We recently returned from a trip to Namibia in which we saw 283 bird species and covered 6500 km. Namibia is the driest I ever saw it since I visit it the first time in 1987. The whole country from Orange River to Kunene River is in a severe drought (that after it was almost washed away 2 years before) and 90% of the veld has no real vegetation on it except the leafless trees. The bit of grass on the veld was still left overs of 2011 with no seeds in it. Therefore seedeaters were very scarce on the whole trip, which influence the raptors again.
We left Cape Town in sunny weather after the previous days of rain. We headed via the Swartland & Namaqualand for Namibia. Everyone has his or her target birds and towards Vanrhynsdorp the most notable species were Blue Crane, Black Harrier, Ludwig’s Bustard, Jackal Buzzard and Greater Kestrel. The Salt River north of Vanrhynsdorp hosted some Lesser Flamingoes with Pied Avocet and Black-winged Stilt. Near Bitterfontein we saw another Black Harrier and towards the border some Grey-backed Sparrowlarks, Large-billed Lark and Dusky Sunbird. We went through the border without any hassles and stay the first night at Orange River Lodge just north of the border.
The lodge is a very good stay over (www.orlodge.iway.na; email: email@example.com; tel 00264 63 297012). The rooms are very neat and spacious and the restaurant serves a good dinner.
At first light the next morning we headed to the Orange River on the lodge’s property. It was quite chilly but some people could add their first lifers and we saw Orange River White-eye, Namaqua Warbler, Pririt Batis, Brubru, a flock of Red-billed Queleas and Afr Darter.
We drove with the C12 along the Orange River and then headed towards Hobas with the C37. This area doesn’t have lots of birds but the scenery was marvellous. In this remote area we found Capped Wheatear and Tractrac Chat and before we left the river some Afr Fish Eagle and Great White Pelicans. Moving through the rugged mountains we could add Dusky Sunbird, Black-chested Prinia, Karoo Chat, Red-capped Lark, Karoo Korhaan and Karoo Long-billed Lark.
In the Gondwana Canyon Park we saw herds of Springbuck, Gemsbuck and Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra. There were also Ludwig’s Bustards, White-throated Canary, Rufous-eared Warbler and the first Sociable Weavers. A Lanner Falcon was perching on a Quiver Tree and then we had magnificent view of a Martial Eagle soaring. While watching the Martial we found a group of Cape Penduline Tits.
We stayed over at Canon Village, but just dropped off our luggage before heading for the Viewpoint of the Fish River Canyon. The view here will be always breath-taking and you can just stand in wondering on the edge of the canyon. Around Hobas we saw Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Cape Bunting, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Crimson-breasted Shrike and more Ludwig’s Bustards.
Canon Village is a superb lodge. It is beautifully placed at the foot of a mountain and if you often visit Namibia it is worthwhile to get a Gondwana Card at only R100. It gives you big discounts when you stay at one of the Gondwana lodges. The staff was very helpful and friendly and dinners very good. Look at www.gondwana-collection.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are not many roads inside the Gondwana Canyon Park except the main roads, but the next morning we drove towards the Canon Mountain Camp. We had good views of Pririt Batis, Crimson-breasted Shrike and a herd of Gemsbuck.
We left Canon Village and with a hailing NW wind, headed for Aus. At Canon Roadhouse we stopped to fill up the fuel and in the garden the people could enjoy at beautiful male Dusky Sunbird. Further down the road we had another Martial Eagle.
The wind actually slow down as we nearer Aus. Klein Aus Vista was fully booked and therefore we had to go to Bahnhof Hotel in “town”. Aus are no real town but the hotel was a good spot. After dropping down luggage we headed for Klein Aus Vista to look for Barlow’s Lark. Birds in this area were few, but after flushing the lark once, all the people had excellent views of this near-endemic.
The Bahnhof Hotel (www.hotel-aus.com; email: email@example.com; Tel 00264 63 258091) is a very good alternative for Klein Aus Vista. Rooms and food are good and the town is very quiet.
The next morning we drove out to Garub waterhole about 20 km west of Aus to look for the Desert Horses. We were welcome by about 100 horses and it was interesting to see the horses survive in this harsh landscape. Except for the horses we saw a couple of Barlow’s Larks along the track to the waterhole as well as Tractrac Chat. Huge flocks of Namaqua Sandgrouses came in to drink.
We continued to Sossusvlei and before we hit the D707 road, saw some Karoo Korhaan and Ludwig’s Bustard. We took the D707 road which is always worthwhile for birds. It was not long before we got our first Ruppell’s Korhaans, followed by some Grey-backed Sparrowlarks and numbers of Burchell’s Coursers. We had Spike-heeled Lark, Greater Kestrel and Chat Flycatcher.
At the farmhouse where this road meets the C27, we saw our first Rosy-faced Lovebirds and soon afterwards a soaring Booted Eagle. A lonely Lappet-faced Vulture was sitting next to the road. As we moved through the Tsaris Mountains we found Pale-winged Starlings, Rock Kestrels, Yellow Canary and Sociable Weaver to mentioned a few.
We stayed at Betesda Lodge (www.betesdalodge.com.; email firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel +264 63 693253) which has very good accommodation and the dinner as well. We organised a packed breakfast for the next day. Not many birds around the lodge due to drought but saw Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Sth Masked Weavers, Scaly-feathered Finch and beautiful Mountain Wheatears.
The next morning we started early to go for Sossusvlei and along the road picked up Long-billed Pipit and Black-chested Snake Eagle, more Chat Flycatchers, Rufous-eared Warbler, Karoo Long-billed Lark and beautiful Short-toed Rock Thrush.
Just outside Sossusvlei’s gate is an Engen Garage with shop where you will get about anything you will need. In comparison with that the NWR’s shop inside is empty and machines are not working. After stocked up with water, cold drinks, etc we had a go for the Dune Lark. We couldn’t find it low down the dunes, so decided to leave it for Walvis Bay. Along the road to Sossusvlei we had Lanner Falcon, Pririt Batis, Lappet-faced Vulture, Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Double-banded Courser breeding, Secretarybird, Stark’s Lark and even a Fork-tailed Drongo at Sossusvlei. The dunes will remain just magnificent, don’t matter which time of the day you visit it. Some of us shuttle down to Sossusvlei with the NWR vehicles (N$100/p), but you can’t get that close and miss the opportunity.
During the afternoon we returned and headed for Weltevrede Guest Farm (www.weltevredeguestfarm.com.; email email@example.com; Tel +264 63 683073). That is also one of those places in Namibia which has just a magic feeling and touch. We didn’t have much birding time as the sun was already setting. Food was great and we organise for a packed breakfast which was excellent.
We planned to go for Spreetshoogte Pass early, but that night the well-known East wind arrived. It was from the start gail force and all the way to Solitaire it was just dust and sand. We made a stop at Solitaire, but then proceed to Swakopmund as it was senseless to go to the mountain in that wind. The wind had flattened all birds and to the Gaub River we didn’t see much except dust. Even a stop at the Gaub River didn’t get the people out of the vehicle. The road between Gaub River and the Naukluft Park’s boundary was extremely corrugated. Inside the park we found a flock of Sabota Larks which feed with Red-capped Larks. There were about 150 birds and the first time I saw Sabota Larks in a flock. I got a permit at Sesriem and we visited the Kuiseb River Canyon viewpoint which is spectacular.
I heard from friends that the road from Kuiseb to Walvis was terrible, so we decided to take a desert detour to the C28 from Windhoek to Swakopmund. You also need a permit for this road, but it was worthwhile with good numbers of game, Stark’s Lark, desert Ostriches and even some Helmeted Guineafowl. A stop at the Hotsas waterhole produced a couple of Lappet-faced and White-backed Vultures.
The C28 road was very good and en route we stopped at the ancient Welwitschias. The pool in the Swakop River hosted Greater & Lesser Flamingoes, Common Sandpiper, Cape Teal, Chestnut-banded Plover and Common Greenshank to name a few.
In Swakopmund we stayed at Alte Brucke Resort (www.altebrucke.com.; email firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel +264 64 404918). The resort is one of the best around Walvis & Swakopmund and can be highly recommended. The East wind arrived almost with us in Swakop and tried to blow you from your feet.
Next morning the wind was still hailing and we went with the back (salt) road to Walvis as I know that the tar road will be full of “dunes”. There was no chance for the Dune Lark in this weather, so we went to the lagoon and salt pans until the wind drops. We saw lots of birds on the pans including Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Common Whimbrel, Curlew Sandpiper, lots of Chestnut-banded Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwit and at least 2 Red-necked Phalaropes.
At about 1 pm the wind slow down and although very hot (into 30*’s C) we headed for Rooibank and the Dune Lark. After the 2011 floods the dunes are all flat and the Narra plants and grass covered with sand. It looks totally to a new place. After a search of about 30 mins, a Dune Lark flew in and gave everyone excellent views and photo opportunities.
Now it was towards the Mile 4 salt works for Gray’s Lark. With wind starting to charge up again we had good views of the white desert form of Tractrac Chat, before we spotted 4 Gray’s Larks. Some of them came right towards us within 20 meters and gave excellent views.
We hoped that the wind will go down during the night, but the next morning it was even blowing better. We went via Henties Bay to Spitzkoppe, stopping along the way at the magnificent lichen fields. Almost no birds in the wind to Spitzkoppe and as we nearer Spitzkoppe we had our first Northern Black Korhaan. Around the Spitzkoppe birding was better with Stark’s Lark, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Layard’s Titbabbler, Monteiro’s Hornbill, Great Sparrow, Cape Bunting, Melba Finch, Kalahari Scrub-robin, Long-billed Crombec, but no Herero Chat.
We were heading to Hohenstein Lodge north of Usakos. Along the way we saw an Ashy Tit, Red-billed Spurfowl, Ground-scraper Thrush and a beautiful pair of Afr Hawk Eagle, but no response from Violet Woodhoopoe at Kahn River. Hohenstein Lodge (www.hohenstein-lodge.com; email email@example.com; Tel +264 64 530900)
The chalets are very good and the staff friendly and helpful. Food is good although not enough for big eaters and could be a bigger portion for the price. It was very tasty. We were awaited by numbers of Great Sparrows, Violet Woodhoopoe and a Barred Wren-Warbler just off the stoep.
Some of us went on an early morning game drive, but in such dry conditions you will expect not to see much. We saw some Long-billed Pipit, Desert Cisticola, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Booted Eagle, Black-chested Snake Eagle and White-tailed Shrike. Not getting target birds like Hartlaub’s Spurfowl and Rockrunner, we went on a hike with the local guide. We had a glimpse of a Rockrunner, but it would not response to the call. Close to the lodge we found a flock of Hartlaub’s Spurfowl in a rocky area and they reacted quickly on the call, giving everyone excellent views and photo oppurtunities.
Back at the lodge Damara and White-throated Canary visited the drinking pond, followed by Violet-eared Waxbill, Sth Grey-headed Sparrow and Marico & Scarlet-chested Sunbirds visiting the Aloe flowers.
Next morning we went looking for Rockrunner, but couldn’t find anything. We went for breakfast and afterwards while packing the trailer, Roy drove out to the same boulders and had the Rockrunner out singing. We all rushed there and all had excellent views of it, right on the rocks where we called for it an hour before. On the way to Kamanjab we stopped at the Omaruru River crossing and ticked Sth White-crowned Shrike, Violet Woodhoopoe, White-tailed Shrike, Sth Pied Babbler, Damara Hornbill and Rosy-faced Lovebird. Before we got to Uis we had brilliant views of a Benguella Long-billed Lark next to the road. Despite an intensive search beyond Uis for Herero Chat, we couldn’t find any. We had more Ruppell’s Korhaan and Short-toed Rock Thrush.
A dam along the road with some water produced Wood Sandpiper, SA Shelduck, Little Grebe, Yellow-billed Duck, Common Greenshank and Black-winged Stilt. Some Stark’s Larks come in to drink. Further along the road we got our first Carp’s Tit and Bare-cheeked Babblers.
In Kamanjab we stayed at Oase Guest House (email firstname.lastname@example.org.) which accommodation is good but it is inside the town although it is a small town. Food was good.
Next morning we took the road north to Kunene River Lodge, finding Red-headed Finch and White-browed Scrub-Robin along the way. Close to Opuwu we found a Shrika perching on a pole and then on an open veld more Burchell’s Coursers and Stark’s Lark. Past Opuwu we saw Red-crested Korhaan, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Afr Harrier-Hawk, Ruppell’s Parrot, Meve’s Starling, Gabar Goshawk and Buffy Pipit. We arrived at Kunene River Lodge just before sunset.
Kunene River Lodge (www.kuneneriverlodge.com.; email email@example.com; tel +264 65 274 300) is a fantastic lodge. Not only is Pete & Hilary’s hospitality great, but all around the lodge is working well. The staffs are friendly and food is excellent, as is the birding.
Inside the lodge we had Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Rufous-tailed Palm-Thrush, Verreauxs’ Eagle Owl, Golden Weaver, Afr Mourning Dove, Bare-cheeked Babblers and White-browed Coucal.
We organized with Pete to go for the Angola Cave Chat the next morning. It was an early start to arrive at the place at first light. On arrival a pair of Afr Hawk Eagles perched on top of the mountain. We waited and waited, but no signs of the Chat. We had some response on Pete’s calls, but still no signs. After more than an hour and half we decided to climb the mountain – not an easy task at all. 5 of us climbed the mountain with Pete and then sat and wait again. Cinderella Waxbills flew over, but still no signs of the chat. More waiting, Pete climbed higher up to see if he can flush it, but no success. No and then the bird calls, but we couldn’t find it. In a last attempt Pete saw the bird where it was turning leaves over. He called us and we had great views of the bird, but it was too quick to get any photos. Down at the bottom the others saw Violet-eared Waxbill, Marico Sunbird and Golden-tailed Woodpecker.
Unfortunately it was not the biggest Angola Cave Chat day and we were sad for those who missed it. On the way back we had great sightings of Verreauxs’ and Black-chested Snake Eagle.
Birding upstream from the lodge in the afternoon we found Luapula Cisticola, Water Thick-knee, Pearl-spotted Owl, Red-necked Spurfowl sp. cunensis, Common Sandpiper and Pririt Batis. Pete said that he didn’t see the Cinderellas for a time in the lodge’s garden, so we prepared to go on a search for it the next day. Next morning we birded around the lodge for a while, saw Afr Barred Owl, before heading for the Cinderella. Suddenly 2 Cinderellas flew into the garden and everyone had great views and photos. Grey Kestrel wasn’t seen in the area for months, so we had a relaxed birding afternoon before the next day’s long journey to Sachsenheim. In the afternoon we went on a boat trip with Pete upstream finding White-backed Night Heron, Ashy Flycatcher, Little Bee-eater and on the way back Square-tailed and Freckled Nightjar.
The next morning we left the beautiful place and heading south. Not far and we got a flock of Chestnut Weavers, then afterwards Red-billed Queleas, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Carp’s Tit and Brown Snake Eagle. Near Ruacana we found our first Bateleur of the trip. A wetland along the road produced inter alia Afr Fish Eagle, Afr Jacana, Red-billed Teal and Wattled Starlings.
I got some co-ordinates from Maans of Weto Tours about a Grey Kestrel he saw and we found it close by the point. It has probably moved to an area where there is more food available. Other birds down south include Purple Roller, Lanner Falcon and Crested Francolin.
We arrived at Sachsenheim Guest Farm (www.namibweb.com/sachsenheim ; email firstname.lastname@example.org; tel +264 67 230011) just in time for dinner. We settled down and had an excellent dinner – too much. The accommodation is excellent, its owner operating so service is excellent and the food very good and enough.
The next morning we looked for the Black-faced Babblers before heading for Etosha, but no luck. Barn Owl was calling during the night while Double-banded Sandgrouse came to drink at a waterhole close to the chalets.
We went to the Namutoni area of Etosha and started off with Damara Hornbill & Red-breasted Swallow. There were a couple of water birds at the Klein Namutoni waterhole including Grey-headed Gull and Cape Teal. No signs of Black-faced Babbler on Bloubokkiedraai and we headed north to Klein & Groot Okevi & Tsumcor. No water in Fischer’s Pan but at the waterholes we had lots of game and Great Sparrow, Monteiro’s Hornbill, Bateleur, Red-headed Finch, Barred Wren-warbler, Stark’s Lark, Gabar Goshawk and Sth Pied Babbler. At Tsumcor we had lots of Violet-eared Waxbill, Lesser Masked Weaver & Chestnut Weaver. On the plains to the west of Namutoni we saw Double-banded Courser, Red-crested Korhaan and lots of Grey-backed Sparrowlark.
Next morning back at Sachsenheim, we were up early for the birds. Just after sunrise we had a couple of Black-faced Babblers on the fence but they moved deeper into the trees before all people could see them. We call and look around for more with some answering in a distance. Then suddenly we saw the original group is back and this time they allowed the people good sightings and afterwards even good photos. Other birds around were Bearded Woodpecker, Gabar Goshawk & Shrika.
We left Sachsenheim and made a stop at Lake Otjikoto where we saw Green-winged Pytilia (a rare bird on this trip due to drought), Bare-cheeked Babbler and a Little Grebe in the lake. We proceeded to Okahandja and shortly after the turn off to Otavi at Tsumeb, an Augur Buzzard flew across the road, not seen by everyone.
Not any new birds on the road to Rock Lodge near Okahandja. Rock Lodge is situated next to a little mountain and the chalets are good except for 2 which they worked on and were not checked afterwards. Rock Lodge (www.rocklodge.com.na.; email: email@example.com; tel +26462503840) should be look much better in summer. It was very dry, but the other chalets didn’t have any problems.
Birding around the lodge was not bad with Black-cheeked waxbill, Carp’s Tit, Ashy Tit, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Lesser Honeyguide, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Brubru and Marico Sunbird.
Next morning we were off to Keetmanshoop and near Kalkrand we got our first Pygmy Falcon. We were headed to Goibib Mountain Lodge, but before Keetmanshoop we decided to pay a visit to the Quiver Tree Forest and the Playground of the Giants. Most important of the Quiver Tree Forest that a number of Rosy-faced Lovebirds were gathering at a feeding troughs near the office. In the forest itself we had a very tame Pygmy Falcon as well as Dusky Sunbird and Pale-winged Starling. The Playground of the Giants is spectacular and it is strange to think that you are actually standing on the top of the cliffs of a new mountain.
Goibib Mountain Lodge (www.goibibmountainlodge.com.; email firstname.lastname@example.org; tel +26463683130) is nestled in the magic Karas Mountains. The facilities are excellent and the food delicious. As it was in a drought birds were not plentiful, but we had lots of Rosy-faced Lovebirds, Brubru, Lark-like Bunting and Common Scimitarbill.
The trip down to Springbok didn’t deliver very much and we stayed at Springbok Lodge (www.springboklodge.com.; email email@example.com; tel +27277121321). Good accommodation at a good price.
A quick visit to the Goegap area produced White-throated Canary, Karoo Chat, Rufous-eared Warbler, Black-headed Canary, Damara Canary, Layard’s Titbabbler and a very quick Cinnamon-breasted Warbler. Further along the road we found Karoo Eremomela, Jackal Buzzard and more Black-headed Canary.
The next morning was the last shift to Cape Town to end this wonderful tour. Notable birds along the way were Black Harrier and Booted Eagle before I dropped the clients off in Cape Town.
I returned from 2 short trips with clients to Tanqua and Namaqualand during the past 2 weeks.
The Tanqua is magnificent and a carpet of flowers. The flowers are in all colours and that make the birds very active. Karoopoort produced Namaqua Warbler, Black Eagle and performing Karoo Larks. Skitterykloof hosted Layard’s Titbabbler, Cape Canary and Booted Eagle to name a few, but no Cinnamon-breasted Warbler could be finding. Towards the Tanqua NP we had excellent views of Karoo Eremomela, Greater Kestrel and Tractrac Chat.
Inside the park the Oudebaaskraal area had the most Ludwig’s Bustards and the dam, which is still overflowing, has the normal water birds including Great Crested Grebe, Afr Fish Eagle and Greater Flamingoes. Alpine Swifts were roaming the sky. Surprisingly we saw lots of Common Quails in the shrubby veld, while Cape Clapper Lark is performing around the Gannaga Lodge.
Towards the Volmoesfontein area we saw inter alia Karoo Korhaan, Black Harrier, Karoo Long-billed, Large-billed, Karoo, Red-capped & Spike-heeled Larks. The first Black-eared Sparrowlarks also arrived and will probably influx the area soon. The big sadness was to see that Work for Water has cut down the Bluegum tree at Biesjesfontein which host the Martial Eagle nest. To cut such a tree where a vulnerable bird species was breeding successfully over a couple of years, was reckless.
Big “spot” was an Aardvark during the middle of the day about 200 meters from the road near Maansedam. Not always that you will see it, but it is my third time in Tanqua.
Proceeding to Sutherland, we had a beautiful Martial Eagle soaring over the plains, while a dam hosted several water birds like Cape Teal, Cape Shoveller, Yellow-billed Duck and Pied Avocet. The road between Middelpos and Sutherland is very bad and should been taken with care and slow speed. Just north of Sutherland we tracked down a Cinnamon-breasted Warbler and Afr Black Duck in the river.
The trip to Namaqualand started in Velddrift and on the way there we saw Greater Striped Swallow between Porterville and Piketberg and 2 Double-banded Coursers along the tar road about 14 km east of Piketberg. We had a very early (over wintering?) Steppe Buzzard near Rocherpan. Other good birds towards Vanrhynsdorp in drizzling conditions were Secretarybird, Banded Martins which were back, Black Harrier, Glossy Ibis, Booted Eagle, Purple Heron, Cape Clapper Lark, Southern Black Korhaan and lots of Jackal Buzzards.
When we reached Vanrhynsdorp, we had more sunshine and going up Gifberg Pass delivered Protea Seed-eater in the burnt down Proteas and a pair of Black Sparrowhawks in a clump of bluegums. In Vanrhynsdorp we had some Orange River White-eyes and to the east a flock of 20 Blue Cranes. In the area were also Banded Martin and several Common Quails. We overnight in Vanrhynsdorp.
Next day we headed to Springbok and saw the common Namaqualand birds towards Garies. In Garies a pair of Afr Harrier-Hawks was chased by a Booted Eagle. On recommendation of the tourist people in town, we headed east out of town to Leliefontein via the Studer’s Pass. Along the way we picked up Grey Tit, Pale-winged Starling and Layard’s Titbabbler. The biggest surprise was to find a pair of Double-banded Sandgrouse walking slowly across the road in front of us. That is very far out of its normal range. The flowers in the mountains were spectacular, but the roads bad after the rain.
The best flowers were around Springbok, especially in Goegap Nat Res., in Okiep, Nababeep and on the road to Concordia. In Goegap we saw Karoo Eremomela, Dusky Sunbird and Black-eared Sparrow-larks to name a few. Grey Tits were almost every where.
The Skilpad area in Namaqua Nat Park has also beautiful flowers and birds like Black Eagle, Sth Black Korhaan and our first White-throated Swallow of this summer.
On the way back we saw more White-throated Swallows near Elands Bay and a Yellow-billed Kite just outside Velddrift.
I returned from a quick trip to Augrabies Waterfall with clients to see the wonder of the water at the falls. That took us through the Northern Cape and we ticked 128 species along the trip. Just a warning – the gravel roads of the Northern Cape are from bad to worst, especially after the rain and it seems that the graders are all broken after Christmas.
Moving through the country side gave us a couple of excellent birds. Most of the Northern Cape is in a very good condition which results in very good birding. In the Molteno Pass north of Beaufort West we saw one of the resident pairs of Verreaux’s Eagle. Towards Loxton we also ticked Black-headed Canary, Martial Eagle, good numbers of Chat Flycatchers, Afr Black Swift, and Hamerkop and at the only open water some ducks and Curlew Sandpipers. Just before Loxton, we had a good display of swifts which includes Little, Common, Afr Black and White-rumped. We found the most southerly colony of SA Cliff Swallows about 13 km north of Loxton. The whole area between Loxton and Kenhardt teems with Grey-backed Sparrowlarks and Larklike Buntings.
Carnarvon has a good population of Lesser Kestrels. Another interesting fact is the expansion of Sociable Weavers southwards. A couple of nests are found from about 35 km north of Carnarvon towards Vanwyksvlei that didn’t exist some years ago. Towards Vanwyksvlei we saw a couple of lonely Spurwinged Goose at water pools and picked up some Karoo Eremomela.
A visit to Vanwyksvlei Dam, the oldest irrigation dam in SA (yes, that’s correct), was fruitless as the dam didn’t receive water yet. Close to the dam we found Karoo Korhaan and Rufous-eared Warbler and in town Afr Hoopoe and White-throated Swallow. Heading north towards Kenhardt we had good numbers of Sth pale Chanting Goshawks and Jackal Buzzards as well as Wattled Starling, juvenile Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Bradfield’s Sabota Lark and Capped Wheatear. At road side pools after the rain we had Cape Teal, Black-winged Stilt and Egyptian Goose, while Black-headed Heron was hunting in the adjacent grass.
In Kenhardt we stayed at the Boesmanland accommodation of Elma le Roux. She has different types of accommodation which are very comfortable. Elma is also a very knowledgeable person on the history and other sightseeing places in and around Kenhardt. She has also 2 stake outs for Red Larks in the area, but as this is on private farm land, Elma has to accompany you. You can contact Elma on www.bushmanland.co.za or firstname.lastname@example.org or at 054 6510022 / 082 6926350.
We paid a visit to the Rooiberg Dam outside Kenhardt which has some water after the rain. The lower area of the Sak River (here called the Hartbees River) is typical Kalahari veld with sand, Camel thorn trees and grass. Our first big tick for the area was a juvenile Lilac-breasted Roller sitting on telephone pole, a quite far south western record. Other good birds towards the dam were Eur Bee-eater, Fawn-coloured Lark, Lesser Grey Shrike, Karoo Longbilled Lark and Namaqua Sandgrouse. Not many birds have already turned up at the water in the dam, but could put on the SABAP list Kittlitz’s and Three-banded Plover, Hadeda Ibis (ORF), White-breasted Cormorant, Black-necked Grebe, Egyptian Goose and Cape Teal. In the reeds below the dam wall were Afr Reed-Warbler and Namaqua Warbler.
In the Kenhardt pentad we picked up a dead Rufous-cheeked Nightjar, Cape Glossy Starling, out of range Afr Palm Swift, Booted Eagle, Orange River White-eye, Diderick Cuckoo, Yellow-bellied Eremomela and Dusky Sunbird. A visit to the local sewage works produced Ruff, Little Stint, Little Grebe, ducks and Namaqua Sandgrouse which came to drink.
We drove to Augrabies via the gravel road and about 15 km out of Kenhardt we saw a juvenile Brown Snake-Eagle harassed by a Pale Chanting Goshawk first and then by two Drongo’s. It landed on a Camel Thorn tree close to the road and gave us excellent views. Further along the road we picked up a Pygmy Falcon and at a windmill along the road a small group of Black-faced Waxbills came to drink, also a far west record.
Augrabies with all it’s water was wonderful, an unbelievable sight. The internal roads are closed which restrict you to the falls and camp. Alpine Swifts swooped over the gorge and in the trees were Dusky Sunbirds and Orange River White-eyes. We returned to Kenhardt via Kakamas and Keimoes and the only new trip bird was a Kori Bustard about 20 km north of Kenhardt.
That evening about 70 Lesser Kestrels turned up in Kenhardt and roost in a bluegum tree near the rugby veld.
We returned via Brandvlei and Williston and lots of Black-eared Sparrowlarks can be seen between Kenhardt and Williston. We also found Ludwig’s Bustard, SA Cliff Swallow, Afr Harrier-Hawk, Large-billed Lark, Pririt Batis and a Grey-winged Francolin walking in the road on the way back. Fraserburg has also a good number of Lesser Kestrels which were feeding on the road towards Williston.
A very fruitful Northern Cape trip with lots of ORF’s from the SABAP2 side.
Places are still available on the Nylsvley / Kruger trip. Please contact me direct.
I recently returned from an excellent birding trip to mostly the Zululand part of Natal. I picked my clients up in Cape Town and we bird throughout the country to Ndumo along the Moz border and back. In the process we saw and heard 346 bird species which is excellent for this time of the year. We also discover a couple of new venues which are great for birding. My clients were 2 from the UK and the others from SA.
We started in Cape Town in windy conditions, which follows us all the way to Beaufort West. We managed to pick up some Pale Chanting Goshawks, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Sparrows, etc along the road. In Beaufort West we travelled up Molteno Pass but due to the weather we only had views of flying Verreaux’s Eagles.
Next morning we left for Rietpoort Game Farm outside Trompsburg in Free State. With windy conditions birds were hiding. Just past Three Sisters we had beautiful views of Short-toed Rock Thrush, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Pale-winged Starling and Karoo Prinias. Towards Richmond at a dam we saw numbers of Namaqua Sandgrouse, Cape Shoveler, Greater Flamingoes and Pied Avocets. Between Richmond and Hanover we picked up some Blue Cranes, a couple of Ludwig’s Bustards in the veld and Blue Korhaans. At a road work stop beyond Hanover lots of Black-headed Canaries were feeding in grass next to the road.
Next stop was Gariep Dam to show our largest dam to the overseas people, but also pick up some nice birds like Layard’s Titbabbler, Orange River White-eye, Goliath Heron, Afr Fish Eagle, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and Fairy Flycatcher.
Rietpoort Game Farm was a new venue for me, but was highly surprised by the birds and accommodation. The chalets are neatly and located in the garden with huge trees. Birds included inter alia Black-throated Canary, Giant Kingfisher, Orange River white-eye, Common Moorhen, Swainson’s Spurfowl and Black-crowned Night Heron.
Next morning we left Rietpoort to go via Winburg to Qwantani Resort along the Sterkfontein Dam. Along the way we picked up a couple of Long-tailed Widowbirds which have short tails now, Secretarybird and Northern Black Korhaan. In open field at Paul Roux we found our first Sth Bald Ibis, the furthest west that I see this species.
We drove from Bethlehem via Golden Gate to Qwantani, but by now the cold front from Cape Town already reached the Drakensberg Mountains. Golden Gate was very windy with very few birds and saw Jackal Buzzard and Ant-eating Chats.
Qwantani Resort is on the western side of Sterkfontein Dam on a 20 km road which takes you through the Sterkfontein Dam nature reserve. First 4 km is fair gravel road and then you get to a road which was a tar road long ago. It is in a slow process to return to gravel, but if you drive slowly you will managed. In any case birders are always going slow. The resort itself has brilliant facilities from the chalets to the restaurant and it can be highly recommended.
Birds were also excellent, especially the next morning when it was a beautiful Free Stae morning. Ground Woodpecker was awaited us on the lawn when we arrived. Other birds around were Red-winged Starling, Red Bishop and Malachite Sunbird. Next morning the doves were up early, but then I heard a Red-throated Wryneck. It gave excellent views to all. A pair of Greater Striped Swallows was still present and on the way out we saw Wailing Cisticola, Afr Rock Pipit, Cape Rock Thrush, Cape Longclaw and Long-billed Pipit.
On the way to Bergville, the road between Harrismith and the Natal Border via Oliviershoek Pass has not been worked on for the last couple of years. Although driveable if you have some clearance on the vehicle, don’t think about to do it after sunset. Although there are “Stop / Go” in place, the people working there is just collecting their pay. No control and you have to zig-zag past the oncoming traffic.
Nevertheless, on the way we had great views of Cape Griffons soaring overhead. Below the pass a group of Bald Ibisses was feeding on a field. We tried to find the Spioenkop Vulture Restaurant without success. The gate guard aid it is on the other side of the dam, but getting to the battlefield at last, the guard there said there is no restaurant. The best thing here was beautiful views of a Mocking Cliff-chat.
We continued to Owl & Elephant lodge near the small hamlet of Weenen where we stayed 2 nights. It is more or less the only accom in the area but highly recommended as long as Pat is running it. The grounds around the lodge had good birding with Brubru, Flappet Lark (sorry for the late sleepers), Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Lesser Honeyguide, Golden-tailed Woodpecker and White-bellied Sunbird.
The next day we spent most of the day in Weenen NR, a true jewel. We collected 70 species inside the reserve which is very good for winter. Interesting birds were Golden-breasted Bunting, White-throated Robin-chat, Red-billed Firefinch, Bearded Woodpecker, Streaky-headed Seed-eater, Croaking Cisticola and for a number of clients the bird of the trip, 6 Shelley’s Francolins, walking into the road and calling.
The next morning we were off to Mtunzini with a stop at Sappi Hide near Stanger. We had a good collection of birds here including Squacco Heron, Spectacled Weaver, Grey Crowned Crane, Woolly-necked Stork, Hottentot Teal, afr Marsh Harrier, Afr Black Duck and Afr Green Pigeon.
In Mtunzini we stayed at Umlalazi NR which has beautiful chalets inside the coastal forest. As we entered the reserve we were immediately welcomed by White-eared Barbets which let the people jumped out of the vehicle and there were the rest like Black-bellied Starling, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Dark-backed weaver, Yellow-breasted Apalis and Natal Robin-chat. Red Duikers were all along the road.
The next day we had Junior Gabela as our guide when we went to Ngoye Forest. Junior is one of the best guides in Natal and I used him a couple of times. He took us with a new way on an all tar road to Ngoye Forest. Arriving at the forest we were immediately into action with Chorister Robin-chat, Olive Sunbird, Olive Bush-shrike, Yellow White-eye, Croaking Cisticola, Golden-rumped Tinkerbird, Blue-mantled Crested-flycatcher, Square-tailed Drongo and many more. We heard Green barbet but they were hard to show themselves. We had great views of Yellow-streaked Greenbul and African Goshawk as well as Grey Cuckooshrike. On our return to the vehicle we had brilliant views of Green Barbet with 4 birds around us. Another lifer to see was Ngoye Red Squirrel.
From Ngoye we continued to Dlinza which was a bit disappointed. Although it was a nice mild day, birds were silence. We had great vies of Lemon Dove at the bird hide. The target birds were very skittish with only some people that had views of Spotted Ground Thrush, but no Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeons. Other birds were Grey Sunbird, Red-backed Mannikins, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Ashy Flycatcher and calling Emerald Cuckoo … or was it perhaps a mimicking Natal Robin-chat? On the way back to Mtunzini Junior took us on a back road to look for Palmnut Vulture. We had good views of Long-crested Eagle and then excellent views of a Palmnut Vulture on a tree. Trying to find more Spotted Ground Thrush for those who missed it in Dlinza, we found Black-throated Wattle-eye. More people had glimpses of the thrush but then darkness chased us away.
The next morning we were out early to look for Mangrove Kingfisher at Umlalazi. We couldn’t find it (probably to early?), but had excellent views of Yellow Weaver, Grey Sunbird, White-crested Helmet-Shrike and then the other cherry on the cake, a Red-chested Flufftail, sunbathing itself in the road. Very unexpected and a hard job to keep the birders quiet not to chase it off to soon.
We left Umlalazi and heading for St Lucia, on the way stopping at Richards Bay to look for the Franklin’s Gull. We were very lucky to find it alone on the beach with the incoming tide where after it disappeared towards the harbour. A lifer for most of the birders including myself!!
In St Lucia we stayed at Ingwenya Lodge which has very good accom next to the indigenous forest. Trumpeter Hornbills are garden birds. A visit to the river’s mouth gave us views of Pink-backed Pelicans, Goliath Heron, Caspian Tern and glimpses of a Southern Banded Snake-Eagle.
We used Themba Mthembu as guide in St Lucia. Very good guide and highly recommended to anyone visiting St Lucia. We walked the Ingwalagwala trail in hope that it will not rain. Plenty of birds like Woodward’s Batis, Gorgeous Bush-shrike, Blue-mantled Crest Flycatcher, Ashy Tit, Crested Guineafowl, Green Malkoha (excellent views), Olive & Grey Sunbirds, Livingston’s Turaco and Spectacled Weaver.
Later we went to an area north of St Lucia where there is a pan and we picked up inter alia Pygmy Goose and Rosy-throated Longclaw. Had very good views of RT Longclaws, but Themba said they are not regulars to this pan.
In the afternoon we went towards Cape Vidal and on the way we saw Yellow-throated Longclaw, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, 2 Crowned Eagles on a nest, Flappet Lark, Croaking Cisticola and Red-billed Oxpecker. We had some Rhino along the road and on the way back a Spotted Hyena.
Next morning we left for Nibela Lodge via Hluhluwe Game Reserve.
We returned from a birding trip to Natal during June 2011. We managed to tick off 311 species without the normal migrants. We use some of the local guides who were very helpful and knowledgeable. A short report is herewith.
Day 1 Beaufort West: A short trip in the B/West area brought Karoo Korhaan, Sabota (Bradfield's) Lark, Karoo Longbilled Lark, Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Rufous-eared Warbler, Chat Flycatcher and Larklike Bunting.
Day 2 Beaufort West to Winburg: Driving through the Karoo we saw several Sth Pale Chanting Goshawk, Jackal Buzzard, Ant-eating Chat and Greater Kestrel. As we moved into the Free State we picked up Nth Black Korhaan, Long-tailed Widowbird with “short” tails and Pale-winged Starling.
We stayed at Bell’s Pass Guest Farm outside Winburg which is very comfortable and you can walk all over the farm. Birds here included Eastern Clapper Lark, White-fronted Bee-eater which was a great surprise, Swainson’s Spurfowl, Crested Barbet, Black-collared Barbet, Black-chested Prinia, Fairy Flycatcher and Neddicky.
Day 3 Winburg to Pongola: Continuing towards Natal, we picked up in icy weather a Black Harrier just outside Senekal, several Black-shouldered Kites, a Long-crested Eagle on a black wattle tree between Bethlehem and the Golden Gate turn off and at a marshy area beyond Kestell 26 Black-headed Herons and about 25 Sth Balb Ibises together. As we crossed the Drakensberg Mountains, a couple of Alpine Swifts were soaring overhead. Passing Louwsburg a couple of Buff-streaked Chats perched on the rocks.
We stayed at Casa Mia Guest House in Pongola. The guest house is situated in a sub-tropical garden with lovely trees and surrounded by sugar cane. The garden and surrounded vegetation host Kurrichane Thrush, Spectacled Weaver, Sth Black Flycatcher, Scops Owl, White-browed Robin-chat, Afr Firefinch, Marico Sunbird, Collared Sunbird, Dark-capped Yellow-warbler, Bronze Mannikin, and Crowned Hornbill.
Day 4 Phongola Game Reserve: We paid a visit to this lovely reserve which is one of my favorites in Natal. Some of the birds we saw include Yellow-throated Petronia, Burchell’s Starling, Lilac-breasted Roller, Thick-billed Weaver, Plain-backed Pipit, Rufous-winged Cisticola, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Pale Flycatcher and Wattled Lapwing. We also saw a good variety of game.
Day 5 Pongola to Ndumo River Lodge: The weather was not good and birds along the road scarce. At the stop at Pongolapoort Dam we saw Black-crowned Night Heron, Hamerkop and Red-winged Starling.
We stayed at Ndumo River Lodge as according to Ezemvelo’s office Ndumo GR was fully booked. On arrival the next day there was hardly any visitors. Ndumo River Lodge is along the Phongola River and has been upgraded since my previous visit. Inside the lodge we found Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, several Red-capped Robin-chats (Natal Robins), Scops Owl and Puffback. In the river below we had Afr Jacana, White-faced Duck, Whiskered Tern, Afr Fish-eagle and Burchell’s Coucal.
Day 6 Ndumo Game Reserve: Ndumo stays a jewel and during the day we saw a variety of birds. That included Red-billed Firefinch, Trumpeter Hornbill, Lesser Honeyguide, Dark-backed Weaver, Bearded Woodpecker, Striped Kingfisher, Grey-tit Flycatcher, Pink-throated Twinspot, Bateleur and Crested Guineafowl.
In the afternoon we went on a game drive with Bongani who is an excellent guide. We drove around Nyamithipan and had a couple of Greater Flamingoes, Pink-backed Pelicans, Whiskered & Caspian Tern, Bearded Scrub-robin and hundreds of cormorants, pelicans and Yellow-billed Storks breeding in the trees on the northern side of the pan.
Day 7 Ndumo River Lodge to Bonamanzi: We saw Lizard Buzzard and tens of Trumpeter hornbills along the road. At Muzi Pan we met Themba, the local guide, who is excellent in finding the birds. We first went to the Mkuze River to look for inter alia Pel’s Fish Owl. Along the way we ticked Purple Heron, Afr Firefinch, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Ashy Flycatcher and a pair of cheetahs along the Phinda fence.
We couldn’t find the Pel’s on the walk, but had excellent views of Square-tailed Drongo, Terrestrial Brownbul, Orange-breasted Bush Shrike, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Rudd’s Apalis and Lemon-breasted Canary.
Back at Muzi pan we saw 3 Collared Pratincoles flying over and then discovered a Rufous-bellied Heron in the marshy area. Other birds were white-throated Swallows, Yellow Weaver, more Lemon-breasted Canary, Fan-tailed Widowbird and Scarlet-chested Sunbird.
Arriving in Bonamanzi with the weather worsen, we decided to take the game drive before the weather becomes worse. We saw numbers of Black-bellied Starlings, a juvenile Gorgeous Bush Shrike, White-crested Helmet-Shrike and Dusky Flycatcher before the rain cut our drive short.
Day 8 Bonamanzi: Bonamanzi had a real revamped since our last visit. The personnel and guides are much more friendly and effective. The accommodation is superb and the meals very delicious. The only problem is that the problem with the local chief has not been solved yet and you can’t go down to the floodplains to look for the Rosy-throated Longclaw.
We birded around Bonamanzi and had good views of Yellow-breasted & Rudd’s Apalis, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, late Greater Striped Swallows, a Collared Pratincole, and lots of White-eared Barbets, Afr Green Pigeon and probably the best bird, an Afr Broadbill at the turn off to Tree house 10. It gave us splendid views from about 15 meters and didn’t pay any attention to its call.
The afternoon we went on a boat trip on the Hluhluwe River. It is not the Kavango or Chobe River, but we had a good time with threatening weather. On the way to the river we saw an Eastern Nicator and some Wattled Starlings. As we embarked the boat an Afr Finfoot gliding silently across the river to its roosting trees on the southern bank, giving excellent views. On the river we saw Little Bee-eater, a pair of Pygmy Goose, Afr Fish-eagle and Thick-billed Weaver.
Day 9 Bonamanzi to St Lucia: With a cold front approaching the area, it was not good birding conditions. We decided to take a detour through Hluhluwe Game Reserve on the way to St Lucia. Birds in Hluhluwe GR included Bearded & White-browed Scrub-robin, Little Bee-eater, Jackal Buzzard, Cardinal Woodpecker, White-backed & Cape Vulture, White-winged Widowbird, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Sth Brown-throated Weaver, Rufous-naped Lark and Sth Black Tit.
Day 10 St Lucia: We stayed in St Lucia Safari Lodge which is situated along the main street. It has very good and comfortable units, but may be become very noisy during holiday periods.
We started off with birding towards the Sugarloaf Campsite and were quickly entertained by a large group of Crested Guineafowl. There were also tens of Trumpeter Hornbills, Natal Robins and Dark-backed Weavers. Along the lagoon we saw Lesser Swamp-Warbler, Caspian Tern, Woolly-necked Stork and Afr Spoonbill. The thickets along the lagoon provided purple-crested Turaco, Orange-breasted Bush Shrike, Livingston’s Turaco, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird and a juvenile Diderick Cuckoo.
A drive towards Cape Vidal gave us Little Bee-eater, Wire-tailed Swallow, Sth Banded, Brown & Black-chested Snake Eagle and the other normal Natal birds. Cape Vidal is being upgraded and it seems that the birds depart for a while. On the beach were a couple of Grey-headed Gulls, Kittlitz’s Plovers and 2 Little Stints that decided not to take the long journey north.
Day 11 St Lucia to Richards Bay: The weather was quickly turning around with rain and I had to cancel the guide I organized for Richards Bay. We stayed at Tussen die Maroelas Guest House which has very good accommodation. We went to Thulasihleka Pan and en route we had lovely views of a female Black Cuckooshrike. Unfortunately it seems that the pan is very run down and that the adjacent industrials dumping all its polluted water into the pan. The hides seem to be use as shelters by people and are filled with rubbish. It can easily develop into a safety risk. Hopefully Birdlife and other people in Richards Bay can do something about it. There were not many birds in the “green” water with a single Squacco Heron, a few White-breasted Cormorants and Common Moorhen.
The scrubby area towards the harbour produced Bronze Mannikin, Purple-banded Sunbird, Red-faced Cisticola and Fan-trailed Widowbird.
Day 12 Richards Bay to Mtunzini: We headed early morning for Ongoye Forest and along the road we picked up Sbo, our guide. As we nearer Ongoye, we had lovely views of Striped Pipit in the road and Rufous-naped Lark. As we entered the first patch of forest we were greeted by Chorister Robin-chat and Lemon Dove. Moving further into the forest we saw Plain-backed Pipit and some saw the Olive Sunbird. Green Barbet was calling in several places in the forest but took a while to bring them closer. In the meantime we found Yellow-streaked Greenbul. Sbo eventually brought the Green Barbet very close and gave all excellent views of it.
On the way back we had Martial Eagle soaring overhead and then an Afr Crowned Eagle soaring low over us. It was now lovely sunshine and rushed for Dlinza Forest. The forest was very quiet and we couldn’t get Spotted Ground-Thrush although Sbo tried his best. Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon was heard calling but no signs of it. We had Livingstone’s Turaco, Olive Sunbird and Square-tailed Drongo. Sbo is an excellent guide who can mimic most of the birds in the forest and you are not needing a tape for the birds.
In Mtunzini we stayed at Toad Tree Cottage which is very good for a small group and with lovely birds in the garden. In the garden we ticked Natal Robin, Afr Paradise-Flycatcher (male with long tail), Olive Sunbird, White-fronted Bee-eater and Yellow Weaver.
Day 13 Mtunzini to Weenen: We were up early morning to check the Palm-nut Vultures. According the owner of the guest house Palm-nut Vultures also visit the palm trees on his farm, but we decided to go to the palms near the nature reserve. We quickly tracked down a couple of them. A visit to the nature reserve gave us excellent views of Mangrove Kingfisher (a bird I missed for long years), Black-headed Oriole, Little Swift, Collared Sunbird and Ashy Flycatcher.
We proceeded to Weenen and made a quick stop at the Sappi hide near Stanger. This hide was very disappointed and the dam is covered with water lettuce. Not many birds around except a Malachite Kingfisher, Little Rush-Warbler, Afr Jacana and Pied Wagtail.
We drove via the hills of Zululand to Owl & Elephant Lodge near the tiny town of Weenen. The lodge is situated beautifully on a hill overlooking the Bushman River valley. Unfortunately, the owners have to move due to a land claim, but hopefully someone will guard the new owners to run it properly. The facilities are excellent as well as the food at unbelievable prices.
Birds around the lodge were inter alia White-throated Robin-chat, Chinspot Batis, Sth Balb Ibis, White-fronted Bee-eater, Tambourine Dove and Green-backed Camaroptera.
Day 14 Weenen: We spent most of the day in the Weenen Nature Reserve. It wasn’t as good as in summer, but nevertheless we saw a good variety of birds. We started of with Crested Barbet, Rufous-naped Lark, Golden-breasted Bunting and Cloud Cisticola. We saw our only group of Arrow-marked Babblers of the trip and at the picnic site we were surprised by a pair of Red-throated Wryneck and a tame White-throated Robin-chat. Other birds included Cardinal Woodpecker, Brubru, Croaking Cisticola and Yellow-throated Petronia.
Day 15 Weenen to Golden Gate NP: A Gail force wind was blowing and not many birds were moving around. Towards Bergville some Cape Vultures were soaring overhead and we saw a few groups of Sth Bald Ibises. Near Sterkfontein Dam a Black Harrier crossed the road, but otherwise it was only the common species that was willing to take on the wind.
We stayed in Glen Reenen camp and the facilities are of a high standard. We explored the park but didn’t get many birds in the strong wind. In the camp was Cape Rock Thrush and Streaky-headed Seed-eater.
Day 16 Golden Gate NP to Garingboom Guest Farm: We hoped for better weather, but Golden Gate was freezing. Towards Fouriesburg we found a group of Grey-winged Francolin on the side of the road. At the church tower in Excelsior we found a couple of real Rock Doves and we started getting White-browed Sparrow-weavers again. Near Verkeerdevlei we saw some Spike-heeled and Eastern Clapper Lark.
Arriving at Garingboom Riëtte was ready to take us birding. Luckily the wind has dropped and we had a good couple of hours in the veld. Some of the first birds were Red-throated Wryneck, Kimberley Pipit, Greater Kestrel, Buffy Pipit, Desert Cisticola, Sickle-winged Chat, Blue Korhaan, Double-banded Courser and Black-chested Prinia. If you want to look at LBJ’s, you must not miss Garingboom. Riëtte knows exactly where to find them and can explain the differences between them. The facilities are excellent and the real “boerekos” a must be.
Day 17 Garingboom to Beaufort West: We left after breakfast and made a detour to Gariep Dam. Here we found Layard’s Titbabbler, Fairy Flycatcher, Osprey, Grey-headed Gull, Grey Tit, Black-throated Canary and Pale-winged Starling. Unfortunately, no Orange River White-eyes!
Beyond Colesberg we saw our first Pied Avocets of the trip and at the Seekoei River north of Hanover another Osprey. Three Sisters produced a pair of Black Eagles soaring around the “sisters”.
A full detailed report with contact details will be on my website in the near future. There is still place available on my trips to Botswana in November and December 2011.
I just returned from a marvelous tour to Mozambique in conjunction with Maans Booysen of WETO TOURS. I got 10 people from the south and we join Maans in Pretoria. We managed to tick 361 species from Pretoria to Pretoria. Some of us were driving to Pretoria and back and added another couple of birds.
We left on 16 July and headed for Bells Pass Guest House outside Winburg. Notable birds along the way were Short-toed Rock Thrush, Blue Cranes, lots of Long-tailed Widowbirds with “short tails”, Wattled Starlings and raptors like Jackal Buzzard, Greater & Rock Kestrel and Sth Pale Chanting Goshawks.
Bells Pass GH is a nice overnight stay and we saw Green Woodhoopoe, Black-chested Prinia, Orange River White-eye, Ashy Tit, Red-headed Finch, etc. here. The next day towards Pretoria we had inter alia Goliath Heron & Great Crested Grebe at a dam and a Wattled Lapwing along the N1 high way. We stayed at Sonia’s Cosy Cottage in Centurion and close to our departure point the next day.
We left Pretoria the next morning at 04:30 and headed for Komatipoort. Not much birding along the way but we saw Long-crested Eagle, Forest Buzzard, Ground-scraper Thrush and at the border post Grey-headed Bush Shrike. We passed quickly through the SA side and landed in a chaotic border on the Moz side. People understanding very little English and you need to use a “runner” if you not want to stay there for a long time. After about an hour we were through and can start birding seriously. Maans is excellent with the Moz birds and knows all the back roads for good birding. We were heading for Xai-Xai via a gravel road and picked up Bateleur, Natal Robin-chat, Red-faced Cisticola, Grey-rumped Swallow, Lizard Buzzard, Black Heron, Sth Black Flycatcher and Little Sparrowhawk to mention just a few.
We stayed at Honeypot outside Xai-Xai which is good accommodation and had a very good restaurant with excellent food at a good price. Unfortunately a power crash hit the area and we had to go to bed with candles.
Next morning we were out early in a real misty morning and headed for the Limpopo floodplains. As we reached the floodplain, the sun broke through and we had some of the best birding of the trip. There were birds everywhere with the highlights a Eurasian Bittern that we flushed and 2 Baillon’s Crakes right next to the road. Other highly soughed birds were Rufous-bellied Heron, Fulvous Duck, Pygmy Goose, Hottentot Teal, Collared Pratincole and heard a Lesser Jacana. We actually put down about 80 bird species in the about 3 hours we were here.
We headed towards Inharrime and visiting the Panda area in the afternoon. Maans just know the right spot in this Miombo woodland and shortly after arrival we had a bird party including the target species, Olive-headed Weaver with lovely views, Golden-tailed & Bearded Woodpecker, Grey Penduline Tit, Black-eared Seed-eater, Southern Hyliota, Pallid Flycatcher, Pale Batis, Racket-tailed Roller, Brubru, Red-faced Crombec and White-breasted Cuckooshrike to name a couple.
We headed back to Imharrime and overnight at Zavora Lodge along the sea. The chalets are very good and the restaurant as well.
Next day we headed for Inhambane but before we left we had a Western Reef Heron along the waves. Other birds around the lodge include Collared Sunbird, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Lemon-breasted Canary and Red-backed Mannikins.
On the way to Inhambane we saw Purple-banded & Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, Greater Honeyguide, Dark-capped Yellow-Warbler, Rufous-winged Cisticola and Greencapped Eremomela. We stayed at Barra which is situated at a peninsula with a large estuary. On the estuary we saw Greater Flamingo, Common Tern, Common Whimbrel and Curlew Sandpiper. The tides were not in our favour and very little terns and waders were spotted. Birding on the peninsula gave Little Rush-warbler, Black Coucal, Lesser Honeyguide, African Swamphen, White-backed Duck and Lesser Jacana.
There are good lodges in Barra. We stayed at Makolo Bay Lodge which was good.
After 2 nights at Barra, we drove further north to Inhassoro. Near Maxixi we saw a lovely Cuckoo Hawk, got some Neergaard’s Sunbirds and had Böhm’s & Mottled Spinetails flying overhead. Other birds included Grey Waxbill, Thick-billed Weaver, Mosque Swallow, Horus Swift, Pygmy Goose and Madagascar Bee-eater.
In Inhassoro we stayed at Seta Hotel which is situated along the sea and has very good facilities. The chalets are very comfortable and the food good. The town can actually very noisy on a Friday & Saturday night.
Proceeding the next morning to Beira, we had some early lifers like Red-winged Warbler, Red-throated Twinspot, Black-winged Bishop and Cabanis’ Bunting. Just before the bridge across the Save River, 2 Dickinson’s Kestrels were roosting in the little village. A stop at the Pungwe River delivered Yellow White-eye, Tambourine Dove, Grey-headed Parrot & Yellow Weaver. On the way further north we had a Southern Banded Snake-Eagle with flying Mottled Swifts.
The road from Ichope to Beira is severely potholed and all the vehicles are driving zig-zag across the road. Some potholes are so deep and wide that you have to stop before going through. Not many birding on this busy road. In Beira we stayed at Motel Bispa in the outskirts of the town.
The next morning we headed towards Rio Savanne across the Pungwe floodplains. First stop was at the Bat Hawk site where the 2 Bat Hawks roosting in a large marula tree. On either side of the tree is a huge bee colony. The grassy areas produced Black-winged Bishop, Sth Banded Snake-Eagle, Afr Marsh Harrier and Rufous-winged Cisticola. A patch of indigenous forest produced another special, Black-capped Apalis, Tiny Greenbul, Green Malkoha and Collared Sunbird.
We went up to a grassy plain near Rio Savanne to look for Locust Finch. We walked around to flush it, but in stead flushed a Flappet Lark and Short-tailed Pipit. Rio Savanne gave us Red-headed Weaver and Mangrove Kingfisher. A visit to the prawn farm produced Wood Sandpiper, Pink-backed Pelican, Yellow-billed Stork and Little Bee-eater.
Beira itself is a large squatter camp. Most buildings are still as the Portuguese left it behind and except for handful buildings along the beach, Shoprite is the most modern building in town.
Monday morning we headed to the rice fields towards the sea. New birds were scarce, but we tracked down Cuckoo Hawk, Orange-breasted Waxbill, African Quailfinch and Olive Sunbird.
Our next destination was Mphingwe Lodge near Caia. We took the bad road via Ichope again and saw some Blue-spotted Doves beyond Ichope. Other birds along the way were Ret’z Helmet Shrike, Black Kite, Yellow & Village Weaver, Red-faced Crombec, Pale Batis, Ovambo Sparrowhawk and Eastern Nicator.
Mphingwe Lodge is excellent with very good food. Birds are plentiful around lodge and during the night we heard Barred, Afr Scops, and Barn & Pearlspotted Owls. The next morning we headed for the Coutada forest and on the way saw a couple of Livingstone’s Flycatchers, Bearded Scrub-robin, Chestnut-fronted Helmet Shrike and Swallow-tailed Bee-eater. Inside Coutada we had a Woodward’s Batis and Plain-backed Sunbird.
We had a long search for Gunning’s Robin, but succeed at last. While looking for the robin, we ran into a beautiful Afr Broadbill. We also found a Crowned Eagle, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Sth Ground Hornbills, Trumpeter Hornbill and a flock of Silvery-cheeked Hornbill to name a few.
The next morning we paid a visit to the Zambezi River and crossing the 2,3 km long bridge. Close to the bridge we found an Anchieta’s Tchagra which gave excellent views. We turned around towards Gorongosa and saw our only vultures, White-headed Vulture. Probably not much food in Mozambique! A stop along the road turned up Brown-throated Weaver, Jameson’s Robbin and Black and White (Vanga) Flycatcher. We took a gravel road towards Gorongosa finding Dark Chanting Goshawk and Moustached Grass-Warbler.
We stayed at Environtrade Camp which offers good tented accommodation. We were welcomed by a Narina Trogon sitting on one of the tents. The camp offers fantastic food.
We left the next morning at 4:00 am for Mount Gorongosa, guided by the 16 year old Gerbie and a local guide. It took more than 3 hours to reach the parking place and then the walk began. We were met by Variable Sunbirds and in the first couple of hundred meters saw some Singing Cisticola. We found the first Green-headed Oriole in tall trees before we reached the rain forest. It gave good views. Further up the mountain we got Livingstone’s Turaco, Blue-spotted Dove, Black Cuckooshrike, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher and more Green-headed Orioles. On the way back we had Pallid Honeyguide.
The afternoon we birded around the lodge, adding Short-winged Cisticola, Southern Hyliota, Racket-tailed Roller, Arnott’s Chat and Pallid Flycatcher.
Next morning and we were off to Vumba in Zim. Close to the lodge we had our first Miombo Blue-eared Starlings, followed by Violet-backed Sunbird. Other birds in the party were White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Red-faced Crombec, Violet-backed Starling and Yellow-breasted Apalis.
We reached the border post and had no hassles to get through. We went to Seldomseen to look for Swynnerton’s Robin and were guided by the well-known Peter. We heard the robin, but couldn’t see it. We found Buff-spotted Flufftail, Orange Ground Thrush, Striped-cheeked Greenbul, Yellow White-eye and Robert’s Prinia.
We stayed in White Horse Inn which is a well-run hotel with good food. Personnel are very friendly and helpful.
The next morning we went to another place to look for Swynnerton’s. First we had excellent views of Livingstone’s Turaco and then the robin which came to within 2 meters of us. We saw more Robert’s Prinia, Chirinda Apalis, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Singing Cisticola and Bronzy Sunbird.
We drove to Lion and Elephant Hotel close to Beit Bridge. A detour to Lake Mutirikwi gave us some Miombo Rock Thrush and Miombo Tit.
Lion & Elephant Hotel gave excellent accommodation and food. Leaving for SA we picked up Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Purple Roller and on SA side Mocking Cliff-chat.
It was an excellent trip which gave me 27 lifers and Maans did an excellent job. It is very important that when you are going to Mozambique to go with someone who is familiar with the area.
We recently returned from a trip in conjunction with Maans Booysen’s Weto Tours to Mozambique and Eastern Zimbabwe.
Day 1 was a lot of driving from Pretoria to Honeypot near Xai-Xai. We went quickly through the border post and on the Moz side saw inter alia Saddle-billed Stork, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Grey-rumped Swallow, Red-faced Cisticola, Lizard Buzzard and Shikra.
Before dark we went to the Limpopo floodplains to look for Rosy-throated Longclaw, but the floodplains were very dry and no RT Longclaw. We actually spotted a Grass owl, Rufous-bellied Heron and Openbill Stork.
Honeypot had an Wood Owl in camp and some people were lucky to see it. Fiery-necked Nightjar was also calling through the night.
Day 2 took us to Inhambane via Panda. Along the road to Inharrime we added African Marsh Harrier and Cuckoo Hawk and towards Panda Whiskered Tern and Collared Pratincole.
Around Panda a lot of the indigenous forest is chopped down by the locals. What will happen in future, you never know. We looked for Olive-headed Weaver but couldn’t find it. We, however, saw Pale Batis, Neergaard’s Sunbird, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Southern Hyliota and Grey-rumped Swallow. It was extremely hot when we reached Panda and a couple of people struggled with the heat.
We continued to Inhambane, had lovely views of Dickonson’s Kestrel along the way, and arrived just before dark at Barra.
Day 3 was wader bashing and the lagune hosted thousands of waders. Strolling early morning through the mud and water, produced thousands of Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Mongolian Sand Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Common Whimbrel, Common Ringed Plover, Greater Flamingo and Lesser Crested Tern. In the dune vegetation we saw Brimstone & Lemon-breasted Canary, Collared & Scarlet-chested Sunbird and Spectacled Weaver. A pond produced White-backed Duck, Pygmy Goose and Purple Heron. Some people had luck in seeing a flying Sooty Falcon but we couldn’t track it down again.
On Day 4 we drove from Barra to Inhassoro. Large parts have been burned down by the locals and that makes the finding of birds much more difficult. Early morning we saw a flying Palm-nut Vulture and at the first baobab trees, flying Bohm’s and Mottled Spinetails. A detour to Vilanculos gave more White-faced and White-backed Ducks, Pygmy Goose and Arrow-marked Babblers. We found some Madagascar Bee-eater in town.
In Inhassoro we stayed at the Seta Hotel again and inside the hotel grounds we saw Village Weaver, Grey-headed Bush Shrike and Southern Boubou.
Day 5 took us from Inhassoro to Beira and along the way added Jameson’s Firefinch, Bearded Scrub-robin, Trumpeter Hornbill, Pale Batis, Cabanis Bunting, Mosque Swallow, Dark Chanting Goshawk, European Honey Buzzard, Southern Banded Snake-eagle, African Golden Oriole and Racket-tailed Roller.
Day 6 was spent birding around Beira and towards Rio Savanne. The Bat Hawks seem to be still happy in their tree and survive amongst the citizens. Along the gravel road to Rio Savanne we saw Black-winged Bishops and some Wattled Lapwing. In the forest patch along the road we had good views of Eastern Nicator, Green Malkoha and Black-headed Apalis. A walk to flush some bird produced Black-rumped Buttonquail and a couple of Short-tailed Pipit. Where we parked a Pale Batis had a nest, while Tropical Boubou played in the trees. On the grass was also Temminck’s Courser.
We moved deeper into the miombo veld and arrived at a pan where we found Collared Pratincole, Rufous-bellied Heron, lots of African Quailfinches, Flappet Lark and a Wood Pipit.
A drive past the airport gave Lesser Jacana, Village Indigobird, Pink-backed Pelicans and Greater Honeyguide.
Day 7 and we drove from Beira to Catapu via the gravel road which follows for most of the time the railway line. Some of the more unusual birds along the way were Rufous-bellied Heron, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Red-winged Warbler, Broad-billed Roller, Black-eared Seed-eater, Western Violet-backed Sunbird, Retz’ Helmet-shrike, Grey-hooded Kingfisher, Racket-tailed Roller Cabanis Bunting, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill and Crowned Eagle.
On Day 8 we headed for the Catada bush in search for the “big birds”. On the way there we had Mosque Swallow, African Goshawk, Striped Kingfisher and Shikra. Arriving at Catada one or two had flashing views of a White-breasted Alethe after which we only heard it, but seen… No!!! We had good views of East Coast Akalat and there after found Bateleur, Crested Guineafowl, Plain-backed Sunbird, Tiny Greenbul, Woodward’s Batis, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Apalis and Bohm’s Spinetail.
The waterholes at Mphingwe Lodge had brilliant birding from your chair with 4 species of honeyguides, Greater, Scaly-throated, Lesser and Pallid, lots of Red-backed Mannikins, Miombo Glossy Starling, Melba Finch, Black Sparrowhawk, Tambourine Dove and Cuckoo Hawk.
Day 9 we went to the Zambezi River at Caia and had Sth Brown-throated Weaver, Comb Duck, Goliath Heron, Afr Mourning Dove, Rufous-winged Cisticola and Moustached Grass-Warbler. We couldn’t find any Anchieta’s Tchagra as all the vegetation was burned down. We drove to Vila de Sena looking for some rarities, but without any success. We saw Short-winged Cisticola, Collared Palm-Thrush and Brimstone Canary.
On Day 10 we were heading south to Gorongosa and Environtrade Camp. We had good views of Afr Hawk-eagle and Brown-hooded Parrot. A stop along the road turned up Ashy Flycatcher, Grey-tit Flycatcher, Red-faced Crombec and a Thick-billed Cuckoo which disappeared very quickly.
Late afternoon we went to Gorongosa Nat Park and convinced the gate official that we can go towards the main gate. We saw some game like Oribi, Kudu, Yellow Baboon, Sable and Suni along the road. There were not many birds. At the look out on the Pungwe River we saw some Scarce Swifts.
On Day 11 it was very early up to get to Mount Gorongosa. It was time to look for Green-headed Oriole. The walk up the mountain didn’t deliver many birds. Once inside the forest we suddenly had a lot of birds with Swynnerton’s Robin, Livingstone’s Turaco, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon
I just returned from a 2 week trip with clients to the Eastern Panorama route and Kruger Park. We started off in Beaufort West with some Karoo birding and I showed my clients Black Harrier, Greater Kestrel, Ludwig’s Bustard, Karoo Korhaan, Large-billed Lark, Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Tractrac Chat, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Chat Flycatcher and Larklike Bunting.
Next morning we left for Winburg where we stayed again at Bell’s Pass Guest Farm which is a very good stopover. Most notable birds along road were Jackal Buzzard, good numbers of Blue Crane between Richmond and Hanover, a group of Blue Korhaans about 15 km before Hanover and Eastern Clapper Lark. We made a stop at Gariep Dam and added inter alia Grey Tit, Short-toed Rock-Thrush, Lesser Honeyguide, Orange River White-eye, Layard’s Titbabbler and Pririt Batis.
North of Gariep we saw 2 Secretarybirds and north of Bloemfontein another Black Harrier as well as many “Short-tailed” Long-tailed Widowbirds. As I said Bell’s Pass GH is a very good stopover and we were greeted by some White-fronted Bee-eaters on the Vet River, Red-throated Wryneck close to the house, calling Crested and Black-collared Barbets and Swainson’s Spurfowl.
The next day we had quite a longish drive to Dullstroom and were early morning surprised by the view of a Grass Owl. A dam north of Kroonstad had Southern Pochard, SA Shellduck, Great Crested Grebe and Red-billed Teal. On the way to Heidelberg we spotted some Chestnut-backed Sparrowlarks and in Middelburg Afr Wattled Lapwing.
We arrived just before dark at Schaefer’s Halt Lodge north of Dullstroom. Some were lucky to spotted Southern Balb Ibis flying over. The lodge is very good with all the necessary equipment and the next morning the area was alive with birds. Birding around the lodge provided Red-throated Wryneck, Cape Rock Thrush, Kurrichane Thrush, Long-crested Eagle, Spectacled Weaver, Streaky-headed Seed-eater, Hamerkop and Lesser Striped Swallow.
We took a gravel road to Steenkampsberg, but were not very successful except for 5 Cape Vultures soaring overhead. We passed across a very misty Long Tom Pass and could add a Buff-streaked Chat. In Sabie we visited first Bridal Veil waterfall and on the way saw Forest Buzzard, African Firefinch, Cape Batis, Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler and Drakensberg Prinia. A visit to Lone Creek waterfall didn’t bring any new birds but the waterfall is spectacular.
For the next 2 nights we stayed at Panorama Chalets near Graskop with a marvelous view over the Graskop Gorge. We were the next morning overwhelmed by birds in the camp including Olive Bush-shrike, Chorister Robin-chat, Olive Woodpecker, Drakensberg Prinia, Purple-crested Turaco, Dark-capped Yellow-warbler and Black-headed Oriole. The next morning we saw African Olive Pigeon, Tambourine and Lemon Dove, Black Saw-wing, Swee Waxbill and Knysna Turaco.
A drive to Pelgrimsrust and down to Bourke’s Luck produced Long-billed Pipit, African Firefinch, Drakensberg Prinia and some more common birds. Bourke’s Luck potholes hosted Mocking Cliff-chat, Ground-scraper Thrush, Afr Pied Wagtail and a soaring Afr Fish-Eagle. Returning to Graskop we had Buff-streaked Chat, Wailing Cisticola, Gurney’s Sugarbird and Greater Double-collared Sunbird.
The next day we went down to Swadini via JG Strijdom Tunnel. Michael wasn’t at the Taita spot, but the lady said that she saw it that morning. We looked around all the rocks and cliffs and then it flew in, landed on a rock and gave us good scope views.
Swadini was very quiet for such a lovely spot and except the Collared and Amethyst Sunbirds, not many birds. The place that was previously alive with birds’ sounds like a desert with not even a Fork-tailed Drongo hunting over the lawns. No signs of Afr Finfoot after the January floods that ripped away all vegetation along the river banks.
The area around the Info centre produced Golden-breasted Bunting, White-crested Helmet-shrike, Chinspot Batis and Red-headed Weaver. Back in camp we saw Ashy Flycatcher and Red-capped Robin-chat and have lovely views of one of the resident African Crowned Eagles. The next morning we walked the camp and were again surprised by the lack of birds in camp. Almost no hornbills, drongoes, starlings or shrikes and we were lucky to find an odd Black-collared Barbet, Puffback and White-bellied Sunbird. We heard a Trumpeter Hornbill calling up the mountain.
We left Swadini for Kruger via Phalaborwa gate. On the way to Hoedspruit we saw Sth White-crowned Shrike, Striped Kingfisher and Common Scimitarbill. Once inside the Kruger Park we started picking up the birds – Bateleur, Tawny & Martial Eagle, Lappet-faced Vulture, Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark, Double-banded Sandgrouse and Magpie Shrike. We were heading for Sirheni Bush Camp north of Shingwedzi. Close to the turn off to the camp we found a couple of Temminck’s Coursers.
Although it is very dry around Sirheni, it is a beautiful camp and one not to be missed. We were greeted at the gate with a flock of Retz’ Helmet Shrike and in the river in front of the chalets was a pair of Saddle-billed Storks, Goliath Heron and Afr Fish-Eagle. Red-capped (Natal) Robin-chats were all over the camp. Lions were roaring the whole night around the camp and the next morning we got a young male just beyond the river. Proceeding with the river road south we spotted Little Bee-eater of which there was very few, heard Brown-headed Parrot but couldn’t see them, Mosque Swallow, Pearl-spotted Owl, White-throated Robin-chat, Green Pigeon and a beautiful pair of Verreaux’s Eagle Owl taking a snapping in a tree.
On the way to Babalala picnic site we had Cinnamon-breasted Bunting and closer to Babalala a Shrika and Martial Eagle. Leaving the picnic site we saw Cutthroat Finch with a flock of Red-billed Queleas.
Next day we went down south to Mopani and found Dark Chanting Goshawk and several Pearl-spotted Owls along the way to Shingwedzi. We were amazed to see that the Kanniedood Dam is almost totally dry. We found the normal birds along the dam and a lioness blocking the road. Towards Mopani we had Afr Hawk Eagle, Ground Hornbill and Red-crested Korhaan. A drive to the Mooiplaas windmill produced Bateleur, hundreds of Chestnut-backed Sparrowlarks, Paradise Whydah, Kittlittz’s Plover and excellent views of a male Cheetah sitting on the signpost calling for a mate. There were also several Temminck’s Coursers feeding in the open. The river below the bird hide gave Green-backed Heron, a family group of Black Crake and Tawny-flanked Prinia.
Next day it was very cloudy with a cold front pushing in and we went to the Stapelkop Dam west of the camp. Along the way we found Brown Snake Eagle, Purple Roller, Brubru, Melba Finch and Red-billed Oxpecker. The hide at the Pioneer Dam didn’t has many water birds as the water is too high, but we saw Grey-headed Bush-shrike and Long-billed Crombec. On the way back to camp we had thrilling views of a Leopard walking along the road and we could follow it for some distance. We also had an exciting kill when a juvenile Martial Eagle swooped down from the sky and landed in the grass, just to see that it helped itself with a Natal Francolin chick.
Moving down to Orpen we saw more Ground Hornbill, Secretarybird and Yellow-billed Oxpecker. Near Ngotso Dam we found more Temminck’s Courser, an out of range Red-headed Finch, Wattled Starling and Black-chested Snake-Eagle. The road towards Satara delivered Kori Bustard and our first White Rhino.
At Satara a little Scops Owl got itself a roosting place near the shop and attracted lots of people. A juvenile African Harrier-Hawk was inspecting the trees with its legs for something to eat and at Nsemani Dam we had a couple of Wooly-necked and Saddle-billed Stork. It seems that all the Senegal Lapwings which are always near Orpen have moved to the coast as we couldn’t find any.
Orpen camp was also quite, but the next morning the birds suddenly come awake. Sunbirds were in the tree with flowers including White-bellied, Marico & Collared. Chinspot Batis and Grey Tit-Flycatcher enjoyed an early bird party. Leeupan had Fulvous and White-faced Duck, while closer to Skukuza we found Trumpeter Hornbill and Lappet-faced Vulture.
Berg-en-Dal has the best camp birding and a walk along the perimeter of the camp gave Terrestrial Brownbul, Jameson’s Firefinch, Bronze Mannikin, Red-faced Cisticola, Ashy Flycatcher, Green Woodhoopoe, Purple-crested Turaco and White-browed Robin-chat. Inside the camp we had Yellow-breasted Apalis, Grey-Tit Flycatcher, White-browed Robin-chat, Brubru and a beautiful Large-spotted Genet.
We left Kruger for the long journey back home with the most worthwhile birds 2 Balb Ibisses near Vrede, a couple of Blue Korhaans a stay over at the small town of Paul Roux which is very good, a Lanner Falcon, Secretarybirds, a Double-banded Courser with a group of Blue Cranes and a last lifer for some people, Pale-winged Starlings.
We had 293 bird species from Beaufort West till back here and 33 mammal species. Interesting was the quietness of the birds especially in Kruger where even the Orange-breasted Bush-shrike and Brubru hardly respond to the calls.
More exciting bird trips coming up next year.
I returned from a trip with a South African and his 2 friends from the UK on a round abound through the Tanqua, Bushmanland, Kalahari and Namaqualand. We saw 188 bird and 26 mammal species.
We started off in Cape Town and travel to the Tanqua, picking up most of the specials of the area like Karoo, Spike-heeled and Red-capped Lark, Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Tractrac & Karoo Chat, Layard’s Titbabbler, Cape Sugarbird, Namaqua Sandgrouse with chicks, White-throated Canary and a flock of not less than 50 Pin-tailed Whydahs (male & females) together.
A stop at the Oudebaaskraal Dam in Tanqua Nat Park produced Great Crested, Black-necked & Little Grebes, Hamerkop, Afr Spoonbill and Greater Flamingo together with a couple duck species.
Raptors on the first day included Secretarybird, Jackal Buzzard, African Harrier-Hawk and Greater Kestrel.
We stayed Paulshoek in Tanqua with beautiful sunset and millions of stars. A Spotted Eagle Owl entertained us in the early morning with its song.
Day 2 was set of early on drive in the park and adding Karoo Korhaan, Rufous-eared Warbler and Karoo Eremomela to the list. On the way to Calvinia we saw more Secretarybirds as well as a magnificent Martial Eagle soaring, Booted Eagle, Namaqua Doves and hundreds of Yellow Canary.
A stop at Calvinia’s nature reserve delivered another Martial Eagle and Grey-backed Cisticola, while the dam hosted SA Shelduck, White-breasted Cormorant and Southern Pochard. We proceeded to Brandvlei in very hot weather and were surprised by 9 Blue Cranes on a wheat field near the old Sak River Station.
We stayed at Oom Bennas Guest House along the road to Kenhardt. It can be highly recommended as it is well equipped with friendly hosts and the whole farm available for birding. This area got some rain a week or so before our visit and that makes the birds more active. The dam close to the guest house had some water and hosted African Spoonbill, Spur-winged Goose, Afr Sacred Ibis, Yellow-billed and SA Shelduck, Grey Heron and in the late afternoon, even a Black Stork.
A drive on the farm delivered Scaly-feathered Finch, Double-banded Courser, Ludwig’s Bustard, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Dusky Sunbird and Bradfield’s (Sabota) Lark.
On the way to Kenhardt we found the first Sociable Weaver nests which were amazing for my clients. Such a heep of grass hanging from a pole or tree!! A stop at Kenhardt’s sewage works add Pied Avocet, Cape Teal, Kittlitz’s Plover, Chat Flycatcher and Black-chested Prinia to name a few.
We stayed at Kalahari Monate Lodge near Spitskop Game Reserve outside Upington. It has lovely facilities with Kalahari birds such as Crimson-breasted Shrike and Red-headed Finch on your doorstep. A visit to Die Eiland to show my clients the longest date lane gave us Orange River White-eye, Karoo Thrush and Black-throated Canary.
Before we proceed to the Kgalagadi Park the next morning, we visited the Spitskop Game Park. We saw lots of Lark-like Buntings, Northern Black Korhaan, Lesser Grey Shrike, Eastren Clapper and Fawn-coloured Lark, Kalahari Scrub-robin, Black-eared Sparrowlark and Kori Bustard.
We arrived at Twee Rivieren after midday and on an afternoon drive collected more Secretarybirds, the first of hundreds of Kori Bustards inside the park, a pair of Spotted Eagle Owls, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and the wonderful sighting of a Leopard in a tree next to the road. On the way back to camp we had a couple of Burchell’s Sandgrouses in the road.
The next morning we went to Nossob camp for a 3 night stay. En route we had good views of an adult Verreaux’s Eagle Owl with a big chick, 3 African Wild Cats chasing each other, lots of Fawn-coloured Larks, a Gabar Goshawk chasing off a Lanner Falcon, an Eurasian Hobby near Leeuwdril windmill, a couple of Zitting Cisticolas displaying in tall grass which almost forms a small wet area after the rain next to the road and beautiful Tawny Eagles of all colour variation. Near the Melkvlei picnic site we found a juvenile African Harrier-Hawk and some Black-chest Snake Eagles. We also found 2 Ludwig’s Bustard accompanying some Kori Bustards.
At Dikbaardskolk picnic site tens of Yellow-billed Kites came to drink at a pool in the Nossob River. The waterhole at Nossob camp hosted even more Yellow-billed Kites, but also some Abdim’s and White Storks. Nossob camp had all the locals including Pearl-spotted Owlet, Common Scimitarbill and Yellow-billed Hornbill.
To the north of Nossob camp the veld is lush and except for lots of Kori Bustards (sometimes up to 10 birds together), we had Red-necked Falcon, Brubru, a surprise of 8 Red-billed Teals in the middle of the road, Cardinal Woodpecker, more than 50 Red-footed Falcons with a few Amur Falcons and Bateleurs.
I have just returned from a 2 week trip with clients to the Eastern Cape. That was my first trip into that area after a long time and I was really surprise by the birds and environment. It was pretty dry with very little rain that has fallen and some migrants were substantially absent. We managed to record 295 species of birds and 34 mammal species.
We sat off from Beaufort West early morning with a chilly southwesterly wind blowing. Not far out of Beaufort West we picked up our first Ludwig’s Bustard and Namaqua Sandgrouse which gave excellent views.
A quick detour through Aberdeen to look at the historic buildings delivered Eur Bee-eater, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Willow Warbler and Grey-headed Sparrow. We continued to Addo and picked up along the way Jackal Buzzard, Sth Black Korhaan and Mountain Wheatear.
We stayed at Avoca River Cabins which is beautiful situated on the banks of the Sundays River. It is about 20 km from Addo Nat Park and as it is on a working farm, the lodge itself hosts a variety of birds. The accommodation is very good and comfortable. Contact www.avocariver.co.za; e-mail: email@example.com; tel +27(0)42 - 234 0421 ; Fax: 086-6961-865
We stayed for 3 nights and recorded inter alia Afr Palm Swift, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Green Woodhoopoe, Willow Warbler, Burchell’s Coucal, Lesser Honeyguide, Afr Black Duck and Terrestrial Brownbul on the premises.
The 2nd day was spent in Addo Nat Park where the best birding place was the rest camp. Outside birds were scarce and we saw more elephants and kudu’s than birds. Birds around the rest camp were Southern Tchagra, Brimstone Canary, Lesser Striped Swallows, Pearl-breasted Swallows, Green-spotted Dove and Greater Double-collared Sunbird. Towards the Hapoor Dam we saw Black Cuckooshrike, Black-crowned Tchagra, Booted Eagle and Cardinal Woodpecker.
The 3rd day was spent in the Port Elizabeth area with Paul Martin, local guide, (www.birdtours.co.za.; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel: 041 4665698; Cell: 073 2524111) and we had a marvelous amount of birds. We first went to the Tankatara Salt Pans and adjacent area. Spectacled Weaver, Horus Swift, Chestnut-banded Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Black-necked Grebe and Greater Flamingo were around the pans. Into the grassveld area we added Cloud Cisticola, Blue Crane, Sth Black Korhaan, a displaying Denham’s Bustard, a Greater Honeyguide sitting on a fence, Rufous-naped Lark, Red-throated Wryneck and Eur Bee-eater to name a few. A visit to the old bridge over the Sundays River produced more Horus Swift, Cardinal Woodpecker, Black Sawwing, Common Sandpiper and Diderick Cuckoo.
From here we went to the Island Forest. The drizzle cleared by now and we could spot Black-bellied Starling, Blue-mantled Flycatcher, Cinnamon Dove, Forest Buzzard, Collared Sunbird, Dark-backed Weaver, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Olive Bush Shrike and Emerald Cuckoo. A visit to Cape Recife gave Sandwich, Common, Swift and a couple of Roseate Tern, a Sooty Shearwater diving behind the waves and Black Oystercatcher.
Our last stop for the day was the Swartkops Salt Works where we saw a variety of waders like Bar-tailed Godwit, Greater Sand Plover, Lesser Flamingo, Little & Common Tern and Eur Curlew. An excellent day around PE with Paul!
Next morning we headed north to East London and close to Addo a black morph Jacobin Cuckoo was sitting on the telephone line. Close to Graham’s Town a pair of Black Eagles was soaring overhead. We decided to visit the Great Fish River NR, but birds were not that great, may be due to the drought. The roads in the reserve are also not tourism friendly and we had to turn back at the Great Fish River. Good birds in the reserve were Buffy Pipit, Red-necked Francolin, Red-billed Oxpecker, Black Cuckoo, Spectacled Weaver, Water Thick-knee, Afr Pied Wagtail and Dark-backed Weaver.
In East London we stayed at Vincent Valley Lodge which is situated next to a beautiful gorge with indigenous vegetation. The accommodation is very good but probably not for elderly people as it have a lot of steps to climb up and down. Contact www.vvl.co.za.;e-mail: email@example.com; tel 043 726 3131; Fax: 043 727 0379.
Yellow Weavers are nesting in the garden, while you often see Trumpeter Hornbill flying across the gorge. Black-headed Oriole, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Sombre Greenbul and Southern Boubou were all heard calling out of the forest, while during the night Afr Scops Owl called.
Next morning we went to the Nahoon NR in company with local birders, Ken & Gertie Griffith. We had an excellent time during the few hours that the weather allowed us to bird. We started off with Bronze manikin, Amethyst Sunbird, Black Cuckoo, Olive Thrush, Grey Sunbird, Brown Scrub-robin, Cape Baits, Red-capped Robin-chat and Orange-breasted Bush Shrike to name a few. At the bird hide we had good views of Pintailed Whydah, Village Weaver, Dusky Indigobird, while a Barratt’s Warbler was calling in the nearby thickets. Unfortunately it started raining before we could get it out. We also had excellent views of a Knysna Woodpecker in the reserve.
A visit to Quenera lagoon didn’t deliver most birds except some waders like Grey Plover, Common Ringed Plover and Great White Egret. We went to Ken’s garden where we had excellent views of the Magpie Mannikins at his feeder, a lifer for all of us and a long sought bird for me. There was also Bronze Mannikin, Black Flycatcher, Thick-billed Weaver and Bronze Mannikin. The rest of the day was taken up by the rain.
Day 6 we headed up north to Rhodes. It was still raining and we hope for a bit clear skies. We traveled with the N2 towards Butterworth and turned off to Tsomo, Engcobo and Elliot. This road is a good tar road and really quiet with beautiful scenery. Close to Tsomo the rain stopped and we started picking up birds again which includes Ground Woodpecker, Mountain Wheatear, Steppe Buzzard, Long-tailed Widowbird and Cape Longclaw. Close to Elliot we had close up views off 2 Tawny Eagles, Steppe Buzzard and Yellow-billed Kite feeding at newly hatch termites. We found some Denham’s Bustard patrolling the fields, an Afr Fish Eagle perching on a tree and Piet-my-Vrou’s calling every where in the thickets.
North of Elliot we had good views of Cape Griffons soaring overhead with Alpine Swift and a Jackal Buzzard. A stop at a dam along the road produced Cape Canary, Secretarybird walking in a distance, Yellow-billed Duck, Red-billed Teal, Southern Pochard and Red-collared Widowbird. On top of Barkly Pass we found our first Grey Crowned Cranes. Between Barkly East and Rhodes we had more Mahems, 12 Cape Griffons feeding on a sheep carcass Grey-winged Francolin and lots of Yellow Bishops.
Rhodes is a very quiet town surrounded by beautiful mountains. Within an hour you can walk all the streets in town in safety. We stayed in self-catering units of Rhodes Hotel which is comfortable although it needs a bit of maintenance. (Contact www.rhodeshotel.co.za; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; tel 045 974 9305 ; Fax : 045 974 9308.) Birds in town are Red-eyed Dove, Olive Thrush, Streaky-headed Seed-eater, Red-winged Starling, Cape Weaver, Grey-headed Sparrow, Piet-my-Vrou and Southern Boubou. We saw a couple of times Black Eagles soaring overhead.
The next morning we headed out towards Naudesnek Pass for the big specials. We quickly picked up Drakensberg Prinia, Afr Pipit and an Afr Black Duck in a little stream. The first part of the pass was quiet as the mist was lifting, but when the sun break through we picked them up: Sentinel Rock Thrush feeding chicks, Sickle-winged Chat, Wailing Cisticola, Drakensberg Siskin, the big one – a couple of Mountain Pipits, and the people could clearly see the difference with the Afr Pipit of earlier, Long-billed Pipit, Large-billed Lark, a good view of a flying Bearded Vulture and then a couple of pairs of performing Drakensberg Rockjumpers. At one stage there were 4 males competing with each other for the females. What a spectacular sighting!! On the way back we saw some Banded Martins.
We spend the afternoon going north towards Tiffendell (for the record - that resort has closed down and that has a huge influence on Rhodes tourism) and found i.e. more Black Eagles, Afr Black Swift, Malachite Sunbird to name a few.
Next morning we took the road to Queenstown and along the road had excellent views of more Mahems, Eastern Longbilled Lark, Blue Korhaan and Cape Griffons. Just north of Elliott we saw some White-winged Terns over a dam and Spur-winged Geese. We decided to go to Gatbergsvlei to look for the Wattled Cranes and were not disappointed. We had brilliant scope views of 3 of these magnificent birds, but the vlei also teemed with Mahems, ducks, Sacred Ibis and other water birds. Cloud Cisticola and Common Quail were calling all over and a Purple Heron shared the vlei with Grey & Black-headed Heron.
Just east of Indwe we picked up our first SA Cliff Swallows and between Dordrecht and Queenstown we saw 6 more Blue Korhaans very close to the road. In Queenstown we stayed at Imvani Country Lodge about 25 km south of town. It is a good lodge with excellent food and very comfortable. (Contact www.wheretostay.co.za/imvani; e-mail: email@example.com;) If you have time you are free to explore the whole game farm on foot or bicycle. Suddenly the birds have changed and around the lodge we saw Afr Harrier-Hawk, Black-headed Oriole, Black sawing, Amethyst Sunbird, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Grey-backed Cisticola, Cardinal Woodpecker, Jacobin Cuckoo and Rufous-naped Lark.
Next morning we went to the Lawrence de Lange NR outside Queenstown. It seems to be a much underrated birding place, even by the local birds, but as I went to lots of reserves, this looks as one of the best run Municipality or provincial run nature reserves. I had to compliment the manager. Facilities are neat and clean, roads are in excellent condition, even better as some national parks’ roads and birding is also excellent. We started off with the regulars as we went up Madeira’s Mountain and then added Ground Woodpecker, Chestnut-vented Titbabbler, Cape Rock Thrush and then on top of the mountain the surprise, 2 Mountain Pipits. Knowing that it is far out of its known range, we carefully went through the possible pipits. At the end we first thought it may be just a strange looking Long-billed Pipit, so I played the call with no reaction. I then played the call of the Mountain Pipit and immediately it jumped out and started calling back. Probably the most worthwhile record of the trip! Down at the plains area of the reserve, we saw Plain-backed Pipit and Spotted Thick-knee. At the picnic site we added Black Cuckooshrike and Lesser Honeyguide.
The next day we joined Kate Webster on birding along the Black Kei River and what an experience! Although the river had only a couple of pools, birding was excellent with Pearl-breasted Swallow, Giant Kingfisher, Crowned Hornbill, Mocking Cliff-chat, Knysna Woodpecker, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Afr Fish Eagle, Cape Griffon, calling Lazy Cisticola, Afr Quailfinch, Chinspot Batis, Golden-breasted Bunting, Black Cuckoo and a large breeding colony of Cattle Egrets, Red Cormorants, Afr Spoonbill and Sacred Ibis.
Hereafter we headed for Hogsback which was totally covered in fog as we arrived. We stayed at Never Daunted Self Catering which has a variety of units situated inside the forest with the forest birds around you (if it is not raining) Contact http://www.hogsbackinfo.co.za/daunted; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; tel 0459621026 / 0824104241 ; Fax: 0865022877. The Knysna Turacoes were not very happy with the weather either and the Piet-my-Vrou was looking for his wife. We hoped for better weather the next day and I was really surprise as I woke up the next morning at 5am and saw that the mist have lifted. We went birding and marked Olive Bushshrike, Swee Waxbill, Dusky Flycatcher, Puffback and Rameron Pigeon to name a few. After only 3 hours the mist moved in again and made birding very difficult. We had glimpses in the mist of flying Cape Parrots and a Orange Ground-thrush was calling, but invisible as the mist allowed only about 2 meters sight. Then it started raining and we had to call it a day.
It was still raining the next morning as we traveled from Hogsback to Mountain Zebra Nat Park. We were very disappointed with Hogsback’s weather but will hopefully have better weather next time. It was cloudy and rains on and off all the way to almost Cradock. A little dam below Hogsback’s mountain produced Afr Spoonbill, White-winged Terns and Yellow-billed Duck. In Adelaide we saw Afr Paradise Flycatcher and Dusky Indigobird. The sewage works outside Bedford had a couple of water birds and at the Daggaboer Farm Stall a Greater Honeyguide was calling.
When we entered Mountain Zebra Nat Park we found Eastern Clapper Lark and many Chat Flycatchers. The smaller scrub hosted Rufous-eared Warbler, Sickle-winged Chat and Scaly-feathered Finch. A drive to the Rooiplaat area produced Long-billed & Buffy Pipit, Eastern Longbilled & Spike-heeled Lark, Blue Crane and many Zitting Cisticolas. The facilities in Mountain Zebra are excellent with very friendly people. Contact www.sanparks.org/mountainzebra.
The next morning Grey-winged Francolin was breaking the dawn chorus and also found Golden-breasted Bunting, Streaky-headed Seed-eater, Short-toed Rock Thrush which was a bit of surprise, Grey Tit, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Fairy Flycatcher, Pririt Batis, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Cloud Cisticola and Large-billed Lark. A juvenile Martial Eagle sat at the Doornhoek Dam and we found a beautiful Puff adder drinking and bathing in a small puddle in the road.
The next morning when we left we had a flock of African Firefinches next to the road. On the way to Nieu Bethesda we saw tens of Blue Cranes, a couple of Ludwig’s Bustards, Karoo Korhaans, Ground Woodpecker, Black-headed Canaries, Secretarybird and Eur Bee-eater. At Graaff Reinet we paid a visit to the Valley of Desolation and will stay an impressive sighting. The thunder clouds were building up and we had only time to have a quick look at the dam. Birds included Namaqua Warbler, Willow Warbler, Cardinal Woodpecker, SA Shellduck, Southern Tchagra and Common Sandpiper.
This wonderful trip ended with lovely thunder clouds and rain over the Karoo.