24 November 2023

GECKO Conservancy Survey's

17 August 2023 - GECKO Conservancy

We had planned surveys at two local sites. Whilst waiting for the team at the first site, I had a Little Sparrowhawk fly by at speed

Juvenile Little Sparrowhawk (Accipiter minullus)



And then a Black-winged Kite bringing in nesting material, something I hadn't seen before

Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus)




We then started the transect for the first survey, first finding a pair of Marsh Owl's

Marsh Owl (Asio capensis)





and finally just a single un-ringed Grass Owl - fingers crossed that it will be joined by a mate later in the season. Note how the legs protrude from the end of a tail; one of the ID features separating Grass from Marsh Owl

African Grass Owl (Tyto capensis)









Moving to the second site, we struck gold and found a pair of Grass Owls with one of the two ringed which is always an exciting confirmation

African Grass Owl (Tyto capensis)







The habitat in these areas is still vulnerable primarily to winter fires which makes it tough on the Owls to establish territories. As after fires it takes longer than you think for their prey base to return, which is primarily Angoni Vlei Rats.


10 November 2023

Slaty Egret - a regional rarity

15 August 2023 - Gnu Valley, Muldersdrift

If you really want to see Slaty Egret, then you need to plan a trip to the Okavango Delta. If not, then you have to patiently wait, years perhaps, for a bird that disperses to show up at Marievale or other suitable wetland or marsh habitats.

Fortunately for those of us who live in Gauteng, one turned up in Muldersdrift earlier this year and has been present between Walkhaven Dog Park and Gnu Valley for most of the year. Although I have seen one in the Delta and Marievale, I didnt have any images of this species, so this was an ideal opportunity to do so.

I arrived at a tranquil and quiet Gnu Valley early on a mid-week morning and was the only person on site. There are 4 dams on this location and speaking to the owner and workers got an idea of how to locate this gem which was normally seen after 8am - I was there at 7:15am. 

Whilst waiting, a hot air balloon from nearby Magaliesberg was slowly drifting across the sky.

Silent flight


I started searching at the lower dam without success, although there were good numbers of noisy Egyptian Geese around

Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)


I then walked up to the second big dam, again no luck - but had Yellow-billed Duck flying by

Yellow-billed Duck (Anas undulata)


As well as Speckled Pigeon from the nearby buildings

Speckled Pigeon (Columba guinea)


I continued to the third and smaller dam - no luck here either. So onward and up to the dam wall of the fourth dam which had a small reedbed in the middle. After 15-minutes, still no luck, so I turned to walk back to the third dam, when suddenly a small Heron took off from the reeds and flew over my head. That was the bird and it must have roosted in the reeds overnight. I managed to snap a few images against the light as it flew by - it was 7:55am!

Slaty Egret (Egretta vinaceigula)


Of course, it flew all the way down to the second dam where it is usually seen. I walked back and could see it foraging along the far bank. I managed to position myself low down with the sun behind me for some awesome views of the regional mega as it slowly worked down the bank feeding and resting

Slaty Egret (Egretta vinaceigula)










It then decided this dam wasnt good enough and flew off down to the first dam - this time I nailed it in flight and in good light

Slaty Egret (Egretta vinaceigula)






I walked back down to the dam where I had started earlier in the morning and got a few more images for the portfolio

Slaty Egret (Egretta vinaceigula)




A really successful morning in the end with a relatively co-operative bird in great early morning light - job well done!

Instagram - @mikepopephotography


09 November 2023

Another special morning at the Farm

10 August 2023 - Northern Farm

I spent a few hours on the Farm arriving just after sunrise and headed down to my first stop at the quarry hoping to hear or see a bird that is special and now synonymous with this site on the farm. I was not disappointed, as a single African Yellow Warbler was singing from the top of the tree I saw it on my previous visit - it was joyful

African Yellow Warbler (Iduna natalensis)


I always end up spending more time than planned at the quarry and added Grey-headed Gull above the small pond. I love how Gulls extend their necks in flight - part of a display, I guess

Grey-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus)



Hadeda's are pretty common all round the farm

Hadeda Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash)



A Goliath Heron came flying in and landed in one of the bare Willow Trees

Goliath Heron (Ardea goliath)





There was a pair of Three-banded Plovers on the exposed mud of the pond

Three-banded Plover (Charadrius tricollaris)




The Wild Dagga did not have any flowers, but still there was a White-bellied Sunbird around

Male White-bellied Sunbird (Cinnyris talatala)


I then headed toward the cow pens, finding African Stonechat

Male African Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus)


And a few Common Starling on the overhead lines, not really welcome - but also a good record for the Pentad

Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)


Continuing on my circular route, a smaller dam had a number of Red-knobbed Coot with young - probably one of the ugliest baby birds you could see, in my opinion

Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata)




In the grassland, I found a small flock of Orange-breasted Waxbill, a really good record for this Pentad - but only managed an image of the juvenile

Juvenile Orange-breasted Waxbill (Amandava subflavus)


My last stop was at the main dam, where I had an obliging Lesser Swamp Warbler feeding in and around the spillway

Lesser Swamp Warbler (Acrocephalus gracilirostris)







A few Blue-billed Teal were feeding in the shallows

Blue-billed Teal (Spatula hottentota)



Yellow-billed Duck had bred successfully

Yellow-billed Duck (Anas undulata)


Whilst this pair gave a great fly by, showing off the distinctive green speculum

Yellow-billed Duck (Anas undulata)




The Black-headed Heron's have started nesting in the tall Pine Tree

Black-headed Heron (Ardea melanocephala)


Whilst below, White-breasted Cormorants are doing the same. Their droppings have almost turned the dead tree white

White-breasted Cormorant (Phalacrocorax lucidus)




Across the dam, this Cormorant had caught a sizable Barbel and it took quite some time before it eventually swallowed it - not sure how long that meal lasts before it needs to feed again?

White-breasted Cormorant (Phalacrocorax lucidus)



Whilst watching the Cormorant, a Black Sparrowhawk made a dash across the dam

Black Sparrowhawk (Accipiter melanoleucus)


It was then time to head home, but had a quick stop at the restaurant area where I found the Kurrichane Thrush. It seems to be an occasional visitor and is by no means guaranteed

Kurrichane Thrush (Turdus libonyanus)










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...