On Friday the 1st July 2011, my wife, daughter and I left home at 4:30 and headed off to Lichtenburg - a three hour drive west of Johannesburg thanks to all the Stop and Go's on the N14 from Krugersdorp to Ventersdorp - and we arrived at the Lichtenburg Game Breeding Farm at 7:30 only to discover that the gate opens at 8am. We headed back into the town and explored the vlei in the middle of the town. The bird life for a cold winter's morning was not too bad with sightings of Crowned Lapwing, Blacksmith Lapwing, Little Grebe, Speckled Pigeon, Grey Heron, Cape Wagtail, Red-knobbed Coot, African Purple Swamphen, Common myna, Common Moorhen, Laughing Dove, Cape Turtle Dove, Southern Masked Weaver, House Sparrow and Cape Sparrow. It was an icy morning with frost everywhere:
At 8am we headed back towards the entrance of the Game Breeding Farm and must admit that looking through the fence wondered if we had come all the way only to be disappointed - but that was not be be the case. We paid the R18 entrance fee and spent some time making our way around the ponds in the fenced section of the game farm. It was too early to get out and brave the cold in what seems to be the worlds largest bird hide (we decided to visit it on our way back). We did see Common Ostrich, Blacksmith Lapwing, Black-throated Canary, Southern Masked Weaver, Cape Wagtail, African Hoopoe, Crested Barbet, Yellow-billed Duck, Burchell's Coucal, Red-knobbed Coot, Grey Heron, Goliath Heron, Little Grebe, Common Myna, African Darter, Common Moorhen, Speckled Pigeon, Natal Spurfowl, Cape Turtle Dove and Cape Robin-Chat.
We made our way away from the ponds but soon found that the tar road leads back to the ponds on the other side of the wetland. This area contains most of the exotic game that is bred for the Pretoria Zoo - I will show pics at the end of this report. Here we saw three Kingfishers working the same little pond (excuse the pitiful images) and a Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler that posed nicely:
As we continued with the road we left the breeding area and made our way out into the grasslands. We had a good sighting of Cocqui Francolin, but as I tried to sneak up on them they took off never to be seen again! Some other neat sightings in this area included: Ant-eating Chat, African Stonechat, a desert race Common Fiscal, Greater Kestrel, Bokmakierie, Desert Cisticola, Zitting Cisticola and Eastern Clapper Lark. The absence of Pipits on the day was a surprise.
We caught sight of a vulture circling in the sky and knew we were getting close to the vulture restaurant which is near the northern edge of the reserve in a large Acacia Forest. Before we arrived at the Vulture Restaurant we spotted a Cape Vulture in a tree and I sneaked up on it for some close up shots before it flew off (of course, some Pied Crow forced their way into my frame):
We finally arrived at the Vulture Restaurant - a great little spot but the Pied Crow and Bokmakierie and White-browed Sparrow-weaver must have scared the Vultures away:
Our next stop was in the Acacia Forest where we saw Brown-crowned Tchagra, Black-crowned Tchagra, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, a pair of mating Chestnut-vented Tit-Babblers, and a Francolin that flew off before I could identify it!
we had numerous sightings of Northern Black Korhaan on the day:
The road we were following took us to the main pic area where we saw just Neddicky, Black-chested Prinia, Fiscal Flycatcher, Crested Barbet and Helmeted Guineafowl.
It was around 11 by now and we decided to start heading back towards the main game area - but spent some time exploring the grasslands and trying to get close to Northern Black Korhaan with little success:
After a detour along Rhinoster Road to spot the White Rhino in the reserve we arrived at the Bird Hide and truly marvelled at how huge it is! Here are some scenery shots that hopefully do justice to it. The 360 degree shot should give an idea of the beauty of the place:
Here are some other bird pics that I took around the hide and ponds:
As we arrived at the hide I saw an Acacia Pied Barbet and played it's call to attract it and what I thought was a juvenile accompanying it turned out to be Lesser Honeyguide:
Another highlight at the hide was the sight of two African Harrier-Hawks that soared overhead and stayed just out of my range in the tall trees on the other side of the pond:
We made our way back to the entrance gate, stopping to get a panoramic shot of the lake from the opposite side of the Bird Hide and also were well entertained by a displaying Cape Robin-Chat.
We spent a bit of time exploring the vlei down in the town before hitting road back to Johannesburg. We decided to head to Potch from Ventersberg and joined the N12 road leading back to Johannesburg. It still took us 3 hours with the Friday afternoon traffic on the roads, but at least we did not have to content with Stop and Go's.
Here is a selection of the shots of mammals that we took on the day - it was special seeing so many deer and bison that we could not identify at the time and it took quite a while searching the Internet to figure out what they were (including Indian Bison, Axis Deer and Pere David Deer):
All in all we saw 72 bird species in the park - not bad for the middle of winter!