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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