At 16h00 Jed (whose surname is Bird in a fine example of nominative determinism) fetched me from my chalet. Most of the other partipants were attending a bird photography course in the camp boardroom and those who weren’t were still too flogged after the long morning.
Jed, apart from being an Honorary Ranger is also a research student in the park currently researching various aspects of black rhino ecology. This means he has an off-road bakkie, traversing rights into no entry roads and a pass key for late and early entry around the park. He also knows his stuff and knew where to go to chase additional species we hadn’t seen in the morning, and so we headed in the direction of the Gorah Loop.
A harsh coughing call alerted us to a beautiful male Southern Black Korhaan near the roadside. Soon after Jed picked up a Denham’s Bustard far into the grasslands. We then left the tourist road and headed up towards Gorah via the park boundary. The decision was soon rewarded as we came across another bustard, this one at close range and to our delight it had a brown head and throat, contrasting with its bright orange neck – in other words it was Ludwig’s. Denham’s is the predominant Bustard in the park, but during the recent dry period Jed tells me several Ludwig’s moved into the area. It was nice to see that some were still around. Not much further along we were able to add Wattled Starling and Red-billed Quelea to the list, the latter in a mixed flock of seedeater with weavers, sparrows and bishops with males in a varying state of plumage transition. A little further along a stately pair of Blue Crane was an exciting addition while a jackal was just starting his evening prowl.
We then temporarily left the grasslands and went through a patch of thicket, pausing only to rescue a tortoise that was trapped between the main fence and the predator electric fence. A party of Swee Waxbill is always a delight, so we happily lapped up the one that came our way.
Up at the top we rejoined the tourist road as we made our way to Carol’s Rest. Cattle Egret and African Pipit were added along the way. There was a stack of cars at Carol’s Rest because there was a big male lion on the one side and a handful of buffalo on the other. Birds were out target however and we added Red-billed Oxpecker, Cardinal Woodpecker and to our glee a pair of Red-throated Wryneck.
Leaving Leo and the buffs to the masses, we headed back into non regulation territory and into the grasslands once more. Zitting and Cloud Cisticola were calling profusely, and a real plus was a very obliging Common Quail which allowed itself to be photographed. We were heading in the direction of the Gorah Lodge, and as we descended a zigzagging path through some thicket we added Rufous-vented Titbabbler as it popped cooperatively into view.
One last stint through grasslands west of Gorah Lodge added a Rock Kestrel to the list. It was here I learned from Jed that the park’s Black Rhino has a penchant for the exotic Scottish Thistle which occur in proliferation outside the park, but get munched eagerly inside.
Anyway it was getting dark and we had to get back to the Venison Braai and festivities back at camp, so we headed home after a really pleasant late afternoon stint. More tomorrow as I’m being taken into the Nyathi Section for the first time on a 4×4 route into the Zuurberg!