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Sirheni Report: Big Bird Day 2007

26 April 2007

Background: West Rand Honorary Rangers Big Bird Day 2007


For the 9th consecutive year the Honorary Rangers West Rand Branch hosted the Kruger Birding Day in the last weekend in January and the first in February.


The demand for this event is such that it now involves 16 of the rest camps as bases and as indicated above has now been extended to include a second weekend at some of the more popular destinations and to include a couple of the smaller bush camps that surrendered the use of their vehicles and guides during the first weekend.


The number of public participants was over 600, plus the organising Honorary Rangers, SANParks staff and other invited experts.  This is a tremendous growth from the inaugural year back in 1999 where 150 people took part in just 5 camps.  The event can now lay justifiable claims to being an institution on the South African Birding calendar.


As always a big thank you must go to the sponsors who help make this event possible.  SASOL continues to be the premier sponsor, but the number of support sponsors has grown considerably. 


Sirheni Report


I would firstly like to thank both Mike Brownie and Monica O'Leary for arranging and hosting such a spectacular event and I will make every effort to be there again next year so for those that did not attend, hope to see you there in the years to come.


I thought I would post a rather lengthy trip report so read on if you have time and stamina otherwise feel free to close this email and miss out on a marvelous recollection of the weekends happenings.


We arrived in the park towards lunch time and started to bird as we headed up to Serheni. Of note, before we even got too the camp was Bateleur in several plumage stages and a large range of typical Kruger Park species.


We arrived at the camp quite late and just had time to settle in before the evening's proceedings opened. Whilst sitting on the patio of our bungalow, Red-faced Cisticola treated us with good views and allowed me to record their calls and that was followed up by Water Thick-knee. I finally got my first lifer in African Openbill visible from our patio. We headed for the boma and after the opening talk from Mike Brownie on the structure and format of the weekend, I presented a talk on bird vocalization which was rather well received. We settled down that evening to the sound of Fiery-necked Nightjar.


We woke early and meeting up in the center of the camp, I lead a short walk around a rather small camp but the birding was none the less of a good quality. We started off with a calling African Goshawk and as I was so generously pointing out where it was calling from, it flew overhead and I could not get a look at it so I suppose that will have to wait for my lifelist until I one day have the opportunity to see it. Continuing to the hide we got the usual Herons and a few duck species along the watercourse. As we walked along the perimeter fence we picked up a collection of hornbill species and bushveld/woodland species. We ended up in front of cottage number 15. As I scanned the water with my scope we added Marsh Sandpiper, Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt and a range of duck species including White-faced and Comb Duck. We also had nice views of Black Crake feeding on the edge of the watercourse. Some said "what is that bird down there?".

Right in front of the group an African Crake not only came out to bathe, but sat for over 15 minutes preening itself in the open while the entire group all had an opportunity to look at the bird through a spotting scope. In the woodland section towards the gate we added Violet-backed Starling, Black-headed Oriole and a beautiful Red-headed Weaver Male.


From there some members decided to drive up to Pafuri. All I can say is the heat was oppressive. The birding was not that great and all of the Pafuri specials were dipped on. Of note was on the drive up alone, getting Lilac-breasted, European, Purple, and Broad-billed Roller in one morning was rather nice. Of note was the Tropical Boubou and Terrestrial Brownbul seen at Pafuri. Yellow-breasted Apalis was heard but not seen. Also picked up on the drive was Steppe Eagle, Brown-headed Parrot, Purple-crested Lourie, Crowned Hornbill and Wire-tailed Swallow.


We came back to camp in time to prepare for the first night drive. We headed out and got a few regular species as we drove. We did did get Saddle-billed Stork, Marabou Stork and Marsh Owl. After the dinner at Shingwedzi we headed slowly back for camp and got plenty of nightjars and eventually settled on Mozambique, Fiery-necked and European Nightjars. Also of interest was Bronze-winged Courser. Also special was Vereauxx's Eagle-Owl.


The next morning was up early for the dawn chorus. Whilst the dawn chorus was impressive, there were no specials but the ability of our tracker to point out various animal tracks and what they were doing at the time of making the tracks was incredible. On the first part of the morning drive though we did get more nightjars as well as more Bronze-winged Courser.


We returned to camp for people to catch a breakfast of sorts and for me to switch to the other vehicle. On our second morning drive we had equally good birding and soon picked up Tawny Eagle. A youngish Black-chested Snake-Eagle was special but more so was a young Leopard. The river drive was special and offered up Water Thick-knee, Cardinal Woodpecker, Pearl-breasted Swallow, Common House Martin, Red-faced Cisticola and Black-crowned Tchagra. Also the group finally got good visuals of Yellow-breasted Apalis.


The final night drive was also profitable and soon produced various common species and Monotonous Lark. What was special was the pair of Vereuaxx's Eagle-owl that caused a group of baboon to really kick up a fuss. Upon returning to camp, there was the strange call heard comming from the reeds in front of our bungalow but unfortunatley no real decision could be reached as to what it was. Theories varied from Bittern to Lion to Ostrich and even an Elephant was suggested. We will never know.


Early the next morning we left the reserve but not without picking up Red-crested Korhaan and African Hawk-Eagle on the way out.


All in all a very pleasant trip which I fully plan to do again.


Doug Newman
Manager - Membership Division
BirdLife South Africa

HI all.


Not quite all bird pics but here is a selection of photos from the 

Sirheni weekend.



Doug Newman


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