On Monday the 27th July 2010, I arrived at Kgaswane Nature Reserve just after sunrise and set out to explore the reserve as laid out in chapter 75 of Birding Gauteng. From the entrance gate to the lookout points on the mountain range I saw Helmeted Guineafowl, Fork-tailed Drongo, Black-crowned Tchagra, African Grey Hornbill, Dark-capped Bulbul, Black-collared Barbet, Pied Crow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow and Cape White-eye. The scenery was spectacular too! However the light was really low with all the cloud cover so not many pics made the cut - the Black-crowned Tchagra was the best of the bunch:
The drive along the plains to the picnic area was rather unproductive apart from Black-shouldered Kite, Rufous-naped Lark and Tawny-flanked Prinia.
I spent some time at the picnic area enjoying good coffee (where I saw Southern Masked Weaver, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Fork-tailed Drongo, Helmeted Guineafowl and Tawny-flanked Prinia) and then headed off on the Vlei Ramble (there is a 1 kilometer walk to a bird hide that overlooks the wetland). On the way to the hide I saw: Golden-tailed woodpecker, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Black-backed Puffback, Southern Boubou, Cape Robin Chat and Black-collared Barbet: On the vlei I saw Hamerkop, Blacksmith Lapwing, African Stonechat, Pied Crow and Hadeda Ibis.
I then headed back to the picnic area and spent a little longer there where I saw: Southern Red Bishop, Southern Masked Weaver, Kurrichane Thrush and Crested Barbet:
By now it was 10:15 and I decided to tackle the 5.5 kilometer Peglerae Trail which was an incredible experience - not so much for the bird life which was somewhat scarce apart from Familiar Chat, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Neddicky, African Pipit and Cape Robin-Chat. It would have been great to see the Rock Kestrel and Black Eagles which are supposed to nest in the mountains.
After a long-awaited snack for lunch, I set off on the Sable Loop towards the waterfall (past the Naga Camp site road) and saw Cape Robin-Chat, Chinspot Batis, Cape White-eye, Long-billed Pipit, Rattling Cisticola and Black-shouldered Kite.
One of the highlights of the day was following the directions to walk the 100 metres down the ravine towards the waterfall. I had visited the reserve some years back and did not know about this best kept secret. A spectacular waterfall awaits anyone who is in the know and willing to do the short walk! The birds in this area included Cape Grassbird, Tawny-flanked Prinia and Speckled Pigeon:
I did not feel like the day was over (it was around 2pm when I got back from the walk to the waterfall) so I decided to do another trip around the route. I stopped to take some pics of Black-shouldered Kite that were outside of my camera's range and then saw two birds sitting in the road and nearly drove into a ditch on the side of the road in my haste to get a pic - they looked really special. It turns out that they were Red-winged Francolin - and I got a few shots (with the sun right behind them unfortunately) and then followed them on foot up the hill and must have walked practically on top of one because they took off from behind me down the valley. I headed after them but did not see them again! Here are some pics I got:
I got back to the picnic area where I spent about an hour and enjoyed having so many birds become unaware of my presence and come up really close including: Black-collared Barbet, Southern Boubou, Arrow-marked Babbler, Cape Turtle Dove, Fork-tailed Drongo, Crested Barbet and Mocking Cliff-Chat:
Another highlight of the day was the various mammals that I saw, including Zebra, Red Hartebeest, Waterbuck, Mountain Reed Buck, Eland, Kudu, Black-backed Jackal, Squirrel and Mongoose.
Another stunning day out in the wilds - no lifers, but around 45 bird species makes it a great outing!