Never a Gull Moment

Duncan Butchart's brushes with birds

This blog is a collection of watercolour sketches (and occasionally photographs) that capture recent observations or recreate some of my past encounters with birds. I have watched birds on six continents, but have yet to have a memorable moment with a gull of any kind. . . .


Flufftail Frustration

Buff-spotted Flufftail (Sarothrura elegans) juvenile and female. The Artist’s Press, Brondal, South Africa. January 2013. It was always going to be a long shot. Tamar

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Twig Alert

Bar-throated Apalis (Apalis thoracica) pair and Collared Sunbird (Hedydipna collaris) mobbing Southern Vine Snake (Thelotornis capensis), Turaco Wood, Nelspruit, January 2013. ‘tjick . . tjick

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Plum Coloured

Violet-backed Starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster), Turaco Wood, Nelspruit. A thin, drawn-out whistle – ‘phuuu-pheeeuuw’ – comes from the canopy of a White Stinkwood tree in our

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Andean Dance

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola peruvianus) males at lek, Manu Road, Peru. May 2004. Peering through the curtain of moss-covered vines, we could see what appeared to

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Snake Snatch

Dark Chanting-Goshawk (Melierax metabates) with Western Natal Green Snake (Philothamnus natalensis occidentalis). Chitwa-Chitwa, Sabi-Sand, South Africa. November 2012. We’d left the family of Lions dozing

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Double Trouble

Black-collared Barbet (Lybius torquatus), Lesser Honeyguide (Indicator minor) and Scaly-thoated Honeyguide (Indicator variegatus). Turaco Wood, Nelspruit, October 2012. In early September, a Golden-tailed Woodpecker began

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Pantanal Parrots

Hyacinth Macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus), Northern Pantanal, Brazil, September 2007 Poconé is a dusty little town with broad streets and simple terracotta houses. Locals peer out

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Whale Head

Shoebill Balaeniceps rex, Lake Albert, Uganda The Land Rover bounced its way down into the Albertine Rift Valley, with the Ruwenzori mountains shrouded in mist

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Fraser’s Hill

Blue Nuthatch Sitta azurea, Fraser’s Hill, Malaysia, April 2005 Once again, I’m walking along a mossy, cloud forest trail. Without a doubt, this is my

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Lost Soul

Pel’s Fishing-Owl (Scotopelia peli). Nxabega, Okavango Delta, Botswana Like any schoolboy in the 1970s, I had limited opportunities to travel beyond the town I lived

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Scarlet Splendour

Scarlet-chested Sunbird (Chalcomitra senegalensis) males in Sacred Coral-Tree (Erythrina lysistemon). Spring in the South African Lowveld is rather different to that experienced in England and

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Great Blue

Great Blue Turaco (Corythaeola cristata). Kakamega, Kenya ‘Koruuk, koruuk, koruuk, koruuk’ . . . the calls sounded out from the forest canopy. Seven or eight

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Helmet Vanga

Helmet Vanga (Euryceros prevostii), Masoala, Madagascar I’ve never been to Madagascar, but here is one good reason to go. What an amazing beast of a

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Winter Owl

Marsh Owl (Asio capensis) Kyalami, South Africa I’m on the N4 highway, moving at about 100 km per hour towards Johannesburg. Outside, the air is

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Vulture King

Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotus), Serengeti, Tanzania The Lappet-faced Vulture is the largest and most dominant of the African vultures and it is hard to think

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Pole Dancer

White-collared Manakin (Manacus candei), La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica “Snap!”  . . . .  “snap!”  . . . . “snap!”.  It sounded as though

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Mob Squad

African Barred Owlet (Glaucidium capense) with Retz’s Helmetshrikes (Prionops retzii), Ngala, South Africa Shafts of late afternoon light were illuminating the autumn foliage of the

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Whistling Ducks

White-faced Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna viduata) The White-faced Whistling-Duck is fairly common over all of sub-Saharan Africa, absent only from the dry Karoo-Kalahari and the wet Congo

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Feathered Clown

Black-and-yellow Broadbill (Eurylaimis ochromalus), Kinabatangan, Sabah (North Borneo), Malaysia Walking quietly along the forest trail, my eyes are trained on the undergrowth. I’m hoping for

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Green Twinspots

Green Twinspots (Mandingoa nitidula), female on left; male on right. Turaco Wood, Nelspruit, South Africa I pulled our bedroom curtains open and looked out onto

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Habitual Pirate

Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) with Rufous Woodpeckers (Celus brachyurus) The tropical downpour had eased off, as I made my way along a narrow forest

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