29 March 2023

Back to the Highveld

05 February 2023 - De Kaap Conservancy and Kaapsehoop

Despite the two long previous days, Lex and I were up early again this morning for a walk in the forest below his house. I enjoyed the view from the patio over the valley whilst enjoying a coffee

Mist in the valley

I managed to catch this female Africa Paradise Flycatcher before we set off on our walk

African Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone viridis)

As with most forests, we heard more than we saw which can be frustrating - but getting to know and learn the new calls is also a factor for me. Being the first to walk the forest trails, you have to navigate the many spiderwebs built in the night


What a great location for a house

Life in the conservancy

It was a great walk, but we still had one last objective for the weekend which was to try and find Broad-tailed Warbler or now Fan-tailed Grassbird as it is called. I still prefer the old name, as it is much more descriptive of this difficult to find Warbler. On Friday, we had tried an area where Lex had last seen them with no luck, so this time we drove to the airstrip and searched this area of grassland. Lo and behold, Lex picked up a single bird on call and we enjoyed watching it call and display for the next 10-minutes - it is really a smart bird

Fan-tailed Grassbird/Broad-tailed Warbler (Catriscus brevirostris)

It was bombed once or twice by a territorial Croaking Cisticola

Croaking Cisticola (Cisticola natalensis)

Back to the house for a last celebratory coffee, before it was time to say cheers and for me to head back to the highveld. I managed a Yellow-throated Longclaw on the way to the conservancy gate

Yellow-throated Longclaw (Macronyx croceus)

From De Kaap, I took the road to Kaapsehoop where I had one more photographic target to get. The little village was pumping with visitors to the local stores as well as those wanting to walk the trail to the viewpoint which is where I was also headed. I was detoured by a fairly obliging Buff-streaked Chat, but the light was already quite harsh

Male Buff-streaked Chat (Campicoloides bifasciata)

I continued toward the viewpoint and found my target Drakensberg Prinia halfway. It was a pair with two fledged youngsters that had me getting in my steps as they flitted between the granite rocks - but I finally got the images I was hoping for..

Drakensberg Prinia (Prinia hypoxantha)

Adult and juvenile Drakensberg Prinia (Prinia hypoxantha)

Juvenile Drakensberg Prinia (Prinia hypoxantha)

Contented, it was back into the Hilux for the drive back to Gauteng after a most enjoyable birding weekend in the lowveld with my old school mate Lex.

A late BBD

04 February 2023 - Peddlars Bush, Saddleback Pass, Kaapmuiden, Malelane Gate, Crocodile Bridge Gate and Komatidraai Dam

It rained hard and heavy through the night, but had abated when we were up at 4:30 to head toward Barberton and onward into the indigenous forest patches of Peddlars Bush for the dawn chorus. That is when I realised how rusty I was on forest species calls and it was tough going, but slowly we tuned in and by listening to specific calls on the App, were slowly able to confirm the expected species. Photography was not even an option in the gloomy depths and with only fleeting views of most species. It was both challenging and rewarding at the same time. Once the sun started hitting the forest, birds slowly became more visible and our list continued to grow (I wont list all the species recorded, but we got most of the expected species, but also dipped on a few that we thought were certain), but the only one I was able to get a record image of was an Olive Bushshrike

Olive Bushshrike (Chlorophoneus olivaceus)

Whilst watching a Forest Canary, this diminutive male Natal Red Duiker stepped out of the forest and walked for a short distance on the side of the road before silently disappearing back into the undergrowth. Awesome, as it had been many, many years since I had last seen one

Male Natal Red Duiker (Cephalophus natalensis)

Whilst walking the forest roads, we came across this tiny pair of Frogs

Frog sp.

And a couple of Brown species

Brown sp.

Brown sp.

Indigenous forest used to be found here - but this is what Sappi has replaced it with - a sterile industry


We left Peddlars and headed back to the main road, turning left to head toward some grassland and a dam where we added a good number of species to the list including Red-collared Widow

Red-collared Widow (Euplectes ardens)

And an African Yellow Warbler which Lex had previously recorded here

African Yellow Warbler (Iduna natalensis)

From here it was back toward Barberton, stopping on Saddleback Pass for Familiar Chat

Familiar Chat (Oenanthe familiaris)

Southern Tchagra, Red-necked Spurfowl and Gurney's Sugarbird

Gurney's Sugarbird (Promerops gurneyi)

We detoured around Barberton to Kaapmuiden and onward to Malelane Gate to enter the Kruger Park. On the drive, more species were added, as well as on the bridge and gate at Malelane. We paid our entry and then walked the path around the reception ablutions finding Blue Waxbill

Blue Waxbill (Uraeginthus angolensis)

And both Golden-tailed and Bennett's Woodpecker

Bennett's Woodpecker (Campethera bennettii) 

It was here I stepped off the open path to photograph the Woodpecker when I was summoned by the gate guard who videoed me while calling me. Apparently I had violated some law by stepping off the path and 'into the bush' when at the same time other visitors were all walking around the car park and also stopping and getting out of their cars on the bridge - go figure. 

We entered the park and headed east on the road parallel to the Crocodile River continuing to add species to our growing list. A Bateleur cruised past parallel with the car

Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus)

We stopped to watch a troop of Vervet Monkey's enjoying Marula fruits that were on the ground under a large Marula Tree when suddenly they scattered in all directions. We though predator for sure, but it was an Ele that came lumbering through the bush and in about 15-minutes had hoovered up all the fruit that has been lying on the ground. This Ele had a strange injury or deformity on the end of its trunk, but we still enjoyed watching how it blew the berry's into its mouth

African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

Its always great to see Southern Ground Hornbill

Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri)

A little further one, I spotted a White-headed Vulture overhead. This is a threatened species and becoming increasingly difficult to find

White-headed Vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis)

Of course a good few Red-billed Oxpecker's on the plains game

Red-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus) on Impala

There were good numbers of European Rollers on this route

European Roller (Coracias garrulus)

At the Biyameti Weir, there were many Egrets, Herons, Hamerkops and Storks. Here a Black Stork catching a small fish

Black Stork (Ciconia nigra)

Just before the main road to Crocodile Bridge, we spotted an alethe eruption 100m off the road that attracted many bird species including a few Black-backed Jackal. We were first alerted to the eruption by the mass of Hirundines and a Wahlberg's Eagle which departed soon after we stopped

Wahlberg's Eagle (Hieraaetus wahlbergi)

Soon a few Marabou's dropped in flushing a pale Tawny Eagle

Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumenifer)

Tawny Eagle

Pale form Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax)

The Marabou's were joined by up to 4 Kori Bustard's - it was a literal feast for all

Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori)

After exiting the Croc Bridge gate, we stopped at a small dam before Komatipoort and again added a good number of species, including a distant Sand Martin

Sand Martin (Riparia riparia)

The Komati River was still in flood after the recent heavy rains

Komati River

From here it was on to Komatidraai Dam, but unfortunately the gate was locked, so we had to find an alternative location. Lex got some info from one of his mates and we headed a little further in the last hour of the day to Nico's place and what a gem it was. Dwarf Bittern, Lesser Jacana, Great Reed Warbler and Rufous-winged Warbler being some of the highlights. An African Pied Wagtail landed close after the sun had set

African Pied Wagtail (Motacilla aguimp)

We were treated to a fiery sunset as we called it a day on 169 species (we expected a total closer to 200, but were still very happy with some of the birds seen on the day, notwithstanding a great day together) and drove back to De Kaap Conservancy in Nelspruit

BBD Sunset

Migrants and invisible Ele's

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