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: firstname.lastname@example.org; 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: email@example.com; 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: firstname.lastname@example.org; 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: email@example.com; 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: firstname.lastname@example.org;) 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: email@example.com; 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.
Die pad tussen Carnarvon en Prieska (R386) is nie ‘n pad wat dikwels deur toeriste gery word nie. Die pad kronkel vir 165 km tussen plase deur, oor heuwels en deur droë rivierlope, meestal sonder boompies. Dit is ‘n pad wat meesal deur die boere van die omgewing gebruik word, maar selfs hulle het minder geword deur die jare. Daarom is die plaaslike munisipaliteit ook nie so geneë om die pad dikwels te skraap nie.
Nietemin is dit ‘n pad met pragtige omgewingstonele, veral na reën, wanneer die area lower groen is met sy tipiese tafelkoppies. Damme is skielik vol water en ook vol interessante voëls. Mense hier, die wat nog hier bly, is vriendelik en gulhartig, bly om ander mense te sien en te gesels. Dit is ‘n pad met interessante plaasname waaroor jy net kan gis soos Minaskolk, Olifantskop, Salem, Renosterkolk, Carelsgraf, Constantia, Buffelboud en Geelbospan. Carelsgraf het ontstaan toe Carel Kruger en sy broer gedurende 1783 in die omgewing was. Carel het gedurende 1791 ‘n olifant in die omgewing gekwes en die olifant het hom dood getrap waarna hy hier begrawe is. Vandaar die interessante naam en dit verduidelik ook waar Olifantskop vandaan kom. ‘n Regte wilde wêreld vroeër!!
Hierdie pad is ook ‘n baie interessante voëlkykpad, lekker stil en rustig, min verkeer en jy vergeet gou van die stede se gewoel. Bleeksing-, edel- en grootrooivalke vorm die meerderheid van roofvoëls, maar daar is ook enkele witkruisarendneste in die kranse van die tafelkoppe. Breëkoparende verkies weer die pale van die kraglyne of die bloekombome op die verlate plaaswerwe. Die Karoo se vaalbruinvoëltjies (Little brown jobs) is egter waarvoor jy hierdie pad sal kom ry. Lewerikke is volop met Karoolangbek-, vlakte-, dikbek-, Sabota- (met die dikbek), rooikop-, vaalbruin- grysrug- en swartoorlewerikke wat voorkom.
Ander Karoovoëls sluit in grootvlieëvanger, Karoospekvreter, geel-, witkeel- en swartkopkanaries, vaalstreepkoppies, rooioorlangstertjies, groenbos- en geelpensbossangers, Kaapse kapokvoëltjies, woestyntinktinkie, Namakwaduifie en grystjeriktik. In somer kan jy uitkyk vir Europese byvreters, rooirug- en gryslaksmanne, Europese en swartwindswaels, terwyl sommige van die bruggies ook familieswaels huisves. Noord van Constantia kan jy ook begin kyk vir baardmannetjies en versamelvoëls.
Die gronddamme en panne langs die pad is die interessante plekke na die reëns want hier kan enige iets opduik. Dit bly nog altyd ‘n raaisel hoe watervoëls so vinnig uitvind van ‘n dam wat water kry nadat die dam vir maande of selfs jare leeg was. Sulke damme en panne is naby die plase Olifantskop, Soutpan, Carelsgraf en Constantia. Kyk hier uit vir groot- en kleinflaminke, teeleendjies, Kaapse slopeende, kopereende, glansibisse, bloubek- en bruineende, kormorante, lepelaars en elsies. Honderde waadvoëls vergader ook hier in die somer wat insluit klein-, geelbors- en krombekstrandlopers, groenpoot- en bosruiters en kemphaan. GROOT VERSOEK – MOET ASB NIE OOR HEININGS KLIM SONDER TOESTEMMING NIE!!! Ongelukkig is daar niks wat ‘n vriendelike boer so vining in ‘n bed…..de boer verander as iemand wat oor sy heinings klim nie.
Moet ook nie vergeet van die groot grondlewende voëls wat jy hierlangs kan kry nie soos gompou, sekretarisvoël, witooievaar (somer), vaal- en noordelike swartkorhaan en selfs honderde Ludwigse poue.
Ongeveer 60 km suid van Prieska is daar ‘n groot soutpan wat bewerk word met ‘n horde windpompe wat baie voëls huisves wanneer dit water het. Vra toestemming by die kantoor en gaan bekyk die pragtige voëls wat in die Karoo kom kuier het.
Sit in die oggend by ‘n eensame windpomp met ‘n lekkende dammetjie en terwyl jy zip aan die koffie, kyk hoe honderde kelkiewyne neerdaal om te kom water drink. Jy sal terselfdertyd ook ‘n klomp ander Karoovoëls sien.
Wanneer jy weer die rus, vrede en prag van die Karoo wil geniet, gaan ry die R386!
I returned from another excellent trip to Botswana and the Delta with clients during which we picked up 365 species. Due to a lack of early rains in Botswana, a couple of migrants like Eur Roller, Black Coucal, Amur Falcon, Dusky Lark and some cuckoos were still absence.
We started off with good Karoo birding and species like Karoo Longbilled Lark, Double-banded Courser, Karoo Korhaan and Black-eared Sparrowlark. Between Beaufort West and Victoria West good birds were Booted Eagle, Hamerkop, Jackal Buzzard and Chat Flycather. The area around V West hosted Karoo Korhaan, a flock of Lesser Kestrels and Grey-backed Cisticola. The dam had Glossy Ibis, Great Crested Grebe and a number of the common duck species.
Between V West and Britstown we had more Black-eared Sparrowlarks and got our first SA Cliff Swallows. Proceeding to Kimberley we added inter alia Blue Crane, White-throated Canary, Secretarybird, Large-billed Lark, Greater Kestrel, Ludwig’s Bustard, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Eur Bee-eater, Kalahari Scrub-robin and Red-breasted Swallow.
In Kimberley we picked up Bradfield’s Swift at the Big Hole together with Alpine, White-rumped and Little. Kamfers Dam is still a mesh up. Flamingo numbers declined due to the high water and the best birds are between the N1 and railway line with Purple & Squacco Heron, Glossy Ibis and White-faced Duck. It seems it will only be time during the raining season before the railway line will also be flooded and may be something will then happen.
Dronfield where we stayed at a number of birds to our list including Brubru, Banded Martin, Fawn-coloured Lark, Orange River Francolin, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Barn Owl, Jacobin Cuckoo and Kori Bustard.
The pan in the Dry Harts River south of Vryburg still has a bit of water and a lot of water birds congregated here which includes Great White, Yellow-billed and Little Egrets, Purple Heron, White-winged Tern, Spur-winged Goose, White-faced Duck, Ruff, Common Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper. North of Vryburg we picked up a female Red-footed Falcon with Lesser Kestrel, Lanner Falcon and Lesser Grey Shrike.
We stayed at the Mafikeng NR and birding during the late afternoon was good with a pair of Coqui Francolin, Long-tailed Paradise Whydah, Cape Longclaw, Barn Owl and Spotted Dikkop.
As we entered Botswana we were within a couple of kilos met by a Montagu’s Harrier swirling over the open fields. A flock of vultures towards Gaberone includes Lappet-faced, Cape and White-backed. The area towards Francistown was still very dry and very few birds over the midday.
Next stop was Woodlands Lodge outside Francistown and we had more birds along the Tati River including White-crowned Shrike, Willow Warbler, Greater & Lesser Honeyguide, Tropical Boubou, Jameson’s Robbin, Violet-backed Starling, Comb Duck, Black Cuckoo and Gabar Goshawk. Moving further north we were pleased to see that the Boulder Chats are still at the hills on the way to Nata. Other birds on the way include Tawny Eagle, Temminck’s Courser, Afr Cuckoo and Afr Hawk Eagle.
The 2 day stay at Kasane was a feast of birds with Collared Palm-thrush welcoming us at Water Lily Lodge. We went on a boat trip the next morning following by a game drive in Chobe Nat Park in the afternoon. Birds on the boat trip included Slaty Egret, Rock Pratincole, Long-toed Lapwing, Broad-billed Roller, Afr Skimmer, Collared Pratincole, Whiskered Tern, Black Kite and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. A visit to Mowana Lodge produced 7 sunbird species, Coppery, White-bellied, Shelley’s, Collared, Scarlet-chested, Amethyst and Purple-banded. There were also Nth Grey-headed Sparrow, Luapula Cisticola, White-backed Night Heron and Yellow White-eye. On the game drive we could add Bradfield’s Hornbill, Black-chested Snake-eagle, Common Cuckoo, Saddle-billed Stork and Barred Owl.
We moved to Caprivi and stayed at Island View Lodge we saw Schalow’s Turaco, Swamp Boubou, Ashy Flycatcher, Purple-banded Sunbird, Brown Firefinch, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Afr Quailfinch, Plain-backed Pipit and Rufous-bellied Heron. The pans around Kalizo Lodge teemed with birds including thousands of Openbill Storks, Pygmy Goose, Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans, tens of Black Herons and Slaty Egrets, hundreds of Marabou and Yellow-billed Storks, White-backed Duck, White-browed and Coppery-tailed Coucal, Brown Firefinch and Shelley’s Sunbird.
We moved to Mazambala Island Lodge in the Kwando River. We couldn’t pick up Arnott’s Chat and Racket-tailed Roller along the way. The Kwando delivered Rufous-bellied Heron, Meyer’s Parrot, Coppery, Purple-banded and Shelley’s Sunbird, Spectacled Weaver and Senegal Coucal. The trip through the Bwabwata Nat Park gave Purple Roller, Brown Snake-eagle, Cuckoo Hawk, Broad-billed Roller, Wood Pipit, Secretarybird, Bateleur and Dickinson’s Kestrel. Close to Divundu we had a beautiful sighting of 2 White-faced Owls with 2 juveniles in a tree, a pair of Eur Hobbies soaring overhead and Afr Harrier Hawk.
On the way towards Shankara Lodge we saw White-crested Helmet Shrike and where we found Rufous-bellied Tit also Brown-backed Honeybird. A distance further we found some Sharp-tailed Starling – even a lifer for me -, Striped Kingfisher, Red-chested Cuckoo and Red-footed Falcon. Shankara Lodge hosted Black Cuckoo, Giant Kingfisher, Square-tailed Nightjar and Sth Black Tit. The next morning on our way to Drotskys we saw Common Swifts, Mosque Swallows, Souza’s Shrike and Dark Chanting Goshawk.
A visit to Mahango Game Reserve produced the pair of Wattled Crane with a half-grown chick, Osprey, Slaty Egret, Double-banded Sandgrouse and Meve’s Starling.
At Drotskys we spent most of the day on the river and saw a good variety of birds including Grey-headed Kingfisher, Chirping Cisticola, White-backed Night Heron, Meyer’s Parrot, the first time I saw tens of Burchell’s Sandgrouses which come to the sand banks to drink, Pel’s Fishing Owl on two occasions, Osprey, Fulvous Duck, a lonely Ruddy Turnstone, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Little Bittern and Greater Swamp Warbler. We couldn’t find Lesser Jacana.
We moved from Drotskys to Maun finding Barred Wren-warbler, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Curlew Sandpiper and Wahlberg’s Eagle along the way. We stayed at Island Safari Lodge in Maun and were treated by a family of Allen’s Gallinule in the grass in front of the lodge. Pygmy Geese flew up and down the river.
After the last few years’ good rains the water is still flowing strongly out of the Delta and the Boteti River is flowing strongly towards Serowe. On the way to Palapye around the southern edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans gave Pied Babblers and Pink-billed Larks to add to the list. Beyond Palapye we saw a couple of Lesser Spotted Eagles which turned up after the previous day’s rain.
Back in SA we stayed over at Boereplaas Resort north of Vryburg. Here we had our last serious birding which includes Shaft-tailed Whydah, Barred Wren-warbler, Violet-eared Waxbill, Orange River White-eye, Red-billed Firefinch and more Orange River Francolins. Close to Hartswater we found our first Abdim’s Storks which arrived while we were in Botswana.
I just returned from an excellent trip to Botswana and Caprivi. We saw 381 species which includes a lot of rare birds not often seen. The rivers up north are already high (the Zambezi is 1,7 m higher than normally this time and the Kavango already 1 m higher as normally). Most of the rocks and sandbanks in these rivers are already covered by water and from here on birding on the rivers will become more difficult.
I picked up my clients in Cape Town on 2 Jan and on a hot summers day we proceeded to Beaufort West, adding along the way Karoo birds like Karoo Chat, Chat Flycatcher, Blue Crane, Pale-winged Starling, Layard’s Titbabbler and Black-headed Canary. They stayed at Beaufort Manor which has very comfortable chalets in the garden and which is highly recommended to birders. (www.beaufortmanor.co.za.; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Tel 023 4152175.)
We started the next morning at 5 am as we had a long drive to Mafikeng. In the cool morning birding was quite good with Ludwig’s Bustard, Martial Eagle, lots of Lesser Kestrels around Victoria West, SA Cliff Swallow, Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Lanner Falcon and Eastern Clapper Lark added on the way to Britstown.
From Britstown to Kimberley we saw Common Swift, Greater Kestrel breeding, an Eur Roller northeast of Strydenburg, Afr Palm & Bradfield’s Swifts in Hopetown, hundreds of Abdim’s Storks along the Orange and Riet Rivers, Yellow-crowned Bishop and good numbers of Amur Falcons & Lesser Kestrels around Modder River.
As we were leaving Kimberley just after midday, thunder clouds were rolling in and soon big drops were plunging on the road. We had a quick stop at Kamfers Dam where we added Lesser & Greater Flamingoes, Hottentot & Redbilled Teal, White-faced Duck and Glossy Ibis. Kamfers Dam’s water level was very high. Further along the road to Mafikeng we had Desert Cisticola, hundreds of Abdim’s Stork at Hartswater, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and White-backed Vulture.
We arrived at Mafikeng Nature Reserve just after 4 pm and met up with the other birder from Natal who joined us here for the trip. After we settled in, we went birding again and saw inter alia Marico Flycatcher, Tinkling Cisticola, Common Swift, Barred Wren-Warbler, Jacobin Cuckoo, Village Indigobird and Monotonous Lark inside the reserve. We stayed at Hunter’s Rest inside the reserve which is very comfortable accommodation. (www.tourismnorthwest.co.za/mafikeng ; e-mail: email@example.com; tel +27(0)18-381 5611/1411)
We left early the next morning for Botswana and crossed the border without any hassles. On the way to Gaberone we saw Groundscraper Thrush, more Abdim’s Storks, Lanner Falcon, Marico Sunbird and Rufous-naped Lark. We filled up with fuel in Gaberone and while we had breakfast we found a Black-throated Canary nest in the tree next to us – the male with a lovely black throat. Red-breasted Swallow was found just outside town.
New birds between Gaberone and Francistown were Redbilled Oxpecker, Tawny Eagle and Redbilled Buffalo Weaver. It was quite hot and birds along the road keep a low profile.
In Francistown we stayed at Woodlands 4x4 lodge outside the town on the road to Nata. (www.woodlandscampingbots.com; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ; tel. +267 244 0131). We had time to bird around the lodge in the afternoon and the next morning and saw Brown Snake-eagle, Golden-breasted Bunting, Orange-breasted Bush Shrike, Woodland Kingfisher, Black Cuckoo, Icterine & Willow Warbler, Greater Reed Warbler, Comb Duck and a juvenile Gabar Goshawk. This lodge is a regular stop for me and facilities are excellent.
The next morning we took the road from Francistown to Kasane. We couldn’t find the Boulder Chats north of Francistown, but had good sightings of Afr Golden Oriole and Afr Cuckoo. The road between Nata and Kazangula is still under construction and about 120 km is bad with lots of potholes and detours. Birding was also slow with a couple of Sth Carmine Bee-eaters in Nata and some Meyer’s Parrots and Plain-backed Pipits along the way. Near Pandamantenga we found about 15 Steppe Eagles in a ploughed field of which some were flying overhead and we saw our first Yellow-billed Oxpecker on the donkeys. We also had a couple of elephants in the road towards Kazangula.
In Kasane we stayed at Chobe Safari Lodge along the Chobe River. That is an excellent lodge, very neat and very professional staff. It is highly recommended. (www.chobesafarilodge.com; e-mail: email@example.com ; tel +267 6250 336) The next morning we went on a boat trip on the Chobe River which was excellent with lots of bird including Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Luapula Cisticola, Long-toed Lapwing, White-winged Tern, Lesser Jacana, Slaty Egret, Saddle-billed Stork, White-backed & Black-crowned Night Heron, Senegal Coucal, White-crowned Lapwing and Afr Skimmer. Hundreds of elephants came to the water and we had good sightings of huge crocodiles, Red Lechwes, Sable Antelope coming to drink and hippos. Inside the lodge gardens we saw Trumpeter Hornbill, Klaas’ Cuckoo and Collared Palm-Thrush.
Chobe Game Drive:
Yellow Wagtail, Red-billed Francolin, Bradfield’s Hornbill, Sth Black Flycatcher, Kori Bustard, Broad-billed Roller, Bateleur, Retz’ Helmet Shrike, Barred Owl.
Brown-throated Weaver, Nth Grey-headed Sparrow, Rock Pratincole, Brown Firefinch, Collared Palm-Thrush, Bronze Mannikin, Village Weaver, Coppery Sunbird, Swamp & Tropical Boubou
Kazangula / Lesoma:
Sth Ground Hornbill with juveniles, Little Bee-eater, White-browed Coucal.
Kasane to Katima Mulilo:
Martial Eagle, Sth Ground Hornbill, Trumpeter Hornbill, Broad-billed Roller, Lizard Buzzard, Sth Black Tit, Grey-hooded Kingfisher, Afr Golden Oriole, Greater Reed Warbler.
It is still the best birding place around Katima Mulilo.
Broad-billed Roller, Afr Pygmy Goose, Collared Pratincole, Afr Green Pigeon, Flappet Lark, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Senegal, Coppery-tailed, White-browed & Black Coucal, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Rufous-bellied Heron, Black-bellied Korhaan, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Marsh Owl, Square-tailed Nightjar with nest, Lesser Moorhen, Lesser Gallinule, African Crake, African Rail, White-backed Duck, Purple Indigobird, Shelly’s Sunbird, Hooded Vulture, Sand Martin.
Katima Mulilo to Ngepi:
Striped Kingfisher, Afr Cuckoo Hawk, Arnot’s Chat breeding at 70 km mark from Kongola and again 14 km before Kongola, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, and Afr Cuckoo.
Thick-billed Weaver, Chinspot Batis, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, White-browed Scrub-robin, White-bellied Sunbird, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Common House-martin.
Mahango Game Reserve:
The roads in Mahango are been upgraded and most of it is finished. It is now a pleasure to drive on them, even when it is wet. They still have to do the wetland part along the river.
Kori Bustard, Dwarf Bittern, Slaty Egret, Brown Firefinch, Olive-tree Warbler, Painted Snipe (pair), Lappet-faced Vulture, Yellow-billed & Saddle-billed Stork, Wood Pipit, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Sedge Warbler, Lizard Buzzard, White-crested Helmet-Shrike.
Sth Black Tit, Afr Golden Oriole, Rufous-bellied Tit, Purple Roller, Shelley’s Sunbird, Barred & Barn Owl, Grey-headed & Meyer’s Parrot, Souza’s Shrike, Black Cuckooshrike, Lesser Spotted Eagle.
Purple Heron, Sand Martin, Long-crested Eagle, Pel’s Fishing Owl (brilliant views), Long-toed Lapwing, Lesser Jacana, Greater Swamp Warbler, Osprey, Chirping Cisticola, Collared Sunbird, Barred Owl, Greater Honeyguide, Pygmy Goose, White-backed Night Heron.
Shakawe to Ghanzi:
Greater Honeyguide, Green & Wood Sandpiper together, Afr Cuckoo, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Afr Hawk Eagle, Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark, Pink-billed, Rufous-naped & Eastern Clapper Lark.
Thakadu Camp, Ghanzi:
Violet-eared Waxbill, Pririt Batis, Lesser Moorhen, African Crake, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Steppe & Lesser Spotted Eagle, Barred Wren-Warbler, Tinkling Cisticola.
Ghanzi to Vryburg:
Afr Hawk Eagle, Sth White-crowned Shrike, Tawny & Martial Eagle, Lappet-faced Vulture, Eur Golden Oriole, Gabar Goshawk, Dusky Lark.
Vryburg to Beaufort West:
Abdim’s Stork, White Stork, Karoo Lark, Secretarybird, Red-headed Finch, Black-eared Sparrowlark.
Karoo Nat Park:
Grey-backed & Black-eared Sparrowlark, Karoo Longbilled Lark, Bradfield’s Sabota Lark, Rufous-eared Warbler, Peregrine Falcon.
I recently returned from a trip through Botswana and Caprivi. In total we saw 384 species and most of the clients got a good number of lifers.
Leaving B/West we were shortly entertained by a Secretarybird and towards Victoria West we had Booted Eagle, Karoo Korhaan, Black-eared Sparrowlark and Lesser Kestrels. We made a breakfast stop at Victoria West dam where the water level is low and water birds abundant. Birds included Greater Flamingo, Curlew Sandpiper, Maccoa Duck, Black-crowned Night Heron, Purple Heron, Bar-tailed Godwit out of range, Black-necked & Great Crested Grebe and White-winged Terns.
Towards Hopetown we saw some SA Cliff Swallows, Greater Kestrel, Cape Glossy Starling, Sociable Weaver, White Stork and Kori Bustard. Just north of Hopetown a group of White-backed Vultures were feeding on a carcass.
First night, we stayed at Dronfield Game Ranch just north of Kimberley. This place has excellent accommodation and the birds are as good as well. We found Ashy Tit, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Spotted Flycatcher and Red-backed Shrike with ease. Other birds were Brubru, Black & African Cuckoo, Gabar Goshawk, Secretarybird, Violet-eared Waxbill and Burchell’s Sandgrouse.
Day 2 we proceeded north to Mafikeng and saw our first Abdim’s Storks near Hartswater. Mafikeng NR was good as ever with birds and specials included Crimson-breasted Shrike, Kalahari Scrub-robin, Crested Barbet, Temminck’s Courser, Coqui and Orange River Francolins, Plain-backed Pipit and Burchell’s Coucal. During the night we heard Rufous-cheeked Nightjar and Barn Owl.
On Day 3 we crossed the border into Botswana without problems to get to Francistown. Some birds along the way were Red-billed Oxpecker, Brown & Black-chested Snake Eagles, Wahlberg’s Eagle and Black-throated Canary.
Woodlands are a good overnight place with excellent facilities. Birding around the lodge is also productive with Black Cuckoo, Woodlands Kingfisher, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Orange-breasted Bush Shrike, Jacobin Cuckoo, Black-faced Waxbill, Piet-my-vrou, Monotonous Lark and Burnt-necked Eremomela.
Day 4 we were continuing to Kasane and Chobe Safari Lodge. We tracked down the Boulder Chat with ease and it gave us the best views I ever had. We also had Afr Golden Oriole, African Cuckoo, our first Lesser Spotted Eagle and some Shaft-tailed Whydah. Other birds included Ground Hornbill, Lanner Falcon and Bradfield’s Hornbill.
Chobe Safari Lodge is probably the best value for money in Kasane. I recommend that you buy the 2 or 3 day package they offer. Food is excellent and abundant, more than anyone can eat. Birding around the lodge is just excellent with White-browed Coucal, Collared Palm-Thrush, Brown Firefinch, Collared Sunbird, Schalow’s Turaco, Nth Grey-headed Sparrow, Trumpeter Hornbill and Meyer’s Parrot.
A morning boat trip delivered inter alia Rock Pratincole, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Long-toed Lapwing, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Black Heron, Slaty Egret and Goliath Heron. The afternoon game drive gave us good game including lions and birds like Lesser Spotted Eagle, Martial Eagle, Little Bee-eater, Carmine Bee-eater, Red-headed Weaver, Black Cuckooshrike, Amur & Red-necked Falcon and Levaillant’s Cuckoo.
A quick visit to Mowana Lodge produced beautiful sightings of Coppery & Purple-banded Sunbird, Greater Reed Warbler and Common Swift.
On Day 6 we moved across to Kalizo Lodge and along the road we saw Dark Chanting Goshawk, Bateleur, Broad-billed Roller and Shrika.
Kalizo stayed one of those must visit places in Caprivi. Good birds around here included Pygmy Goose, Whiskered Tern, Grey-rumped Swallow, White-backed Duck, White-crowned Lapwing, Golden Weaver, Black Coucal, Pallid Flycatcher, Red-necked Falcon, Lesser Gallinule, Comb Duck and Denham’s Bustard – a first for me up here.
My clients were overwhelmed by the Carmine Bee-eater colony and to get so close to these magnificent birds. Shelley Sunbird gave us an excellent display after a bit of struggle to find it.
Near Katima Mulilo we heard Emerald Cuckoo calling, got some White-helmet Crested Shrikes and Tawny Eagles. We also found the Arnot’s Chats at the regular spot but due to the demolishing of the natural bush, they will probably soon move far from the road.
Next stop was Shankara Lodge along the Kavango River. Birds around here included Violet-backed Starling, Golden-breasted Bunting, at least 3 Souza’s Shrikes, Sharp-tailed Starling, Bearded Woodpecker, Marico Sunbird, Steppe & Lesser Spotted Eagle and a Barred Owl in the garden.
From Shankara we moved back into Botswana to Drotsky Cabins. We first had a drive through Mahango Game Reserve where we saw the Wattled Cranes with its young chick, Meve’s Starling, Bradfield’s Hornbill and Red-billed Francolin.
The area around Drotskys teemed with birds which include Meyer’s Parrot, Afr Hawk Eagle, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Wood Owl, a beautiful Bat Hawk in the campsite and Brown-throated Weaver.
Next morning we were off on a boat trip with an excellent guide, Otto. Going north towards Shakawe we soon started collecting interesting birds with Chirping Cisticola, Greater Swamp Warbler, Sand Martin, African Skimmer, White-backed Night Heron and Pel’s Fishing Owl of which we had excellent views, Slaty Egret, great views of Lesser Jacana, Collared Pratincole, Grey-hooded Kingfisher and Osprey. We dipped on the Western Banded Snake Eagle.
After all the birds at Drotskys we moved to Maun. We picked, strangely enough, our first White-crowned Shrike up, some Yellow-billed Oxpeckers, Burchell’s Starling and Purple Roller. Near Sehitwa a group of Pink-baked and White Pelicans flew from the direction of Lake Ngami towards the delta.
In Maun we stayed at Crocodile Camp which offers good value for money. Most of the people went for a flight over the Delta which was quite an experience. We didn’t see many birds from that height, but saw some elephants and the beautiful mosaic patterns of the Delta.
Around the lodge we had Meyer’s Parrot, Comb Duck, Little Bittern, Allen’s Gallinule, Piet-my-vrou and Pygmy Goose.
We drove from Maun via Ghanzi to the Kalahari Rest near Kang. We didn’t pick new birds up along the road, but Kalahari Rest is beautifully set in Kalahari veld. Here we found Great Spotted Cuckoo, Great Sparrow, Barred Wren-warbler, Bearded Woodpecker, Burnt-necked Eremomela and Common Swift.
Next day we proceeded back to SA. We made a quick try for Short-clawed Lark towards Botsalano GR without success. The drive back to B/West added only Verreaux’s Eagle as new bird. Not was the people’s birding finished and a late afternoon drive at B/West produced Karoo Lark, Ludwig’s Bustard, Rufous-eared Warbler and Namaqua Sandgrouse.
What a fantastic trip!!
We were again visiting our wind farm site near Copperton during the first half of January 2013. Since our last visit the area had good rains and the veld is in an excellent condition.
On the way to Copperton we first stopped at the dam outside Victoria West. A lot of water birds on the dam like Maccoa Duck, Greater Flamingo, African Spoonbill, Cape Shoveller and some other ducks. A couple of White-winged Terns were hawking over the dam.
From Victoria West we took the gravel road via Vosburg to Prieska. Just remember that if you ever decided to bird in this area, the gravel roads are very bad. No repairs undertook since the first rains in October and definitely not recommended to sedan cars. Who can help us with the roads!!!? Outside town is lots of Lesser Kestrels feeding on all the insects in the lush veld. A pair of Verreaux’s Eagles soared over a dolerite hill and we saw a couple of Blue Cranes which you normally not find in this arid area. From time to time we saw Ludwig’s Bustards flying while Bradfield’s Sabota Larks perched all over on the old telephone wires to claim its territories.
At Copperton we saw our first Martial Eagle (a real beauty because it was a she) and a way out Lilac-breasted Roller. Larks are plentiful with Eastern Clapper, Bradfield’s Sabota, Spike-heeled, Fawn-coloured, Karoo Long-billed, Grey-backed Sparrow- and some Large-billed. For some or other reason the numbers of Stark’s and Black-eared Sparrowlarks have declined. Northern Black Korhaans are in its element and performing all over. We saw lots of Common Swifts in the early morning, foraging over the veld to disappear just as quickly as it arrived.
The pair of Verreaux’s Eagles that nest close by on a Sociable Weaver nest was still around the nest. Unfortunately according to the farm owner, someone picked up the chick in the road with an injured wing. Pygmy Falcons are common at the lots of Sociable Weaver nests.
On the way back we decided to take the gravel road to Carnarvon. We found the normal Karoo birds along the way and the pools of water mostly host SA Shelduck, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and Egyptian Geese. We had one White Stork at one of these dams.
About 60 km south of Prieska we stopped at the salt works which has an adjacent pan with some water after the rains. There were a good variety of wader species at the pan including Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Ruff, Common Greenshank, Kittlittz’s and Three-banded Plover and Pied Avocet. We also spotted at least one Chestnut-banded Plover, while about 20 Lesser Flamingoes and the same amount of Greater Flamingoes occurred.
A couple of km’s further we found 7 Blue Cranes, some SA Cliff Swallows and Afr Black Swifts at the Boesak River. The dam at the farm Carelsgraf, about 40 km north of Carnarvon, is full of water with more water fowl which includes Maccoa Duck, Southern Pochard and Spur-winged Geese. There was also a flock of Red-billed Queleas feeding in the lush grass on the edge of the water and a Red-backed Shrike.
It was a very good choice to drive down the gravel road and we could collect a lot of data for SABAP, just awaiting all the ORF’s. The early rains turned the grey arid Karoo landscape into a beautiful picture and it is worth spending time in this area now.
I recently returned from a trip to the Eastern Cape with clients. It was a very good trip, seeing 284 bird species.
We started off in Beaufort West and drove to Mountain Zebra Nat Park via Aberdeen and Graaff Reinet. It was a cool and over cloud morning with towards Graaff Reinet a couple of Steppe Buzzards, Greater Kestrels and Blue Cranes. A surprise was the number of Amur Falcons perching on the wires.
In Graaff Reinet we paid a visit to the Valley of Desolation and another surprise was a Dusky Indigobird quiet far out of range. Other birds here were Lark-like Bunting, Afr Harrier-Hawk, Alpine Swift, Southern Boubou and Spotted Flycatcher.
Shortly after we entered MZNPark we saw a group of Blue Korhaans. Desert Cisticola, Chat Flycatcher and performing Eastern Clapper Lark were abundant. Afr Rock Pipit was also performing and we saw several calling from rocks. Although the park was dry, we saw good numbers of birds including Eastern Longbilled Lark, Golden-breasted Bunting, Black-headed Canary, Southern Tchagra, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Red-billed Firefinch, Gabar Goshawk, Red-billed Oxpecker and Red-backed Shrike.
After 2 nights we left MZNP and proceeded to Tsolwana Nature Reserve south east of Tarkastad. Beyond Tarkastad we saw a pair of Great Spotted Cuckoos and soon afterwards Buffy Pipit. At the entrance to the reserve we were welcome by Black Cuckoo and Piet-my-Vrou which both responds to its call.
Tsolwana seems to be a very good bird reserve especially in summer, but the roads are only friendly to LDV’s or 4x4’s. We managed to get to our lodge, Otterford Lodge, but it was impossible to explore the rest of the reserve due to the roads. Other birds to mention which we saw were Green Woodhoopoe, Long-billed Pipit, Pririt Batis, Grey Tit, Jacobin & Klaas’s Cuckoo and Cape Penduline Tit.
From Tsolwana we drove to Lady Grey via Queenstown and Aliwal North. Just remember the Eastern Cape gravel roads are mostly UNDRIVABLE and very corrugated. On the way to Aliwal North we saw some Blue Korhaans, Booted Eagle, Amur Falcons and Yellow-throated Petronia. Just on top of Penhoek Pass we got onto a lovely dams with lots of water birds including Southern Pochard, Ruff, Cape Shoveller, Red-billed Teal and White-winged Tern. East of Aliwal North we found a colony of SA Cliff Swallows.
We stayed at Lupela Lodge south east of Lady Grey and along the upper slopes of the Karnmelkspruit. It is a very pleasant lodge with very friendly and helpful owners, surely recommended to birders. Shortly after we turned off the tar road we were welcomed by some soaring Cape Griffons. Around the lodge we saw Red-throated Wryneck, Afr Paradise Flycatcher, Black Sparrowhawk, Cape Grassbird, Piet-my-Vrou, Afr Black Swift and Lesser Honeyguide.
Next morning on our way to Rhodes we visit the Karnmelkspruit Cape Griffon colony. The colony is on private land and an entrance fee of R25/p is payable to the owner. It is actually all that worth and you have marvellous views onto the birds and its nests which are mostly situated on the western side of the gorge.
Between Barkly East and Rhodes we found a huge flock (40+) Grey Crowned Cranes. In Rhodes we stayed at Kinmel Guest Farm which has good accommodation but it could be difficult for elderly people as all the rooms are upstairs. Birding around Rhodes was good with White Stork, Cape Canary, Afr Black Swift, Spotted Flycatcher and Afr Harrier-Hawk to name a few.
The next day we went birding in Naudesnek Pass where the road was very bad due to that it was not repaired after the rains. Birding was excellent as we soon ran into Cape Rock Thrush, Ground Woodpecker, Orange-breasted Rockjumper and Drakensberg Siskin. Higher up in the pass we found Sentinel Rock Thrush, Sickle-winged Chat, Mountain Pipit, Cape Griffon and a couple of Bearded Vultures. Common Quail was calling from the grass and some Grey-winged Francolin was also found. A real surprise was Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk hunting on top of the mountain.
From Rhodes we went to Stutterheim via Engcobo with along the road Banded Martin, more Grey Crowned Cranes just outside Elliot and Long-tailed Widowbird.
In Stutterheim we stayed at Eagle Ridge Lodge. The lodge is close to the forest, very comfortable and with good food. Recommended to birders.
In the lodge’s gardens we saw Black Sawwing, Thick-billed Weaver, Afr Olive Pigeon, Amethyst Sunbird, Piet-my-Vrou, Black-headed Oriole and Little Rush-Warbler.
In the Kologha Forest we saw Chorister Robin-chat, Grey Cuckooshrike, Forest Canary, Knysna Woodpecker, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Cape Batis, Grey Sunbird and Dark-capped Yellow-Warbler.
The next day we were off to Hogsback for more birding and we were greeted by Knysna Turaco, Streaky-headed Seed-eater, Long-crested Eagle and Afr Olive Pigeon. Cape Parrots were our garden birds at Maylodge Country Cottage. There were also Swee Waxbill, Cape Grassbird and Red-necked Spurfowl. We found Barrat’s Warbler calling from the thickets, but it won’t show itself.
From Hogsback we drove to East London where we stayed at Areena Resort north of the town. This lodge has excellent accommodation and more excellent birding. Birds around the lodge included Southern Black Tit, Grey-headed Bush-shrike, Black Cuckooshrike, Forest Weaver at our doorstep, Crowned Hornbill, Black-bellied Starling, Half-collared Kingfisher and Black Flycatcher.
Next morning we went to East London to bird with Ken & Gertie Griffin in Nahoon Estuary. Birds around the estuary include Trumpeter Hornbill, Red-capped Robin-chat, Brown Scrub-robin, Drakensberg Prinia, Olive Sunbird, Knysna & Olive Woodpecker and Pied Mannikin.
We went from East London to Addo Elephant Nat Park via the R72, but birding along the way was almost zero. We stayed at Lenmore Chalets outside the park which has good accommodation. Around the lodge we saw Spotted Eagle Owl, Levaillant’s Cuckoo, Spectacled Weaver and Black-headed Oriole.
A visit to the park gave views of Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Southern Tchagra, Karoo Scrub-robin, Black-collared Barbet and Hamerkop. We saw large herds of elephants which enjoy themselves at the Hapoor waterhole.
The last day was all the way back to Beaufort West. We saw our biggest flock of White Storks (why are they so scarce?), more Blue Cranes, and a couple of Secretarybirds and just before Beaufort West 3 Kori Bustards.
The end of another good birding tour!!