Today, Tuesday the 22nd of June 2010, I spent the morning at Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. All the talk of the sighting of Peregrine Falcon on the Global Bird Trekkers forum was too much for me to resist. I arrived at 9am - a good time to start birding in winter (and given the garden's crazy 8:30 starting time!). My focus was also to create a trip list for the "Birds of the Solstice" project to document birdlife during the June 21 solstice.
On my way to the waterfall I saw the following birds: Lapwing Blacksmith, Common Mynah, Kurrichane Thrush, Cape Turtle Dove. Crowned Lapwing, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Robin-Chat, White-bellied Sunbird (male and female), Southern Masked Weaver, Black-chested Prinia and Common Fiscal.
As I passed the restaurant I spotted the Black Eagle on the hill behind the restaurant - as well as another raptor flying near it - which from my low quality pic is yet to be conclusively identified.
I spent some time at the bottom of the waterfall getting a few pics of the Black Eagles in flight but too far away to do justice to a photo. I then headed up to the top of the waterfall. I saw on the rock above the eagles nest a little bird that turned out to be Cape Rock-Thrush.
I was then somewhat surprised to see the Peregrine Falcon fly right past me and unfortunately all I managed to get was this id shot:
From here I followed the long walk along the ridge and back to the lower part of the gardens. On this walk I saw Streaky-headed Seedeater, Black-chested Prinia, Amethyst Sunbird and Pied Crow. Slim pickings!
I headed to Sasol Dam hoping to see the Green-backed Heron and was rewarded for my patience. It turns out that there is also a juvenile Green-backed Heron at the dam as well as an adult.
The African Black Duck were engaged in some pretty hectic activity as the following pics reveal.
The other birds at the dam included: Burchell's Coucal, Common Moorhen, Little Grebe, Lourie, Hadeda Ibis and Southern Masked Weaver. Two Egyptian Geese flew past but did not grace us with their presence.
If you have not visited the gardens, here is a view from the hide at Sasol Dam:
The last bird I sighted on my way out was this Southern Boubou - I feel a bit embarrassed posting this grainy pic!
Well, a bit of a mixed bag in terms of photo quality, but a great morning's outing (seeing 30 bird species and getting the lifer of the Peregrine Falcon) on a mild winters day in Johannesburg. I have just realised that I sat on the bench in Woodpecker Path drinking coffee frustrated that I did not know where the Black Sparrowhawk were nesting and tonight I learn that they are on a tree to the right of the bench!!! That is frustrating! Maybe next time!!!
We decided to head off for another outing to Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. In our three hours in the park we saw a surprisingly low number of birds but had a great time in the mild winters day. In total we saw 12 bird species - including: Blacksmith Lapwing, Cape Robin-Chat, Little Grebe, African Black Duck, Green-backed Heron, Southern Masked Weaver, Chinspot Batis, Amethyst Sunbird, Southern Boubou, Cape Turtle Dove, Fiscal Flycatcher, Pied Crow and one of the Black Eagles. We also saw the resident Pied Starlings that live at the intersection of Hendrik Potgieter and Doreen Roads not far from the gardens.
In January 2011 the news went out that a Grey Wagtail had been spotted at the gardens. Everyone and their cousin set off to tick the rarity! I had already recorded a Grey Wagtail at Magoebaskloof in December 2010 but had to join the throng.
The next day I headed back to the gardens and managed to get these pics of the Wagtail and other birds:
My Son, Drew, and I headed made another visit to see the Grey Wagtail and got these pics:
For my weekly day off on a Monday in June 2012, I headed off to Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. I made a late start only leaving home around 10:30 even though I had set my alarm for 4am to go somewhere more exotic and further from home. I have been trying to shrug off a bout of Winter flu and did not want to worse things. I spent some time around the restaurant and did not find the Half-collared Kingfisher so decided to head off for the top of the waterfall as one of the Black Eagles were flying around. In the time I spent up there I managed to grab a few half-decent pics. Spare a thought for these poor Eagles who spend their day trying to evade the diving Crows!
On my way down from the hill heading towards the bottom of the waterfall I saw a Fairy Flycatcher for quite a while - however getting pics of this ADHD bird proved to be rather difficult to put it mildly. A Lesser Honeyguide also appeared and gave me the hairy eye-ball, as did two Bar-throated Apalis (this one looking over his shoulder at me).
I spent some time walking up and down the river and looking around the ponds at the restaurant (it was around 2:30 by now) but still did not see the Kingfisher. From there I spent time on the ridge just behind the restaurant getting a few pics of various Sunbirds, Southern Boubou, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Weaver, Thick-billed Weaver, Bokmakierie and Black-headed Oriole.
Between 4 and 4:30 I lingered around the ponds and decided to leave without seeing the elusive Kingfisher. Still, an excellent outing so close to home and seeing 40 species in winter in a small location like the Gardens (and I did not even head to the lower dam to add to my list) is always a decent effort.
I did pause as I left the gate to snap the common Lapwings enjoying the late afternoon rays:
A few weeks back I spent a few hours at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens and teamed up with a camera man, Steve, who was perched on the rocks filming the Black Eagles. There is no experience in the world quite like having this 2.5 meter wing-spanned beauty flying within 4 meters of your head. They would circle and hover around our heads. Almost scary!
No wonder this eagle is called "Wit-kruis Aarend" in Afrikaans - it means "White-cross Eagle".
The chick is nearly ready to have fly the nest and the two parents were flying up and down - presumably looking for food for the hungry offspring. I spotted one of the adults approaching the nest with prey in it's talons. Sadly the cameraman had to wait 10 seconds for his video camera to start up and he missed the shot. A closer look at the prey shows that it was probably a Helmeted Guineafowl caught in the area.
This is a horrible shot - but GREAT news. A few weeks back someone posted a photo of this Peregrine Falcon in the Gardens with a broken leg. We all assumed it would not survive - but here it is!
Here are a few other shots that I took:
I even got close to the locusts: