22 February 2023

Return to the Highveld

07 January 2023 - Kuilsfontein; Day 16

The wind had died down a little during the night and we were all up early to shower and pack. My wife joined me for a short walk around the farm and dam. The dark clouds had dissipated, but the remaining clouds and early morning light still provided an impressive backdrop for the Flamingo's in the dam

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)

We heard many calling Blue Korhaan's when suddenly many of them took to the sky in the distance

Blue Korhaan (Eupodotis caerulescens)

Not too far from the farmhouse, we inadvertently flushed a Black Sparrowhawk which was certainly unexpected in this Pentad

Black Sparrowhawk (Accipiter melanoleucus)

Here another Karoo scape image on the farm

Karoo farmland

The impressive entrance 'tunnel' on the driveway before the Reception

Tunnel entrance to Kuilsfontein

We then enjoyed a hearty Karoo breakfast before reluctantly packing and starting the drive back home to Kyalami Estates


Coast to Karoo

06 January 2023 - Kuilsfontein Guest Farm, Colesberg; Day 15

Our holiday in Plett had come to an end and again, it was just the relaxing family holiday we needed after a long and busy year. We had an early breakfast and agreed to head back to Colesberg over the Prince Alfred Pass - it is definitely shorter, albeit a little slower. But the return trip is still part of the journey, so we took it easy.

We finally arrived at Kuilsfontein Guest Farm, 10km outside Colesberg in a howling wind that was part of an approaching front - temps had dropped from 34 C in Plett to 13 degrees in Colesberg. While waiting for the gate to be opened enjoyed a small flock of Black-headed Canary's. After entering and driving the long driveway to the Farm, we checked into the quaint Stable Cottages.

We unpacked and relaxed with drinks outside our cottages which is when a cracking male Pallid Harrier flew overhead, struggling in the wind - of course my camera was inside the cottage. I grabbed my camera and ran to the other side of the cottages, but that Harrier was gone on the wind..Later I explored a bit of the farm - driving back to the entrance I found a Malachite Kingfisher near a causeway

Malachite Kingfisher (Corythornis cristata)

Further down the driveway there were Ant-eating Chat's displaying in the wind

Ant-eating Chat (Myrmecocichla formicivora)

I did find the flock of Black-headed Canary's, but no sign of the male that I had seen whilst waiting at the gate. This is a great record for this Pentad

Female Black-headed Canary (Serinus alario)

Walking one of side roads, I flushed a Northern Black Korhaan

Northern Black Korhaan (Afrotis afraoides)

Parachuting to land

There were good numbers of European Bee-eaters hawking from the fences and nearby trees

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) 

Behind the Stable Cottages there was quite a large dam and this held many birds, but all keeping low in the wind. Quite a few small waders including Kittlitz's and Three-banded Plover, along with Little Stints and Black-winged Stilts

Kittlitz's Plover (Charadrius pecuarius)

Little Stint (Calidris minuta) and Kittlitz's Plover (Charadrius pecuarius)

Three-banded Plover (Charadrius tricollaris)

All three in one image

There was also an impressive flock of Greater Flamingo on the far side of the dam against an impressive backdrop

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)

As well as good numbers of African Shelduck - love all these images against the dark and threatening sky

South African Shelduck (Tadorna cana)

Near the farmhouse, a couple of chubby Ground Squirrels were feeding in some sun

Cape Ground Squirrel (Geosciurus inauris)

Here a typical Karoo landscape from within the farm

Karoo landscape

Last chance

05 January 2023 - Plettenberg Bay; Day 14

Another overcast and drizzly morning and whilst my wife accompanied by son to have his haircut, I had one last attempt at finding this damn Woodpecker. I cant believe it has been harder to find than the Warbler.

Back along the road parallel to the golf course and to Sunera Stud Farm which has quite an impressive entrance

Sunera Stud Farm

Again I found Dusky Flycatcher

African Dusky Flycatcher (Muscicapa adusta)

A Greater Double-collared Sunbird - I love this style of shooting through the habitat/foliage in the foreground

Greater Double-collared Sunbird (Cinnyris afer)

A male Black Cuckoo-shrike flew by overhead

Black Cuckoo-shrike (Campephaga flava)

No luck at all with the Woodpecker in the area around the gate, cemetery and church, but I did get brief visuals of Olive Bushshrike. Driving back to the main road, more Knysna Turaco's to tease me - that unexpected flash of red gets me every time.

Knysna Turaco (Tauraco corythaix)

And an obliging Sombre Greenbul

Sombre Greenbul (Andropadus importunus)

One last look around the Robberg running/cycling track only produced a juvenile Black-winged Kite

Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus)

And a few Speckled Mousebird's

Speckled Mousebird (Colius striatus)

So, the Woodpecker eluded me and the trifecta of Knysna specials. But, I did manage to get images of the Knysna Warbler and Knysna Turaco in Plett, so I guess 2 out of 3 was acceptable in the end, despite my efforts.


04 January 2023 - Plettenberg Bay; Day 13

We had an enjoyable morning in Knysna for breakfast and to explore the area, despite the inclement weather.

In the late afternoon, I tried the forest around Sunera Stud Farm and the old Church for another quick visit. I'm not superstitious by any means, but perhaps this black Cat that followed me around the cemetery near the old church was a bad omen and did spoil my chances of finding the Woodpecker? This Cat did have the most striking green eyes though

Black Cat - Good or Bad luck?

I had to content myself with this unidentified Dragonfly before heading back to the apartment

Dragonfly sp.

The search continues

03 January 2023 - Plettenberg Bay; Day 12

I had read about another possible site for Knysna Woodpecker on a road parallel to Plettenberg Bay Country Club going toward Sunera Stud Farm. So, after breakfast I had an hour and a bit to explore this road which did seem promising. 

The best area seemed to be around the entrance gate to the Sunera Stud Farm where I parked and walked. It was overcast and quite gloomy, but I did find a juvenile Dusky Flycatcher

African Dusky Flycatcher (Muscicapa adusta)

I heard a Woodpecker tapping away, but when I finally located its position, it flew off - could it have been? Meanwhile, a Southern Double-collared Sunbird was feeding on a flowering Creeper growing across a fence

Male Southern Double-collared Sunbird (Cinnyris chalybeus)

I drove back slowly toward the main road trying to listen out for the Woodpecker, no luck. 

However, I was rewarded with an amazing spectacle of up to 10 Knysna Turaco's in one tree and as I watched they flew across the road individually and then away into the forest. This was the first time I have been able to catch them in flight and to see the astounding red primaries. Unfortunately, the overcast weather was a bummer, as these in flight images would have been spectacular.

Knysna Turaco (Tauraco corythaix)

I made another quick stop at the cycling path near Robberg, no luck here either, but I did get a Jackal Buzzard overhead

Jackal Buzzard (Buteo rufofuscus)

A perched Rock Kestrel - the only one of this holiday

Rock Kestrel (Falco rupicolus)

and an eclipse Malachite Sunbird - which image style is better; landscape or portrait?

Malachite Sunbird (Nectarinia famosa)

Back to the apartment for a shower and to pick up the family as we headed out and up the coast for a great lunch at Kay and Monty Vineyards in gorgeous weather.

River Warbler - Dip # 3

17 March 2024 - Zaagkuilsdrift It is that time of year - River Warbler! Again Richard Crawshaw, Selwyn Rautenbach, Marlina and I met early a...