12 July 2024

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 and were on the road by 4am heading north to Pienaars River.

Although the late summer has been very dry and the floodplain was also dry, we were still optimistic or perhaps hopeful. We weren't the only ones, once we reached Zaagies that were looking for this skulker. We had a quick stop on Crake Road which was also dry - no sign of any Crakes, but we did get a relatively obliging Common Whitethroat - but still so much harder to photograph in SA than in Kuwait!

Common Whitethroat (Curruca communis)

And a Zitting Cisticola on the road verge

Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis)

We headed to a different area to last year and were in place, waiting and listening as the sun started rising. We waited and waited and did not even hear one calling - we were in touch with others and they confirmed the same - this was not the year for these elusive Warblers - just too dry. We did have a Gabar land close to us

Gabar Goshawk (Micronisus gabar)

So many Orb Spiders (perhaps a two different species) in the thickets on the edge of the floodplain - I need to confirm the ID's 

Orb Spider sp.


Over the floodplain, many Black-winged Pratincole's feeding on the wing

Black-winged Pratincole (Glareola nordmanni)

We had Terrestrial Brownbul in the thickets where we had parked our car

Terrestrial Brownbul (Phyllastrephus terrestris) 

And a single White-backed Vulture overhead

White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus)

There were so many African Plain Tigers in the dry wetland

African Plain Tiger (Danaus c. orientis)

But I did manage to find just one White-winged Plain Tiger amongst them

White-winged Plain Tiger (Danaus c. alcippus)

Along with an African Blue Pansy

African Blue Pansy (Junonia o. madagascariensis)

After begrudgingly giving up again, we headed to the bridge where Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters were hawking and bathing from the overhead lines

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus)

A few Little Swifts were still around the bridge where the breed in numbers in the summer

Little Swift (Apus affinis)

There were numbers of Cattle Egret on the floodplain

Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

In the village we tried for Penduline Tit, but only managed Burnt-necked Eremomela as the morning warmed up considerably

Burnt-necked Eremomela (Eremomela usticollis)

So, although the company was great - the result was really disappointing and I have to wait another year to try again - this is now becoming a nemesis bird!

Scouting Northern Farm

13 March 2024 - Northern Farm

Anton van Nickerk, Gavin Kearns and I had a late afternoon visit to Northern Farm to check out if there was any suitable habitat for Grass Owl.

We did find some suitable habitat, but no sign of any Owls - but at least we now know which areas to keep an eye on. There were however, a few Banded Orb Spiders in the grass. I assume the tiny spider is the male?

Banded Orb Spider (Argiope trifasciata)

On the drive around, came across a Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

The resident Long-crested Eagle

Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis)

and an unexpected pale morph Wahlberg's Eagle which was a great record for the farm.

Pale morph Wahlberg's Eagle (Hieraaetus wahlbergi)

By now, the sun had set, so it was time to head back home.

Local Patch Birding with some migrants

13 March 2024 - Beaulieu Bird Sanctuary

After dropping our dog's off at playschool, I had a quick walk around Bird Sanctuary, another local patch, very close to where I live.

A small flock of Common Waxbill were feeding in some scrub close to the edge of the dam

Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild)

I had a single African Swamphen in the reeds, my first record of this species here

African Swamphen (Porphyrio madagascariensis)

A couple of African Hoopoe's were feeding on the grass near the entrance

African Hoopoe (Upupa africana)

However, the highlight was a single Woodland Kingfisher - a late intra-African migrant also on the verge of departing north

Woodland Kingfisher (Halcyon senegalensis)

I also picked up a few Willow Warbler, that also hadn't left yet - they have a much longer and more perilous passage back to Europe. Astounding for such a small bird....

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)

Northern Farm delivers

07 March 2024 - Northern Farm

I hadn't been able to visit the car in Jan or Feb as I was indisposed without my wheels. But, finally I got this chance in late summer to get to the farm whilst a few migrants would still be about.

As always, an early start is best and I tend to follow a similar route each visit, as it fits into the few hours I have available, before starting work. I had a Wood Sandpiper in the canal on the way to the quarry

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)

First stop was at the quarry, just as the sun was rising. I had a confiding male Stonechat

African Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus)

And then enjoyed the Amethyst Sunbird's that were feeding on the flowering Wild Dagga

Male Amethyst Sunbird (Chalcomitra amethystina)

There were of course White-bellied's around as well. Unfortunately, no Yellow Warbler, but I did check

Male White-bellied Sunbird (Cinnyris talatala)

I missed a single Black Kite that came flying over from where it had roosted overnight, but it was followed by quite a few Yellow-billed Kite's which circled over the quarry

Yellow-billed Kite (Milvus aegyptius)

I walked down to the small dam where I was entertained by a young Little Rush Warbler - I have good luck with them here

Little Rush Warbler (Bradypterus baboecala)

and the more obliging Lesser Swamp Warbler, warming up in the sun

Lesser Swamp Warbler (Acrocephalus gracilirostris)

Walking back to the car, a few White-fronted Bee-eaters flew in and landed on the telephone wires

White-fronted Bee-eater (Merops bullockoides)

The main reason for my visit was to check the remaining Amur flocks for any Red-footed Falcon's, although I feared it may already be too late. Most of the Amur's appeared to have left - but I did find a few roosting on the overhead lines in the early morning (which is the best time to generally find them), including this male with a few others

Amur Falcon (Falco amurensis)

I was thrilled to find a cracking female Red-footed with the 4 or 5 Amur's

Female Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus)

A little later the small flock took to the sky and flew to another part of the farm where they roosted on the high power lines overlooking a large expanse of grassland - I managed to get full frame images of the female this time - happiness!

Female Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus)

In the same area, a small flock of European Bee-eaters were hunting over the grassland and landing on the fence to smash their prey

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)

I continued on my circuit around the farm, stopping for a lone Falcon on the overhead line - this time it was an immature male Red-footed! The morning had certainly delivered

Male Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus)

Last stop was to check the boundary fence, where I sometimes find Greater Kestrel - my hunch was right and one was perched, also on the telephone pole - pity I couldn't get it to turn around. Greater Kestrel is not a dead cert with every visit, but if you check in the right area you may just get lucky

Greater Kestrel (Falco rupicoloides)

On the way out, a small flock of Pied Starling and my first record of this species at the farm

Pied Starling (Lamprotornis bicolor)

Overall a great morning, but very pleased with the two Red-footed and a Black Kite.

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...