1. June 2010
After an unproductive day birding the greater Rust de Winter area – largely due to the arrival of winter and also closure of key areas around the dam that were previously open to birders, my 5 year-old son (Little Birdman) and I made our way to the Zaagkuildrift to Kgomo Kgomo route as described in Birding Gauteng. This was my second time doing the route. The last time was back in the rainy season in February this year. On that occasion the road was barely passable in a regular vehicle (and part of the day was spent getting my alternator repaired in the town of Themba after some mud wrestling that I had to do). Here is the pic of the same road – half way along the route – without mud, but rather messed up.
Near to this road, in what seemed like nowhere close to water, this Brown-hooded Kingfisher sat hoping for who knows what:
We started the route around 1pm – knowing full-well that we were too late for decent birding and needed to waste some time before the return trip later that afternoon. But we were pleasantly surprised to see dozens of Crimson-breasted Shrike, Crested Barbet, Yellow-billed Hornbill, Fiscal Flycatcher, Sabota Lark and huge groups of seed-eaters flying from tree to tree (including Red-billed Quellea). An up-close sighting of Yellow Canary was a bonus as I have seldom gotten close enough for a decent pic. A little family of Swainson’s Spurfowl gave up a more than usual showing. A Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler or two is always a good find in my estimation - and the fairly common Fiscal Flycatcher.
We had lunch at the river on Crake Road – again hoping to see the elusive African Finfoot – and all we have to show for it is these scenery pics. A beautiful spot just after the bridge where the resident Grey Heron, Hamerkop and Pied Kingfisher hang out). This time a Black-shouldered Kite was trying to move into the neighbourhood until the Grey Heron roughly chased it from the top of the tree where he was perched. A handful of Magpie Shrike were occupying telephone lines around the dam – not one seemed to pay attention to their presence.
Our highlight was the two raptors that we saw on the journey. The first one was attacking Blacksmith Lapwing (or was the other way round) at the dam on the right hand side of the road just before the village. We are yet to be sure about our id as it was out of my 300mm camera zoom lens range. Here is the best pics that we managed to get (we are trying to choose between Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Shikra or Little Sparrowhawk - Wildtuinman has suggested convincingly that it is an Ovambo Sparrowhawk - a Lifer for me!!!):
The second raptor and a confirmed lifer was spotted on the way back just past the village of Kgomo Kgomo. It flew from telephone pole to telephone pole as we kept creeping up on it, trying to get within range for the shot. It must have been relieved when we let it fly off to a tree and we decided to keep on driving. After looking at all the pics and figuring out the subtle differences between the little raptors we have identified it as a Shikra:
Oh, while I was excited about adding the Shikra to my LifeList, I got a bit frustrated with a group of what I thought were Wattled Starling on the other side of the road and begrudgingly snapped some pics of the birds – only to find when I transferred the pics to my laptop that they were actually Southern Pied Babblers. What a surprise! Their sounds should have been enough for me to realize that they were Babblers (they sounds very similar to Arrow-marked Babblers). Maybe I was so focused on the Shikra that my brain registered nothing else!
The other bird that tried to muscle in on our Shikra party was this Pied Crow that squawked loudly all the while before flying off in a huff:
For the second time on this route I found myself parked overlooking the view of the MPCA Dam that you can see just off the road and wishing that I had made arrangements in advance to visit. I even tried calling the cell number but got no reply. It looks like a most productive dam in terms of the number of birds that were visible. Next time???
We enjoyed birding the flooded areas next to the road as you approach the village of Kgomo Kgomo (none of the flooding was onto the roads this time round). Three African Spoonbill were great to watch as they hunted in the water with their own unique style and they gave us a few flying lessons as they circled the area before returning to feed some more. There are many Grey Heron, Egrets, Sacred Ibis and Glossy Ibis to keep us amused in this area too. We had a great sighting of a Squacco Heron from the bridge over the floodplain near the village and enjoyed the different ducks on the plain including: Red-billed Teal, Hottentot Teal, female Southern Pochard, Yellow-billed Duck. Of course, there were plenty of Common Moorhen and a few Red-knobbed Coot around – but no African Purple Swamphen this time round.
In terms of animals along the way, we enjoyed seeing the furry Kgomo Kgomo donkeys and a massive Puff Adder on the road. To think that we had walked around in the bush on Crake Road, not more than a kilometer from where we saw this chap. Scary!
All in all, it was a great afternoon of birding in which we saw around 50 bird species and added 3 Lifers to my LifeList!
2. June 2010
After a trip to the Tswaing Meteor Crater we headed to Kgomo Kgomo and arrived there at around 4pm and would end up regretting how late we started the route because nightfall would rob us of some valuable birding opportunities (although the route had some pleasant surprises in store for us). Just before we arrived at the bridge over the floodplain we saw Lilac-breasted Roller, Pied Babbler, Pied Crow, Magpie Shrike and Fork-tailed Drongo. The first water bird we saw on the floodplain was a Hottentot Teal. And then the ADD kicked in as we struggled to keep track of all that we were seeing: Blacksmith Lapwing, Little Grebe, Yellow-billed Duck, African Purple Swamphen, Common Moorhen, Southern Pochard, African Jacana, Black Crake and Cape Shoveller. Deeper in the floodplain we were able to spot numerous Spur-winged Geese, millions of White-faced Duck, two lone Fulvous Ducks, loads of Red-billed Teal, one Comb Duck and two Egyptian Geese.
And then the fun began. We spotted movement in a channel close to the road just below us and it turned out to be a Greater Painted-Snipe. When it flew off about 30 metres from the shore we decided to follow it on foot (okay, Justin decided to follow it and I did not want to be a woosie so I wading in too). Shedding out shoes and socks (and leaving Drew to stand guard over their location) we made our way through the shallow water and mud to where we thought we saw the Snipe land - and we soon lucky as it made a few short flights to get away from us. Here are the best I was able to do by way of a pic:
Another highlight for me at this spot was seeing African Quailfinch land and take off in the grass all around us. Their call as they lifted off will be something I will never forget. Unfortunately not one of my pics was good enough to even prove that we saw them so another Lifer gets away from my photography list. Oh, Justin saw Baillon's Crake out in the floodplain where he was walking - that made me rather jealous!!! A lifer for him!
Before we left the bridge Little Birdman spotted a Malachite Kingfisher right next to the road looking for fish in the shallow water of the floodplain and we saw Southern Red Bishop and what was most likely an African Pipit.
Right in front of the houses of Kgomo Kgomo we spotted with a feeding party and spotted Yellow-throated Petronia right at the top of the tree - another lifer for me! Yellow-fronted Canary and Burchell's Starling were present as well as Common Mynah.
We visited the two small dams next to the village on the start of the dirt road to Pienaarsriver (on the left after the last houses) but there was no birds in sight - but we were swamped by kids from the village that we spent a while chatting to - until a really grumpy elderly gentle men arrived with a huge cattle whip and proceeded to drive them away from us. None of them had asked for money nor were they a nuisance in any way, but for some reason he reacted rather harshly - here are some pics of the experience (they asked us to take their picture and everyone laughed with glee as they viewed their face on the camera screen). A special moment.
The cattle from the village ensure that Cattle Egret will be ticked in this area:
Another surprise was in store for me as we moved on about 100 metres down the road and I head a sound that I had never heard before and thought it was coming from the bushes nearby, but the bird guru, Justin, informed me that it was a sound created by the stiffened wings of African Snipe - which I had never seen before. We parked and watched them diving and displaying all around us - an amazing experience to put it mildly! A grade A+ Lifer for me!
At the first wetland alongside the road where we spotted the African Snipe we saw Klittlitz's Plover, Cape Glossy Starling, Cape Turtle Dove, Brown-hooded Kingfisher and more of the ducks that we had seen earlier. We also had a surprise when we spotted a immature Klittlitz's Plover in a small hole in the mud - it turned out to be dead - possibly frozen the night before.
As we were about to leave the wetland patch this juvenile Shikra surprised us with a fly-by.
By now the sun was just above the horizon and we knew that we needed to make a hasty journey to get to Crake Road before it was dark. When we arrived there - but with last light still visible we surprised Black Stork next to the bridge over the river as well as Grey Heron. There was also Arrow-marked Babbler and Hamerkop and in the area. We were disappointed not to see African Finfoot on the river - I remember reading that it was spotted there some time back. We drove to the end of Crake Road and in the fast fading light saw Brown-hooded Kingfisher. Magpie Shrike, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver and Burchell's Coucal.
The amazing Zaagkuildrift road had three more surprises for us in the near dark conditions - all of them Owl - the first was Marsh Owl - we saw one at first and within a minute a second arrived before they flew off. The next was Pearl-spotted Owlet on an overhead cable and the final one was Southern White-faced Scops-Owl - but by now my headlights were on and it flew off after all I had gotten was a pitiful pixelated image - it was a beautiful sight however in the light from my vehicle!
That brought to end an amazing day as we headed back to Johannesburg - marvelling at the day's experiences: I recorded 104 unique bird species (59 species at Tswaing, 13 at Swartdamstad and 51 on the Zaagkuildrift Road. My lifelist increased by 9 and the memories that we shared simply can not be counted!!! I am greatly indebted to Justin who taught me so much on the day and his ability to id birds and identify their calls, and even to call them out, was invaluable. His encouragement to get out the car and go after birds helped us get up and close to many bird species. Even it it meant getting muddy and having your feet frozen!!!
3. August 2010
I have done this route on three separate occasions, so on this occasion my focus was enjoying the route but not focussing on recording everything that I saw. You can check out my previous report on this route for more details and pics. I did linger at the bridge on Crake Road where I chased away a juvenile African Fish-Eagle, saw a Shikra on a phone pole and all the other regulars at the spot - including Pied Kingfisher, Hamerkop, Grey Heron, etc. One highlight was parking about 50 metres from the bridge (away from Zaagkuildrift road along Crake Road) hoping to see African Finfoot. I played the clip from Roberts of the call of the Finfoot on my cell phone and the call was answered from about 50 metres further long the river. I seriously considered heading down the river on foot, but decided to respect the privacy of whoever owns the land.
As I arrived at the village I got a bit distracted by the presence of Red-breasted Swallow (and knew that I needed a better pic for my collection - I would have to wait until later in the day to get a better pic than this one).
I made my way onto the bridge over the flood plain and counted out 27 wood poles that hold up the crash barrier (on the left hand side of the road) and settled down to wait for the Baillon's Crake to show up). Call me deluded, but there was a chance that it would actually show up at this spot (they can count, can't they?). The first bird to arrive was an African Pipit followed by two beautiful African Snipe that waded in front of me for about 20 minutes using their long beaks to get breakfast out of the muddy soil.
The Baillons forgot to show up, but I had good sighting of a Grey Heron, Black Crake, African Jacana, Blacksmith Lapwing (and even a chick that needed outside input to id), Sacred Ibis, Malachite Kingfisher, Three-banded Plover and a bird I never expected to see balancing on reeds on a flood plain: Black-headed Oriole.
I then started to get a little bored with waiting around on the bridge for the Baillons so I decided to follow the path that the Cows follow from under the bridge towards the village. This allowed me to skirt the edge of the floodplain - which quite frankly is desperately in need of water (even one of the villages approached me and asked me when the rain is coming - I guess birders are supposed to know things like that???). This got me closer to the larger pools of water where the large flocks of birds hang out - including Spur-winged Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, African Spoonbill, Red-billed Teal, Common Moorhen and Glossy Ibis.
I then spotted a short-legged Wader that had me guessing for the rest of the day and only that night, after pouring through electronic and paper bird book, discovered that it was Ruddy Turnstone - a lifer (in place of the Baillon's Crake).
By now it was 10am and I had already spent more time at the spot than I had planned, but I am learning to stay flexible with my plans - to allow for whatever shows up.
4. October 2010
On Monday the 18th of October 2010 I set out for another birding experience on the Zaagkuildrift Road to Kgomo Kgomo. The sun was just rising as I crossed the Pienaars River on the N1 and started on the dirt road. I immediately heard the calls of Northern Black Korhaan and left the car to see if I could see them - I must have spent about 30 minutes walking about a kilometer following their calls - there must have been at least 6 of them in the fields on either side of the road. And this is the best pic of the bunch - not much to write home about (I did get up close to a Rattling Cisticola along the way):
My next stop was the MPC dam next to the dirt road - I had previously arranged to get the guide to take me around the dam, but this trip had been decided on at the last minute so that was not possible. I spent a while scanning the dam and was amazed at the quantity of bird species enjoying the tranquillity of the spot (African Jacana, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, Black-winged Stilt and Blacksmith Lapwing and many waders). Here are some of my panoramas that I have created with the freeware program Autostitch:
Here are some shots of waders that I have not been able to definitively identify - it was not possible to get up close to the birds (they do at least illustrate the diversity of waders around):
The waders that I could identify - mostly because of in flight shots that I took - were Ruff, Wood Sandpiper and Common Ringed Plover.
The rest of the road to Crake Road had the usual bird species for the spot, including: Helmeted Guineafowl, Lourie, Magpie Shrike, Green Wood Hoopoe, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Cardinal Woodpecker, Red-faced Mousebird, Black-chested Prinia, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Cape Glossy Starling, Black-headed Heron, Marico Flycatcher, Southern Red-billed Hornbill, African Wattled Lapwing, Barn Swallow.
I paused at the bridge over the Pienaars River on Crake Road and was surprised to see that it was bone drive - even the little spot a bit further on where you can see the river from the side of the road was dry. Apart from some Swainson's Spurfowl and a lone Brown-hooded Kingfisher nothing else was in the area. I continued to the end of Crake Road and taking a right turn went further than I have even been before. On this road I saw Blue Waxbill, Fork-tailed Drongo, Speckled Mousebird, Red-faced Mousebird, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Laughing Dove, Cardinal Woodpecker, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Diderick Cuckoo, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Burchell's Starling, Fiscal Flycatcher, Southern Pied Babbler, Black-faced Waxbill, Black-chested Prinia and Kalahari Scrub-Robin.
At some point (just beyond a resort known as Jock of the Bushveld I believe) the road takes a left turn and I continued until I could go no further because of locked gates. On this road I spotted Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Scaly-feathered Finch, Yellow-billed Hornbill, numerous Cisticolas and Cattle Egret.
On this road I stumbled across a place called Matopi Lodge. After hanging around the gate for a while and being "welcomed" by the dogs, the couple who run the place, Boetie and his wife Hannetjie, welcomed me in and showed me around the three lodges that they are putting finishing touches that will be made available to birders in the area at R600 per night for the unit (each has a double bed and 2 single beds - self-catering). It seems ideal for those of us wishing to get into the area as early as possible and not miss out on daylight for birding. His cell number is 0837364138. Two units are completed and the third is close to completion.
There is a little dam right next to the three rondavels and another couple of dams in the areas which have dirt roads criss-crossing the whole area. I spent about an hour birding the place (and it was from 10:30 to 11:30) not an ideal time but I still managed to confirm 22 bird species and I know I missed at least another 15 that could not be identified in the harsh sunlight as they flew past. The birds I saw included: Mallard, Southern Masked Weaver, Fork-tailed Drongo, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Cape Turtle-Dove, Yellow-billed Hornbill, Swallows, Helmeted Guineafowl, Speckled Mousebird, Crowned Lapwing, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, Diderick Cuckoo (I got so close I could almost touch it), Cattle Egret (at the dam where the cattle drink), Blacksmith Lapwing, Marico Flycatcher, Black-collared Barbet, Cape Glossy Starling, Cape Wagtail, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow and Magpie Shrike. I also saw Impala, Kudu, Duiker and warthog. Boet says that they have Eland as well.
I decided that it was time to push on towards Kgomo Kgomo and remembered that it is always difficult to make it to the flood plain before midday - there is just so much on offer on that 22 kilometers of dirt road. I arrived at the village at around and pulled off the road just before the village to watch an African Pipit feeding insects to a juvenile bird.
This led me to notice that about 100 meters from the road into the flood plain there was a dam - and I made my way there - and for the next 2 hours or so had the time of my life as I watched what seemed like hundreds of African Quailfinch that would take off as I walked around the spot - they would take off from just in front of me and it seems that they rest or nest in mud indentations in the black clay soil. I have included a pic of what they look like - Roberts says that they do not nest in such places. I tried everything in my power to get pics of the Quailfinch flying around me - and this pathetic BIF shot is the best I could do.
I also had fun sneaking up on two African Snipe that thought they could become invisible by crouching down (and that flying pic could have been my all time best if I had framed it properly and just gotten the settings a bit better). I got an unexpected sight of Orange-breasted Waxbill, my first sighting of this species at Kgomo.
This spot also got me up close to watch a Yellow-billed Stork feeding next to a Grey-headed Heron.
The other birds at this dam and small wetland included: Sacred Ibis, Yellow-billed Duck, Spur-winged Goose, Comb Duck, Cape Shoveler, White-faced Duck, Wood Sandpiper, African Jacana, Blacksmith Lapwing, Klittlitz's Plover, African Pipit and a Water Monitor (which I thought was a turtle but my 5 year old id'd correctly I think).
I also spotted a bird that I just can't place - here are some pics - I suspect that all 5 pics might be the same bird (it was identified as Red-billed Quellea):
I eventually dragged my way away from the amazing spot and heading off to the bridge and I was appalled at how little water there was on the flood plain. The river flowing under the bridge had a small amount of water in it, but all the rest of the floodplain was bone dry. I saw very little around the bridge apart from an African Pipit which in my pics looks suspiciously like a Plain-backed Pipit but it may just be the quality of the pic, Black-shouldered Kite and a White-breasted Cormorant.
It was only 2:30 and I reluctantly decided to head back towards Johannesburg. I still felt like I had a bit more birding in me and so when I stumbled across another "new" little dam and wetland I did not need much of an excuse to hang around for a while. The dam is on the way from Kgomo on the tar road through Themba and then towards the N1 highway (I believe it is close to the Carousel). Here are the GPS co-ordinates for the spot: 25°18'54.51"S, 28°16'13.12"E. Here are the birds I spotted: Wood Sandpiper, Little Grebe, Black-winged Stilt, Black-chested Prinia, Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, Cattle Egret, Black Crake, Red-billed Teal, Blacksmith Lapwing, Reed Cormorant, African Purple Swamphen, African Palm Swift, Blue Waxbill and Southern Masked Weaver.
And then a bird that I assumed was Green-backed Heron flew from one corner of the reed area and landed on the far side of the dam. I snapped away but did not think it was anything special and did not follow up on it until I processed my pics. I think it just might be my second sighting of Dwarf Bittern. It was at the end of my camera's range - boy, do I wish I had walked up closer to check it out. I think I have learnt a lesson!!! Update: Fortunately this bird was identified as an immature Green-backed Heron and not Dwarf Bittern.
Not a single lifer among the 115 birds that I spotted on the day. But wow, what an amazing day of birding. My Zaagkuildrif species list now stand at 125. I remain on an agonising 398 Lifers - and have the pleasure of heading out this coming weekend with the opportunity to cross the 400 line once again!
5. January 2011 (Visit 1)
After heavy rains all across South Africa I needed to get back to the flood plain at Kgomo Kgomo to see what it looks like when in flood. I arrived there around 11am and there was water as far as you can see. The locals told me that the water arrived the day before and everyone was out fishing and catching huge barbel that they were selling to people driving over the bridge. I did not do the Zaagkuildrift road as I was in my low Toyota Corolla. We saw Purple, Squacco, Grey and Black-headed Heron, African Jacana, Spoonbill, White Stork, White-faced Duck, Little, Great and hundreds of Cattle Egret, Pied and Giant Kingfisher, lots of raptors flying overhead, Red-billed Teal, Common Moorhen, Reed Cormorant, Sacred Ibis, etc, etc, etc. Also, a highlight was seeing Paradise-Whydah on the way there and back (near the town of Potoane) - a lifer for me. Here are some pics:
As I mentioned, I did not drive the Zaagkuildrift Road but the start of the road from the village was bone dry. I suspect further along it gets impassable in a 2 wheel drive vehicle.
Oh, and there were some birds around (I think the raptor is a juvenile African Fish-Eagle):
And the highlight of my day? Finally catching sight of the splendid Long-tailed Paradise-Whydah (male and female)!!!!
6. January 2011 (Visit 2)
I made my way back to the Kgomo Kgomo flood plain area on Monday the 17th January 2011 to see what birds had arrived to enjoy the water that had arrived from the rivers that converge at the spot. The following scenery pics show that the water levels had receded nicely since my last trip:
The last pic was taken during an adventure I had (looking back towards the bridge from the middle of the marsh in the flood plain). I saw a bright red coloured bird flying about 100 meters from the north side of the bridge and believed it might be a Bee-eater that I had not yet come across. My suspicion was correct as it was a group fo Southern Carmine Bee-eaters. It took a bit a carefuly and silent creeping up to the birds, not to mention wading through the mud, to get decent pics, but it was all worthwhile:
As I returned to the bridge I noticed what looked like a Black Heron flying away from me - snapped a few pics, and then revised my initial id to Green-backed Heron. I tried to approach it for a few more shots but if flew off towards the river and landed out of sight. When I processed my pics, I realised that it was a Dwarf Bittern - a special sighting. These pics, taken in very overcast conditions are not great but they do prove the sightings:
Here are a selection of the other sightings I had while I was at the spot:
7. January 2011 (Visit 3)
I spent my Monday off doing the Zaagkuildrift Road one more time. I got rained out at 2pm and nearly washed off the roads all the way back to Pretoria - and in that time saw 100 species. With some patience I finally got to see Lesser Moorhen, and a "little" flock of Black-winged Pratincole. I got some nice close up shots of African Pipit too. Oh, a huge Comb Duck let me take some pics - and I got some stunning feathers that I think might belong to a Lilac-breasted Roller (it must have been taken by a raptor or hit by a car - sad!).
It took about 20 minutes to get these images of the Lesser Moorhen from the time I first heard it - fortunately an African Jacana eventually flushed the Lesser Moorhen towards me otherwise I would still be waiting for the shot:
I believe these are Black-winged Pratincole, it was my first sighting:
Here is a selection of other cool sightings I had:
Here are the feathers I picked up on the roadside near the bridge - we think it might be Lilac-breasted Roller - the colours are amazing:
Here is an African Pipit - posing nicely:
And finally a Southern Pochard posed nicely for me!
8. February 2011
On Monday morning the 14th of February I left home at 4am and arrived well before 6am at the start of the Zaagkuildrift Road. I spent a good four hours on the dirt road to Kgomo - determined to bird the route as thoroughly as possible. The river levels have receded and the route is rather dry and even Crake road looks passable. I then spent about 2 hours around the village and on the bridge at the flood plain at Kgomo Kgomo. I decided to return to the highway via the Zaagkuildrift road instead of making my way through Makapanstad. It was a rewarding day with over 115 bird species sighted, however, I did not record any new bird species. Here are some of the highlights as seen through my lens:
It was a decent day for little brown jobs including Cisticolas, Crombecs, Flycatchers, Camoroptera, Scaly-feathered Finch and Scrub-Robins:
The Shrikes too were out in full force - including Lesser Grey, Red-backed and Southern White-Crowned (a first sighting for me at Zaagkuildrift) - not to mention the spectacular Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike.
As always Widowbirds, Whydahs and Indigobirds were plentiful (including a shot of what could be Purple or Dusky Indigobird given the white bill although without a view of the feet it is impossible to be sure):
The Bee-eaters, Rollers and Sunbirds were around in somewhat lesser numbers than usual:
Many different Cuckoos have been seen on the route lately by birders but I had to be satisfied with sightings of Red-chested, Diderick and Jacobins:
Waterbirds were around but not quite in their usual numbers. I did spot a family of Comb Duck, Red-billed Teal, Cattle and Little Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Green-backed Heron, Dwarf Bittern, Hamerkop, Lesser Moorhen and African Purple Swamphen (oh, and the African Jacana playing "leap frog" was great to see):
Hornbills were all present apart from the Yellow-billed variety:
It was a good day for raptors including: Steppe Buzzard, African Fish-Eagle, Greater Kestrel, Brown Snake-Eagle and Amur Falcon:
Here are some of the birds that I managed to photograph on the day:
Some of the birds that I saw but either could not photograph or did not care to photograph included: Rufous-naped Lark, Southern Red Bishop, Swainsons Spurfowl, Crested Francolin, Natal Francolin, Helmeted Guineafowl, Laughing Dove, Cape Turtle-Dove, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Blacksmith Lapwing, Little Bittern, Crested Lapwing, Burchell's Coucal, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Green-winged Pytilia, Zitting Cisticola, Magpie Shrike, Common Waxbill, Blue Waxbill, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Southern Boubou, Speckled Mousebird, Lourie, Spur-winged Goose, Cape Glossy Starling, Fork-tailed Drongo, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Black-shouldered kite, Black-headed Heron, Jameson's Firefinch, Dark-capped Bulbul, Arrow-marked Babbler, Woodland Kingfisher, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Pin-tailed Whydah, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Red-billed Quelea, Red-breasted Swallow, White-faced Duck, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Purple Heron, Little Swift, White-throated Swallow, Red-billed Teal, African Darter, Klittlitz's Plover, Three-banded Plover, Cape Wagtail, Common Myna, Cape Sparrow, Egyptian Goose, Streaky-headed Seed-eater, Namaqua Dove and Tawny-flanked Prinia.
Someone, fairly new to the forum, mentioned that their lifelist stands at 25. A trip to Kgomo Kgomo could easily push them over 100! It is a gem of a route.
9. February 2011
I headed off to the floodplain to try and locate the Striped Crake that had been spotted just below the village of Kgomo Kgomo on the Zaagkuildrift Road. I am rather chuffed with the Lesser Moorhen shots which strangely came right out of the water and stood not more than 2 meters from my car in full view.
10. February 2011
Believe it or not, my wife asked me to take her to the floodplain at Kgomo Kgomo - so to keep romance alive in my marriage, I agreed :). We spent a few minutes on the bridge where Rob Geddes was scoping Black-winged Pratincole, Greater Painted Snipe, African Snipe and other birds out on the flood plain. We decided to head off to the stream that crosses the Zaagkuildrif road just below the village. The first bird I saw was obviously Dwarf Bittern - my trash bird!
There were other birders around hoping to catch sight of the Striped Crake. To cut a LONG story short the only Crake I saw there by the time we gave up the stakeout was African Crake - and my pics reveal at least three of them in the reeds (I held my breath as I processed each pic hoping that the Striped Crake had crept in - but no luck):
The only sighting we got of Lesser Moorhen was this secretive chick that peeked out at us from the reeds:
Our next highlight and a lifer was spotting a Common Myna (not the lifer!) being harassed by it's two chicks - which happened to be Great Spotted Cuckoo (this was the lifer!). I managed to get up close to the two juvenile Cuckoos as they kept begging to be fed by their mum:
Then we spotted this Microbird flying overhead and I managed to get a pretty decent BIF shot (it looks home made):
As we left the floodplain at around 12 o'clock I spotted a Goshawk on a pole and hoped it was the African Goshawk that I thought I had gotten at Borakalalo on Monday. This one turned out to be my second sighting of Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk - here are a selection of pics that hopefully confirm my id:
Oh, as we pulled into our suburb in the north of Joburg I spotted the bird that my wife has been describing to me - a "White Guineafowl". I see that Roberts' says that it is a Domestic Hybrid Helmeted Guineafowl.
An awesome morning out even though the Striped Crake forgot about our date!
11. August 2011
On the 6th August 2011 my family and I had a stunning day out starting on the bridge at Kgomo Kgomo just after sunrise, before travelling along Zaagkuildrift Road (stopping for an hour or two to bird at Wolfhuiskraal) and ending off at the MCPA dam near Pienaarsrivier. It is really dry and dusty in the whole area and the floodplain is drier than I have even seen it (although the river is running quite strong) - but all along the route it made for decent birding because the bush is either burned back or really dried up. It meant that we got close to the rivers in many places and even found a few water spots we never knew existed (in many places we could see for up to 100m into what would normally be dense bush).
Here are some scenery shots we took on the day - firstly around the floodplain showing just how dry it is there:
Then some shots on the dry Zaagkuildrift Road:
Some shots around Crake Road and the bridge over the Pienaars River on that road (believe it or not, but there was not one bird around the bridge - the resident Hamerkop, Green-backed Heron, Little Egret, Pied Kingfisher, etc, etc, etc - were all missing):
Some shots at Wolfhuiskraal - Dan was away but said we were welcome to spend as much as we wanted on his property:
Finally some shots around the Moretela Community Property Association Dam (we walked all the way around the dam to the far side where the herdsmen were looking after the cattle:
A cause for concern was seeing hundreds (no exaggeration!!!) of spent Shotgun shells on the banks of the MCPA Dam. I can't figure out who would be shooting so much around the dam in what is surely a protected area. Surely folk are not shooting birds! There was substantial bird life around the dam so it does not seem like all bird life has been chased away. Someone has suggested that this is the left overs of clay pigeon shooting. Here is a pic we took of the pile of spent shells:
We saw 98 bird species on the day (and we were back in Joburg by 3:30) - not bad, for just over half a day of birding in winter!
A highlight was taking a 14 year old (Kenan) with us who today started keeping a life list - so every bird he saw today was a lifer. I had to take it slow to not overwhelm him so it meant less time for photography and bird hunting for myself, but it was a real privilege to get someone new going in this amazing hobby. Here is a picture of what looks like the Pied Piper leading the kids out of the town:
Some of our birding highlights included two Secretarybirds about 4kms from Pienaarsrivier on Zaagkuildrift Road, Greater Honeyguide on the floodplain at Kgomo Kgomo, Pearl-spotted Owlet on Crake Road, Black-chested Snake-Eagle on the Kgomo bridge, Bushveld Pipit at Wolfhuiskraal....In fact every bird we saw today was a highlight because it was a lifer for Kenan! I did not have him tick every bird we were seeing as that would have been overwhelming and I wanted to make sure that he was experiencing each sighting and not just ticking what we called out. He had to see it with my binocs and comment on some key feature before he was allowed to tick it off in the booklet I gave him.
An interesting sighting was of a bird on the flood plain that I have struggled to identify. I believe after looking at the poor shots from all angles that it is probably Greater Honeyguide. It flew off as I started to sneak up on it:
Another great sighting was of what I suspect is Bushveld Pipit (a way more experienced birder believes this is actually Sabota Lark). It was spotted flying into a tree as we drove along the dirt road on the far northern section of Wolfhuiskraal - in the fenced area behind the bush camp:
Another Pipit sighting that is difficult to confirm happened on the flood plain where 2 Pipits - very upright in stance and not distinctly marked on the back. I'm leaning towards Buffy Pipit but not sure I can be that sure from these pics (a more experienced birder believes it is distinctly marked enough to be African Pipit):
Possibly the biggest highlight was seeing two majestic Secretarybirds walking through the private game reserve just before the MCPA dam on the northern side of Zaagkuildrift Road. My wife said that she wanted to see a Marsh Owl and Secretarybird on the day and I was not very hopeful as I have not seen Secretarybird on the ten previous times that I have driven this route. She got an Owl, not Marsh but Pearl-spotted, and then not one but 2 Secretarybirds!
Here are some pics that show some of the other highlights we had on the day:
Oh, as usual - here are some mammal sightings from the day - slim pickings this time:
Here is a list of birds that we saw in alphabetical order: African Darter; African Firefinch; African Fish-Eagle; African Hoopoe; African Jacana; African Pipit; African Spoonbill; African Stonechat; African Wattled Lapwing; Arrow-marked Babbler; Black Crake; Black-chested Prinia; Black-chested Snake Eagle; Black-shouldered Kite; Blacksmith Lapwing; Black-throated Canary; Blue Waxbill; Brown-crowned Tchagra; Brown-hooded Kingfisher; Buffy Pipit; Burchell's Coucal; Burchell's Starling; Bushveld Pipit; Cape Glossy Starling; Cape Sparrow; Cape Turtle Dove; Cape Wagtail; Capped Wheatear; Cattle Egret; Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler; Chinspot Batis; Comb Duck; Common Moorhen; Common Mynah; Crested Francolin; Crimson-breasted Shrike; Crowned Lapwing; Egyptian Goose; Emerald Spotted Wood Dove; Fork-tailed Drongo; Giant Kingfisher; Golden-breasted Bunting; Greater Honeyguide; Greater Kestrel; Green Wood Hoopoe; Green-winged Pytilia; Grey Go-away-bird; Grey Heron; Hadeda Ibis; Hamerkop; Helmeted Guineafowl; Kalahari Scrub-Robin; Laughing Dove; Levaillant's Cisticola; Lilac-breasted Roller; Little Egret; Little Grebe; Magpie Shrike; Malachite Kingfisher; Marico Flycatcher; Namaqua Dove; Natal Spurfowl; Northern Black Korhaan; Pearl-spotted Owlet; Pied Crow; Pied Kingfisher; Pin-tailed Whydah; Rattling Cisticola; Red-billed Buffalo Weaver; Red-billed Firefinch; Red-billed Hornbill; Red-billed Quelea; Red-billed Teal; Red-eyed Dove; Reed Cormorant; Rock Pigeon; Sacred Ibis; Scaly-feathered Finch; Secretarybird; Southern Grey-headed Sparrow; Southern Masked-Weaver; Southern Red Bishop; Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill; Speckled Pigeon; Spur-winged Goose; Squacco Heron; Swainson’s Spurfowl; Tawny-flanked Prinia; Three-banded Plover; Whiskered Tern; White-bellied Sunbird; White-browed Scrub-Robin; White-browed Sparrow-Weaver; White-faced Duck; Yellow-billed Duck; Yellow-billed Stork and Yellow-fronted Canary.
12. March 2012
Had a superb day out with a friend on my Monday day off - birding Zaagkuildrift and Kgomo Kgomo. We managed to get up close to the three Temminick's Coursers on the floodplain - it took about 45 minutes of patience and slow approaching in his vehicle to get these shots:
I finally managed to get one of the birds that I have been hunting for since I started birding - another bogey busted - Common Whitethroat - but sadly these lame shots were all I managed to get:
Some of our other sightings included a juvenile Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Little Sparrowhawk, Gabar Goshawk, Lesser Grey Shrike and dozens of Kittlitz's Plover:
Oh, I nearly forgot to mention the Sandhill Crane, Red-crowned Crane, White-naped Crane, Grey-crowned Crane, Greater Flamingo, Common Peacock, White Stork (and just about every duck species) at a little waterhole we stumbled across off Crake Road (After the T-Junction on the right hand side of the road) - it is an amazing little Bird Sanctuary on a private farm:
First the Cranes:
And some other species: