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Guru Owl

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa
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Guru Owl

Unread post by Owl » Thu Nov 08, 2007 1:14 am

Hi All

We are holding the Limpopo River Bird Count on the 1st and 2nd of Feb 2008. It is an opportunity not only to get to some restricted parks of the Kruger and Mapungubwe parks but also to stay at the fantastic Pafuri Wilderness camp and the Little Muck camp for a fraction of what they normally charge. The event will be fully catered and there will be outing and night drives when we are not doing the CWAC count on the Limpopo in the morning. This year we saw Pel's Fishing Owl, Lemon Breasted Canaries, Cuckoo Hawk, African Crowned Eagle as well as Rufous-winged Cisticola, to mention a few. There are only 7 places avalible on the weekend. If you are interested please contact directly and I will let you have the programme and cost. All profits from the event go to the birding route development and bird conservation in the province.
Ben de Boer
Project Manager
Greater Limpopo Birding Routes
Tel/fax: 015 276 1131
Cell:083 294 1013
Website: or E-mail : or

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Johan van Rensburg
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Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Tue Dec 11, 2007 7:49 pm

Hi, Owl.

I am totally amazed that you have such a great event coinciding with the KNP BBW! The BBW is scheduled for that same weekend as well as the weekend following...


A lot of forum birders will be participating (committed as early as July!) in the BBW!
728 Latest lifers: Hartlaub's babbler, Coppery-tailed coucal, Red-billed spurfowl, White-browed coucal, Scharlow's turaco, Copper sunbird, Long-toed lapwing, Eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Malagasy pond heron, Soft-plumaged petrel, Orange-winged pytilia.

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Unread post by Owl » Tue Dec 11, 2007 8:10 pm

Hi Johan,

Good point.

Unfortunately the event is organised though Birdlife SA and the Limpopo Birding Route, so I'm not too sure why they chose that specific date. I'll drop Ben de Boer a line and see if he'd like to respond. He's taken part in BBW in the past I think.

But I think it only coincides with the 2nd weekend, cos the Honorary Rangers have me roped in for the weekend of 25th to 27th of January, which would be all right.

Take care


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Unread post by francoisd » Wed Dec 12, 2007 8:01 am

Owl wrote:But I think it only coincides with the 2nd weekend..

Correct and we (Johann, Jakkaslbessie, Bosnimf, TH & SO and my SO and I and Prof ST)will be birding at Batleur that specific weekend.
"The measure of life is not its duration but its donation." - Peter Marshall

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December Rarities in SANParks

Unread post by Owl » Wed Dec 19, 2007 10:46 pm

Trevor Hardaker has notified the SA Bird Network of the following rarities recorded in various National Parks that have been submitted to him in the last couple of weeks:
AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER - a single bird located at the water hole at Nossob Camp in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park on Saturday and still present this morning.

BLACK-TAILED GODWIT - single bird reported from Seeberg hide in the West Coast National Park on Saturday

GREEN SANDPIPER - a single bird located along the Limpopo River floodplain near Pafuri yesterday.

STRIPED CRAKE - a single bird showed well this morning directly in front of the Wilderness Safaris Pafuri camp.

Good luck if you are chasing any of these!

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Unread post by Niall » Fri Dec 21, 2007 8:14 am

Not so much rarities as unusual for KNP:

Corn Crake on S56 (near Serheni)
Black Winged Pratincole at Grootvlei dam (off S50)

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Mega Alert - Golden Pipit in Northern Kruger

Unread post by Owl » Fri Jan 11, 2008 11:51 am

Its a couple of weeks old, but we've just received links to photographs of a Golden Pipit photographed near Pafuri Picnic Site in Northern Kruger.

The Golden Pipit superficially resembles the Yellow-throated Longclaw which is widespread in the park and common in suitable habitat, but it is a mini version of the longclaw (house sparrow size compared to Common Starling size) and has vivid yellow underwings and upperwings that will be visible when perched. Also the black chest necklace does not extend up the neck like in the longclaw.

The bird was photographed by the well known bird photographer Albert Froneman and these pics can be viewed at

With a little luck the bird is still around and anyone getting up there might get a chance to see it!!!

This is not the first record for Kruger. A bird was seen in consecutive years a few years back not too far from Nwanetsi by ranger Don English and others.

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SA Rarity Committee accepts several SANParks records

Unread post by Owl » Wed Mar 12, 2008 5:45 pm

Neil Smith of Birdlife SA and convener of the National Rarities Committee recently released a list of several birds that were submitted to the committee over the last couple of months.

Of the accepted records there were 4 from SANParks.

These included:
A Collared Flycatcher at Augrabies Falls NP
A Gull-billed Tern at Nature's Valley Lagoon in Tsitsikamma NP
A Basra Reed Warbler in Mapungubwe NP
An Augur Buzzard in Richtersveld NP

This last record I found particularly intriguing so I sent the committee the following note:
"... However one record that really interests me is the Augur Buzzard at Richtersveld. When I was working in the park about 3 or 4 years back I came across a buzzard with a white chest and belly perched on a rock. I immediately assumed it was an Augur, but when it took flight it had dark fore underwings, thus suggesting it was the pale phase of the Jackal Buzzard. Did the record the committee accepted illustrate or indicate there were pale fore underwings?

I know that in days gone by the 2 species were regarded as one, but have since been separated. It is intriguing to see individuals that seem to fall between the 2 species in physical characteristics. I'd love to hear your and the team's thoughts on this".

Committee member Trevor Hardaker responded with the following comments:
"I too have seen these pale Jackal Buzzards in that area and have always been intrigued by them. However, this record was submitted with photos of the bird including one of the underwing which clearly showed the correct underwing pattern for an Augur Buzzard and not a Jackal. Had this photo not been included in the submission, I doubt whether the committee would have accepted it, as they are all aware of the pale JB's in the area which, when perched, can be virtually impossible to separate from AB's."

All very curious, so if any of you are heading out towards Richtersveld look out for these birds, but be sure to concentrate on their underwing to confirm ID.

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Some unusual Kruger bird sightings over the June long wk-end

Unread post by Owl » Thu Jun 19, 2008 7:04 pm

I was in Kruger over this past long weekend. On Father's Day I had to drive between Skukuza and Satara and saw a few unusual sightings for that part of the park:
- At Leeupan I saw a Cape Wagtail (a rare visitor to the park)
- At Mazithi Dam (just north of Tshokwane) I watched a pair of Mosque Swallows feeding over the dam (unusual that far south)
- 24 km south of Satara I stopped for a Crowned Hornbill in a tree next to the road. It then flew over the road just in front of the car and into a tree on the other side, before heading deeper into the bush away from the road. (regular around Punda Maria, but again unusual this far south)

But the most exciting sighting was reserved for in Satara Camp itself. It was about 17h15 and my 9 year old daughter and I were starting to prepare for our evening meal. We were in one of the bungalows in A-Circle.

Out by the braai, I was gob smacked to see an Eastern Nicator edging towards us on the ground not 3 metres from us. It was out in the open and completely unconcerned by our presence. I got all excited and my daughter was a little put out because I was more interested in the bird than her (and even more so when I rushed into our unit to grab the camera and then wanted to take pictures of the bird and not of her! I told her I had to get proof or nobody would believe it). The bird was hopping around almost like it was scavenging for scraps and by now had moved off to the adjacent unit. It then passed less than a metre from me, but I was still setting my camera up with the right settings and zoom and it then flitted off past our unit to the one on the other side.

I tracked after it, praying it would not dash off for thick cover like it's supposed to and managed to get 2 acceptable shots given that it is such a reclusive and difficult to see species and so removed from its regular park haunts of places like Punda Maria and Pafuri.

For any doubting Thomases out there, I've put a couple of pics into the bird gallery here and here.

Despite my daughter's indignation it was quite a fine way to celebrate Father's Day.

I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has seen these birds in or around Satara or encountered such unNicatorish behaviour.

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Unread post by Freda » Thu Jun 19, 2008 7:10 pm

Great Father's Day sightings, Owl, thanks for sharing :D

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Unread post by wildtuinman » Fri Jun 20, 2008 10:13 am

That was indeed an awesome sighting!!

Do you think that it may be resident there?

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Unread post by Owl » Fri Jun 20, 2008 1:26 pm

Freda - nice Kruger schedule you have for the rest of the year :mrgreen:
WTM - One would think if it was that comfortable in moving out into the open and coming close to 2 people it probably is resident. There are some clumps of tangled undergrowth in the camp that would constitute more regular habitat. Still the most reliable place to see EN is at Punda Maria. There seems to be a resident bird in the undergrowth next to Safari Tent 1, but they can be heard at various points throughout the camp and also on the Mahonie Loop. Of course coaxing them out into the open is a little more challenging!

I also posted the records onto the SA Bird Network and have had some interesting replies.
Most were urging me to post all the sightings as incidentals on SABAP2 (South African Bird Atlas Project 2 for those in the dark), but interesting feedback included:
Response 1:
At Mkhuze Game Reserve, where Nicators are very common, my wife and I once observed a pair of Nicators gleaning ticks off of a pair of Suni. We initially only saw the Suni, and once we'd approached to within about 8m of them, we noticed their unusual 'oxpeckers'. Also at Muzi Pan on a particularly cold winter's morning (for Zululand), I was able to approach an immature bird for photos at about 10m, but I've never been as close as you. Yours is far more bizarre though, one seldom sees them out in the open like that!

Regarding your other sightings, we do an annual trip to Skukuza in July and have recorded Mosque Swallows every year on the riverine drve from Skukuza to Lower Sabie. Similarly, Crowned hornbill have been regular just between Skukuza and the low-level bridge crossing the Sabie River. There's a fairly extensive thicket that's grown around the permanent supply of (presumably) runoff/waste water from Skukuza itself.

Best regards

Adrian Haagner
Response 2:
Well done on the great sightings. As a regular visitor to the park it is always good to hear of sightings such as these.
Just out of interest Mosque Swallows are regular visitors to the Mlondozi picnic site just north east of Lower Sabie. I attach one of the photos I took at the site a while ago.
I have also once seen Crowned Hornbill on the road from Skukuza to Tshokwane on the tar road between the Maroela loop entrance/exits.

The sighting that really caught my eye was your sighting of the Nicator. I must confess I was one of those skeptical readers who thought it may have been a female Black Cuckooshrike. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was indeed a Nicator. I have never seen this bird in the park, and that is even though I have searched the northern Kruger on several occasions for this bird. I will be back in the park next weekend and will definitely keep an eye out for this bird. The obvious starting point then being the A circle?

Thanks once again for the posting.

Kind regards

Robert Wienand
Response 3:
We had a meeting up at Mogalakwena River Lodge (just west of Alldays) about two weeks back and on an afternoon walk we had brief sightings of a bird that could only have been a Nicator, also completely in the wrong habitat, dry arid thornveld?? Seems they're more around in winter!

Ben De Boer
Birdlife South Africa Avitourism Unit

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Unread post by Owl » Wed Jun 25, 2008 2:16 pm

Some more feedback from cyberspace on Nicators, Hornbills, Swallows and Wagtails:
Response 4:
We had excellent sightings of an Eastern Nicator (we took lots of pics) on the northern section of the Timbavati Rd just north of the dam. this was on the 16th of June 2008.

Mark & Alisha Kirk
Response 5:
We have been in Kruger 19 April to 04 May this year, starting in the south going as far north as Olifants.

Dawid and I both identified the Mosque Swallows at Mazithi Dam, I counted 6 birds. I saw a Cape Wagtail there as well, although Dawid

didn’t see it.

In Olifants camp (we were staying in bungalow 80 next to the ranger’s house) we had the Eastern Nicator and although it was in the trees all

the time, we could see it clearly as the trees had almost no leaves on it any more. It stayed on the edges of the branches as if it is used to being out

in the open, it then flew deeper into the camp to the other chalets. Unfortunately it didn’t give us the opportunity to photograph it.

Last year we visited Skukuza late in August and were very surprised the afternoon, while having tea on the verandah of our chalet, when a Crowned

Hornbill landed on the shrubs right in front of our chalet. We managed to take a couple of seconds’ video of it before it flew off. We stayed there for

three days and although it didn’t come to the chalet again, we saw it a number of times flying around.


Nina van den Berg.

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Re: Some unusual Kruger bird sightings over the June long wk

Unread post by Jock » Wed Jun 25, 2008 6:12 pm

Owl wrote:24 km south of Satara I stopped for a Crowned Hornbill in a tree next to the road. It then flew over the road just in front of the car and into a tree on the other side, before heading deeper into the bush away from the road. (regular around Punda Maria, but again unusual this far south)

Hi Owl

When meeting with Ecojunkie at the Skukuza Picnic Site, we had the pleasure of seeing Crowned Hornbill which was a first for us. I did not realise it was unusal to see it so far south. There was a pair and Martial was able to get some good pictures.

Image Larger view

Image Larger view
Last edited by Jock on Thu Jun 26, 2008 7:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post by Peter Betts » Wed Jun 25, 2008 9:14 pm

GREAT sightings of the Crowned Hornbill near Satara..amazing in fact as I only see them around Punda and Mahonie...Nicator I have seen at Pafuri, Punda Maria, Bateleur and various other places driving in the far north Kruger..but havent seen them for a few years now
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