24 September 2023

Kyalami Estates - June Round-up

30 June 2023 - Kyalami Estates

It had been a busy month, so I didnt have too much time for birding or photography in the Estate but there were still a few highlights in the form of Black-headed Oriole, Green Pigeons and Little Sparrowhawk.

From my balcony, a Hadeda Ibis fly by

Hadeda Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash)

And I had the resident exotics visit my feeders. Not sure how I feel about these species, but they have become established. The Rose-ringed Parakeets visit occasionally

Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)

But the Rosy-faced Lovebirds are relatively new in the Estate and are really fast flying and very skittish, so perhaps not comfortable with people yet?

Rosy-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis)

I had a female White-bellied Sunbird at the St Ledger Dam on one of my walks

White-bellied Sunbird (Cinnyris talatala)

Chill Day

29 June 2023 - Crystal Springs; Day 4

Today was a pamper day at the Spa, but before our treatment I had a quick morning walk around our chalets and the rock formation. First up was a Familiar Chat all puffed up in the morning chill

Familiar Chat (Oenanthe familiaris)

I could not believe my eyes when I found another Four-toed Elephant Shrew in a different area of the rocks - what a pleasure!

Four-toed Elephant Shrew (Petrodromus tetradactylus)

My wife and I then chilled for the rest of the day and in the late afternoon, I planned to get into a good position in case the Side-striped Jackal made another appearance. I was distracted by a Lazy Cisticola

Lazy Cisticola (Cisticola aberrans)

and then with some Red-winged Starling's pretending to be Oxpecker's on the resident Kudu's

Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) and Red-winged Starling (Onychognathus morio)

At the time I expected the Jackal to make an appearance as it did the previous two afternoons, a troop of Baboon's came strolling through which was really irritating. I resigned myself to taking a couple of backlit images as the sun slowly dropped and then disappeared and with no sign of the Jackal

Chacma Baboon (Papio ursinus)

Tonight was our last night and tomorrow we would head back home to Midrand after a really relaxing and enjoyable few days in the mountains.

Tourist Route

28 June 2023 - Crystal Springs; Day 3

We had an early breakfast as we had planned to drive the tourist circuit through Robber's Pass to Pilgrims Rest and on to God's Window and then Blyde River Canyon. It had been many years since we had visited this area, so it was almost like doing it again for the first time.

We were at God's Window relatively early, but it certainly filled up with many tourists while we were there. There were a few view sites on the walking path and the views really are spectacular looking west toward Mozambique.

One of the views at God's Window

I was really hoping to try and connect with a Black-fronted Bushshrike, but no luck. However, I did manage to connect with a few forest specials like Sombre Greenbul

Sombre Greenbul (Andropadus importunus)

A skulky Chorister Robin-Chat

Chorister Robin-Chat (Cossypha dichroa)

and my best ever views of the equally elusive Barratt's Warbler, in a bush next to the busy walkway

Barratt's Warbler (Bradypterus barratti)

We then drove to Blyde River and the view site for the famous Three Rondavels. I was astounded at the number of tourists and busses that traversed this scenic route

Three Rondavels at Blyde River Canyon

We then headed back to Graskop for coffee and pancakes, before returning to Crystal Springs in the late afternoon. I had a walk around our chalets and had a surprised Brown-backed Honeybird

Brown-backed Honeybird (Prodotiscus regulus)

Quite a few Cape Canary's

Cape Canary (Serinus canicollis)

And some backlit White-crested Helmetshrikes, an image I quite like

White-crested Helmetshrike (Prionops plumatus)

However, the absolute highlight was finding the rarely seen Four-toed Elephant Shrew, named for the 4 toes on its hind feet. I kept my distance and was able to spend quite some time with it as it went about its business and then enjoyed the late afternoon sun in the rocks adjacent to our chalet.

They are the 'Elephant' representative of the little 5 with the others being Ant Lion, Rhinoceros Beetle, Buffalo Weaver and Leopard Tortoise.

Four-toed Elephant Shrew (Petrodromus tetradactylus)

It was then back to the chalet for sundowners and to enjoy another spectacular sunset. It was at this time a Side-striped Jackal made a brief appearance and there was no time to get my camera before it disappeared.

20 September 2023

Mountain air

27 June 2023 - Crystal Springs Mountain Lodge; Day 2

We had a mid-week timeshare break at the fabulous Crystal Springs which is found at the top of Robbers Pass on historic old road to Pilgrim's Rest. We arrived late yesterday and after unpacking did a little orientation before having a meal in the restaurant.

I was up early this morning for a walk in the area around our chalet just after sunrise. As it is a mountainous area, it took some time before the sun hit the valley where our chalet was situated which had a great view itself.

I love the layers in this early morning landscape image - textured B&W or blue-hour colour, I'm not sure which does it more justice


Mountain Scape

Walking quietly, I came across a Grey or Common Duiker that had just started feeding after a crisp night

Common Duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia)

Followed by a Kudu slowly coming out of cover

Young Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros)

As it warmed up, a herd of Blue Wildebeest made an appearance

Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus)

It took some time for birds to become active, but the first one was a Nicholson's Pipit (previously called Long-billed) in the pre-dawn light

Nicholson's Pipit (Anthus nicholsoni)

In the rocky outcrop close to our chalet, a pair of Lazy Cisticola's provided some entertainment

Lazy Cisticola (Cisticola aberrans)

Together with a few Greater Double-collared Sunbird's amongst the other Sunbird species

Male Greater Double-collared Sunbird (Cinnyris afer)

Once the sun hit the valley birding picked up and I found Kurrichane Thrush feeding on the lawns around the chalets

Kurrichane Thrush (Turdus libonyanus)

Nicholson's were more active and it was interesting to note how subtle the plumage change is between shade and direct sunlight

Nicholson's Pipit (Anthus nicholsoni)

In the grassland, a few Cape Longclaw

Cape Longclaw (Macronyx capensis)

We then enjoyed a leisurely family breakfast before taking a drive and then a stroll around the historic little mining town of Pilgrims Rest. Later in the afternoon, I had a walk close to the main entrance where I had seen a few species on the drive in. There were African Stonechat

Female African Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus)

A few Familiar Chat's

Familiar Chat (Oenanthe familiaris)

As well as a pair of Cape Rock Thrush - but only the female was obliging

Female Cape Rock Thrush (Monticola rupestris)

And a single Southern Boubou

Southern Boubou (Laniarius ferrugineus)

However, my interest was in the obliging Buff-streaked Chats that provided some fantastic photo opportunities - more so the male who was a real poser, but possibly in the early stage of courtship

Male Buff-streaked Chat (Campicoloides bifasciata)

than the female.

Female Buff-streaked Chat (Campicoloides bifasciata)

When I arrived at our chalet, there were a few White-eyes in the trees, this the virens sub-species

Cape White-eye (Zosterops virens)

Along with a Bar-throated Apalis that proved to be quite challenging to get onto, but then suddenly it flew out of cover and hovered on the outside of the tree to seemingly look where next to go and feed - great opportunity

Yellow-breasted Apalis (Apalis flavida)

Before sunset, we took a drive toward the nature reserve section of the Lodge grounds - it took some time, as the road was pretty rough. I did stop for a Black-crowned Tchagra in late afternoon light

Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegalus)

Followed by a male Cape Rock Thrush

Male Cape Rock Thrush (Monticola rupestris)

It was then time to light the fire and enjoy a few sundowners whilst watching another fiery African sunset and feeling the temperature drop rapidly.. 

Kyalami Estates - December Round-up

31 December 2023 - Kyalami Estates Not much time for birding during December, but still some good species recorded in the 46 that I saw, lik...