23 November 2021

Action at the Waterhole

26 September 2021 - Leadwood Big Game Estate; Day 4

All too soon it was our last day, so the 3 boys were up early for a game drive. We were fortunate to connect with the 3 male Lions again, resting up on the side of the road. I only had my big glass with me, so portraits were the only option

Lion (Panthera leo)

Here is one of them in a typical Matchbox Lion pose

Lion (Panthera leo)

A little further on, we came across some two raptors that had roosted in some dead trees overnight, first up a returning Wahlberg's Eagle

Wahlberg's Eagle (Hieraaetus wahlbergi)

Followed by a much larger Tawny Eagle

Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax)

We made our way to one of the many waterholes on the Estate and found the biggest flock (20) of Marabou Stork's that Simon had ever recorded on the property. Almost all of them were young birds

Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumenifer)

Whilst watching the Storks, we had Black-chested Snake Eagle overhead

Black-chested Snake Eagle (Circaetus pectoralis)

along with a couple of Black and Alpine Swifts that must have come down from the Drakensberg

Alpine Swift (Tachymarptis melba)

In the mix were a few Lesser Striped Swallow

Lesser Striped Swallow (Cecropis abyssinica)

Whilst watching the Storks at the edge of the dam, we noticed an agitated Three-banded Plover running amongst them - not sure if it had a nest or young, but it wasn't happy. Next thing we heard this whooshing sound as a Lanner Falcon stooped out of nowhere and tried to snatch the Plover from between the Storks. The Falcon quartered as it gained height and was attacked by a second Lanner - what a fantastic and unexpected spectacle

Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus)

I thought the Plover had been taken, but when checking my images could see no sign of it in their talons.

Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus)

Not long after this, a Yellow-billed Kite came to investigate and also made a few swoops between the Stork's but without success, from what we could see.

Yellow-billed Kite (Milvus aegyptius)

All to soon, we had to head back for a quick breakfast, pack the car and hit the road to Jozi, this time via our more familiar route of Lydenburg. It was another relaxing and great weekend with Simon and Jen and look forward to our next visit in the new year.

A view from the top

25 September 2021 - Mariepskop and Leadwood; Day 3

Whilst the rest of our families opted for a lie-in, Simon and I were up early for an excursion to the top of Mariepskop at 1947 asl. On cloudless clear days, even Maputo and the Indian Ocean are visible from the top!

Mariepskop from Leadwood

Mariepskop is the highest point of Blyde River Canyon and one of the highest peaks of the norther Drakensberg. At it's highest point there is a Radar Station that was built in the 1950's but was abandoned in 2003. The first road to the summit was built in February 1957 and at least that is still maintained. The slow drive up traverses a number of biomes, from Savannah through to low altitude woodlands, forest and finally high mountain grassland, tropical mist forest and fynbos at the summit.

We had missed the Aloe season, so we expected to dip on Sunbird's and the Gurney's Sugarbird. Nevertheless, we had a slow drive up the steep road, stopping occasionally to listen and look. At one stop for Saw-wing Swallow's, I was alerted to some activity in one of the tall trees next to the road - a pair of Yellow-streaked Greenbul's were foraging and gleaning. This was one of our target birds - but unfortunately, they never dropped low enough for decent images

Yellow-streaked Greenbul (Phyllastrephus flavostriatus)

After paying our entrance fee at the Reserve gate, we carried on toward the gates of the Radar Station and did some birding in this area. Rock Martin's were overhead

Rock Martin (Ptyonoprogne fuligula)

Whilst a Southern Boubou called from some shrub.

Southern Boubou (Laniarius ferrugineus)

However, we were after the Barratt's Warbler - there were a number calling around us - however getting a glimpse, never mind a photograph was the next challenge. With patience and a little bit of call-back, one came closer, but remained frustratingly in cover. This was the best I could do

Barratt's Warbler (Bradypterus barratti)

Further down the road, we came across a small party of noisy Lazy Cisticola's

Lazy Cisticola (Cisticola aberrans)

We then drove to another viewpoint that overlooked the Blyde River Canyon

View to Blyde River Canyon

Here we found some Cape Bunting

Cape Bunting (Emberiza capensis) birdscape

I found this gorgeous Bush Bronze (thanks to Steve Collins for the ID)

Bush Bronze (Cacyreus lingeus)

Ideally you need to spend a full day exploring, as you need to walk the forests for a chance of seeing the forest specials. We slowly made our way back down, but by now it was pretty hot, so bird activity had died down substantially.

We spent the afternoon at the house, relaxing at the pool and enjoying whatever passed by - in this case, Orange-breasted Bushshrike adding a real splash of colour to the pre-spring bush

Orange-breasted Bushshrike (Chlorophoneus 

And a flock of cool Retz's Helmetshrike

Retz's Helmetshrike (Prionops retzii)

Life is good.....

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