Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve (chapter 69 in Birding Gauteng) is one of my favourite birding spots close to Johannesburg. The 60 kilometer tourist route and the two picnic areas are actually difficult to cover in a day because there are so many sightings that it is hard to keep moving forward.
Trip 1 - February 2010
Here is a selection of pictures of birds that I took on my first trip to Suikerbosrand:
Trip 2 - April 2010
On Monday morning at 06:30 I stubbornly got into my car despite the shocking weather in Joburg I headed out to Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve about 40 minutes south of Joburg (a trip perfectly timed for me to get there as the gate opened at 7:30 - that is just so inconsiderate to us birders for whom 7:30 is seriously late in the day) and despite the comments from my wife who said that I was too sick to go birding. Well, not only was it raining when I got there but the mist was unbelievable. I headed out onto the "Tourist Route" and could see just about nothing, but after a few kilometers of wishing I had listened to my wife, I heard what I identified as a family of Grey-headed Francolin's from the books I had with me, and decided to wait and see if they showed - hoping there would be some chance of taking photos but the time they arrived. I was joined by a Black-backed Jackal who was also stalking the birds (except he had something different in mind that I had). Well, more than 30 minutes later they started to make an appearance and the rain stopped and some of the mist lifted and I could get a few okay shots of the family. Fortunately, the Jackal was not so patient as I was and he left hungry!
My next adventure was in taking some pics of what I was sure was a Lifer for me - some sort of a Wheatear, maybe the female Pied Wheatear of one of the others I remember seeing in my Sasol photo book. I had already gotten the male Mountain Wheatear which is all back with the white on the shoulders and I had not noticed at the time that there was a grey form of the bird. Let's just say that when I consulted Roberts I was less than excited at seeing that it was not a lifer for me. I think it should be and we could add it to the list of birds in Southern Africa. That would make it 954 if I am right??? Anyway here is a pic of both forms of the male that I took on the day. Sorry, neither pic is great - the light was dismal until about 11am and these pics were taken earlier in the morning.
My next adventure was capturing two other Lifers (and from the many pics that I snapped, again in less than idea lighting conditions, suggest that they are the Eastern Long-Billed Lark and the Plain-backed Pipit - although someone has suggested that it rather the Long-Billed). I made the ID based on the many pics I took and not just this one, plus their behaviour and what is listed as birds in the reserve - but hey, I make mistakes really well! Shout if you have any corrections for me!!!
Another sighting (another Lifer) was a Kalahari Scrub-Robin which I first spotted in the acacia woodland about two thirds of the way around the Tourist Route and it was on a bush about 50 metres from the road, which I am learning is actually too far away for my Olympus E500 with a 75-30mm lens if I want to do anything more than make an id). I did the best I could getting a pic or two that I knew in the bad light would be pretty pathetic. Then I rounded another corner and there it was right next to the road on a bush and it sat and waited for me to take 3 photos before it flew away. Surely these would be perfect pics (it's tail was even cocked - an indicator that it is the Kalahari variety of Scrub-Robin) - only to find that the sun was now out plus I had just set my Shutter Priority setting to get a pic of a bird in the dark recesses of a bush and was now snapping a pic silhouetted against a bright sky and I messed up the exposure and got three totally overexposed pics. I was furious with myself until I remembered that is a hobby and birding is what do to relax on my day off and I laughed it off. Kinda, to be honest!!! Here are the two shots for what they are worth. At least we don't pay for shots to be developed before finding out whether they are worth keeping!
Lastly, close to where I got the Scrub-Robin, I saw what I thought was a long-tailed Widowbird sitting in a tree facing me - it was about 75 metres away and I fired off three shots without even thinking much about it. Just to record that I had seen it. Can you imagine my delight last night when I sat processing my shots - there was the Common Scimitarbill which I have been desperate to see since I started birding. Oh how I wish my eyes were not turning 48 this year and that I could have seen the long curved beak on my camera display as I snapped each shot! I would have tried to follow it to get better pics. Does anyone know how common they area? I have almost birded the whole of Gauteng since I started this hobby in January and was almost giving up seeing it. Here are the pics that at least prove that I saw it - and not much else use unfortunately!!!
Here are some of the other birds that I photographed on the day:
Trip 3 - May 2010
Here is a selection of pics that I took on my third trip to Suikerbosrand nature reserve:
Trip 4 - August 2012
On Monday the 20th of August I spent the day driving the tourist route through Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve. I started the morning on the Eendracht Road outside the reserve - did not spot any Crakes but recorded a good 25 species before even entering the reserve proper. Sadly this Rock Kestrel did not let me get close enough to get the shot I hoped for:
As I made my way into the reserve I stopped off at the little dams and saw at least 3 White-backed Ducks:
At the start of the tourist route I spotted Mountain Wheatear, Red-necked Wryneck and Eastern Long-billed Lark:
A highlight of the day out birding was spending time at the Holhoek picnic site. I put some bread out on one of the tables and waited for the birds to arrive. Here are some shots that I took there:
Near the end of the tourist route I spotted this Sentinel Rock-Thrush and got lucky as it waited for me to sneak closer and get some decent shots:
The last sighting was this Common Greenshank:
Here are a few shots of mammals and critters along the way: