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 Post subject: Arks' KNP Trip Report: May 2006: Biyamiti
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2006 2:50 am 
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Part One

Biyamiti bushcamp
There's always a risk, when you have heard many recommendations of a camp, that it might not quite live up to the advance billing. No such worries with Biyamiti — the reality lived up to all my expectations and more! The most noticeable difference about Biyamiti is the welcome: not that other camps aren't warm and welcoming, but at Biyamiti it feels like you're visiting old friends, and I don't think that this feeling of a "family" welcome was because I'm a forum member or because I happened to be bringing greetings from Van Rooi, now at Pretoriuskop, to his former colleagues at Biyamiti. My sense is that at Biyamiti, every visitor is welcomed as a friend and considered already a member of the Biyamiti family. And that many, or more likely most, become repeat visitors to this lovely bushcamp.

I had exchanged emails with our fellow forum member, Stephen Nel, the Biyamiti Hospitality Manager (who has now moved on to Berg en Dal, a camp that has never appealed to me, but with Stephen in charge ... ), and was delighted to be given unit #5, with a lovely view of the riverbed and with lots of birds, as well as squirrels and a few vervets, in the surrounding trees. During my stay I was visited by the resident bushbuck, a shy creature who happily hasn't learned to beg from visitors, and saw my first purplecrested lourie — hard to miss as it flew very close to me. :shock: It's a stunning bird, but shy, and it didn't stick around long enough for me to grab my camera and try for a photo. But I'll have vivid memories of those flashes of green, purple and red as the bird landed briefly in the nearby trees and then moved on. WOW!!!

Biyamiti's units #1 through #8 all have views of the usually dry Biyamiti riverbed. Some units have more trees in front of them than others, which is good for birding, but somewhat obscures the view down to the river, although most units also have a bench in front close to the river. I'd say that of the larger units, #6 is (as often recommended on this forum) the one with the best view, while of the smaller ones, I think I'd choose #3 in future.

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Biyamiti unit #5
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views from unit #5

5 May - Skukuza - Pretoriouskop - Biyamiti
I was up early again and with no reason to linger in camp, was on my way shortly after 0600. My first stop was the hyena den on the H11. On this morning, several of the group were being worried by a warthog on the NE side of the road, near one of the den entrances. The warthog was clearly interested in investigating the premises, but eventually thought better of it and moved off. Today I saw that there were at least two cubs in the group (video, but no stills,) and once the warthog was gone, they all again moved off up the No Entry road.

The highly recommended S65 yielded very little and I eventually made my way to Pretoriouskop, where I had the great pleasure of meeting Van Rooi Moreku, late of Biyamiti, who is now Duty Manager at Pretoriouskop. The rest of my drive to Biyamiti was uneventful, although I did encounter an injured zebra near Ship Mountain. I was disappointed that a combi traveling in the opposite direction wasn't willing to wait and forced/encouraged the hobbling zebra to move out of its way — and then wondered why I was shaking my head. When I observed that they might have waited, the driver replied that the zebra would have to move out of the road eventually :roll:

The zebra was clearly staying in the road because it felt safest there, and without projecting human emotion into the situation, it was interesting to see that the other zebras stayed close, several nuzzling the wounded one and appearing to provide moral support. However, this zebra's days and hours were clearly numbered, and I suspected that there would be a kill in the area before much longer. Sad, perhaps, but nature is harsh and only the fittest/strongest survive. My hope was that it wouldn't be long and that the zebra would be put out of its misery soon, but although I stayed quite some time, waiting until there was plenty of room for me to pass without further stressing the zeb, there was no sign of any predators.

Probably my most interesting sighting was a pair of small finch-like birds with red faces (but not red heads) that I have so far been unable to ID. I couldn't find anything likely in my field guide(s) (which are still en route; this parcel is sure take a long time to get here), so am hoping some of the expert forum birders can help with ID again. Juveniles, perhaps?

Once I'd settled into my chalet, I decided that it was far too pleasant in camp, and that I'd opt to stay put rather than go out for a late afternoon drive. However, after all the glowing reports I'd read here on the forum, I did sign up for a sunset drive for the following evening. But for this evening, after an exploratory, but uneventful, walk along the fence, I lit my braai, poured my wine, and settled back to enjoy the peace and quiet as darkness fell.

sightings
H11: hyena, warthog
S1: ellie bull, emeraldspotted wood dove, slender mongoose, helmeted guinea fowl
S65: impala, threebanded plover, kudu, warthog
H1-1: Egyptian geese, blacksmith plover, zebra, slender mongoose, baboons, impala, helmeted guinea fowl
S8: kudu, baboons, helmeted guinea fowl, impala, dwarf mongooses, crested barbet
H2-2: blackcollared barbets, baboons, zebra, bataleur, leopard tortoise, dung beetles on rhino midden, ?BBJ, hoopoe, impala
S114: impala
S139: ?BBJ, ?lizard (blue head and very long, but no pix), tree squirrel, orange butterflies, redbilled hornbill, emeraldspotted wood dove, leopard tortoise
Biyamiti bushcamp: bushbuck, purplecrested lourie, redbilled hornbill

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can anyone help with ID of these birds?
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or of this BBJ?
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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Sun Mar 02, 2008 4:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Arks' KNP Trip Report: 5, 6 May 2006: Biyamiti
Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 22, 2006 10:31 pm 
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Part Two

6 May - Biyamiti - Afsaal - Biyamiti
Today's the day for our long-awaited skottle brekkie at Afsaal, where I will be meeting Jumbo, Bosveldkonig and Freda. This will be my first ever skottle brekkie, plus because I travel solo, I rarely stop at picnic spots, usually opting to take my breaks at other camps. En route I traveled south and explored the S110 around Berg en Dal, where despite rumours of wild dogs in the area, I saw nothing dramatic — apart from the dramatic scenery, which alone made the drive worthwhile. Also, on the 18k portion of the S139, I encountered a pair of bataleurs that appeared to be juveniles of different ages. I'm hoping some of you knowledgeable birders can confirm this?

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It was great to meet more fellow forumites and as with my meeting with francoisd and Bush Baptist in April, it felt more like meeting old friends as through the forum we do already sorta know each other. Jumbo poured the mimosas and Bosveldkonig produced a marvelous assortment of brekkie treats — my favourite being the yummy mushrooms — and we chattered away as Freda and Jumbo filled me in on all the forum gossip I'd missed over the past six weeks, as well as tales of the Bananarama tour, and I related some of my adventures in the park. I was pleased that Freda and I would be meeting up again next evening at Lower Sabie for a braai and we just wished that Jumbo and Bosveldkonig could also be there, but they would by then be heading home to Moz.

Later, when I took the turnoff for Renosterpan, I by chance met up with Jumbo and Bosveldkonig and they asked whether I'd seen the rhino shortly after leaving Afsaal — as I'd said earlier that I'd yet to see rhino this trip. Nope, sez I, I only saw a lot of impala. Jumbo said that the rhino were at the same place, but farther away from the road, under the trees, which, I said, meant that they were likely far easier to see from their Highlux than from my well-named Micra. However, I was curious, so drove back to that spot and now that I knew the rhino were there, I could indeed just make out a pair of ears in the distance — too far away for any still pix, but I did shoot a bit of video to remember this sighting. Later that afternoon I was fascinated to observe a BBJ (possibly a brown snake eagle?) being attacked by three divebomber lilacbreasted rollers. Despite the intensity of the LBR activity, the BBJ was completely unmoved and unfussed and I've no idea what these LBRs may have been "defending".

Upon my return to Biyamiti, I was delighted to be able to visit with another forumite, Stephen Nel, who was then still Biyamiti's hospitality manager, but has now moved to Berg en Dal. I then had a short time to put my feet up outside my chalet, before returning to reception for the sunset drive. The other three guests who had signed up for the drive were no shows (I never did learn what happened to them), and while I'd assumed that they wouldn't do a drive with just one guest, I was wrong.

Benjamin, aka Benjy, is a delightful guide — both knowledgeable and extremely enthusiastic. It's clear that he loves his job and delights in presenting his guests with all sorts of insights into the bush around them. He just bubbles over with a wealth of information, much more than I could absorb, but I've retained at least some of it, like all the details about the hamerkop's nest and how to distinguish between the sexes of puff adders — the male puff adder has a short, fat tail (if you look at these pix that mafortini posted, I think that you can see the difference of the sexes).

It was a fairly sultry evening (I'd expected it to get chilly, but never needed my fleece) with a fiery sunset, followed by lots of sheet lightening but only a few drops of rain. Benjy was disappointed that we didn't encounter the resident leopard, but I was thrilled to have my very first clear sighting of a nightjar — this one was the fierynecked nightjar. Again, no still pix, because I've found that my video performs far better at night, so I stick to that on night drives. For this one, I've got some excellent video of the nightjar, plus of the group of five rhino we saw (this time more than just ears) and of a male puff adder. Altogether one of the best drives I've been on — and most definitely the most fun. Thanks again, Benjy!!

sightings

S139 (18k): whitebacked vulture, emeraldspotted wood dove, hyena, 2 immature/juvenile bataleurs of different ages (I think), 2nd juvenile bataleur, ?pair of tawny eagles, impala
S114: giraffe, ?brown snake eagle, bataleur, dwarf mongooses, tree squirrels, impala
S110: giraffe, zebra, impala, BBJ (?tawny eagle)
H3: pied wagtail, kudu, dwarf mongoose, impala, wildebeest, hamerkop, rhino (only ears)
S118: BBJ (?brown snake eagle), impala, leopard tortoise
S114: hamerkop, impala
S119: impala, BBJ (?brown snake eagle) being divebombed by LBRs, breeding herd of ellies crossing Mhlambane riverbed
S25: bull elephant, impala, dwarf mongoose, mouse, warthog
S139 (4k): impala
Sunset drive on S139 (18k): puff adders, kudu, fierynecked nightjar, rhino

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Is this a brown snake eagle?
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mystery mouse ... any ID ideas?
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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Sun Mar 02, 2008 4:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 24, 2006 3:07 pm 
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arks wrote:
Also, on the 18k portion of the S139, I encountered a pair of bataleurs that appeared to be juveniles of different ages.


Most definitely. One on the left seems to be very close to adulthood, if it isn't there already. But the colour (can't see clearly, so can't say for certain) seems to still be a bit brown so it could be the last moult before full adult plumage. Bird on the right seems to be probably halfway there. If you look at the colour on the face, it has changed from the blueish colour found on juveniles to the red found on adults. I'll try and have a look in Robert's & Raptors of the World tonight and see if I can find a bit more info and we can maybe get closer to a real age.

arks wrote:
Is this a brown snake eagle?


Definitely Brown Snake-eagle. Thought I'll brighten it up a bit for you so you can see a bit more of your bird. (Thanks Photoshop) Back-lighting always a problem. Happens to me all the time as well.
Stunning sunset pic :!:

Image

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Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
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Latest lifers from Kruger NP:
Black Coucal Centropus grillii Swartvleiloerie
Flappet Lark Mirafra rufocinnamomea Laeveldklappertjie


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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 11:55 am 
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arks wrote:
Thanks, Johann, for all the info. How long do bataleurs take to moult into mature colours? I saw quite a few different juveniles in all sorts of stages, but very few where there were two together like this.


Took the following out of Raptors of the World, Ferguson-Lees & Christie ISBN 0-618-12762-3

This excerpt refers to sketch of bird very much like the one on the left of your picture.
Quote:
Fifth-year male: Blackish, mottled chestnut on back and grey on shoulders; cere/face orange, feet pink. Flight below: white mottling on wing-linings now begins adult pattern. (Until 3-yr like shorter-tailed juvenile; darkens in 4-yr; adult by 7/8-yr)


This is a general description on the bird at different stages.
Quote:
Juvenile Longer-tailed and all brown, edged rufous above, with paler, tawnier head, brown eyes, greenish-blue cere and whitish feet.
ImmatureIn second-third years much as juvenile. In fourth year becomes sooty-brown, and sex evident in wing-markings; in fifth year first signs of chestnut and grey on back and shoulders; over this two-year period cere and feet turn yellow and then pink.
Subadult In sixth to seventh years plumage blackens and chestnut increases; shoulders fully grey by eight year.


Description of the bare parts
Quote:
…juvenile cere and facial skin pale grey-blue to green-blue, feet greyish-white to greenish-white; at four to five years, cere facial skin and feet turn yellow, then pink, and redden thereafter.


So after all that I would venture to say a six-year old (maybe even 7) on the left and probably a five-year old on the right :D

_________________
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
Albert Einstein

Latest lifers from Kruger NP:
Black Coucal Centropus grillii Swartvleiloerie
Flappet Lark Mirafra rufocinnamomea Laeveldklappertjie


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