30 March 2022

Return to Matamba

25-28 February 2022 - Matamba Bush Campsite

We had enjoyed our previous camping trip to Matamba and returned again in late summer to enjoy the peaceful and spacious camping experience with our family, but this time staying for an extra night - which made all the difference.

My family left early on the Friday morning, so when I arrived at 5:30pm the camp was already setup, all that remained was to open the rooftop tent and awning on my son's Jimny and we were ready for a few cold ones around the fire.

As with the previous visit, I had early morning walks around the reserve (no vehicles are allowed to drive around) and also enjoyed the birding in and around our campsite. Morning's were pleasant, but the temp did ratchet up during the day - so we were appreciative of the small pool to cool down in.

Birds seen in and around the camp included; Black Flycatcher

Southern Black Flycatcher (Melaenornis pammelaina)

An obliging pair of Chat Flycatcher's along with a couple of juveniles

Adult Chat Flycatcher (Melaenornis infuscatus)

Juvenile Chat Flycatcher (Melaenornis infuscatus)

Also quite a few Spotted Flycatchers that are still here, but will be departing north soon

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)

A Neddicky also visited a few times

Neddicky (Cisticola fulvicapilla)

I put a stick in the ground next to our tap and this was used by a good few species. Here a Yellow-fronted Canary before dropping down to drink

Yellow-fronted Canary (Crithagra mozambica)

On one afternoon, we had this Wahlberg's Eagle fly by overhead whilst sitting around the fire

Wahlberg's Eagle (Hieraaetus wahlbergi)

Walks around the reserve did provide a few other species, but post-breeding, birding activity was relatively quiet. I managed to find the Bushveld Pipit's again and spent quite some time with them

Bushveld Pipit (Anthus caffer)

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting were seen around some of the paddocks near the main house

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting (Emberiza tahapisi)

Chinspot Batis were heard more often than seen

Chinspot Batis (Batis molitor)

Not so with the Cape Turtle Dove which was seen quite often

Cape Turtle Dove (Streptopelia capicola)

Here a size and plumage comparison between Cape Turtle and Red-eyed Dove

Dove comparison

I only had one sighting of a very flighty Grey Tit-Flycatcher. I love the autumn colours coming through in the background

Grey Tit-Flycatcher (Myioparus plumbeus)

One of the species the owners had told me about was Lizard Buzzard and I managed to find one on my last morning walk together with some prey. Low light and a difficult angle didnt result in the sharpest image, so I was a little disappointed - but still thrilled to see this raptor that I haven't seen in many, many years

Lizard Buzzard (Kaupifalco monogrammicus)

The Sable were elusive on this visit, but other antelope were seen, including Zebra - Colour or B+W?

Burchell's Zebra (Equus quagga burchelli)

And an inquisitive family of Banded Mongoose - the rest had disappeared into their burrow

Banded Mongoose (Mungos mungo)

Many spider webs in the early mornings, some you didnt see and these normally went across your face


Luckily, I did see this monster of a Golden Orb Spider and gave it a detour

Golden Orb Spider (Nephila senegalensis)

At one of the small water holes, a Common River Frog checked me out from its hiding place

Common River Frog (Amietia angolensis)

As always I remain curious and also check for butterflies and around camp the Guineafowl was the most common - wings closed and open

Guineafowl (Hamanumida daedalus)

Quite a few Eastern Scarlet

Eastern Scarlet (Axiocerses t. tjoane)

and the striking Dark-webbed Ringlets

Dark-webbed Ringlet (Physcaeneura panda)

Painted Lady in the more open areas

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

At night the Cream-striped Owl Moth's came out and were still found in and around the ablution block in the early morning

Cream-striped Owl Moth (Cyligramma latona)

Again, another really enjoyable stay at Matamba which as their catch-line states "Built by Campers, for Campers" - we will be back again!

GECKO Survey

22 February 2022 - GECKO Conservancy, Midrand

Anton, Richard and I conducted a quick survey at one known site to check on breeding progress for one of the pairs we had found earlier in the season.

Walking to the site, we had an Ovambo Sparrowhawk overhead which is a good bird for the area

Ovambo Sparrowhawk (Accipiter ovampensis)

Once at the site, we checked the suitable habitat and flushed one of the ringed Grass Owls after which we could check the nest. Unfortunately the high rainfall over the past 3-weeks was detrimental to this ground-nesting species and there were no chicks left and the remaining egg had not hatched - so this was recorded as a failed  attempt, but due only to the high rainfall recorded

African Grass Owl (Tyto capensis)

We left the site quite disappointed and on the way back to the car a Cream-striped Owl moth was seen

Cream-striped Owl Moth (Cyligramma latona)

Magical Zaagkuilsdrift

20 February 2022 - Zaagkuilsdrift Road

Earlier in the week there had been reports of a few Crake species and a Black Coucal near the Plat River on the Zaagkuilsdrift Road. The Coucal is an awesome bird for just north of Pretoria, but I was more keen on trying to connect with the Crakes. However, I didnt anticipate how many birders were keen to see the Coucal, so even though I thought I arrived early, there were at least 15 birders already at the site and with many more to follow.

The area for both the Crakes and Coucal was a flooded grassland. The Coucal was calling, but someway off and I did get some flight views as it came out, flew a short distance and dropped back in the grass. I had the same view of a Crake doing the same, but way  to far to pin the ID.

The chance of finding the Crake diminished as the numbers of birders grew, so we enjoyed what was in the same area - drumming African Snipe

African Snipe (Gallinago nigripennis)

A Fulvous Whistling Duck flying by

Fulvous Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna bicolor)

An fairly obliging Levaillant's Cuckoo which was one of many seen

Levaillant's Cuckoo (Clamator levaillantii)

And a few cracking Red-backed Shrikes which will departing imminently and possibly back through Kuwait. 

Here a portrait and landscape study - which is preferable?

Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)

I cut my losses and slowly drove to the Kgomo Kgomo village adding Magpie Shrike with both dark and light backgrounds, by shifting my position

Magpie Shrike (Urolestes melanoleucus)

Diederick Cuckoo on the overhead lines

Female Diederick Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx caprius)

a pair of Red-breasted Swallows that appeared to be bringing mud to build/repair their nest in a culvert under the road

Red-breasted Swallow (Cecropis semirufa)

On the bridge over the floodplain, the list continued to grow and here I also photographed Whiskered

Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)

and White-winged Tern

White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)

Good sized flocks of Black-winged Pratincole

Black-winged Pratincole (Glareola nordmanni)

and small numbers of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters foraging from the overhead lines which will also soon depart for the summer breeding grounds

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus)

Squacco Heron's were flying up and down the channels

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)

Whilst a Black Heron passed by over the bridge

Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca)

There were a number of duck's present, but only Red-billed Teal obliged for a photograph

Red-billed Teal (Anas erythrorhyncha)

By now the sun was pretty high in the sky, so I headed back east on the road, stopping for a Zitting Cisticola

Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis)

and a stunning Lucia Widow (a dragonfly I have not yet seen) on a small pan next to the road

Lucia Widow (Palpopleura lucia)

At the t-junction with the tar road, I came across a family of Southern Carmine Bee-eaters, another good species for this close to Pretoria

Juvenile Southern Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicoides)

Adult Southern Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicoides)

This is always a good birding road, but unfortunately not for Crakes today

Migrants and invisible Ele's

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