In the October school holidays during 2010 we were given an amazing opportunity to stay in a private lodge at Mabalingwe Nature Reserve in the Waterburg. It was a great combination of family holiday (we spent time at the Caravan park's hot and cold pools and also at the heated pool at the reception complex) and awesome birding. Given that we were half way to Polokwane from Johannesburg we even decided to spend a day there birding the Bird Sanctuary and the Game Reserve (to look for the Short-clawed Lark) - but I will publish these trip reports in separate posts. I even got to do an altas of the area (call it a trial run before I get registered) and just need to confirm that I was confined to one pentad, otherwise I will be rather disappointed!
At Mabalingwe our birding experience was divided into four sections:
(1) The Lodge - We stayed at a lodge in the Idwala camp set on a hill overlooking a valley so in our spare time we enjoyed watching birds came by such as Black Cuckooshrike, Arrow-marked Babbler and African Green-Pigeon, and also those that live around the dwelling such as Mocking-Cliff Chat, White-browed Scrub-Robin and African Grey Hornbill. Here is pics of the scenery around the lodge:
(2) The Dams - At the reception area and in between all the camps (the dwellings) there are dams - some with very little bird life and other much better like Gorcum Dam (I spent a few sunrises and sunsets at this stunning location). Here are pics of the dams (in order from the entrance gate to the Idwala camp where we stayed - apparently there is another called Huilboom, but we never stumbled across it!):
(3) The Game Area - There is a section of the property set aside for game viewing and it includes numerous waterholes and reservoirs. Our favourite spot was the Kameelperd Waterhole, near to the Kalahari Oasis. We would park as close as we could to the southern section of the reservoir that is leaking and watch the birds come to bath and drink. The other waterholes worth spending time at were Buffels and Renoster. Here are pics of the waterholes:
The Kalahari Oasis is the pub/restaurant where the famous Castrol GTX adverts were filmed some years back - the famous line was: "Ya, Boet!" Little Birdman and I sat on the stoep, like the guys in the advert, and enjoyed the ice cold Cokes. The memorabilia of the world that we grew up (like public telephone box, long drop toilets, record player, and a school bus and old cars) is a lot of fun to see.
(4) The Caravan Park - This section of the reserve is great for Sunbirds and Hornbills - and the hot and cold pools are great too!
Okay, so by now you are wondering whether I forgot my zoom lens at home and could not actually do any birding! Not so! In total I recorded 104 bird species in the 5 day period that we spent at Mabalingwe. And even though I only got 1 Lifer (Black Cuckooshrike), it was certainly not a dismal experience. I got up closer to many species that I have only seen from a distance before and with the help of my Robert's bird sounds feel like I have gained experience at recognising many bird calls. Here is a selection of pics of the birds that we saw in alphabetical order (we saw very few raptors - just Black-shouldered Kite and two African Hawk-Eagle and the Shrike population was lacking apart from Crimson-breasted and Magpie):
Here is a list of the birds that we saw but either did not get pics or they are not worth showing: Southern Pied Babbler, Little Bittern, Dark-capped Bulbul, Black-throated Canary, Rattling Cisticola, Reed Cormorant, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Helmeted Guineafowl, Hamerkop, Hadeda Ibis, Woodland Kingfisher, Black-shouldered Kite, Common Moorhen, Red-faced Mousebird, Neddicky, Black-headed Oriole, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Cape Robin-Chat, Lilac-breasted Roller, Great Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow and Common Waxbill.
Of course, not birding outing of mine ever ends without a mystery bird or two that needs an id. Here are few that are escaping identification:
Mystery Bird #1
Mystery Bird #2
Mystery Bird #3
Mystery Bird #4
The game at the reserve is not prolific - although after numerous drives our total list of mammals is decent. I believe there is a lion camp but we did not go there.
My wife was able to even get a pic of the hissing beetle that can be deafening out in the wilds. They were out in full force in the game reserve area. Some time back, in the Kruger, we had one fly into our car and it was created quite a commotion with it's screeching!
On the way home to Johannesburg we saw this African Palm Swift at the Panorama Ultra City outside of Pretoria: