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Sightings - Other National Parks - Pre-2005

Year 2005

Nature's Valley: December 2004

We spent a fantastic morning's birding at the De Vasselot section of the Tsitsikamma National Park on the 26th of December 2004. The key to birding in Nature's Valley alongside the Groot River is a knowledge of the calls and a very early start. We set off from the picnic site on the eastern side of the Groot River and walked along the newly erected Wheelchair friendly boardwalk that heads into the heart of the forest. Calls emanating from the canopy included African Emerald Cuckoo, Klaas's Cuckoo and Redchested Cuckoo. To catch a glimpse of these three is a serious challenge but patience usually gets at least one of them. Close to the end of the boardwalk the Scalythroated Honeyguide calls at regular intervals but yet again this is another forest bird that requires incredible diligence and luck to catch a sighting.

As the trail meanders away from the river on its upward path towards the top of the ridge regular bird sightings include Bluemantled Crested Flycatchers, Terrestrial Brownbul and Sombre Greenbul, the ever present Blackheaded Oriole, family parties of scolding Green Woodhopoes and the two resident Woodpecker species (Knysna and Olive). The Olive Woodpecker is usually very confiding and it's chattering call will alert you to its presence however the Knysna Woodpecker is arguably the most cryptic of all Nature's Valley's forest species. A sighting of this bird is most unusual and perhaps the only way to track it down is to listen for its quiet tapping as it works its way through the bark.

Of course one of the most emblamatic birds of Nature's Valley is the Knysna Turaco and it is hard to miss this one as it glides through the forest revealing its crimson wings. Closer views reveal the wonderful patterns on its face where the discerning birder can pick out the differences between this race (now recognised as a full species) and its northern cousins (Schalow's and Livingstone's)

Two of my favourite birds are regular along the bend in the path just before it heads up the ridge being Narina Trogon and White-starred Robin. The former is naturally a favourite of all birders and even those that are not birding inclined will marvel at the sight of this bird. The easiest way to locate it is by it's soft hooting and even though it sounds like it is in a distant forest patch, the fact that the call emanates from deep in its chest means that the bird is usually less than 10 metres away. The Robin is also a tricky bird to find and its soft, wispy call usually gives it away but its behaviour seems to be more flycatcher like than that of a robin. With luck an a sighting of an excited bird will reveal the white stars.

The Chorister Robin-chat is a much easier bird to find and its loud mimicing call is heard everywhere. Other common birds of the canopy include Cape White-eyes, Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, Yellow-throated Woodland-warblers and Cape Batis.

Probably the real prize of the forest is the beautifully plumaged Grey Cuckoo-shrike. I have seen it a number of times in the forest however it is never a guarantee and even its call is fairly mystical being a plaintive whistle (reminds me of the Dusky Flycatcher). We did see a pair of them on this visit but it really is the luck of the draw.

Further east as the road meanders up the path good views of the canopy can be obtained although it is a little more difficult to pick up the forest species. The objective here would be to pick up raptors such as African Goshawk, Steppe and Forest Buzzard and a distant African Fish Eagle over the lagoon. The real bonus raptors include Crowned Eagle and African Cuckoo Hawk the latter of which we saw on our recent visit. I still believe the Crowned Eagle is a myth as I am yet to see one despite many visits to the area!!

The fynbos patch at the top of the ridge is great for Forest Canary, Cape Sugarbird, Greater Double-collared and Malachite Sunbird, the impossible to see Victorin's Warbler and Southern Boubou.

All in all a visit to the Southern Cape would be empty without a visit to Nature's Valley. - Michael Buckham, Newlands

West Coast: 4 Dec 2004

A suspected Temminck's Stint from Geelbek Hide - Ed Smith and John Glendinning

West Coast: 21 Nov 2004

On the falling tide at Geelbek in the West Coast National Park this afternoon, we were fortunate enough to locate a Common Redshank which came in fairly close to the hide. The bird remained visible for an extended period of time and was still there when we left. - Trevor, Margaret, John and Greta

Wilderness NP: 15 Nov 2004

An adult and juvenile Sooty Tern together at Swartvlei. - John Fannin

Mapungubwe; 16/17 October 2004

I visited the new Mapungubwe National Park (situated on the South African side of the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers) during this last weekend. On the birding side I did see something rather special and out of normal known range - Cabanis's Bunting. I have seen this bird before in the Miombo woodlands of Zim, so was quite surprised to see it quite far out of range amid the mixed Mopane woodland and boulders around Tshugulu lodge. There were also Golden Breasted Buntings around, so the differences were very easy to verify. Has any one else come across this bird in this area? I have heard of sightings from around the Pafuri area in Kruger?

Also had quite nice sightings of Broad-billed Rollers along the Limpopo. - André Cloete

Mapungubwe National Park: September 2004

On a brief visit to the park to check on some infrastructure prior to the launch of the new camps we saw the following species:

  • At Limpopo Forest Tented Camp:
The environment is very similar in appearance and atmosphere to the Pafuri Picnic Site in Northern Kruger. And the cacophony of birds calling in the morning suggests it will be as productive. Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Meve's (Long-tailed) Starlings, Black-backed Puffback, Tropical Boubou (Southern Boubou was seen close by too), Green Woodhoopoe, Brownhooded Kingfisher, Southern Pied Babbler, Natal Spurfowl, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bush-shrikes and Grey-backed Camaroptera (Bleating Warbler) were all very prominent and vocal. At night as we braaied or latter drifted off to sleep I heard several species of owl including Barn, African and White-faced Scops, Verreaux's (Giant) Eagle and Pearl-spotted. The park manager tells me Pel's are also not infrequently seen in the area and one of the local landowners apparently has one breeding in his yard!! Lion and Spotted Hyena were also heard in the night.
  • On the Limpopo Tree-top Boardwalk and hide:

It is a magnificent facility allowing the visitor into the trees alongside the birds or looking down on those that forage on the ground and lower strata. Meyer's Parrot, Greater Honeyguide, White-crested Helmetshrike, Meve's (Longtailed) Starling and some flycatcher species were seen. White-fronted Bee-eaters were everywhere and calling African Fish Eagle made the scene special.

  • At the Confluence View Point:
Verreaux's Eagle and Gymnogene (African Harrier Hawk) were seen by us.
  • On the road to Maloutswa Hide (about 5 km drive from the Tented Camp):
Kori Bustards were prominent while Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark and Wattled Starling were abundant. Temminck's Courser and Ground Hornbill were also seen here. Crimson-breasted Shrike was a nice flash of colour at the hide's parking area. We sat at the hide for about an hour and a half before the sun went down. Quite a few animals and birds came to drink. Red-billed Buffalo Weaver and Meve's Starlings were the most prominent. A Wood Sandpiper and Diderick Cuckoo were two migrants seen.

The highlight however was not the birds. A sounder of 7 Bushpig came down to drink at dusk (joined by 2 more from the other side of the dam). Then we heard a leopard cough and before we knew it, it was sitting out in the open some 5m from the water edge on its haunches like a dog.
(For those of you not familiar with this park, it is centred around the World Heritage Site at Mapungubwe Hill and is part of the Limpopo-Shashe Transfrontier Conservation Area linking the Tuli Block of Botswana and South-western Zim. It is about a 4 and a half hour journey from Pretoria via the N1 to Pietersburg and then taking the road to Alldays and Pont Drift via Dendron and Vivo. This road is generally good, save for a shocking patch of potholes for about 1km as one approaches Pont Drift.

The South African Governments Poverty Relief Funding has enabled the park to put in new infrastructure such as a tented camp in the riverine forest adjacent the Limpopo, a 22 cottaged camp in the sandstone called Leokwe, a stunning tree-top boardwalk and hide over the Limpopo, pathways, an information centre and viewing platforms at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers where one can see all 3 countries at once, a couple of other hides, and impressive park entrance gate between two large Baobabs.- see Mapungubwe under Parks A-Z for more details) - Chris Patton

Table Mountain: August 2004

On Saturday 25 August 2004 I took a Danish tourist up Table Mountain . As we gazed out over the city near the upper cable station at about 10:15, a black eagle soared past us about 20 metres out and four metres below the table top, followed by it's mate. I fumbled to get my camera out and only got a poor shot on a return fly past. The Dane was also impressed by lesser double collared and orange breasted sunbirds and the Cape sugarbird, also included here. - Peter Sumner

Geelbek Hide, West Coast National Park: 30 August 2004

After receiving the news of Mel Tripp's White-Rumped Sandpiper at the first salt marsh hide at Geelbek in the West Coast National Park , Margaret and I shot up there after work this evening to have a look at it.

After arriving at the site at about 17:30, we found the bird almost immediately. What a cracking adult in full breeding plumage!! Even for those of you that have seen this bird before, it is certainly worth going to see it in this plumage. Its presence at the salt marsh is obviously tide dependant, so you need to be sure that the tide is up on the main lagoon as that is when the birds move across to this salt marsh.

Also of interest there was at least 3 great sand plovers. - Trevor Hardaker

Marakele: October 2003

I have just returned from a weekend of camping and birding at Marakele. I saw 1 species not on the list as handed out at the gate. It was a Eurasian Hobby. I saw it flying overhead in the kwaggasvlakte section of the reserve. It was clear to see the heavy flecking and rufous underparts. - Mike Simms

Birding in various Parks: December 2002/January 2003

During December and January my wife and I went on an extended birding tour of several of the national parks. We have now visited 18 of the country’s 20 national parks. There were many birding highlights, but here is a list of some of our favourites:

  • Vaalbos National Park:
Pririt Batis, Rufous-eared Warbler, Spike-heeled and Clapper Larks and Orange River Francolin. Vaalbos was amazing because at sunrise, all one could hear was a chorus of Clapper larks…mesmerising!!!
  • Karoo National Park
Ludwig’s Bustard, Grey-winged Cisticola, Karoo and Tractrac Chats, Booted Eagle, Southern Grey Tit and Layard’s Titbabbler
  • West Coast National Park
Grey Plover, Hartlaub’s Gull, Ruddy Turnstone, African Black Oystercatcher, Curlew, Curlew Sandpiper and Southern Black Korhaan.
  • Bontebok National Park
Stanley’s Bustard
  • Wilderness National Park
Knysna Woodpecker, Swee Waxbill and Half-collared Kingfisher. The latter was a beautiful work of art.. stunning!
  • Tsitsikamma National Park (Natures Valley end)
Sandwich Tern
Addo Elephant National Park
Black Widowfinch
  • Mountain Zebra National Park

African Rock Pipit

- Ashraf and Hava Sayed - Johannesburg

Greater Addo: 1 January 2003

While staying at Kenton we went on a New Year’s day trip to the Alexandria Forest. I am told this area forms part of the Greater Addo expansion project. Hoping to see some trogons, we had to settle for nice sightings of black cuckoo and knysna lourie instead. On the forest fringes, we also had nice sightings of forest buzzard, white stork and a perched lanner falcon. After leaving the forest we headed back towards Kenton through the agricultural grasslands proximous to the coastal belt. Presumably this area is not going to fall under the expanded park, but the birds seen in the area are probably typical of habitats that will. We were delighted to encounter large numbers of blackwinged plovers and also a few stanley’s bustards busy displaying. - Mark Tindall, London

West Coast National Park: 14 December 2003

Broad-billed sandpiper is one of the rarities that has appeared this summer. A brief trip up to the Geelbek hide to coincide with the incoming tide and to look for such morsels produced all the regular waders one expects to see there. For those not familiar with the hide, these include:

Curlew, whimbrel, curlew and marsh sanpipers, red knot, sanderling, greenshank, ruff, little stint, bartailed godwit, grey plover, turnstone and avocet.

Other non-waders almost always seen in the vicinity of the hide, or en route there from the gate include: greater flamingo, white pelican, black and African marsh harriers, purple gallinule, chestnut-banded and kittlitz’s plovers, grey-winged and cape francolins plus a variety of smaller fynbos passerines. The park is definitely a venue well worth visiting for bird enthusiasts in the Cape Town area. - Ed.

Vaalbos National Park: 11 December 2002

A brief visit to Vaalbos produced a phenomenal sighting of a pair of martial eagles, one of which stooped down and caught a large puff adder at the edge of the road some 30m in front of me. Perhaps because of the proximity of my vehicle it took of with its catch, but was bogged down by the weight and landed in a nearby bush. The bird’s mate was no longer in site. As I approached with camera ready, the bird took off again and was soon out of sight as its laboured flight took it over the tree line in the same direction its mate had flown. - Ed.

Birding escapades in 3 different National Parks by Ashraf Sayed

I have recently been to 3 national parks and what great experiences they were. I have attached a list of new birds my wife and i saw. Thought readers might be interested. The mutualistic combined efforts of a Red-necked falcon hunting with a Gabar Goshawk was a truly memorable moment.

This is not a complete list but just the new birds. Just had to share it with someone!! Many species managed to elude us. We went on a nightdrive at Twee Rivieren in the KTP and witnessed and interesting interaction between a Giant Eagle Owl and four bat-eared foxes, they walked up to the owl and were well within striking distance, but it seemed like they were having a chat! It lasted for about a minute before the owl took off.

Our next trip will be to the Cape - we figured that we better see all our National Parks first before we venture across the borders. In fact, we are planning to stay right good old sunny SA!!

Augrabies Falls National Park: 31 March to 1 April 2002

Dusky Sunbird, Alpine Swift, Swallowtailed Bee-eater, Cape Bunting, Larklike Bunting,Whitethroated Canary, Longbilled Lark, Whitebacked Mousebird, Karoo Robin, Palewinged Starling

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park:- 2 April to 6 April 2002

  • Black Harrier, Crimsonbreasted Shrike - Auob Riverbed
  • Anteating Chat, Chat Flycatcher, Kalahari Robin - North Dune Road
  • Burchell's Sandgrouse, Rednecked Falcon, Fawncoloured Lark, Pinkbilled Lark - South Dune Road
  • Marakele National Park - 20 April to 21 April 2002
  • Shelley's Francolin, Shorttoed Rock Thrush, Buffstreaked Chat, Lazy Cisticola, Shorttailed Pipit, Gurney's Sugarbird

- Ashraf Sayed

West Coast National Park: April 2002

A Martial Eagle was seen just outside the entrance to the Park (out of normal range!) On a more terrestrial note a pair of young caracals were seen inside the park itself. - Peter Sumner

Groenkloof Head Office: April 2002

A spotted eagle owl was seen in the Groenkloof garden in one of the trees, close to the reservations office. - Judy Jennings

(It is breeding season for eagle owls and chances are there is a pair on the nest living somewhere on the property - I have also seen them in the evenings on my way out the gate. - (Editor)

Cape Peninsula National Park: March 2002

Birdwatchers spot a rare find. The Cape Argus reports that the sighting of a Western Reef Heron at Buffels Bay in the Cape Peninsula National Park has got birders twitching with excitement. According to the article bird expert John Graham said the bird has never been recorded in southern Africa and is not usually found south of Gabon. While this news will enthral the hard-core birding twitcher, the ‘Sunday birder’ may be less excited as the Western Reef Heron is regarded by some as a sub-species of the Little Egret with the distinguishing features rather subtle.

John Graham reports that after being present at Buffels Bay, on the False Bay coast near Cape Point, on Saturday 13/4 and Sunday 14/4 the Western Reef Heron disappeared for a couple of days before being rediscovered on Wednesday 17/4 at Olifantsbos on the Atlantic Coast of the reserve. Since then it has been claimed on a daily basis from Olifantsbos. A detailed account of some of the identification pitfalls can be obtained off the following website:

Head Office, Pretoria: March 2002

Crimson-breasted Shrike - Chris Patton

West Coast National Park: February 2002

In March John Graham made another discovery when, together with Trevor Hardaker, he spotted an adult Great Knot in the West Coast National Park marking the first time the bird has been seen on the Southern African subcontinent. The bird was recorded from the Seeberg hide on the lagoon- The slightly smaller, but similar looking Red Knot is a common summer visitor to the Langebaan Lagoon and other venues around the South African Coast.

Marakele National Park: January 2002

2 separate sightings of grey-hooded kingfisher in different parts of park. Also of interest, lizard buzzard, purple widowfinch, violet-eared and black-cheeked waxbills and in the mountain top, swee waxbill, lazy and wailing cisticola, malachite sunbird, et al amongst magnificent up close sightings of the vultures. - Daviton Family

Groenkloof: February 2001

It was reported in January that a pair of Jameson’s Firefinches had started eating the birdseed put out for them at SANParks head office. They have spread the word to their family and friends as now their numbers are sometimes more than 10 individuals. A female repeated the earlier antics of a male and made her way through the window into the office. While the Firefinches are ground and lower stratum feeders, a party of 4 bar-throated apalises has been seen moving through the upper stratum. Both these species are excellent records for suburban Pretoria. - Chris Patton

Groenkloof Head Office, Pretoria: February 2001

Recent additions to the bird table outside the tourism development department are a pair of Jameson’s Firefiches. They are very tame and allow extreme close up views through the window. The male once followed the birdseed through the window and was trapped in the office until flushed out another window. - Chris Patton

Karoo National Park: December 2000

  • Hundreds of Lesser Kestrals feasting on locusts.
  • Short-toed Rock Thrush, Fairy Flycatcher, Southern Tchagra, Pearl breasted Swallow and countless other species at the campsite. Very nice spot.
  • Booted Eagle soaring overhead.

- S Young (Illovo)

Birds of the Kgalagadi

  • Lanner Falcon (Kalahari Gemsbok)
  • Martial Eagle (Kalahari Gemsbok) Pale Chanting Goshawk (Kalahari Gemsbok)

- Steve Bailey

Marakele: 4 to 6 November 2000

On the weekend of the 4th to the 6th of November we enjoyed a fantastic birding weekend in Marakele National Park. The juxtaposition in habitat of bushveld and mountain plateau allowed for a real diversity of sightings. Two species recorded for which the western part of the Northern Province is out of their normal range were Greyhooded (Chestnutbellied) Kingfisher and Buffstreaked Chat. Other bonus sightings included Buffy Pipit, Lizard Buzzard, Halfcollared Kingfisher and Shorttoed Rock Thrush. - Rowan Goeller (Kyalami) and David Amm (Morningside)

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