23 November 2021

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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