25 November 2022

Pentad Bash

23 November 2022 - Northern Farm

I joined Andre Marx and a few Birdlife North Gauteng members for an early morning Pentad bash of this Farm. There was some thunder and light drizzle when we all met just after 6am. As I was under some time pressure, I did a quick circuit of the farm and logged 86 species in just over 2-hours. I think the overcast conditions played a role in keeping some species hidden.

I did manage to find 4 Warbler and 6 Heron species along with Red-chested Flufftail and Blue-billed Teal. Raptors were slim pickings, with only Black-winged Kite for me.

Photographic opportunities were also thin on the ground, but at one of the Cattle Pens, I managed to connect with African Pipit

African Pipit (Anthus cinnamomeus)

Two Red-capped Lark which are good birds for the farm

Red-capped Lark (Calandrella cinerea)

And a co-operative Cape Longclaw, the colours of summer!

Cape Longclaw (Macronyx capensis)

It was a pity I couldn't stay longer, as the sun did clear the clouds later in the morning which would have contributed to an increased count.

24 November 2022

A hat trick of Warblers

09 November 2022 - Beaulieu Bird Sanctuary

I spent just over an hour before work in the Bird Sanctuary which is pretty close to my house. Oddly, this sanctuary has quite low diversity, but there is always a chance that something unusual could turn-up as it is under birded

On arrival, the European Bee-eaters that had roosted overnight were overhead stretching their wings and catching a few lethargic insects

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)

In the mix were Swallows and Swifts, including White-rumped

White-rumped Swift (Apus caffer)

In a part of the reserve, some reeds away from the main dam had been cut down and there was a lone thicket standing amongst the cut reeds. I heard not one, but two Warbler species calling from inside this thicket. So, I set myself a goal to try and photograph all 3 species that can be found in the short time I had. I found some cover to break up my shape and sat patiently on my haunches until the birds were comfortable to start moving around. In hindsight, a small chair would have really been a win.

Whilst waiting, a Fiscal Flycatcher landed in the top of said thicket

Fiscal Flycatcher (Melaenornis silens)

The first to show was African Reed Warbler, which moves around from the mid stratum to the upper and somehow always able to keep something between me and itself in typical Warbler fashion - but I was able to get a few reasonable images as it foraged and called. 

African Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus baeticatus)

The other Warbler in the same thicket was the more elusive Little Rush Warbler who prefers the lower stratum or the floor and seldom shows itself. However, it was moving and every now and then it would show and as quickly disappear.

Little Rush Warbler (Bradypterus baboecala)

After managing a couple of images, it suddenly flew out of the thicket and onto the cut reed where it foraged, called and displayed - best views and images I have ever managed for this species - I was thrilled

Little Rush Warbler (Bradypterus baboecala)

By now my legs had gone to sleep and it took some effort to stand. Fortunately, no-one was watching as I must have looked a sight hobbling and wobbling off until blood returned to my feet. Right, one Warbler left, so I headed down to the reeds at the dam where Lesser Swamp Warbler was calling. This time I could sit in cover on the bank and again with patience and some pshing one came over to investigate and the hat trick was in the back. There was a calling Willow Warbler, but I didnt have the time to try and track this tree top ghost down..

Lesser Swamp Warbler (Acrocephalus gracilirostris)

In terms of difficulty for these local wetland dwelling Warblers, Lesser Swamp is the easiest, followed by African Reed and lastly the elusive Little Rush Warbler!

22 November 2022

Surprise visitors in Beaulieu

02 November 2022 - Sandalwood, Beaulieu

We were notified of a single White-faced Owl on our local WhatsApp Group in a private garden in Beaulieu. This is an awesome record for both Midrand and the Pentad.

As it was not far from my house, I arranged with with Wayne to stop by and photograph these gorgeous Owls during the day. On arrival, I parked in the driveway and met Wayne who showed me where the Owl was perched in a Syringa Tree, almost above where I had parked my car. I was surprised that there was only one bird, as they are normally at least seen in pairs.

I had too much lens, so had to move a little further away for full frame images.

Southern White-faced Owl (Ptilopsis granti)

Whilst watching this bird, I noticed a second Owl obscured by a big bunch of leaves behind the first Owl and this looked like a juvenile bird and showing off its ear tufts.

Whilst I was photographing this bird, Wayne picked up a third bird in an adjacent tree - so we had a family of White-faced Owls which was just fantastic

After saturated views, I thanked Wayne for his hospitality and headed back home.

18 November 2022

Kyalami Estates - October Round-up

31 October 2022 - Kyalami Estates

Spring is slowly making way for summer and it is evident in all the breeding activity now taking place. October was still a modest month, with only 53 species recorded and this count was supplemented by the returning intra-Africa migrants, namely; White-throated + Greater-striped Swallow, White-rumped Swift and both Diederick and Red-chested Cuckoo.

The only Palearctic migrant that has returned so far is European Bee-eater.

As always, I recorded birds in my garden like this skulking Burchell's Coucal. I am always amazed at how such a large bird can remain undetected in such close proximity. Even in this dim view, the red eye is visible

Burchell's Coucal (Centropus burchelli)

From my balcony, I managed to photograph both African Palm Swift

African Palm Swift (Cypsiurus parvus)

and White-rumped Swift

White-rumped Swift (Apus caffer)

In the main Park, I had the usual suspects - African Olive Pigeon

African Olive Pigeon (Columba arquatrix)

Hadeda Ibis

Hadeda Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash)

The returning pair of White-throated Swallows that have completed their nest building - we now wait on the babies to fledge

White-throated Swallow (Hirundo albigularis)

I caught this Tawny-flanked Prinia carrying some nesting material - my favourite image from our Estate for October

Tawny-flanked Prinia (Prinia subflava)

A surprise fly over of an African Hawk Eagle

African Harrier-Hawk (Polyboroides typus)

The Southern Red Bishops are all in summer plumage and frenetically building nests in between displaying

Southern Red Bishop (Euplectes orix)

Down at the St Ledger Dam, it was the same for the Cape Weavers, who love the Willow Trees

Male Cape Weaver (Ploceus capensis)

I managed to track down the resident Malachite Kingfisher

Malachite Kingfisher (Corythornis cristata)

There is another colony of Red Bishops at this dam too

Female Southern Red Bishop (Euplectes orix)

and the Black-backed Puffback which is more often heard than seen in and around the Poplar Forest

Black-backed Puffback (Dryoscopus cubla)

Migrants and invisible Ele's

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