22 July 2022

Kyalami Estates - June Round-up

30 June 2022 - Kyalami Estates

Winter is truly upon us with blue skies and cold mornings and nights - typical of the Gauteng Highveld. As is expected, a fairly low count of the resident birds with only 49 species recorded.

As usual, there were some highlights with species that are not recorded on a regular or daily basis like, African Black Duck, Arrow-marked Babbler, Streaky-headed Seedeater, Burchell's Coucal and African Green Pigeon which has been scarce this winter.

However, the highlight for me this month was finally catching a Southern Boubou out in the open one early morning. They are vocal in the estate and I hear them almost every day, but finally after 18-months, I managed to get images of this skulker (at least in our Estate they are)

Female Southern Boubou (Laniarius ferrugineus)

I did manage to get a few images, some from my garden and balcony included; Dark-capped Bulbul

Dark-capped Bulbul (Pycnonotus tricolor)

Amethyst Sunbird

Male Amethyst Sunbird (Chalcomitra amethystina)

Red-eyed Dove

Red-eyed Dove (Streptopelia semitorquata)

And Sacred Ibis

African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus)

At the main park where much of the reed cover has been cut-back or removed for the winter, I had Reed Cormorant

Immature Reed Cormorant (Microcarbo africanus)

Both Blacksmith

Blacksmith Lapwing (Vanellus armatus)

and Wattled Lapwing

African Wattled Lapwing (Vanellus senegallus)

Hadeda Ibis foraging in the park

Hadeda Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash)

Along with African Hoopoe

African Hoopoe (Upupa africana)

and Thick-billed Weaver

Thick-billed Weaver (Amblyospiza albifrons)

I had a pair of Spotted Thick-knee in amongst the flower beds on the pavement

Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis)

At the St Ledger Dam, there was a single Black Duck

African Black Duck (Anas sparsa)

Winter in the Highveld grasslands

26 June 2022 - Suikerbosrand

Hilton Thompson and I planned a winter morning outing to Suikerbosrand to try and pick up a few species that visit the reserve in the winter.

It was a relatively early start to arrive at sunrise, but after stopping for a Mugg and Bean coffee on route. We made a stop just before the reserve, adding Capped Wheatear amongst a number of other species

Capped Wheatear (Oenanthe pileata)

Once inside the reserve, we walked around the car park and Admin Building and finally connected with the Ashy Tit, that I had missed on previous visits.

Ashy Tit (Melaniparus cinerascens)

As well as a winter plumage White-winged Widow

White-winged Widowbird (Euplectes albonotatus)

We then headed into the reserve and had some luck with Mountain Wheatear early on in the drive

Pied Morph Mountain Wheatear (Myrmecocichla monticola)

Dark Morph Mountain Wheatear (Myrmecocichla monticola)

We stopped in the location where Sickle-winged Chat was seen earlier in the week, but only came away with a distant Familiar Chat

Familiar Chat (Oenanthe familiaris)

A little further on, a Plain-back Pipit 

Plain-backed Pipit (Anthus leucophrys)

I saw Rock Thrush some distance away, but it was too skittish for photographs but through the bins we could confirm it was Sentinel - a good winter species for the reserve. Later we did pick up another that was a little more obliging

Male Sentinel Rock Thrush (Monticola explorator)

Whilst watching the Rock Thrush, a Rock Kestrel passed by overhead

Rock Kestrel (Falco rupicolus)

Near the picnic spot, we picked up Ant-eating Thrush

Ant-eating Chat (Myrmecocichla formicivora)

At the picnic spot which is no longer accessible, we spotted a shy Mountain Reedbuck

Mountain Reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula)

Very few birds were seen in the Thornveld part of the reserve which was strange, but we did pick up a pair of duetting Bokmakierie's - I just love their call

Bokmakierie (Telophorus zeylonus)

We then headed back to the Admin Building where we were able to connect with Fairy Flycatcher - but it was too active for any pics. In the same tree was a Chestnut-vented Warbler with its pale eyes - but also not very obliging

Chestnut-vented Warbler (Sylvia subcoerulea)

However the Mocking Cliff Chats were quite happy to pose for pics - stunning birds to end an enjoyable winters morning out

Male Mocking Cliff Chat (Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris)

21 July 2022

Winter Solstice Birding

21 June 2022 - Northern Farm

I thought it would be interesting to have a mornings birding on the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere. Northern Farm has a decent habitat diversity, so that was the choice. Unfortunately, Andre couldn't join, so it was to be a solo effort.

I arrived at 7am, just as the sun was rising and headed to the quarry where there is a large stand of Wild Dagga, although the peak flowering has since passed. I was keen to see if the Yellow Warblers were still around, but whilst waiting I did find White-bellied

Female White-bellied Sunbird (Cinnyris talatala)

and Amethyst Sunbird

Male Amethyst Sunbird (Chalcomitra amethystina)

I then heard the distinctive call of the Warbler and managed to track down two birds, which were a little more elusive than on our last visit. It is a great bird for this site and Gauteng

African Yellow Warbler (Iduna natalensis)

A couple of Sacred Ibis passed by overhead - these are common at this farm

African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus)

A trio of Blacksmith Lapwing were vocal on the top of sand bank

Blacksmith Lapwing (Vanellus armatus)

A little further down the road, a female African Stonechat was soaking up the early morning sun

Female African Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus)

I then drove to the cow pens and added African Pipit

African Pipit (Anthus cinnamomeus)

along with Common Starling, also a difficult species in Gauteng

Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

A Cape Turtle Dove was seen perched on the fence

Cape Turtle Dove (Streptopelia capicola)

Down near the Jukskei River, a Long-crested Eagle was perched out in the open, but then departed

Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis)

A couple of Egyptian Geese flew by to head to one of the ploughed fields where many were seen later on my drive

Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)

There were many Black-winged Kites about - a mix of both adult and younger birds

Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus)

During the morning I explored most of the farm adding species as I went along. A pair of Hamerkop were busy adding to their massive nest near one of the smaller dams

Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta)

Overhead I picked up a distant Black-chested Snake Eagle

Black-chested Snake Eagle (Circaetus pectoralis)

And later an even more distant African Fish Eagle

Immature African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer)

In the grasslands, more African Stonechat

Male African Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus)

And Black-throated Canaries

Black-throated Canary (Crithagra atrogularis)

I headed back to the quarry to check on the small dam and this time was rewarded with Goliath Heron

Goliath Heron (Ardea goliath)

And the Blue-billed Teal that I had seen previously in the same location, along with White-faced Whistling Ducks

Blue-billed Teal (Spatula hottentota)

White-faced Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna viduata) and Blue-billed Teal

My last stop was at the main dam and found a single Cape Teal which is an excellent species for Gauteng

Cape Teal (Anas capensis)

Along with a number of Southern Pochard

Male Southern Pochard (Netta erythrophthalma)

The Pied Crows were harassing the Heron colony, possibly trying to get to young chicks and this kept putting all the Herons up in the air

Pied Crow (Corvus albus)

Here, one of the Black-headed Heron's before heading back to the heronry.

Black-headed Heron (Ardea melanocephala)

I had a quick stop in the parking area before heading home and ticked Green Wood-hoopoe that appeared to be feeding young

Green Wood-hoopoe (Phoeniculus purpureus)

and then checked on the White-browed Sparrow-Weaver colony in one of the Acacia Trees

White-browed Sparrow-Weaver (Plocepasser mahali)

Despite the clear but blustery conditions, it was a successful morning and I recorded 78 species, with some good birds for the Pentad.

Migrants and invisible Ele's

09 January 2024 - Mabula; Day 3 Only the boys opted for this morning's drive and were entertained with these two Dung Beetle's tryin...