Birding in the Wider Gauteng (100km) Area Nov/Dec 2013 Part 2

Birding in the Wider Gauteng (100km) Area

Nov/Dec 2013

Part 2

Submitted by Penny de Vries

The next day was overcast and a little cooler which was not a bad thing as I had one very burnt arm from the day before. Niall was off to Peru so was absent (imagine choosing Peru over Pretoria!) but Kerry Fairley joined us. We had been together on a birding trip to Finland earlier in the year so it was great to see her again.

We head off for the Seringveld Conservancy, near Roodeplaat Dam, east of Pretoria. It consists mainly of broad-leafed woodIand interspersed with some grassland. I was sitting on 498 so the big question was which would be my 500th bird? The birding in general was a little quieter due to the overcast conditions. This was a slight relief after the overwhelming number of new birds I had seen the day before.

Southern Masked Weaver
Southern Masked Weaver

The first new bird we heard first, a White-throated Robin-chat. We then saw it on top of a tree – what a beauty. Most of the birding is from the road as many of the properties are private.

We drove and stopped, drove and stopped quite a few times all the while heading towards a rocky outcrop where Fawn-coloured Lark is known to occur. Allan called it up and sure enough, it popped up, flying from tree to tree and then landing on a wire. I have included a picture as this is my 500th bird but it is very far away so not too clear.

Fawn-coloured Lark
Fawn-coloured Lark

Once I had stopped high-fiving, we headed off to Centurion. Before leaving the conservancy, we bumped into a group from the Wits Bird Club. It was lovely to meet people like Helen Biram who I had previously only connected with on Facebook.

We arrived at a field seemingly in the middle of nowhere, west of Raslouw, Centurion where we had so much fun. It was one of those experiences one will always remember. We were targeting Desert and Cloud Cisticola as well as Melodious Lark.

Kerry and Allan
Kerry and Allan

These birds are best identified by their calls and displaying behavior. It was amazing seeing these birds flying so high in the sky and then displaying by flapping their wings and staying in one place. The Cloud Cisticola eventually swooped down to earth and I was able to take a photo. Allan seemed to see the birds long before I did when it was nothing but a little speck in the sky; quite difficult to pick up with a grey sky behind them.

The Melodious Lark has the most stamina and displays in the sky for ages all the while singing away, partly its own song and then mimicry – it must have mimicked about 5 different birds while it hovered above us.

Melodious Lark
Melodious Lark

Before we left we spotted a Northern Black Korhaan in the long grass on the crest of the hill.

Northern Black Korhaan
Northern Black Korhaan

Next we were off to the dump to see if we could find a Black Kite but to no avail. We did see an enormous amount of Sacred Ibis and White Storks scavenging to their heart’s content.

Scavengers
Scavengers

From there we visited the Glen Austin Bird Sanctuary.

Glen Austin Bird Sanctuary
Glen Austin Bird Sanctuary

where we were treated to both Lesser and Greater Flamingo.

Flamingoes
Flamingoes

as well as the usual variety of water birds with one Fulvous Duck amongst them.

Water birds
Water birds

Just before dropping me at my friend’s house in Blairgowrie, Allan thought we should pop into Delta Park which is around the corner. The African Reed Warbler was very active and with a little encouragement it was soon showing itself – my last lifer for the day.

It was a fantastic two days and I was privileged to be with such good birders. Be warned, Allan and Niall, I am certainly penciling this in for next year.

Penny

Birding in the Wider Gauteng (100km) Area Nov/Dec 2013

Birding in the Wider Gauteng (100km) Area

Nov/Dec 2013 – Part  1

Submitted by Penny de Vries.

Two days of whirlwind birding in Gauteng offered up 150 species, 25 lifers and extra 18 birds for my year list, on top of the lifers. I had no idea of the diversity of this area. I was particularly fortunate to go birding with Niall and Debbie Perrins and Allan Ridley, without whom I would not have seen half of the birds. There was much banter between Allan and Niall about the pressure of having to find 20 lifers in a day so I could hit the 500 mark. I thought they were joking as I was hoping for about 4 or 5 new birds.

We set off at 4am on the Saturday and headed for Kgomo-Kgomo which is north-west of Pretoria past Hammanskraal. We stopped at the bridge over the vast floodplain which goes on as far as the eye can see.

Floodplain
Floodplain

There had been a huge storm in the area a few days before which swelled the water levels; the consensus was that the area would be humming with crakes in a few weeks’ time. The Amur Falcons were back and there were many Lesser Kestrels too.

Lesser Kestrel female
Lesser Kestrel female

From there we continued driving through the area stopping at the side of the road whenever it looked interesting.

 At one point I was positively overwhelmed by all the new (to me) species that were there seemingly all at once. Lesser Grey Shrike, Black-throated Canary, Black-chested Prinia and Great Sparrow to name but a few.

Some of these were on private property. I felt a little intrusive with my binoculars and camera zooming in on a bird while a very smartly dressed lady came out of her front door.

Birding a stranger's back garden
Birding a stranger’s back garden

Flocks of Speckled Pigeon and Wattled Starling swirled around the sky while at ground level we saw Southern Pied Babbler, Chestnut-vented Titbabbler and a beautiful Shaft-tailed Whydah.

We drove on through the Acacia woodland and stopped every now and again at active spots, of which there were many.  The sun was beating down and there was not a cloud in the sky; Bushveld birding at its best.

European Bee-eater
European Bee-eater

The call of the Pearl-spotted Owlet, most ably rendered by Niall and Allan, not only brought forth quite a few birds but also the ‘pearlie’ itself. I was delighted because I have only seen one once before.

Pearl-spotted Owlet
Pearl-spotted Owlet

While the Barred-Wren-Warbler led us on a merry chase, darting from one side of the road to the other, the Marico Flycatcher was far more obliging.

One of my favourite birds of the day was the Violet-eared Waxbill. 

Violet-eared Waxbill
Violet-eared Waxbill

We turned off the road and went over a bridge where we got out and had a lovely sighting of a Jacobin Cuckoo.

Jacobin Cuckoo
Jacobin Cuckoo

We then headed back the way we had come when a Common Swift was spotted. I was desperate to get a good view of it as I have not seen one in SA before but soon they were swarming all over the place so it was easy. Further along, at the pans a few km east of Kgomo-Kgomo town along the Zaagkuildrift road, we not only saw a Dwarf Bittern but also the largest concentration of bullfrogs I have ever seen in one place. They were all full of the joys of spring, to put it mildly.

Bullfrog Boudoir
Bullfrog Boudoir

We then headed towards the Rust de Winter dam where we stopped at a bridge outside the resort. I felt at home because I recognized all the bird calls as this habitat was more like KZN; Puffback, Black-headed Oriole, Paradise flycatchers and Woodland Kingfishers to name but a few. The Woodland Kingfishers were on a branch displaying beautifully by fanning out their tails.

Woodland Kingfishers
Woodland Kingfishers

From there we were about to head for home when Niall said he knew a spot where Monotonous Larks have been known to occur. We travelled down yet another dusty road through Thornveld when suddenly we heard them. It was amazing to see them perched on top of a tree with their white throats bulging as they called.

Monotonous Lark
Monotonous Lark

Just before being dropped off at my friend’s house, we saw Karoo Thrush which abounds in this area but was a lifer for me; much to the surprise of all. 18 lifers for the day put me on 498 but more importantly, I had a fun-filled day and learnt a lot.

Part 2 to follow.

Penny de Vries