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Birders

Recent Sightings - Other National Parks 2005

Karoo, Tsitsikamma and Agulhas National Parks - Christmas Holidays 2005

I was 50% successful at the Karoo NP, ticking Layard's tit-babbler but not cinnamon-breasted warbler.

The Garden Route produced two more lifers in the forms of Victorin's warbler near Stormsriver and Knysna warbler at Wilderness. Unfortunately I dipped on Knysna woodpecker despite tremendous effort.

In the Agulhas region I was decidedly unproductive and dipped on both the Agulhas long-billed lard and the Agulhas subspecies of Clapper Lark.

In all, seven lifers were very exciting and a welcome addition to my life list but not half as exciting as the event of my girlfriend becoming my fiancée in a very romantic Montagu, my town of birth.

- Dewald Swanepoel

West Coast National Park - 20 December 2005

Black-tailed godwit from the Geelbek hide in the West Coast National Park today. The bird has been photographed and we will post the photos on the website www.zestforbirds.co.za as soon as we receive them.

- Alan Bedford Shaw

Knysna National Lake Area - 19 Dec 2005

I’m on holiday in Knysna and while mountain biking down from Pezula I nearly fell off my bike when a Red-tailed tropicbird flew over my head at 10h45 on Monday 19 Dec. It was on the east side of the lagoon near the golf course at the road heading up to Pezula. It must have come in through the heads as it was flying very low. Ill keep a look out for it over the next week or so.

- Neil Puntis

Comment from others

Interesting! I was in Knysna towards the end of November, and while standing at the viewpoint from the heads I noticed a bird come cruising by, but heading from the interior out towards the ocean. I only had a couple of seconds view, and the bird definitely looked like a Red-tailed Tropicbird. I never mentioned anything as I was not 100% certain of the id. Wish I was - it could mean another tick for my life list. Oh well, I will just have to wait for the next opportunity I get.

In a way this sighting almost confirms my sighting, but there is no way I could ever give it a tick. Very frustrating.

- Robert Wienand

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park - late November 2005

We spent a good 15 minutes watching a 1,5 m Cape Cobra moving amongst gerbil/mice holes. In close proximity was a adult Pale Chanting Goshawk. We assumed that the goshawk was about to attack the snake which they are known to do. We discussed the size of the snake in relation to the bird and decided that that would definitely be ‘dangerous liaisons’ as the snake could have grounded the bird and both would possibly have come short.

We soon realised that the bird was following the snake not for snake food, but for gerbil food. This proved successful as the PCG attacked and caught a whistling rat which had tried to escape the snake. The bird then flew away into a tree close by with the rat in its talons.

I know that PCG’s are known to follow honey-badgers in this fashion, but not with dangerous snakes. Anyone else seen this?

The Kalahari is looking great at the moment and greening up of the plants/grass over my last 3 trips has been quite dramatic after the recent rains, even making the 40C pleasant!

- Brian van der Walt

Golden Gate Highlands National Park - End November 2005

Kan jy help asb....ons was die afgelope naweek in Golden Gate prk en het by een van die uitkykpunte,op een van die geteerde roetes, 2 kwartels opgejaag wat weggevlieg het.

Volgens Sasol se hersiene uitgawe van Suid - Afrikaanse voël kan dit waarskynlik die swartrug kwartel (black-rumped buttonquail) Roberts nommer 206 wees. Ons kon hulle nie behoorlik sien en identifiseer nie.

Is hierdie spesie al in die park aangeteken en kom hulle wel daar voor ??.

- Phillip Snyman

Comments from reputable birders:

Very interesting and probably valid. The Tarbotons had reasonable numbers of BRBQs at Wakkerstroom. If I remember correctly they were summer visitors to fallow fields. Wakkerstroom's altitude and habitat are so similar to Golden Gate's that the sighting probably has merit.

- Mostert Kriek

I lived and worked in Golden Gate and the adjacent QwaQwa National Park from ’93-’99 and only recorded Black-rumped Buttonquail on a few occasions at lower altitudes on fallow lands in the QwaQwa National Park. According to my records there were no sightings in Golden Gate at all. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the birds might not be there now, but they missed quite intense scrutiny during my tenure there.

- André Botha

At the outset please understand I am no authority/scientist and do not know the difference between one grass type versus the other.I have a little experience with BBQ and am interested to know the altitude at Golden Gate as that seems to be a cut-off here,limiting the bird in question to below 1500 m amsl.Secondly the habitat that he tends to favour here, is "generally/usually/most of the time" second-hand veld types that appear to have been under the plough at some stage and now trying to get back to original.Significant seems to be little bare patches at tussock base,which I suppose gives the bird an opportunity to run(which he does regularly).Finally, I have a horrible suspicion all my theories are going to pot because the climate here is changing by the day---I monitor a Blue Swallow breeding site which is a resident of COOL MISTBELT GRASSLANDS.So how come every time I go there the first bird I hear is Grey-headed Bush shrike.??

- Malacolm Gemill

We have not seen Black-rumped in the Free State yet, but we have one record of Small Buttonquail just outside Golden Gate on 29 April 2001. The 3 buttonquails were still lumped together at that time, if I remember correctly. These blighters are more common than we think. In my opinion, it is not unlikely for BR Buttonquail to pitch up at Golden gate.

- Dawie Kleynhans

As for Black-rumped Buttonquail I have long suspected that they could be present at Golden Gate National Park. There are sections that are certainly most suitable for this bird and having seen them in Mpumalanga and the Natal midlands I have no doubt that they could occur at Golden Gate.

- Colin Valentine

Mapungubwe National Park 16 - 26 November 2005

Once at Mapungubwe NP, on the Leokwe Camp side - Painted Snipe from the Boardwalk/Limpopo Hide, Broadbilled Rollers, Brubru's nesting in front of the hide, interesting woodpeckers, Meyer's Parrots, Great Spotted Cuckoos, Green Pigeon nesting in "our" baobab tree, Senegal Coucal. A pair of Black Eagles were soaring near the Mapungubwe Hill archaelogical site.

On Limpopo Forest Tents side - Kori Bustard came down to drink at the waterhole, Striped and Jacobin Cuckoo's, Heuglins/Whitebrowed Robin, Tropical Boubou, Melba Finch, Greencapped Eremomelas, Greater Honeyguide, White-backed Mousebird, Wood Owl calling at night. Pied Babblers had reportedly been around this camp for two days previous to our visit.

Both Leokwe and Limpopo Forest camps reflected great "bush style" and the staff were very personable - a credit to the endeavours SANParks. I would love to see the Limpopo River flowing and hope good rains fall in the catchment areas soon.

Anyway, this is not a detailed account (I've not mentioned the more obvious Lilac-breasted Rollers, European Bee-eaters and Maeve's Starlings) but rather an appreciation of the great birding and lovely places to stay - also apologies for any "old" names used.

- Gill Leisegang

West Coast National Park - 18 November 2005

Fraser Gear reports a Common Redshank at Geelbek Hide, Langebaan on 18/11/2005. Best wishes - David Hoddinott

West Coast National Park - 4 to 6 November 2005

The Honorary Rangers Park Bird Census Weekend was held over this weekend. 168 species were seen cumulatively with several regional and a couple of national rarities recorded. See Big Bird Days for details and checklists. - Editor

Bird Guide request for Clarens/Golden Gate Area

Contact Richard (Tsolofelo) Motingwe at the Basotho Cultural Village at cell: 083 879 0765 or tel: (058) 721 0300 for bird guiding.

Wilderness National Park – late October 2005

At the Ebb and Flow camp at Wilderness National Park, we saw two Cape Sugarbirds fly to the extensive reedbeds just before dusk, then settle deep into the reeds to roost overnight!

Sometimes the most fun is watching what birds actually do once you've id'd them! - Margaret Maciver

Nature’s Valley, Tsitsikamma - 29 October 2005

Ray Archer, a British client of ours, reports a Lesser Crested Tern at Nature’s Valley lagoon (Garden Route). The bird was seen yesterday, bathing on the sandbar at the river mouth. An exceptionally rare bird in this part of the world! - Callan Cohen

Marakele National Park - 21 to 23 October 2005

The 3rd annual Honorary Ranger/SASOL bird census weekend yielded a combine total of 274 and 5 new species for the park. See Big Birding Days for more details and checklist. - Editor

Flamingos and Agulhas Plain pans – 5 October 2005

It is remarkable how the landscape has been changed since the April floods in the Napier and Bredasdorp area. Apart from the scouring out of river beds and road damage, now temporarily repaired, many pans have developed on the Agulhas plains. Waterbirds abound! My husband and I have just spent a few days on a farm near De Mond Nature Reserve and were amazed at the wonderful sight of flamingos flying over every evening at sunset (I love sunset time, but there is something incredibly beautiful and spectacular about the sunsets on the Agulhas Plains!). On the last evening I counted about 600 birds flying off in different directions, mostly towards Waenhuiskrans (Arniston).

We ventured out by car one wet day and found a pan on the left hand side of the tar road as you travel from Bredasdorp down to Waenhuiskrans (between the farm Nachtwacht and the gravel turnoff across towards Struisbaai road). About 400 flamingos were foraging with shuffling feet, quite close to the road. Further down the tar road, after the gravel turnoff, was a pan on the right hand side of the road with Avocet and Cape Teal and Blackwinged Stilt. On the gravel road, between the Waenhuiskrans and Struisbaai tar roads, a huge deep pan has developed in two fields on the right, with a barbed wire fence across it, where we saw many Redknobbed Coot, Yellowbilled Duck and a few Redbilled Teal.

Hope you get a chance to explore out that way! - Donella Young

Tanqua-Karoo – 1 October 2005

We went birding in the Tanqua Karoo on Sat 1 Oct. The morning was a wonderful day and starting off with some larks like Thickbilled, Redcapped and Spikeheeled and Namaqua sandgrouse. A stop at the bridge over the Tanqua River gave us a few Karoo birds like Fairy Flycatcher, Karoo Robin, Karoo prinia and a few more. A beautiful juvenile Martial Eagle sat in a bluegum tree.

Entering the Tanqua Karoo Nat Park we had views of Karoo Lark displaying and some was sitting on a bush busy calling. Pale Chanting Goshawk was seen and we found our first Dusky Sunbird. The Renoster River has still a few water pools and a lot of birds came here to drink including Greyheaded Sparrow (which is a new one for the park's list), Cape Robin, more Fairy Flycatchers, Whitethroated and Yellow Canary. A little flock of Wattled Starlings flew past while a Booted Eagle soared overhead.

We found the neat nest of Cape Penduline Tit and saw a Yellowbellied Eremomela. At Gannaga Pass we had lots of Blackheaded Canaries, Layard's Titbabbler, a pair of Black Eagles and very interesting, a few Cape Bulbul which was unexpected. On top of the pass we saw a small flock of 5 Cape Penduline Tits which got very excited when called.

At about 12 o'clock a very nasty Northwestern started blowing with clouds of dust rolling over the plains. We knew that our birding has virtually ended but a drive through the rest of the park gave us Namaqua Dove, we saw that the Greater Kestrel was breeding and that the Martial Eagle at Biesiesfontein has a chick in the nest.

No luck with coursers at all the known places or with Cinnamonbreasted Warbler in Gannaga Pass. Despite the wind an enjoyable birding day with 67 species to the list. - Japie Classsen

Golden Gate Highlands National Park – 16 to 18 September 2005

I spent the weekend in Clarens last weekend. I had numerous sightings of the Ground Woodpecker (lifer) on the koppie behind Summertime -the guest house we stayed in. Swee waxbills posed for a few close up photos while the Buff-streaked chats were in full display.

A quick trip to Golden Gate NP produced my target bird and second lifer for the weekend the Bearded Vulture. We also picked up Sentinel Rock Thrush and Bald Ibis.

I saw another Bearded Vulture as we left Clarens on the way to Bethlehem. - Neil Puntis

West Coast National Park – 18 September 2005

We had a relatively quiet morning watching waders at Langebaan lagoon, but of particular interest were two good looks at a very fresh juvenile Curlew Sandpiper amongst numbers of winter plumage adults and a few moulting adults retaining vestiges of their breeding plumage. Hayman, Marchant and Prater record in Shorebirds that the main migration of juvenile Curlew Sand's southwards takes place in Aug/Sept, but isn't it incredible that a bird that was only breaking clear of its shell in June/July has already flown from the arctic tundra of Siberia all the way to Langebaan by mid September. - John Graham

Comments: John Graham reported: " ... at Langebaan lagoon, ... of particular interest were ... a very fresh juvenile Curlew Sandpiper ... isn't it incredible that a bird that was only breaking clear of its shell in June/July has already flown from the arctic tundra of Siberia all the way to Langebaan by mid September."

The time between departure and arrival is averages about seven weeks. At about 75 km/hour the time in the air between Siberia (Taimyr Peninsula to be precise) and Langebaan works out to about seven days. The remaining six weeks is spent "refuelling". So this bird would have left about beginning of August. Breeding has to be incredibly synchronized in the tundra, so virtually all Curlew Sandpipers start incubation at about the same time, mid June. Hatching is early in July, chicks grow amazingly fast, and are flying within about 20 days, and by early August most have flown south. So although John's observation ___IS___ incredible, it is just what comes naturally to these animals. So we ought to be seeing lots of juvenile waders soon --- with a good close up view, it is quite easy to recognize the give-away patterns which are characteristic of juvenile waders (especially for the first few weeks after arrival).

Waders seem to have had a good breeding season in the tundra this past northern summer. This is the first really successful breeding season for quite a while. Watch out for normally coastal species such as Turnstones, Grey Plovers, Sanderlings, etc, at inland sites. These will almost all be juveniles. Report on the net, but please archive the observations at "Bird Sightings" on the ADU website (URL below). http://www.aviandemographyunit.org/ - Les Underhill

Tankwa Karoo National Park and surrounds

Last weekend 10 & 11 Sept 2005 I took people from Fourways out on birding into the Tanqua. We started of with good performance of CAPE CLAPPER LARK and lots of GREYBACKED CISTICOLAS before we got to Katbakkies Pass. A little further on we had lovely performance of SOUTHERN BLACK KORHAAN standing on a rock and telling everyone that it was his territory. Before we reached Skitterykloof we found a flock of BLACKHEADED CANARIES with the breeding pair of PALE CHANTING GOSHAWK, LESSER DC SUNBIRD, WHITETHROATED CANARY & LAYARD'S TITBABBLER.

Skitterykoof was very quiet with now sounds of the CINNAMONBREASTED WARBLER. The Karoo plains are very dry but picked up KAROO CHAT, a few groups of KAROO EREMOMELAS at different places, a pair of KAROO KORHAANS, RUFOUSEARED WARBLER, KAROO LARK and Red-capped Lark. In the river below the Tanqua Guest House we found NAMAQUA WARBLER, AFR MARSH WARBLER and the other Karoo birds associated with thorn trees. The big dam at the guest house is bone dry at the moment as is the Lucerne fields.

We entered the Tankwa Karoo Nat Park and had no luck with the Black-eared Finchlarks. They had presumably left for better conditions where they can breed. We found THICKBILLED LARK and SPIKEHEELED LARK and in a dry copse we got magnificent views of CAPE PENDULINE TIT, KAROO ROBIN, RUFOUSEARED WARBLER, GREYBACKED CISTICOLA & a PALE CHANTING GOSHAWK, all together. Later on we had good views of the dark morph of BOOTED EAGLE.

We stayed over in the park's accommodation at Paulshoek.

The next day we went for Ouberg Pass along the Roggeveld and started of with GREATER KESTREL. We also had beautiful views of KAROO LONGBILLED LARK displaying and of a BLACKBREASTED SNAKE EAGLE. Towards Ouberg we saw DUSKY SUNBIRD and up the pass we tried our atmost to locate the AFR ROCK PIPITS and CB WARBLER. We had glimpses of the Rock Pipit but only heard CB Warbler once called and even not sure it wasn't a Layard's Titbabbler mimicking. We found some more BLACKHEADED CANARIES, alpine swift and a lonely LUDWIG'S BUSTARD right on top of the pass.

We decided to head for Sutherland and from Ouberg to Sutherland the veld is in a much better condition. At a pool in the Upper Fish River we saw AFR BLACK DUCK. From Sutherland (luckily at that time not into the minus degrees) we drove to Ceres via the gravel road. In Verlatekloof Pass we added GROUND WOODPECKER and PALEWINGED STARLINGS. Later on we found SOUTHERN GREY TIT and a lot of the birds already seen. At Theronsberg Pass we had BLUE CRANE on the wheat fields and we could ended the day with another lifer for the visitors, PROTEA CANARY, in Gydo Pass.

Our total for the 2 days was 112 species. Not bad in the dry conditions of the Tankwa. - Japie Claassens

Addo Elephant National Parks – Bird Island – 29 August 2005

Bruce Dyer reports a WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATER on Bird Island in Algoa Bay at Port Elizabeth yesterday and today (The island now forms part of the Greater Addo National Park). They heard the bird calling last night, but were unable to see it. It returned to the island at about 5pm this afternoon and allowed great views and some photographic opportunities. We hope to have some of the photos up on our website in the next few days. To the best of my knowledge, this is the second time this species has turned up on the island!

And if that is not enough, they have also located a new AUSTRALIAN GANNET on the island today. It seems that this would be the 22nd record of this species for Southern Africa. - Trevor Hardaker on behalf of Bruce Dyer

West Coast National Park – 27 August 2005

Johan Nieuwoudt, Andrew Mason and I spent an early morning at West Coast National Park on Saturday. Had great views of 3 groups of Grey-winged Francolin and 2 exceptionally good sightings of African Rail at Abrahaam's Kraal. - Michael Mason

Tankwa Karoo

After returning from the Kalahari with a client we called in at the Tanqua Karoo where we found 3 Burchell’s Coursers on Saturday 21st August. This is the first time that I have seen them in two years. - Brian Van der Walt

Kgalagadi – Rare Bird Alert – 18 August 2005

Brian Vanderwalt reports a PECTORAL SANDPIPER this morning at a pond at Twee Rivieren Camp in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. - Trevor Hardaker

Mapungubwe – 29 July to 1 August 2005

I spent a good couple of hours one morning on the tree-top boardwalk over the Limpopo River at Mapungubwe National Park this past weekend. It was an absolute pleasure to be amongst the foliage during early morning activity with baboon, impala and bushbuck a few metres below and birds all around.

While there was an impressive procession of various species from both the boardwalk and the hide over the river, most intriguing were a mixed party of White-crested and Retz's Helmet-shrikes moving busily through the branches. They merged for a good couple of minutes during which time they were very vocal, before splitting and moving off in different directions. The Retz's (Red-billed) came my way and were moving through the trees supporting the boardwalk allowing for quality views. My question is:

Do these two species see each other as rivals, and was their temporary merging a confrontation, or are they pretty homogenous and are mixed flocks between the two a frequent occurrence? As far as I know their diets and habits are pretty similar.

Other highlights of the 2 hour morning watch on the boardwalk included two African Barred Owlets using the early morning for one last conversation before retiring to diurnal slumber; a lone Meyer's Parrot clearing his lungs from a bare tree top, all 4 common bushveld woodpeckers and the 2 regional specials: Tropical Boubous and Meve's Starlings, the latter in great numbers.

We also had a superb leopard sighting just outside the camp (Leokwe) en route to the tree hide. - Chris Patton

Responses:

I have observed mixed flocks of helmetshrikes on a few occasions in Kruger. Once on the Nwaswitshaka stream I had a flock of Retz's coming in to investigate the White HS call being played (even though the calls are quite different). Whether their intentions were aggressive or not is difficult to say.

We regularly see the two species in flocks feeding in the same general vicinity with no apparent interaction. Why this is I am not sure but my gut feel is that there are subtle differences in their feeding habits. When I have seen them together, RBH tend to prefer feeding in the canopy, often along larger branches and trunks, whereas WHS are quite happy feeding down to just above ground level in understory shrubs. They may be well enough segregated this way that they tolerate each other's presence. Just a hunch and I have no hard data to back that up.

Even more bizarre was a flock of White HS seen on the Mpumalanga escarpment about 5 years ago that contained a single Retz's behaving as if it was part of the family! - Warren McCleland

An interesting question concerning the Helmetshrikes.

I have quite often observed the two species in close proximity to each other and have also seen Retz’s and Chestnut-fronted under similar circumstances in Mozambique.

In April 1997 or 1998, I had the opportunity of ringing birds in the Limpopo Valley, not too far from Mapungubwe. On one occasion, I flushed a small group of about 8 White Helmetshrikes from the ground and 5 of the group conveniently ended up in my nets. They immediately started protesting vocally about the unwanted interruption which caused the remainder of the group to return and they also ended up in the nets and joined in the chorus. To my surprise another group of White Helmetshrikes also appeared and started calling loudly. This in turn attracted a small group of Retz’s Helmetshrikes to the area. Eventually, I ended up ringing about 14 White and 5 Retz’s Helmetshrikes caught in the same net in about 5 minutes!

It seems as if they not only sometimes occur in close proximity to each other but can also, to a certain extent, understand each other’s “language”. - Andre Botha, Chris Roche

Kgalagadi – Rare Bird Alert - Mata Mata Camp – 15 July 2005

Rose-coloured Starling: a first for southern Africa!

I've included a web link below to a bird, putatively identified as the first Rose-coloured Starling for Southern Africa. It was discovered and photographed by Jörgen Sagvik, a Swedish birder visiting the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park/Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Northern Cape, South Africa, on the 15th July 2005 near the Mata Mata Rest Camp, and he sent the photos through to me yesterday.

Have a look at http://www.birdingafrica.com> African Birding Resources > then click the Rose-coloured Starling link on the sidebar under Highlights. Critical comments are welcome, please.

Rose-coloured Starling is a famed wanderer from its south-east European breeding grounds and there are scattered records in North Africa. Dave Fisher informs me that there is even a record from the Seychelles!

Update on southern Africa's first Rose-coloured Starling.

Jörgen Sagvik discovered the bird on the 15 July 05 around 16.30 in the afternoon, 18.8 km south of Mata Mata rest camp, at a waterhole called Craig Lockhart in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park, South Africa.

No-one has reported it since. Jörgen has submitted more photos to http://www.birdingafrica.com (follow the link from the Highlights Bar on the right), this time showing the bird next to a Wattled Starling.

The consensus is that the bird is a 2nd calendar-year individual. Many thanks to Leo Boon, Dave Fisher, Trevor Hardaker, Jeremy Lindsell, Rob Lucking, Mike Meidlinger, Killian Mullarney, Dick Newell, Georges Olioso, Ian Sinclair, Phil Whittington and Chris Wormwell for their comments regarding the age of the bird. - Callan Cohen

Mapungubwe - 15 to 19 June 2005

Before dawn, Gina and I left the campsite in search for Nightjars and Coursers along the road to Mapungubwe National Park. Though the first 15-kilometer of dirt road produced no specials, other than the typical arid Acacia thornveld birds, the Den Staat dirt road produces some good views of Kori Bustard and Temminck's Courser.

We entered the western section of Mapungubwe. The road along the international boundary fence produced some excellent species, including Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bush-shrike, White-breasted Cuckooshrike and Little Sparrowhawk. A male Violet-backed Starling and an unidentified (Levaillant or Jacobin) Cuckoo probably found over wintering south of the Limpopo River a better option than traveling a thousand kilometers up north into Dark Africa. - Gina and Peter Wilgenbus

West Coast National Park – 11 June 2005

On Saturday morning a bried visit to Geelbek hide in West Coast NP. Saw a few very late Greenshanks in the little pans towards the hide. - Japie Claassen

Wilderness National Park – 25 May 2005

With a bit of “spishing” I was able to entice a Knysna Warbler into view in a bush at the entrance to Ebb-and-Flow North Rest Camp. It was an excellent sighting of a notoriously difficult bird to view. I then continued along the camp road to where the tar ends and becomes a dirt path and the Giant K trail. A busy bird party included Cape Batis, Bar-throated Apalis, Olive Thrush, Knysna Turaco, Cape White-eye, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler and Grey Cuckoo-shrike.

On the way back to Ebb-and-Flow South, I watched African Dusky Flycatchers and Brimstone Canaries go about their daily feeding. In a fig tree next to reception at E&F S a feeding frenzy of Cape Bulbul, Cape Weaver, Speckled Mousebird, Cape White-eye, Forest Canary and Streaky-headed Seedeater allowed one to get within touching distance of these birds. - Chris Patton

Tsitsikamma National Park, Nature’s Valley – 24 May 2005

On a brief visit to Nature’s Valley, Scaly-throated Honeyguide and Knysna Turaco were seen on the forest boardwalk, while a non-breeding Whiskered Tern was on the lagoon. - Chris Patton

Addo Elephant National Park – May 18th to 22nd 2005

I was intrigued to see a pair of bulbuls with one bird Cape and the other Dark-capped (Black-eyed) outside of my chalet. Both birds were adults and at first seemed agitated in each other's presence (making the typical bulbul social bubbling calls), but later perched on the same branch next to each other like a genuine pair. The next morning I saw another "mixed marriage" in the game viewing part of the park (several km from original sighting and unlikely to be same birds).

[Feedback from experts indicates that interaction and cross-breeding between all three of the Southern African bulbul species (Cape, Dark-capped and African Red-eyed) takes place in narrow transition zones where their respective ranges overlap reflecting the relatively recent speciation and common ancestry. Hybrids between Cape and Dark-capped reflect a reduced white eye wattle]

Other sightings of interest in the game viewing section of the park were:

  • 4 white storks (this is somewhat east of their acknowledged winter range in the south-western Cape and it appears more birds are overwintering/resident).
  • A black harrier
  • A pair of Denham's Bustard
  • A pair of Blue Cranes

My birding highlight of this visit to the park was when we took a boat trip out around the islands in the bay (now also part of the park). We watched a Cape Gull steal a penguin egg and get hijacked by a Sub-Antarctic Skua. The gull dropped the egg but the skua caught it before it hit the water in an impressive display of "aviatics"! Other great sightings of feeding gannets, breeding penguins, oystercatchers, skuas, terns (only Antarctic - missed the Roseates which breed on St Croix and Bird Island) and a single white-chinned petrel close in shore as we left the harbour.

The park has a new camp called Matyholweni near Colchester on the N2. I spent one night there. It is not yet linked to the game area, but should be by the end of this year or next year. The camp is set in a valley and the units are comfortable, attractive and aesthetically erected to merge into the thicket vegetation and the birdlife is right on one's doorstep. Sombre Greenbul, Southern Boubou, Southern Tchagra, Spectacled Weaver and Bar-throated Apalis were the most prominent species, while at night the din from Fiery-necked Nighjars was most impressive. As I opened the door of the unit to leave, I had a ruddy phase Olive Bushshrike male almost within touching distance. While the camp's popularity will probably only increase when access to the big 5 area is complete, in the meantime for birders it is an excellent base to visit the nearby Sundays River Mouth, the Alexandria Forests and the Coastal Islands all of which are now part of the National Park. - Chris Patton

Tsitsikamma NP, Nature’s Valley: 29 April to 1 May 2005

Just came back from a excellent weekend at Nature's Valley.

We saw Cinnamon Dove (Lemon Dove), Knysna Lourie (Knysna Turaco), a pair of Wood Owls (10m from our braaiplek, entertaining us every night), a big group of Red-billed Woodhoopoes (Green Woodhoopoes), Knysna Woodpecker (staying long enough to hear it call twice! And close enough to hear him chirpy chirpy to himself), Grey Cuckoo-shrike, Black-headed Oriole, Sombre Greenbul, Olive Thrush, Chorister Robin-Chat, Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler, Cape Batis, Cape Wagtail (always cute), Black-bellied Starlings and Swee Waxbills.

Other nice birds seen in the area were a pair of African

Fish Eagles and a Giant Kingfisher at the Salt River, Water Dikkops (Thick-knee's!) and Half-collared Kingfishers whilst rowing on the Groot River Lagoon and to the bridge and them some Blue-mantled Flycatchers, Black Sunbirds and African Goshawk amongst all the others, in and around the forest area close to Nature’s Valley campsite. - Tiaan Lordan

Mapungubwe National Park – April 2005

In the recently renovated National Park near Pontdrif, there is a tree top walk rivaling Eshowe from a bushveld point of view. There were close-up views of Meyer's Parrots amongst many others great birds. The hide is an experience with views of the Shashe river and three countries at one glance - RSA, Botswana and Zimbabwe. - Tony Archer

Knysna National Lake Area and Forests – April 2005

I have just come back from Knysna where I was birding in the forest. On my way I saw some few pairs of Blue Cranes they still with chicks mainly two chicks in some different pairs. Knysna is one of the most beautiful country side I have ever seen...definitely a little more interesting then Wakkerstroom. I love it. With some beautiful indigenous forest, Lagoon, Fynbos and some Rivers. It is the very good birding area . I have counted 135 species inclding the following highlights:

Water Thick-knee, Tambourine Dove, Red-necked Francolin, Black-bellied Starling, Knysna Warbler (still calling!), Knysna Woodpecker, African Finfoot, Knysna Turaco
Grey Cuckoo-shrike, Half-collared Kingfisher, Blue-mantled Flycatcher, Swee Waxbill, Victorin Warbler, Wood Owl, Black Crake, Grey-backed Bleating Warbler, Olive Woodpecker, Stanley's Bustard, Red Chested Flufftail and Barn Owl. - David Nkosi

Mapungubwe National Park – April 2005

Just did a trip up to the new Mapungubwe National Park on the Limpopo and visited the neighbouring Den Staat wetland. About 180 species recorded, the most exciting to report is that the Pacific Golden Plover that was reported at Den Staat is still present. Other interesting sightings at Den Staat were Saddlebilled storks, Bluecheeked Bee-eaters, Black Heron and White winged terns in breeding plumage. Mapungubwe is worth a visit if only to do the about 250m tree-top walk way through the massive riverine trees on the banks of the Limpopo, Meyer's Parrots, Meve's Starlings, Retz's Helmet-shrikes and Senegal Coucal were only a few of the many birds seen at eye level from the walk way. We stayed in Limpopo Forest Tented Camp which was very comfortable, with the tents all situated under massive Nyala Berry trees, the camp is in a small separate section of the park about 20km drive from the main section where the tree-top walk way is so this made access to it a bit difficult as you need to past through the main gate to get to it which only opens at 6 in the morning. The bush around the forest camp was productive with Nicator, Tropical Boubou, Mourning Dove and Pied Babbler being spotted around the camp. We were not birding the whole time and I am sure there are a lot more birds to be seen in the park. Lots of mammals were around as well, with a Honey Badger topping the list. - Ben

Mapungubwe National Park – February 2005

The10-day Mega Birding Tour organized by the Soutpansberg-Limpopo Birding Route (SLBR) turned out some interesting species. The Tour is aimed at promoting the SLBR by seeing how many species can be realistically found on a 10 day tour through the area. The tour started around Makhado (Louis Trichardt), then spend three days in Kruger, two days in the dry west and ended at Mapungubwe NP last weekend.

The interesting species that were turned out were:

  • 5 Black-tailed Godwits - Mapungubwe NP.
  • 1 Caspian Plover - Mapungubwe NP.
  • Large flock of Black-winged Pratincole - Mapungubwe NP.
  • Mottled Swift - Makhado (Louis Trichardt)

Kruger was exceptionally dry this year and thus we did not get as many species as we had hoped for there. Poor conditions prevented higher totals in the Soutpansberg. Yet our trip total was 378 species.

Still working on the trip report. Will post a notice on SABirdnet once it is available on our web page. - Sarah Venter, Co-ordinator: Soutpansberg-Limpopo Birding Route

Golden Gate Highlands National Park – 20 February 2005

A colleague of mine visited Golden Gate National Park this past weekend. Apart from some continuous rain, she managed to see the yellow form of the Red-collared Widowbird at the hide at the little dam just past the main entrance. I see that the Roberts VII draft text state that this colour morph is a rare form. Not having heard of or seen it before, any comments? - Casper Rootman

West Coast National Park - February 2005

Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus) was first reported on 6 February 2005 from Abrahamskraal Waterhole in the West Coast National Park. There is one specimen record from Kuruman in the Northern Cape found on 12 February 1904 and several unsubstantiated sight records, but this is the first confirmed sight record for Southern Africa. Photos (www.zestforbirds.co.za) - Trevor Hardaker and John Graham

Table Mountain National Park: 24 January 2005

I was out today showing some overseas friends the great scenery on the cape peninsula when I discovered a flock of avocets on a beach in the Cape Point section of the park, roosting with kelp gulls amongst the kelp. Some appeared to be juvenile, so maybe they have bred nearby? Then later on at Chapman's Peak Drive near the summit of the road we saw 2 Black (Verreaux's) Eagles soaring and cliff patrolling which made me even happier as it has been long since I've seen this species in the Cape Town area. Does anyone have any info on the presence of the eagles on the peninsula lately? - Jacques Deofretus

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: 5 to 11 January 2005

  • Red-necked Falcon - a pair "attacked" a martial eagle in flight above the Nossob hide
  • Amur Falcon (Eastern Red-footed Kestrel)
  • Greater Kestrel - abundant - one eating a mouse for dinner
  • Burchell's Sandgrouse
  • Barn Owl
  • Rufous-cheeked Nightjar - hunting at night from in front of the Nossob hide
  • Swallow-tailed Bee-eater - abundant and beautiful
  • Grey-backed Sparrow-lark (Finch-lark)
  • Kalahari Scrub Robin
  • Black-chested Prinia
  • Rufous-eared Warbler
  • Chat Flycatcher
  • Great Sparrow

It is always a pleasure to see some of our favourites as well

  • Crimson-breasted Shrike (Boubou)
  • Shaft-tailed Whydah
  • Pearl-spotted Owlet
  • Black-chested Snake Eagle - abundant
  • Pygmy & Lanner Falcons
  • Flying Kori Bustards
  • Verreaux's (Giant) eagle Owl - we finally worked out how to see them - look in big trees after 17:30 - duh?
  • Lilac-breasted Roller
  • Titbabbler
  • "Bright" yellow canary and
  • Old Pink/orange legs himself, the Pale Chanting Goshawk

- Peter Sumner, Cape Town

Augrabies Falls NP - 2 January 2005

Eurasian Honey Buzzard observed and photographed in the park. (www.zestforbirds.co.za) - Neville Lazarus.

Years Pre 2005

 
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