15 February 2022

The legendary Zaagkuilsdrift Road

16 January 2022 - Zaagkuilsdrift and Kgomo Kgomo

There were some good rains mid-week with birders reporting great birds from this legendary road and flood plain. I had an early start and was through Pienaars River just before sunrise. It is always a dilemma on whether to go slow down the road and see what you see, but it means getting to the flood plain when the sun is quite high or barrel down the road in the dark to be on the bridge at sunrise. 

I opted for the former and took a slow drive along the Zaagkuilsdrift Road and was happy with that decision, as I did have some good birds on route. Unfortunately, the road had also dried considerably, so the chances of finding African Crake had diminished. Nevertheless, a calling Melodious Lark was a good early bird.

Melodious Lark (Mirafra cheniana)


I had an Eurasian Golden Oriole, but way to skittish for any photo opportunities - not so much for this Lesser Grey Shrike

Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor)


A few Cuckoo species were seen and heard, but only this Diederik's stayed put for a few images

Diederik Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx caprius)



Just before the village, White-winged Widowbird calling from the overhead lines

White-winged Widowbird (Euplectes albonotatus)



as was this Yellow Canary

Yellow Canary (Crithagra flaviventris)



another Diederik Cuckoo

Diederik Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx caprius)


and Lesser Grey Shrike

Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor)


At the flood plains there were many birders enjoying the morning where a flock of Black-winged Pratincole's were also roosting and feeding on the wing

Black-winged Pratincole (Glareola nordmanni)


A Yellow-billed Stork cruised overhead 

Yellow-billed Stork (Mycteria ibis)


I spent quite some time on the bridge over the flood plain, as the early morning light was still soft and photographed a good variety of species. On the overhead lines, I had Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus)


Pied Kingfishers

Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)


Both Whiskered

Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)



and White-winged Terns which seemed out of place, in terms of their perch selection

White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)




Most birders were here for the waterbirds that had arrived - Lesser Moorhen was heard and briefly seen. Whilst Squacco Heron

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)



and Little Egret were seen on either side of the bridge

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)


Overhead, both Reed

Reed Cormorant (Microcarbo africanus)


and White-breasted Cormorant

White-breasted Cormorant (Phalacrocorax lucidus)



Along with Fulvous Whistling Duck

Fulvous Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna bicolor)


and Knob-billed Duck which I hadn't seen for some time

Male Knob-billed Duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos)


Little Swift were nesting under the bridge

Little Swift (Apus affinis)



Whilst Yellow-crowned Bishop were displaying in the grasslands on the fringes of the flood plain

Yellow-crowned Bishop (Euplectes afer)



Finally a few of us were able to get onto a juvenile Allen's Gallinule that came out the reeds and foraged around the Water Lillies, against the light. Another species that arrives after good rainfall

Juvenile Allen's Gallinule (Porphyrio alleni)



The drive back is never quite as exciting as the drive in - temps have risen and sun is higher in the sky. But I managed to get an obliging Red-backed Shrike

Female Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)




and just before the end of the road, a calling Zitting Cisticola on the road side fence

Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis)




All in all, a great morning in this fantastic habitat and also good to catch-up with a few birding friends that I haven't seen for some time.










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