25 February 2022

Kyalami Estates - January Round-up

31 January 2022 - Kyalami Estates

Well, we are now into a new year with all that comes with it. January was a little subdued, as we were still in the post Plett blues and also recovering from Omicron - but I managed some birding around the Estate whilst walking the dogs.

I have now been back home for just over a year and this post is the start of the 2nd year for my SA Blog - not too many readers yet, but I'm hopeful that this will change and grow over time.

I recorded 62 species with a couple of notable records - however the most exciting was that the Freckled Nightjar's are still present early evenings and mornings. Other good birds included Green Pigeon, Barn Owl, Lesser Honeyguide, African Harrier-Hawk, breeding African Reed Warbler and Burchell's Coucal.

I did get my camera out and tested using the Flash + MagMod with mixed results on a few dull and overcast days - African Olive Pigeon

African Olive Pigeon (Columba arquatrix)

Cape White-eye

Cape White-eye (Zosterops virens)

Hadeda Ibis

Hadeda Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash)

Fiscal Flycatcher

Fiscal Flycatcher (Melaenornis silens)

Cape Wagtail

Cape Wagtail (Motacilla capensis)

Common Myna

Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis)

Blacksmith Lapwing

Blacksmith Lapwing (Vanellus armatus)

And African Wattled Lapwing

African Wattled Lapwing (Vanellus senegallus)

On one of the brighter days, I spent some time at the dam in the main park where Red Bishops are still breeding

Male Southern Red Bishop (Euplectes orix)

Female Southern Red Bishop (Euplectes orix)

Along with Thick-billed Weavers

Male Thick-billed Weaver (Amblyospiza albifrons)

and Southern Masked Weaver

Male Southern Masked Weaver (Ploceus velatus)

Meanwhile, in the garden Speckled Pigeon joined the Laughing Dove's to forage the seeds on the ground - scraps from the feeders above

Speckled Pigeon (Columba guinea)

At the St Ledger Dam, I found breeding African Reed Warbler - here the male in full song

Male African Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus baeticatus)

I then saw the female feeding a juvenile in the reeds - the juvenile posed for a bit

Juvenile African Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus baeticatus)

Later, I caught the female feeding the juvenile, but this time in the tree above me - so that was pretty satisfying

Female and Juvenile African Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus baeticatus)

In the same tree, a Cape White-eye was having it's own breakfast

Cape White-eye (Zosterops virens)

18 February 2022

A Winters day in Summer

30 January 2022 - Suikerbosrand

My son and I decided to visit Suikerbosrand after a good week of rains. This time I was the passenger in his car, which made a nice change. We left early with a forecast of no rain, well the weather didnt listen to the forecast. At our M&B coffee stop, it was belting down, so we had to wait it out.

We birded the area before the reserve in really gloomy conditions which was also not optimal for birds, but did get an fairly obliging and calling Fan-tailed Widowbird on the flowering Cosmos.

Fan-tailed Widowbird (Euplectes axillaris)

We were pleased to find good number of Amur Falcons and saw that females outnumbered male around 5:1. Most were either perched on the fence or overhead lines waiting for the weather to improve. We checked each one carefully and managed to get only 1 male Red-footed amongst all the Amur's - but no chance of an image

Female Amur Falcon (Falco amurensis)

Male Amur Falcon (Falco amurensis)

We then headed for the reserve where the weather deteriorated even further - more rain and then mist with temps dropping down to 13 degrees in mid-summer. I stopped to check some Cape Buntings and saw the head of an Orange River Francolin pop out of the grass in the background

Orange River Francolin (Scleroptila gutturalis)

Birds were few and far between on the circular drive, so that was disappointing - but a calling Dusky Indigobird did put in an appearance

Dusky Indigobird (Vidua funerea)

Great to see so many Amur's but a disappointing trip for the rest. At least my son got some freeway driving experience, which was a plus.

17 February 2022

A 'gorgeous' weekend in the Lowveld

21-23 January 2022 - Schoemanskloof

We were invited to spend a weekend in the lowveld with our good old friends the Thompson's who have a quaint cottage on the Crocodile River in Schoemanskloof. 

We left late Friday afternoon to arrive in time for sundowners - unfortunately both Waze and Google Maps thought otherwise and took us on the road on the wrong side of the river. Frustratingly, we could see the house, but had no means of crossing the river which was in flood. Fortunately, Misty was in the garden near the river and gave us the proper directions to get to the house which was the 2nd sand road, but after crossing the river. Finally, we made it 2-hours late and after sunset - so G+T's were welcome to calm the stress levels. Lesson learned is that you cannot always trust or follow Google or Waze!

After a good night catching up, Hilton and I were up early for a walk around the garden and along the road. As it had been overcast and rainy for the preceding week, I was also going to attempt to use flash for the gloomy conditions. 

On the road, I had a juvenile Dusky Flycatcher

African Dusky Flycatcher (Muscicapa adusta)

Followed by Golden-breasted Bunting

Golden-breasted Bunting (Emberiza flaviventris)

and good numbers of Cape Batis, as species I hadn't seen in some time

Cape Batis (Batis capensis)

We suspect this is a female Southern Double-collared Sunbird

Southern Double-collared Sunbird (Cinnyris chalybeus)

As we gained elevation on the road, so the habitat changed to grassland and we were pleasantly surprised to find 4 Striped Pipit

Striped Pipit (Anthus lineiventris)

Back at the house, Misty had found nesting Cape White-eye

Cape White-eye (Zosterops virens)

and Paradise Flycatcher which was a joy to watch as female and male took turns to sit on their eggs

African Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone viridis)

After a late breakfast, we took a drive to explore some nearby waterfalls in between both the exotic plantations (pines) and indigenous forests. The weather alternated between brief bouts of sunshine followed by rain of various intensities. 

We made good use of 4H in our vehicles, as we explored the mountains and trails above the cottage. Not too many birds to be seen, but we did get this Cape Rock Thrush in the rain

Cape Rock Thrush (Monticola rupestris)

We came back for lunch and later in the afternoon when the weather cleared, Hilton and I had another short walk along the road, in the opposite direction to where we went in the morning. This time there was decent activity and we found amongst others, Dusky Indigobird

Dusky Indigobird (Vidua funerea)

and an obliging White-winged Widowbird

White-winged Widowbird (Euplectes albonotatus)

Not too many butterflies about, but this Southern Pied Piper stopped briefly on the road

Southern Pied Piper (Eurytela hiarbas angustata)

We had a great and festive braai that went late into the night, so there were some heavy heads on the Sunday morning. Hilton and I were again up early and this time followed the trail directly up the mountain to the water source for the cottage. It was thick bush and slow going, so more birds heard than seen. 

I did flush a Cicada sp. - pretty prehistoric!

Cycada sp.

We cut our losses and went back to the house - Paradise Fly was on it's nest.

African Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone viridis)

We decided on a quick drive up to the grasslands to try and locate the Pipit's - no luck, but we had an interesting Buzzard with really dark carpal patches. Sadly it was just a Steppe/Common Buzzard.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

We had a calling Gorgeous Bushshrike right next to the road and it teased us for 20-minutes given hidden and brief glimpses as it foraged through the bush up and down the road over a 20m distance. It was quite for some time and then it started working its way back toward us. I focused on what I thought was a suitable perch if I was a Shrike and sure enough, it landed on it for less than 5-seconds and I was able to fire off a few images. I was delighted, aside from the best view I have ever had of this skulker, it was the first opportunity I had to photograph it..

Gorgeous Bushshrike (Telophorus viridis)

What a way to end of a really relaxing and enjoyable weekend in the lowveld, with like-minded friends

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