Skip to Content

Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

All topics and discussions with reference to birds in all SANParks
User avatar
Johan van Rensburg
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Award: Birder of the Year (2015)
Award: Birder of the Year (2014)
Posts: 2289
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:33 pm
Location: Jam Street

Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Thu Nov 28, 2013 5:47 am

What makes Balule special:

1. the limitation on the number of participants to only eight;
2. the flexible itinerary that gets discussed on a daily basis and decided on by the group as its needs dictate;
3. the quality of care and the five star pampering of the participants by the HR hosts;
4. the close encounters with wildlife during the walks of which there are always three or more;
5. the time spent on bush drives and walks that exceed a phenomenal 24 hours;
6. the knowledge and skill of our guide, Brenden… best in the business;
7. the unique ambiance of Balule Camp;
8. the central position of the venue that allows access to a rich diversity of varied habitats and therefore a myriad of species (not just birds! Often we get treated to encounters with unusual critters).

I’m sure if we all spent time thinking about all the experiences we have enjoyed during the bashes, this list will increase dramatically. Maybe the bashers can each dot down a few extra points that, in their opinion, makes the Balule Bash special…
676 Latest lifers: Short-clawed lark, Caspian plover, Western marsh harrier, Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake

User avatar
Scorpy
Posts: 109
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 12:44 pm
Location: Out of my mind !!

Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread postby Scorpy » Thu Nov 28, 2013 2:08 pm

Johan and the "Bashers" will give their accounts from a guest point of view but here is an insight into what goes on behind the scenes of a typical Balule Bash - for those of you who don't know what the Honorary Rangers are all about.

Bookings are made for the event 11 months in advance as that is the only way that we can book all six huts at the same time. Because Balule is so popular, we get up extra early to make sure we are first in the queue to book the accommodation as soon as it becomes available. The HRs then meet to decide the budgets and the price for the event (always based on eight people filling the camp). We check who is available to host each booking and we then go about the business of finding guests to fill the spots. As a new region we don’t have a wide database and are extremely grateful to our “regulars” who support us on an annual basis – JvR being one of them.

Closer to the time, we arrange the hire of the vehicle and secure the services of freelance guides. The honorary rangers are volunteers and give their time free of charge, which helps a lot to keep costs down. All profit from this fundraiser is ploughed back into conservation through the relevant SANParks channels.

A few days before the events - we shop! Trolleys get loaded to overflowing and it takes a good few hours to purchase the supplies, unload them and then repack into containers bound for Balule. Last minute shopping is done in Phalaborwa - we know our way around there quite well now, even where to find the best parking! Some of you may know that Balule has three gas fridges, two gas rings and two kettles – and that’s it! All crockery, cutlery, pots, pans, tablecloths, cooler boxes etc. is therefore brought in from our homes in Gauteng.

This year we did three events (JvR’s group was No.3). The first weekend hosts left two boxes at Balule for our use, while our second weekend co-host took the Weber, charcoal, wood, crockery crate and a few other odds and ends. Despite that, this is what our vehicle looked like – with just one bag for our clothes and a small space for camera and binocs.

In back of bakkie, note the 25l sponsored water (very heavy!).

Image

On back seat was a "Baobab" which kept us awake by pricking us all the time

Image
.....if you always do what you've always done,
you'll always get what you always got.....

User avatar
Johan van Rensburg
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Award: Birder of the Year (2015)
Award: Birder of the Year (2014)
Posts: 2289
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:33 pm
Location: Jam Street

Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Thu Nov 28, 2013 2:38 pm

Scorpy!!!

:clap: :clap: :clap:

Huge honour having you post here, my friend. :thumbs_up:

Thank you so much for the sneak view behind the "curtains". From my many wonderful times spent in your capable hands I know how much effort and hard work goes into hosting such events. It is just awesome for you to share the behind-the-scenes story. I hope this was just a taste of the story still to come... :whistle:

Clever idea, that boabab :lol: (Red Bull works for me) :twisted:

"Idylic"... good and very apt word to describe the Bash experience, Trrp-trrrrrrrr!

Brenden, I think at the end of the trip report, we can list the specials. In the meantime I will highlight them as we go along with the account.

Thanks for your notes of appreciation barryels, addictedToBirds and yoda. Yoda, you should dust off those bird guides...

The Balule Bash List started from scratch at 14:00. In Olifants Camp we recorded red-winged starling, yellow-billed kite, yellow-billed hornbill, laughing dove. A rattling cisticola on route to the S92 punctuated an uneventful stretch. All the little drainage lines we crossed were running and stopping at each quickly added sightings…Grey heron, pied kingfisher, orange-breasted bush-shrike, Egyptian goose, Malachite kingfisher, three-banded plover and African pied wagtail all graced the first water crossing. In the surrounding habitat we got Southern black tit, golden-breasted bunting and a Sabota Lark mimicking allsorts… Where the S92 gets close to the Olifants River for the first time, we recorded a bateleur overhead, Southern masked-weaver male bird working away feverously at building a nest and yellow-billed and saddle-billed storks on the river. Scanning the wide expanse of shallow flowing water, we also got blacksmith lapwing and great egret. On the banks we recorded a single African pipit.

Crawling along the river bank the ticks flowed steadily: lilac-breasted roller in the trees, Wood sandpiper, common greenshank and reed cormorant spotted on the river through a gap in the bank covering vegetation. At this stage we encountered a little bit of a bird party, more disjointed than I’m used to, but contributing to the list at a quick rate: a “mosque” swallow turned into a pair of red-breasted swallows when they banked so that good light fell on them. A white-browed scrub-robin called from its concealed perch and it took some work to pinpoint the bird. Red-billed and yellow-billed oxpeckers shared a giraffe. I tried like mad to get a shot of both species on the longneck, but none came out OK. It is rather infrequent that one gets to see both species of oxpecker on a single host.

Image

Blue waxbill and long-billed crombec often join bird parties, and this was no exception. A Cape glossy starling completed the party guest list.

The very next moment someone shouted “Osprey!” Wow! Good bird for Kruger! For me this was the third trip tick added in the first hour of the Bash! Unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the vehicle and I failed to get shots. I know some of the other bashers were successful and on playback we could see that the bird was carrying some type of fish in its talons.

Where the S92 becomes S91, we met a small traffic jam. Some type of kill was lying just out of sight below the river bank. White-backed and hooded vultures hunched in the trees throwing long shadows over the lions that we could just make out; the flick of an ear, the swish of a tail…

In the past it would have been possible to turn onto the Balule low water bridge, a favourite vantage point, but the road that had been washed away during the floods earlier this year, has not been repaired. Continuing on to the Olifants Satara Road, we logged white-fronted bee-eater, African fish-eagle, black-backed puffback and grey go-away-bird. The road took us through a sparsely covered area and all of a sudden lark-like buntings were all around. Apart from being a trip tick, it is also a first for my KNP list! A red-crested korhaan applauded as we passed, turning onto the tar road. The bridge only yielded little swifts. Just on the other side of the bridge, there is a (no go) service road that we took, one of our favourite stretches on the way to Balule. Again it did not disappoint: white-throated robin-chat, African paradise flycatcher, chinspot batis, tawny flanked-prinia, emerald-spotted wood-dove, and Levaillant’s cuckoo. While we focused on a raptor overhead, (ID’d as a white-headed vulture) Tobie spotted a Temminck’s courser in the floodplain thinly covered with grass and shrub, another KNP special and trip tick. Flushing a Namaqua dove from the road, we now reached the opposite side of the river to where we first found the carcass. Scanning the opposite bank a good 800m distant, we saw what appeared to be a dead hippo, probably killed in a territorial dispute.

Our bird sightings continued with another trip tick: grey-rumped swallow were patrolling over the nearside bank. House sparrow, white-bellied sunbird, common waxbill, red-billed firefinch and giant kingfisher were noted along the Ngotso River. Brenden with his keen ears picked up the high-pitched song of burnt-necked eremomela and, knowing how keenly they react to their call, we had three of them buzzing around the vehicle in half an eremomela syllable!

We had arrived at Balule. The gate that is kept closed were opened for us and we drove through to sort out baggage and settle in to our huts.

The two-hour drive produced 60 birds of which six can be listed as specials!
676 Latest lifers: Short-clawed lark, Caspian plover, Western marsh harrier, Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake

User avatar
T Bird
Posts: 6
Joined: Fri Nov 29, 2013 12:37 pm
Location: Standerton

Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread postby T Bird » Fri Nov 29, 2013 5:21 pm

Fortunately I was on the right side and managed to get a decent shot ofthe osprey :D
Image
This was my 3rd Balule Bash and I must agree with Brenden that it is right up there with
the best birding the KNP has to offer.
I am really enjoying your report Johan, I will try and add were i can but jou dont leave
much room for improvement!

User avatar
Johan van Rensburg
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Award: Birder of the Year (2015)
Award: Birder of the Year (2014)
Posts: 2289
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:33 pm
Location: Jam Street

Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Sat Nov 30, 2013 6:16 am

Mr T!

It is a great privilege to have you onboard and posting your first post here. And what a shot it is too! :clap: :clap: :clap:

@ Pumbaa: Further north one sees them together on large buffalo herds, but a sighting on the same animal is a rare photo opportunity that I have not managed to clinch as yet.

At 17:00 we were ready for more... a sunset drive around Balule, including a stop on the main bridge for sundowners started our bird list growing again. In camp we recorded Natal spurfowl and the high-pitched chattering at the gate helped us to pin-point a green-backed camaroptera. Helmeted guineafowl and Swainson’s spurfowl are usually easy to find in the cooler evenings and they were plentiful. Some of the more common species made their way on to the list: fork-tailed drongo, Cape turtle-dove, southern grey-headed sparrow, magpie shrike and arrow-marked babbler.

A southern white-crowned shrike marked the turn onto the S89, the Ngotso weir Road. At the first crossing over the Ngotso River we added water thickknee and we had the first of many sightings of the iconic woodland kingfisher… What would summer be without the laugh of this brilliantly coloured intra-African migrant?

Turning onto the Olifants Satara tar road, this endearing sight (did I say “endearing” about a hyena? :lol: ) kept us captivated and thoroughly entertained.

Image

We soon had the bridge over the Olifants River all to ourselves. The task of trying to catch sight of squacco heron as they flew to their hunting grounds for the night were interrupted when T bird spotted a pair of white-backed night-herons alighting directly underneath us on a sandbank. The light was still good enough for good views through the binoculars, but pictures were out of the question. A Verreaux’s eagle-owl landed close by to slake its thirst after enduring a scorcher in its day-time hide-out.

During the drive back to camp we caught a few nighjars in the spotlights, but none would allow sightings from which one could make an ID. The only bird we could add was a pearl-spotted owlet, bring our total to 75.
676 Latest lifers: Short-clawed lark, Caspian plover, Western marsh harrier, Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake

User avatar
Johan van Rensburg
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Award: Birder of the Year (2015)
Award: Birder of the Year (2014)
Posts: 2289
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:33 pm
Location: Jam Street

Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Sun Dec 01, 2013 8:16 am

Welcome to reliving the Bash with us, Super Mongoose. Send me a PM with your email addy so that I can add you to the database. When next we organise a SANParks birding event, you’ll get to hear of it at the initial announcement, with equal opportunity to join such adventure.

Trrp-trrrrrrrr wrote:
Johan van Rensburg wrote: What would summer be without the laugh of this brilliantly coloured intra-African migrant?

:hmz: "Pretty quiet and a bit boring... me thinks." :lol: :wink:


:lol: :lol: :lol:

That was a rhetorical question, Trrp-trrrrrrrr, but I cannot agree more with your answer! :thumbs_up:

I also agree with Hilda and hold thumbs for more from scorpy and T bird. I am keenly awaiting some contributions from the other Bashers as well.

And right here and now is where an enhancement will be very handy…

The HRs had Welcome to the Bash cocktails set out invitingly. The dining table was laid beneath the large tree in the centre of the camp, lit up with hundreds of little blue-white lights. The paper bag candles that have become a trademark at the Balule Bash lined the important walkways, accentuating the surreal tranquility that is Balule.

My camera flash refused to pop up and I have no record to show of the fruits of their labours… :redface: :redface: :redface:

Anyhow, let me not dwell on a failure… but let us hope for an enterprising basher to safe the day…

We had a short discussion about the itinerary for the next day. The yellow wagtail that Brenden saw at the Mooiplaas windmill on route to the Balule Bash became the focus of our plans for the next day. Alarm clocks were set for 03:30 so that we could be out the gate by 04:00. We tucked into the scrumptious meal, chattering excitedly about the new day’s prospects.
676 Latest lifers: Short-clawed lark, Caspian plover, Western marsh harrier, Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake

User avatar
Johan van Rensburg
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Award: Birder of the Year (2015)
Award: Birder of the Year (2014)
Posts: 2289
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:33 pm
Location: Jam Street

Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Sun Dec 01, 2013 9:03 am

With daybreak but a vague promise on the eastern horizon, we high-fived Pooh Bear from the vehicle as we drove out the camp gate. It would be an hour later before there was sufficient light for us to start adding to the Bash list: wattled starling, red-billed quelea, crested francolin and Marabou stork we got at the Nhlanganini crossing just south of the bridge over the Letaba River. The stretch of the Mopani Letaba Road running along the bank of the river produced Hadeda, palm-swift and white-rumped swift and stunning views of a grey-headed kingfisher. On the other side of the road strutted a Kori Bustard.

Image

The bridge over the Letaba River was abuzz with thousands of swallows and swifts, an unbelievable number that seemed to be grey-rumped swallows, a species of which I do not have any pictures. In flight these rapid movers were tough to shoot, but I tried. Out of about fifty attempts, none turned out to be grey-rumped swallows, but rather juvenile common house martins…

Image

…or little swifts…

Image

Brenden asked me what I made of a wader below us on the sandbanks.

Image

I initially thought Kittlitz’s plover but I quickly changed my mind on closer inspection… the bird was another KNP special: white-fronted plover.

The ticks continued to flow: black-winged stilt, green-backed heron, common sandpiper and African jacana with a calling dideric cuckoo flying over.

We continued listing birds as we continued northward: crowned lapwing, black-bellied bustard, tawny eagle and a rufous napped lark typically calling from a prominent perch. Red-billed buffalo-weaver, southern black flycatcher, grey hornbill and European bee-eater were the last birds on the tar road before we turned onto the access road to the Mooiplaas windmill.
676 Latest lifers: Short-clawed lark, Caspian plover, Western marsh harrier, Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake

User avatar
Johan van Rensburg
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Award: Birder of the Year (2015)
Award: Birder of the Year (2014)
Posts: 2289
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:33 pm
Location: Jam Street

Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Mon Dec 02, 2013 6:51 am

Hilda, Pumbaa and Trrp-trrrrrrrr, stay tuned, there is a lot more on the way. :thumbs_up:

Meandering Mouse, thanks for the proof that both oxpeckers can be photographed on one host! :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

Mooiplaas windmill is an inconspicuous setting that would have most visitors give it a cursory glance before moving on, yet this modest location held a lifer for all but two of our group. Brenden was alerted to the presence of the Western yellow wagtail before entering KNP and saw it on the way in to Balule. The “practice” sighting prepared him well for finding it again and in a jiffy he had it pin-pointed, proudly swaggering around near the water reservoir.

Image

This non-breeding migrant to southern Africa arrives in October, mainly in the central parts of South Africa, centered on Gauteng. It generally prefers moist areas where one may see small flocks, often in association with herds of large animals. It is a sought-after bird at the best of times, but seeing it in KNP is extra-special!
676 Latest lifers: Short-clawed lark, Caspian plover, Western marsh harrier, Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake

User avatar
Johan van Rensburg
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Award: Birder of the Year (2015)
Award: Birder of the Year (2014)
Posts: 2289
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:33 pm
Location: Jam Street

Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Mon Dec 02, 2013 10:54 am

Thanks for the continued show of appreciation hilda, Super Mongoose. Hang in there… we are still a ways from the climax of the Bash! :lol: :lol: :lol:

After having made sure of getting pix of this little migrant, we moved on to our next target destination: the Tihongonyeni waterhole on the Tropic of Capricorn loop, east of Mopani Camp.

En route the S50 took us past Nshawu Dam and onto a wetland where we logged hamerkop and one of the largest herds of buffalo I have seen in a while. The buffalo literally stretched into the distance as far as we could see.

A little further we had stonking views of a green-winged pytilia and on the turn-off onto the S143, a red-faced mousebird. Barn swallow, ostrich and lesser grey shrike we encountered along this stretch of open and dryer veld. A distant view of three small raptors called for a brief stop so that we could make an ID: lesser kestrel, another KNP special!

Next to the road strutted a secretary bird, one of a pair that nested in the top of a low acacia tree nearby. African quailfinches were taking off from hidden perches in their typical fashion in twos and threes as we got close to them. Then, our first grey-backed sparrow-larks

Image

Near-endemic to southern Africa, invariably they are found in small groups to sizeable flocks in the more arid western parts of this region. In exceptionally dry winters they expand their range dramatically eastward. They should be disappearing from KNP soon with all the wet weather currently around. This expansion / withdrawal happens every five to ten years. This bird’s reaction to climate change is intense and instantaneous, no surprise then that scientists have earmarked them for study in this regard.

We arrived at the Tihongonyeni waterhole witnessing quite an array of drama unfolding… Behind the water reservoir a small pride of lion was hiding in the shade, presumably hoping for inattentive game to chance by. And the traffic to the waterhole was busy with hartebeest, zebra and wildebeest coming in to water from all directions. The wind was not in the lions favour, though, carrying the alarming smell of the big cats to potential prey.

We noticed a large herd of eland approaching. The herd had a handsome bull in charge, blue from age. We counted 19 adults and 11 calves.

Image

This was another very special sighting for KNP. It has been yonks since I last saw eland in Kruger, never mind a mix of calves and grown animals and that herd bull! What a magnificent leader… They also quickly picked up on the warning signs and slaked their thirst at the water furthest from impending danger.

The grey-backed sparrow-larks were present here as well and formed loose flocks with other species, including lark-like buntings and the odd red-capped lark. We watched as birds periodically came in from all directions for a drink. Red-headed finches arrived in mixed flocks consisting of cut-throat finces, long-tailed paradise whydah and white-winged widowbirds, the latter species both in non-breeding plumage. An inquisitive quailfinch landed close to the vehicle.

SNAP!

Image

I never pass up a good photo-opportunity…
676 Latest lifers: Short-clawed lark, Caspian plover, Western marsh harrier, Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake

Pooh Bear
Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 60
Joined: Wed Dec 13, 2006 9:08 am
Location: Gauteng

Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread postby Pooh Bear » Mon Dec 02, 2013 12:44 pm

I know this is all about birds, but in between the Bashers need to eat! First evening menu was tomato ciabatta for starters followed by lasagne and salad and pavlova for pudd. We did something unusual for lunch the next day - we actually drove to Mooiplaas to meet the birders and we made lunch for them at the picnic site (normally the HRs stay in camp so this gave us a nice excuse for a drive). Dinner that night was "celebrating Africa" and began with Amarula cocktails, Haloumi and pepperdew kebabs for starters, a traditional braai for dinner and rounded off with Peppermint crisp dessert.

User avatar
T Bird
Posts: 6
Joined: Fri Nov 29, 2013 12:37 pm
Location: Standerton

Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread postby T Bird » Tue Dec 03, 2013 9:18 am

Pooh Bear your food is always one of the highlights of the Balule Bash!!!
Those Hamburgers at Mooiplaas really hit the spot, and your outfits
for Africa night was a nice touch!

User avatar
Johan van Rensburg
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Award: Birder of the Year (2015)
Award: Birder of the Year (2014)
Posts: 2289
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:33 pm
Location: Jam Street

Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Tue Dec 03, 2013 4:42 pm

Pooh Bear wrote: First evening menu was tomato ciabatta for starters followed by lasagne and salad and pavlova for pudd.


I am still hoping someone will post a photograph of that stunning dinner table...

Readers must remember that Balule has NO POWER! All this fabulous fare was produced troglodyte style! …Well, almost… :lol:

Meandering Mouse, Hilda, Pumbaa and naomi c, you are obviously fans of the Tropic of Capricorn loop with it awesome wildlife chronicles. If one has the time, a day or more should be set aside to crawl around there a few times. If one had the time...

Who can say where the road goes,
Where the day flows?
Only time...


T Bird wrote:Pooh Bear your food is always one of the highlights of the Balule Bash!!!
Those Hamburgers at Mooiplaas really hit the spot, and your outfits
for Africa night was a nice touch!


Spot-on T Bird. I can only applaud the HRs at every opportunity for the quality care they heaped upon us.

:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

(read: "standing ovation" emoticon...)

Thanks, Ladybird and Bush Baptist for leaving your spoor…

Barryels, I hope your power outage will be over soon. :lol: Maybe scorpy and Pooh Bear can give you some Balule catering tips…

Image

Who can tell what this is… 8)
676 Latest lifers: Short-clawed lark, Caspian plover, Western marsh harrier, Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake

User avatar
Johan van Rensburg
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Award: Birder of the Year (2015)
Award: Birder of the Year (2014)
Posts: 2289
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:33 pm
Location: Jam Street

Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Wed Dec 04, 2013 6:41 am

Morning all you Bash readers, the lurking ones too!

:yaya: :yaya:

Great to see the list of 'mites growing that is committing to do the next Bash! :lol: :lol: :lol:

If it continues along this trend, we'll have to do two! :hmz:

BTW, if you are really serious and want to get in the line for notification, drop me a PM with your email addy...

Nobody got the mystery birdie's ID right so far...

:lol: By process of elimination the list of possibilities are decreasing rapidly! So keep on trying!

Super Mongoose wrote:We just love the S50 and the Tropic of Capricorn (for us AKA little Massai Mara).


Lov'it!! :lol: :lol: :lol:

Super Mongoose wrote:Sound like the HR's really spoiled the Birdie Bashers and glad they could also get out for a drive, Mooiplaas is very pretty! And that they are excellent cooks, even without electricity!


My thoughts exactly, SM

Super Mongoose wrote:No idea what the birdie is Johan :hmz:


Even if you don't know, take a stab at it. Even if the ID is not right, it helps those coming later by shrinking the list of possibilities...

addictedToBirds wrote:Who needs TV when you can read this report. It really makes me want to get out into the field.

I would hazard a guess at a White-Browed Sparrow-Weaver for the birdie


TV? :big_eyes: What does this acronym indicate? TV? :hmz:

:lol: :lol: :lol: ATB, around here we don't mention anything but the Bash... :rtm:

...and your guess (not right) also helps to shorten the list of possible IDs. :thumbs_up:

You Else must be very relieved to have your electrical life back! :thumbs_up:


We were on our way to the Mooiplaas Picnic Spot. Difference between the readers of this trip report and us onboard the Balule Bash is that we didn’t know about the lunch surprise waiting for us. Brenden obviously knew, but he mentioned not a word.

Tell a man something, it goes in one ear and comes out of the other.
Tell a woman something, it goes in both ears and comes out of the mouth…



We retraced our steps back to the main road, spotting a Wahlbergs eagle and a zitting cisticola along the way.

Remember WAAAY_Y_Y_Y back in Berg-en-Dal I promised more on an electrocuted animal…

Image

This one was NOT dead. Easily the biggest red roman I have ever seen, fat and not as fast and mean as they are reputed to be, I just had to record this specimen for this thread…

I put my finger next to it for measure and guess this critter at 80 mm, excluding legs!

This is NOT a spider. It is described in its own class of species, Solifugae meaning "those that flee from the sun".

A red roman will follow you and stop in your shadow when you stand still. If you run, they run to stay in your shade.

They are also called "Baardskeerders" as they, so it is said; cut hair of any kind, animal or human, to line their nests. The story goes that they do it so well you will not feel your hair being cut

They are not poisonous and cannot spin webs. Those sizable jaw pinchers can move independently of each other and it can inflict a painful bite with their powerful jaws and sharp teeth.

Image

They are opportunistic feeders but prey mostly on any small insects, termites being a favourite food.

Solifugae are the subject of many urban and bush legend exaggerating their size, speed, behaviour, appetite, and lethality.

A quick detour onto the S142 where one often gets to see specials on the low water bridge over the Tzendze River on the way to Pioneer Dam helped to add black crake to our list.

The next productive spot was the Picnic Site at Mooiplaas…
676 Latest lifers: Short-clawed lark, Caspian plover, Western marsh harrier, Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake

User avatar
Johan van Rensburg
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Award: Birder of the Year (2015)
Award: Birder of the Year (2014)
Posts: 2289
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:33 pm
Location: Jam Street

Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Wed Dec 04, 2013 9:37 am

hilda wrote: I only saw one once in my life, many moons ago, and when they are running, they are very high on their legs and look much bigger than they are! I am scared of them and shall avoid them as far as I can! :shock:


One of the reasons you’ll always see spiders, snakes, scorpions and other critters in my trip reports is that I want to inform people that most of their fears are unfounded, hilda. Really, as long as you don’t fiddle with the fangs, you’ll never have a bad experience with a red roman. If I can get people to not kill these beautiful and very useful animals on sight just because of a little information sharing, I would have succeeded in my objective. Not saying that you do the on-sight-squash-the-thingy, hilda… Just making a point in general…

Super Mongoose wrote: Stunning shots of the Red-Roman, they are facinating creatures! Your specimen is really huge and has grown and extra leg on his left side, very interesting.


It has actually lost a leg on the right side, Super Mongoose... but great observation! :thumbs_up:
Although Solifugae appear to have five pairs of legs, only the four hindmost pairs actually are "true" legs. The first leg-like appendages are not "true" legs, but pedipalps that function partly as sense organs similar to insects' antennae, and partly in locomotion, feeding and fighting. In normal locomotion, they do not quite touch the ground, but are held out in front of the critter to detect obstacles and prey; in that attitude, they look like a pair of arms. This observation may lead one to erroneously think that the red roman has poor eyesight. Their eyes look like simple organs but are in fact surprisingly sophisticated. They can recognise forms and sight plays a large role in hunting and avoiding enemies.

JenB wrote: I love the Red Roman shots Johan! :dance: :dance:
I tried chasing one down for a shot once and believe me, they are that fast!

Just the other day my son said to me: You know Ma, you are the only woman I know who runs towards a spider when she sees it, not away from it! :lol:


JenB, that is the attitude all 'mites should have. :lol: :lol: :lol: Unfortunately some 'mites suffer phobias... I wish a certain Bash participant would pop in here and tell how he manages to scream like a four-year-old girl in the presence of one, but remains fascinated by these critters at the same time.

JenB wrote: Let me add to the process of elimination. :tongue:
Long-tailed Paradise Whydah? :hmz:


‘tween you and Super Mongoose you nailed the ID down! :clap: :clap:

It is a male Long-tailed Paradise Whydah in transitional plumage that I referred to in an earlier post, one of the last sightings we had at Tihongonyeni…

JenB wrote:Yes, tell us more about Mooiplaas!
Boring looking bit of the plaas if I remember correctly so do tell! :twisted:


:big_eyes: :hmz:

Have you EVER been there? :twisted:

(I missed reporting the grounscraper thrush seen on one of the Tsendze River loops… )

This plaas’s caretaker is a wannabe Frank. He indicated to the Bashers that a Lifer awaited the lot of us… there was a Jackalberry cuckoo in the vicinity and with a bit of patience we would be able to spot it. So, while the HRs (what were they doing there? The penny had still not dropped!) :lol: started to get lunch ready, we went Jackalberry cuckoo hunting.

The wannabe Frank had a pair of German tourists under his wing and showed them yellow-fronted canaries that had a super-response to the sound byte of a green-capped eremomela.

We ferreted out African hoopoe, Kurrichane thrush and dark-capped bulbul before the call: “LUNCH IS READY-Y-Y-Y!!!” rudely interrupted our focus…

Ahhhh! THAT is what they came to do! My tummy rumbled in anticipation… We were building hamburgers!

I went vegetarian and stacked lots of lettuce, tomato, onion and gherkin. Hmmmm… two slices of cheese to top the tower… Gee, those 150g beef patties looked good, slightly underdone on the skottel. One looked even better topping the two slices of cheese!

I really battled a bit getting to grips with that monster burger, but man! Did it hit the spot! Kudus to the HRs for that brainwave!
:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:
676 Latest lifers: Short-clawed lark, Caspian plover, Western marsh harrier, Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake

User avatar
Johan van Rensburg
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Award: Birder of the Year (2015)
Award: Birder of the Year (2014)
Posts: 2289
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:33 pm
Location: Jam Street

Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Wed Dec 04, 2013 11:12 am

With juice still dripping from the chin and chewing frantically, Brenden indicated that he was hearing a potential addition to the list. That particular bite of burger was very tough to swallow for it seemed like ages before Brenden managed to name the bird out the side of the mouth: “black cuckooshrike”. They generally sound like a chipmunk mimicking a cricket; I had no chance to hear where the high-pitched call was coming from and frustratingly looked on as T bird, waterbuck and Brenden hunted it down. It turned out to be a pair of males and a female.

Mooiplaas Picnic Site has a unique, open “bird hide” with a panoramic view of the Tsendze River. I set up my spotting scope on a beanbag over the back of a chair and instantly had close-up views of what was skulking around in the wild fig trees on the opposite bank: black-headed oriole and African green pigeon were easy to spot. T bird had Eurasian golden oriole as a bogey bird, often in the past just missing out on a sighting when everyone else in the party got views. Knowing this, I mentioned that this exact spot is where I got that specific species as a lifer, some five years ago. We heard the distinctive call first and then spotted brown-headed parrot in the same bunch of trees.

Image

The iridescence of a male violet-backed starling caught our attention. Lo and behold! Out on the open side of the figs and then, as a treat it flew right across the river, passing close by our position – an Eurasian golden oriole!

Crested barbet and green wood-hoopoe completed the Mooiplaas Picnic Spot experience. Brenden had to kick our butts back onto the game viewing vehicle. We were a long way from the next excursion, an afternoon walk along parts of the Olifants and Ngotso Rivers near Balule to see if we could find the Pel’s fishing owl…
Last edited by Johan van Rensburg on Wed Dec 04, 2013 3:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
676 Latest lifers: Short-clawed lark, Caspian plover, Western marsh harrier, Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake


Return to “Birding in SANParks”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests


Webcam Highlights

Addo
Submitted by la pierina at 13:26:35
orpen
Submitted by Madalla at 16:14:47
satara
Submitted by Linda-MT at 14:33:02
nossob
Submitted by mirwin at 11:30:07