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One man’s sparrow is another man’s albatross!

Guest blog by Wes Jolley (Island Conservation)

Wes Jolley © Island Conservation

This is my first time in South Africa, and one of my hopes to keep me sane during quarantine was to see some new birds. One of the great things about being in a new place is all the birds are new and exciting, even if they are likely

super “ordinary” to a person who lives here. It helps me realize and appreciate just how beautiful and special some of the “ordinary” birds I see at home in Oregon (USA) are!






A few of the species I’ve seen so far are:


Hartlaub’s gull – they fly back and forth all day, and are easy to identify (for a gull) by the distinct black and white bars on the wingtips

Pied crow © BirdLife South Africa

Pied crow – very similar to the crows I’m used to, but with a big white band wrapping around their middles


Red-winged starling – the red wing looks more orange to me, but it’s incredible how easy it is to spot from even a great distance


Speckled pigeon – proof that even pigeons can be attractive to look at


Little swift – small brown birds that never seem to stop moving, I wouldn’t have identified these ones without help

Birdwatching in quarantine © Nini van der Merwe/RSPB

And my favorite so far, the Hadada ibis (also called Hadeda) – the internet tells me they are the loudest birds in Africa, and the ibis confirm this is true every morning and evening as they fly over making their presence very well known.


You’ll probably be absolutely shocked to learn this, but I’m not the only person on the Gough Island Restoration Team that likes spotting birds! Many of us have been spending the days looking for birds out our windows. So far, our efforts are paying off and we’ve been able to record quite a few species given the circumstance and our urban location.


I’m particularly jealous of my teammate who spotted a black harrier, which is a striking bird and the rarest raptor endemic to southern Africa. Less than a thousand mature individuals remain, and active efforts are underway to understand and manage the environmental factors causing their decline (check out here and here for more).

Black harrier © BirdLife South Africa

To date we’ve spotted 19 species, with another highlight being two pied crows harassing a jackal buzzard as it flew by. And we’re only halfway through – can we possibly beat the score of 58 (non-migratory) species spotted by one local resident in a 14-day period during South Africa’s first lockdown?! The good thing about watching for birds is they can come to you, so wish us luck with having lots of feathered visitors!


Full list of species spotted by the team to date:

Laughing dove © BirdLife South Africa

Black harrier

Cape sparrow

Cape wagtail

Egyptian goose

European starling

Feral pigeon

Guinea fowl

Hadada ibis

Hartlaub’s gull

Jackal buzzard

Kelp gull

Laughing dove

Little swift

Pied crow

Red-winged starling

Ring necked dove

Rock martin

Speckled pigeon

White-necked raven


Wes Jolley is Project Manager for our partner Island Conservation. He will help deliver the mouse eradication operation and is part of the on-island Advisory Team.


Island Conservation’s mission is to prevent extinctions by removing invasive species from islands. We work together with local communities, government management agencies, and conservation organizations on islands with the greatest potential for preventing the extinction of globally threatened species. We develop comprehensive and humane plans for the removal of invasive species, implement the removal of invasive species; and conduct research to better understand how invasive species removal changes and benefits island ecosystems and to inform future conservation action.


Island Conservation is headquartered in Santa Cruz, CA with field offices in Chile, Ecuador, Hawaii, New Zealand, Palau, and Puerto Rico. Since our founding in 1994, Island Conservation and our partners have successfully restored 65 islands worldwide, benefiting 1195 populations of 487 species and subspecies.


With many thanks to BirdLife South Africa for the use of their images.






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