800 Challenge – that’s a wrap

2014 has kicked off with a bang if the traffic in uptown Johannesburg is anything to judge these things by! To close off last year’s challenge one or two stats –

Southern Right Whale – in “Whale” Bay

We covered a little over 100 000 km cumulatively ie: for the year as a whole; inclusive of commercial / chartered flights, ships, boats, vehicles, buses, flat-bed trucks, rickshaws, bikes, ferry, by helicopter, by horse-back & in a makoro. I have no idea how many kilometers we walked.. but if the bathroom scale is anything to go by, probably fewer than we should have!

We spent 151 days in the field ie: away from home. We recorded 825 species from end to end and from pillar to post. For the record, I saw 828 species & Alisha 826 species during the period under review. We’d stipulated, however, that a species would be added to our list only when seen by the both of us & at the same sighting.

We accounted for 4 trips to Namibia; 3 trips to Botswana; 2 trips to Zimbabwe; 2 trips to Mozambique; 1 trip each to Lesotho & to Swaziland. Most of the cross-border trips were conducted in short bursts; a function of necessity rather than by design or by preference. Our longest trip (12 days) was to Namibia’s northern region inclusive of the Kunene & the Zambezi region (ie: the Caprivi).

The Namib desert / Namibia

We flew most of the major domestic routes at least once & as many as 10 times ie: to Cape Town. Exclude PE & Bloemfontein from that list. We missed our flight to PE & who flies to Bloem..? The only ‘international’ flight was the flight to Windhoek (Namibia). The other cross-border trips we did by road.

If pushed to pick a favourite trip I’d pick out central Mozambique & for reasons unrelated to the birds. [Read more here]. Alisha, by comparison, preferred Namibia over the other sites. The most surprising cross-border trip was to Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools area. This was our 1st trip to the north of Zimbabwe & a highlight.

My Bird of the year – African Pitta [inside 3 m / Coutada 12 – Moz]

Alisha’s Bird of the yearSpotted Creeper [party of 4 / Marondera – Zimbabwe].

Surprise of the year – 2 Grass Owls 8:30 pm, in torrential rain; Ongoye -KZN. [also happens to be Alisha’s ‘worst trip of the year‘ – read more here]

Dip of the year – Pintado Petrel. [The sparrow of the winter seas]


Species seen by Alisha or by myself but not by the both of us & therefore excluded:

Eurasian Blackcap – Marondera; Zim (Alisha & 3 others)

Lesser Seedcracker – Mt. Gorongosa; Moz (Mark & 1 other)

Amsterdam Albatross  – CPT pelagic; SA (Mark et al)

Slender-billed Prion – CPT pelagic; SA (Mark et al)


Probables excluded – ID inconclusive

Gull-billed Tern – (Kgomo Kgomo; SA) photographs inconclusive


Zambezi Indigobird – (Masoka Village; Zim) Impossible to separate from other non-br indigobirds.


Possibles (excl): –

Yellow-bellied Hyliota – Chinizuia; Mozambique


Birds heard only: –

Madagascar Cuckoo – Biyamiti; KNP

Basra Reed Warbler  – near Caia, Sofala [Moz]


To conclude: – we added 30 (approx) new species to our regional life list and 60+ ‘photographic’ lifers over the period. Satisfied? Yes, absolutely. Then again, if we’d had unfettered access…



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