Bushwillow Weekend Away 25 to 28 April 2014

Bushwillow Park campsite is spectacular. Grassy, large flat sites, good hot water with great views and surrounded by mistbelt forest. It is located just beyond the Karkloof Conservancy 20 kms from Howick.

Eleven of us braved the conditions – cold but not wet thankfully.

Some arrived early on the Thursday and enjoyed an extra day birding around the campsite. One of the first things noted was the abundance of seed available in the long grass attracting a host of Euplectes species (out of breeding plumage) and numerous Thick-billed Weavers.

Over the long weekend a lot was packed in.

Friday, everyone else arrived and enjoyed a stroll around the campsite followed by an evening braai.

Birds seen and photographed around the campsite include:

There was an exciting experience observing a host of Red-billed Queleas. Walking  down a path with long grass on either side, Red-billed Queleas were seen and heard in numbers. At one point on the left going down they all flew up at once creating a loud “whooshing” sound. Then immediately on the other side behind there was a similar louder “whooshing” sound. It drew immediate attention. Expecting that there was another large flock of Queleas everyone looked round to see only 2 birds creating this noise. A Lanner Falcon hot on the heels of probably a Speckled Pigeon. No luck for the Lanner but we enjoyed the spectacle.

Saturday morning, a trek up one of the trails behind the campsite  – an arduous walk through the mistbelt forest. It was all uphill and very steep in places – sometimes slippery. Going up was one challenge but coming down probably more so especially for those with dicky knees. The birding was quiet but those birds seen were special in particular Olive Woodpecker and Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler.

In the afternoon there was a visit to the Karkloof Conservancy and its two hides followed by another evening braai. Karkloof did not disappoint: Southern Bald Ibis and all three species of Cranes being the star attractions.

Some birds photographed at the Karkloof Conservancy:

Sunday, a stroll round Benvie on a cold and overcast morning – a garden paradise with many specials seen.

The rest of the day was downtime in and around the campsite.

Monday, a time to do last minute birding and to reflect and prepare for departure.

In all 94 bird species were seen and or heard including many of the specials in the area.

Some of the special birds seen and or heard included Bush Blackcap; Olive Bushshrike; Forest Canary; Blue, Grey-crowned and Wattled Cranes; Grey Cuckooshrike; African Black Duck; Lanner Falcon; African Goshawk; Scaly-throated Honeyguide; Southern Bald Ibis; Cape Parrot; Drakensberg Prinia; Chorister Robin-Chat; South African Shelduck; Red-necked Spurfowl; Malachite Sunbird; Orange Ground-Thrush; Knysna Turaco; Mountain Wagtail; Dark-capped Yellow-Warbler; Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler; Swee Waxbill; African Wood-Owl; Olive Woodpecker.

Sunbirds for ID

Please help with ID of these two sets of Sunbirds. Both sent to me by a resident of Le Domaine here in Hillcrest, Durban.

Click on the picture and add your comments below the enlarged Photo.

The First set:

The Second set:

The first 2 pictures in this sequence were taken on 4th April and the last one on the 19th April. Looking up at what? Scouring above could yield no clues – maybe you have an idea?

Pigeon Valley

Crispin Hemson leads a short morning walk on the 2nd Saturday every month at Pigeon Valley. He has a Friends of Pigeon Valley Facebook page and a mailing list. You can contact him by email to confirm his outing at email:  hemsonc@gmail.com.

This Saturday it was a beautiful morning and we were treated to a feast of sunbirds though none of them stayed still long enough to be photographed. Sandi du Preez felt compelled to hug one of her favourite trees; Chrysophyllum viridifolium. We also had some nice views of a Red-capped Robin-chat and heard many of them singing away all over the reserve.

Report back by Penny de Vries.


Mystery Birds for ID

Please enter your ID for each bird with reasoning by clicking on the image and writing your comments in the box below the enlarged image.

The following 4 birds were seen in the Satara area in March.

The birds below were seen at Lake St Bernard above the St Bernard Peak Hotel, just south of Underberg – a Chat? or….. what?. it was seen in the company of another Chat – second picture  below.

Bluff NR – Sat. 5th April

There were 18 of us and our bird count was 51 but after sitting at the picnic site having our coffee and a good chat (no pun intended) we managed to add olive sunbird and a yellow weaver which brought the total to 53!  We have had much better birding at the Bluff in the past but the morning started off with a nasty cold wind and the pond aka dam was rather sterile – a few Reed and White-breasted Cormorants, a Darter, Moorhen and Little Grebe.   Later on from the hide we had Malachite Kingfisher and superb close ups of a Lesser Swamp Warbler – hopefully John will post some pics.  We had lots of good bird parties but mainly of Mannikins, Weavers, Prinias, Batis, Flycatchers etc the best bird of the day must have been the Lesser Honeyguide – but only seen by a few.  We had a Purple Heron and Lanner Falcons fly over and of course heard the Sombre and Yellow-bellied Greenbuls calling from every thick and leafy tree but never to be seen!!  The Bluff is a good spot for butterflies and other bugs and some lovely ones were seen – again hopefully some pics will be posted.

Purple Heron
Purple Heron
Lesser Swamp Warbler
Lesser Swamp Warbler

Cheers Elena Russell.