Bonamanzi Game Park 0

Posted on May 18, 2017 by Ken

 

A Nile Crocodile gives me the eye

A Nile Crocodile gives me the eye

As my birding colleagues will attest, I have a predilection for taking obscure tracks and paths in the bush – blame it on my sense of adventure coupled with acute FOMO* – but my detours have often thrown up remarkable sightings.

Any road without a clear No Entry or Private sign is fair game as far as I’m concerned and when I went off on what was an adventurous track in the central forests of Bonamanzi I was richly rewarded.

Soon I heard a loud, piercing call, so I got out of the car to investigate and there, sitting on an exposed branch, preening and calling away magnificently, was an Emerald Cuckoo.

It is a bird that I have long been searching for – the colour emerald also being one of my favourite things – and because it tends to keep to the top of the canopy, it is unobtrusive and hard to spot, except when calling. So it was my lucky day in terms of getting a long-sought-after lifer and a superb sighting of a magnificent bird.

Yellowspotted Nicator was calling further down the same little road and was kind enough to keep calling so I could also track it down on foot and the other Bonamanzi specials seen – Lemonbreasted Canary, Narina Trogon and Gorgeous Bush Shrike – were all also surprisingly obliging and easy to tick off.

The Lemonbreasted Canaries, also unobtrusive birds that were only discovered in 1960, are actually best seen on the road to Hluhluwe along the western border of Bonamanzi, where I spotted them once again on the side of the road.

Gorgeous Bush Shrike was calling loudly and comfortably sighted in the bushes on the side of the road leading out of the main camp, but Narina Trogon was amongst a host of delights that came to visit me at my campsite near the swimming pool.

The procession of lovely creatures viewed from my throne (what I call my fancy campchair) started on the first night as a pair of Thicktailed Bushbabies and a Rustyspotted Genet came to visit, followed the next day by Impala, Vervet Monkey, Emeraldspotted Wood Dove, Forest Weaver, Purplebanded Sunbird, Bearded Robin and Terrestrial Bulbul.

The day after brought a pair of Narina Trogons, then another, and altogether four pairs of this sought-after forest gem visited my camp on a single day!

The late afternoon brought a carnival of birds to the campsite thanks to a swarm of mayflies that were fluttering all over as a gentle rain fell. Southern Black Tit, Yellowbellied and Blackeyed Bulbul, Forest Weaver, Plumcoloured Starling, Yellowthroated Sparrow, Yellowbreasted and Rudd’s Apalis, the Narina Trogons and Collared Sunbird were all tucking in and then an Orangebreasted Bush Shrike took to flight and joined the feast.

Narina Trogon

Narina Trogon in the gloomy drizzle

For those who enjoy working hard for their sightings, there are plenty of skulkers at Bonamanzi, including the usual suspects – Greenbacked Camaroptera and Redchested Cuckoo.

When I eventually spotted the Bleating Warbler it was close to a Black Cuckoo and bouncing around like a cross between a wind-up toy and a jack-in-the-box!

The Piet-my-Vrou was calling insistently in camp but was equally determined not to be seen, until my patience won the day.

The main camp at Bonamanzi – Lalapanzi – is situated in sand forest around a dam and water hole, so there is plenty to see around the chalets.

Sombre Bulbuls call from the tops of the tall trees that are all around the fancy accommodation, Hadeda Ibis congregate around the big bird baths that are spread around the lawns, and walking down to the smaller pan in front of the offices is always worthwhile. On this occasion, half-a-dozen Water Dikkop were resting and hiding in the long grass, while the Fever Trees were a hive of activity, which was unsurprising because five different species of weaver were nesting there during this early summer visit.

The Yellow Weavers were the most prolific nesters, bundles of frantic activity, but there were also Thickbilled, Southern Masked, Spottedbacked and Lesser Masked Weaver nesting.

 

IMG_1930[1]

Spottedbacked Weavers fluttering in display below their nests

A Diederick Cuckoo was looking a bit sheepish as I spotted him lurking on the fringes of the weaver colony, plotting skulduggery, but a Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet was getting along well with the Ploceids as they feasted on berries together from one of the bushes around the dam.

A Malachite Kingfisher was high atop one of the Fever Trees at the second, larger dam, while a juvenile Little Bittern skulked in the papyrus reeds and had me thinking of great rarities.

The southern part of Bonamanzi has a wilderness feel to it with no accommodation, only a few tracks and hiking trails, and often throws up something interesting.

Woollynecked Stork are found in the forest and a Crowned Eagle was sitting on a telephone pole at the southern boundary. Three black Impala were on the adjoining property, as was an Ostrich. Redbilled Oxpecker were with Giraffe and Impala near the Ndulalamithi Dam.

The Crowned Eagle takes to flight

The Crowned Eagle takes to flight

There is a lovely walking trail from the main camp leading 2km to a couple of hides overlooking pans. At the Leguaan pan, a Crested Guineafowl kept collecting items of food and bringing it back to its partner to eat, while a Water Dikkop was dipping itself in the water and flapping its wings in what looked like some sort of display.

The road to Hluhluwe along the western boundary also provides good birding and, apart from the Lemonbreasted Canaries, a Tambourine Dove disappeared quickly into the very thick undergrowth of the Mzineni River, with Redbilled Firefinch and Pintailed Whydah also in the vicinity of this river which flows into the northern tip of False Bay.

Telephone lines along the road are always worth examining and even some of the Rattling Cisticolas have taken to perching on them rather than the thorn bushes below, along with other typical bushveld birds such as European Bee-Eater, European Swallow, Blackeyed Bulbul, Glossy Starling and Yellowfronted Canary.

Where is Bonamanzi?

Sightings list

Nyala

An Nyala scratches his ear

An Nyala scratches his ear

Rustyspotted Genet

Thicktailed Bushbaby

Impala

Vervet Monkey

Crowned Hornbill

Blackbellied Starling

Forktailed Drongo

Blackbacked Puffback

Southern Black Tit

Yellowbellied Bulbul

Red Duiker

Natal Robin

Brownhooded Kingfisher

Emerald Cuckoo

Plains Zebra

Yellowspotted Nicator

Whitebrowed Scrub Robin

Sombre Bulbul

Blackwinged Stilt

Water Dikkop

Wood Sandpiper

Yellow Weaver

Nile Crocodile

Thickbilled Weaver

Southern Masked Weaver

Lesser Striped Swallow

European Bee-Eater

Lemonbreasted Canary

European Swallow

Blackeyed Bulbul

Glossy Starling

Yellowfronted Canary

Rattling Cisticola

Tambourine Dove

Redbilled Firefinch

Pintailed Whydah

Woollynecked Stork

Emeraldspotted Wood Dove

Forest Weaver

Purplebanded Sunbird

Bearded Robin

Terrestrial Bulbul

Black Cuckoo

Greenbacked Camaroptera

Hadeda Ibis

Purplecrested Lourie

Plumcoloured Starling

Acacia Rat

Yellowthroated Sparrow

Yellowbilled Kite

Yellowbreasted Apalis

Narina Trogon

Cape White-Eye

Collared Sunbird

Redchested Cuckoo

Black Crake

Spottedbacked Weaver

African Pied Wagtail

Lesser Masked Weaver

Striped Skink

Egyptian Goose

African Jacana

Diederick Cuckoo

Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet

Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet

Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet

Sacred Ibis

Grey Heron

Wiretailed Swallow

Warthog

Malachite Kingfisher

Little Bittern

Spurwinged Goose

Common Sandpiper

Rudd’s Apalis

African Fish Eagle

Dusky Flycatcher

Chinspot Batis

Blue Wildebeest

Crested Guineafowl

White-Eared Barbet

Leopard Tortoise

Paradise Flycatcher

Orangebreasted Bush Shrike

Red Bush Squirrel

Squaretailed Drongo

Crowned Eagle

Ostrich

Little Bee-Eater

Redeyed Dove

Gorgeous Bush Shrike

Southern Boubou

Giraffe

Redbilled Oxpecker

*FOMO = Fear of missing out

 

Markram ready today to do himself justice for SA – Boucher 0

Posted on April 14, 2017 by Ken

 

Aiden Markram “would do himself justice” if he is chosen for South Africa today, according to Titans coach Mark Boucher, after the opening batsman produced a magnificent matchwinning century in the Momentum One-Day Cup final against the Warriors at the weekend.

Markram smashed a classy 161 off just 123 balls as he and opening partner Henry Davids, the tournament’s leading run-scorer, both scored centuries to lead the Titans to 425 for five, the highest total ever in the competition.

It was the 22-year-old Markram’s second century of the campaign, after his record-breaking 183 against the Lions at the Wanderers a fortnight ago, to go with two Sunfoil Series hundreds, and Boucher, a legend of international cricket with 147 Test and 295 ODI caps, knows what it takes to prosper at the highest level.

“Aiden would certainly do himself justice if he went up right now and he will only get better in that environment, playing alongside people like Faf, AB and Hashim. Is there a spot in the starting XI for him right now? I don’t know, but I would encourage the Proteas to have a proper look at him in the squad,” Boucher said after the Titans’ 236-run victory.

“He’s easy on the eye and he gives you bowling options. Role-definition is very important in cricket and we decided that he must bat through and he was able to give Henry the strike and just let him go.

“But Aiden is certainly not one-dimensional, he can also finish the game, he does not get stuck. He’s got the game to score runs up front, in the middle overs and to finish the innings. There are so many dimensions to his batting, he’s certainly a star of the future,” Boucher added.

The 37-year-old Davids produced a sparkling 114 off 98 balls, taking his tournament tally to 673 runs in just eight innings, a Titans record and the fifth-highest tally ever, although those ahead of him all played between 11 and 14 innings.

It’s little wonder then that his team-mates have begun to call the batsman Boucher said reminded him of Herschelle Gibbs, “red wine”, such has been the quality of cricket Davids is producing in his senior years.

“I’ve heard the ‘red wine’ name a few times, but I’ve started to know my game, I give myself more overs to get in now. I used to play big shots early on, but now I get the feel of the pitch first.

“It’s been an awesome season, in the past I would score flashy 60s or a quick 30 and then get out, but this year I’ve only made a couple of 30s, I’ve been converting, so that’s very pleasing,” Davids, who finished the Momentum One-Day Cup with three hundreds and three half-centuries, said.

 

 

 

http://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-kzn/20170403/281998967302654

 

John McFarland Column – Tries aplenty in pleasing weekend for SA franchises 0

Posted on March 07, 2017 by Ken

 

Judging by the number of tries scored by the South African teams in SuperRugby last weekend, I’m glad I’m not a defence coach in the South African Conference!

Between them, the Lions (8), Cheetahs (4), Kings (4), Bulls (3), Stormers (3) and Sharks (2) scored 24 tries in some very interesting games of rugby over the weekend, which we have not seen from our teams in SuperRugby for a long time. Newly re-confirmed Springbok coach Allister Coetzee should be delighted.

I believe it is mainly due to the tackle law, stopping players from going high, that we are seeing a lot more offloads in the line, the ball is being kept alive a lot more. There has been a definite improvement in attacking play and I would say it is more a case of the attack improving than the defence deteriorating.

Good weather, good handling and the fact that the players are still fresh has also played a part, and it’s clear the elite players have made a real mindset change when it comes to conditioning and skills.

It was nice to see the Cheetahs put together some really good attacking play in the first half of their match against the Bulls. They were really willing to keep ball in hand and because the Bulls have such a massive pack, every team will try to up the ball-in-play figure against them. The norm is around 35 minutes, but if teams can up that to above 40 minutes then they can test if the Bulls forwards will still be fresh at the end of the game.

It’s interesting, in terms of the Cheetahs attack, that their wings are always on the inside, in the middle of the field. Ryno Benjamin and Raymond Rhule are always threatening the pillars and are not out wide, they have a complete roaming policy.

There’s a perception that the Cheetahs use the full width of the field, but they don’t really. With them, it’s more a case of them playing through you rather than around you and they rarely go into the final 15 metres of the field unless there’s a clear overlap. This also makes it easier for them to support the ball-carrier and they will be less prone to being turned over out wide.

The Cheetahs are also quite inventive.

They’re prepared to chip from their own 22, even by the scrumhalf from the kickoff, so you can see the Cheetahs think outside the box – most people chase restart kicks with their wings, but their primary chasers are their scrumhalf and centre. It means they have a better counter-attacking option with the wings at the back.

Never mind the use of Ryno Benjamin in the lineout!

They also took quick throw-ins because they wanted to keep pace on the ball for the whole game and chase that high ball-in-play figure. The Cheetahs obviously took something out of the Stormers game against the Bulls because they really tried to keep the ball alive and were willing to try and force the offload to avoid rucks.

The Bulls struggled defensively because they were caught a bit narrow a few times and their wings were in two minds whether to go with the line or shadow and push to the touchline, which caused a few problems. I also think the Bulls tried to be over-physical in the sense that they committed too many numbers to the middle rucks at times, sometimes the ball had already gone so counter-rucking was not on.

But the Bulls did score a great try, thanks to a sublime line run by Jason Jenkins off Rudy Paige, to indicate what they can do, as did the way they came back in the second half.

But the Bulls just need to start better, they need cool heads, to have Blue Ice, at the start, when the gainline battle is so important.

The Bulls have also had problems with their lineouts for the last two weeks. The lineout is actually a basic of the game and without possession you cannot get continuity and build pressure with your attack.

But we should remember that they’ve had to start with two away games, although if you have title ambitions, then you’ve got to come through those games and win. They are still quite a young side in certain areas and it will definitely take a bit of time for them to be at their best.

They also have an horrendous draw, with just one game at home in the first seven weeks of the competition. In 2005 we first of all played five away games and then we won all six at home to make the semifinals, and in 2007, when we won SuperRugby for the first time, we also lost our first two games, and in 2016 so did the Hurricanes, so it does not mean the Bulls are out of contention, but champion sides are the most resilient and they come through these sort of challenges.

The Jaguares certainly gave the Stormers a run for their money, but the Cape side are following a high risk, high reward game plan. They are always looking to push the pass and break the line, and they are scoring some lovely tries with off loads and great support.

They are riding their luck at the moment, but the intent is clearly there. They’ve had a mindset shift and now want to be an attacking team, and some days they will fail, but I am pleased to see that thinking.

The Lions have had that mindset for three years now and to score eight tries against the Waratahs, the top Australian side, was very pleasing to everybody in South Africa.

It was also pleasing to see the number of maul tries by the South African teams. Last year the Springboks lost their way a bit in not using the driving maul much, but it is a definite strength of South African rugby. The Lions scored three maul tries and the Cheetahs also scored from the lineout drive.

This was a great weekend for the South African Super franchises and fills us with hope for the Springboks.

 

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012 through to the 2015 World Cup, where they conceded the least line-breaks in the tournament and an average of just one try per game. Before that, McFarland won three SuperRugby titles (2007, 09, 10) with the Bulls and five Currie Cup crowns with the Blue Bulls. In all, he won 28 trophies during his 12 years at Loftus Versfeld.

Cricket is a strange game but Kingsmead was just stupid 0

Posted on August 29, 2016 by Ken

 

Cricket is, in many ways, a strange game but there is nothing as infuriating than play not taking place when blue skies and bright sunshine are overhead. That was the case in Durban last weekend as the first Test between South Africa and New Zealand was allowed to just die with only 99.4 overs being bowled in the match.

As an endangered species, Test cricket needs to be given utmost support and attention and I firmly believe that where there is a will, there is a way.

Notwithstanding the foolishness of Cricket South Africa digging up the Kingsmead outfield in order to soften it two weeks later than they should have, meaning it struggled to cope with unseasonal heavy rain in Durban, the villains of the peace for me were English umpires Ian Gould and Richard Illingworth, who showed little interest in actually getting play underway, so fixated were they on a few damp patches on the outfield.

The umpires are the final arbiters of what is fair and safe in terms of conditions, but lines have to be drawn somewhere. Both teams were eager to play – in fact the Proteas were gathered on the side of the field shortly after play was finally abandoned on the fifth day eager to have a run-around and get some fitness in, but they were prevented from going on to the field because that would have made the umpires look bad.

I am certain that if it had been an ODI or a T20 match with similar soft areas of outfield, a plan would have been made and the umpires would have done everything in their power to get a game underway.

As usual, the accountability has been shifted to Kingsmead, who never wanted the outfield to be dug up in the first place. The International Cricket Council, as usual, passed the buck. There was absolutely no communication from the match referee, Andy Pycroft, to explain why play was not possible, and he declined to speak to the media. What’s the point of having a match referee if that is their attitude?

To make matter worse, the umpires were so apathetic when it came to making an effort that they actually banned the groundstaff from the field when groundsman Wilson Ngobese and his staff wanted to proceed with mopping up operations, saying they preferred to allow natural processes like sun and wind to run their course.

Week in and week out rugby players are busy making crunching tackles and sidestepping such collisions in often wet conditions, but how often do one of them turn an ankle? With both teams happy to play, the only conclusion is that Gould and Illingworth were being overly precious.

The future of Test cricket may not bother them or Pycroft, but what happened at Kingsmead under their watch was a fiasco and just another small nail in the coffin of the original format of the game.

Proteas captain Faf du Plessis spoke earnestly on Friday about how, for them, Test cricket was still the ultimate and it needed better treatment from the ICC.

“Test cricket is still number one for the players and a Test Championship is a step in the right direction. You ask any of the international players and they will tell you that Test cricket is still the best thing to play and we need to play as many Tests as possible.

“You want to be able to say you’ve given everything on the field and that feeling of winning a Test can’t be copied, especially not by T20. I hope the ICC is looking at that,” Du Plessis said.

Sadly, the ICC are more interested in red tape and bureaucracy, and are way more likely to jump up and down about over-rates, sponsors’ logos being too big or a player saying something even mildly controversial in a press conference.

As usual, the administrators seem to think cricket fans are more interested in what they are up to than in the actual game they are meant to be serving.

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    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
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