Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Trip Report: Nylsvley and Mkombo

Natasja and I visited the Nylsvley floodplain and Mkombo dam over the past three days. We had a wonderful time and saw some fantastic birds and bird behaviour. 

The Nylsvley area is still quite dry and waterbirds numbers were low. However the first pentad we did between Modimolle and Nylsvley had some nice patches of water and we recorded lots of African Snipes, two Yellow-billed Egrets as well as Wood Sandpiper, Purple Heron and African Jacana. The grassland areas had Banded Martin which remains one of my favourite martins!  It was also good to record Red-billed Oxpeckers again (at Mkombo dam we recorded nearly 20!), a species that is becoming more and more common again and a nice illustration that conservation efforts can be successful. Another interesting species recorded was Wattled Starling and although not an unusual species to record in the area we only recorded one or two each time, usually they occur in large flocks. We recorded 85 species in this pentad. Not too bad at all! 

We then met with a farmer in the more northern section of the floodplain (hold thumbs if all goes well the protections status of this part of the floodplain might soon receive a higher conservation status) and during and after the meeting we saw a flock of Abdim’s Storks and two Black-chested Snake-Eagles. 

On Saturday evening we did another pentad near Nylsvley Nature Reserve and had nice birds such as Burnt-necked Eremomela and Grey-backed Cameroptera. Cape Vultures roosted on the power line structures. In the late evening an outbreak of ant flies attracted tons of birds and it was fantastic to see how species, for example Grey Go-away-birds, which would usually not eat insects or catch insects in flight, helped them to this food source. At one point we counted near to 15 species feeding on the gravel road including a Burchell’s Coucal! One the way back to the lodge we had a nightjar we could not indentify but the Marsh Owl a few minutes later made up for the disappointment! 

On Sunday we visited Nylsvley Nature Reserve. We had 63 species in this pentad with most of the birding done inside the reserve. The highlight must have been the Lizard Buzzard that posed beautifully on a dead tree. I have not seen one for a while so it was nice to meet this species again. A Levaillant’s Cuckoo was seen near the Jacana Hide while a Bearded Woodpecker also announced its presence by its tapping. How they keep tapping like that for such a long period of time remains a wonder of nature. We are 99% sure we saw an out of range immature Spectacled Weaver. Another atlaser recently recorded this species nearby and it would be interesting to hear about other records of this species in this area as it might be an indication of a change in distribution. 

We planned to take a break on Monday, sleep late and relax but the Facebook posting by Etienne about the African Skimmer at Mkombo Dam necessitated a change in plans and by 11:00 we were on our way to Mkombo. This is a beautiful area and even without all the specials in the area you can easily spend a day here birding. We met up with some birding friends and a few hours later we had beautiful views of this immature skimmer. Such a shame that they are now considered extinct in South Africa. Other interesting species seen were Yellow Wagtail and Western Osprey. This spot must now rank as one of the best places in the wider Gauteng region to see Osprey. The wagtails were not as yellow as those we saw a few weeks back at Northern Farm but still a nice species to see as they feed between the cattle. Speaking of cattle, one decided for some strange reason to rest its head on my car’s engine cap. Why I have no clue – it was nearly 30 degrees outside and the engine even hotter! Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters were seen and heard a number of times – what a beautiful species. As can be expected there were tons of waterbirds. Although a relatively common species I always enjoy watching Goliath Herons – such majestic birds. How they manage to fly remains somewhat of a mystery to me. A fantastic site to visit and we will certainly do so many times in future. 

Natasja and I set us the challenge to see 300 species in the December period in the wider Gauteng area (bit wider than the 100km radius) and these trips gave us a massive boost towards this target. Now we can look forward to a few more trips in December to find the species we need.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Little Sparrowhawk in my garden

We were pleasantly surprised when an immature Little Sparrowhawk visited our garden today. It caught a small bird - not sure what it was but looked like a small dove. It stayed for most of the day eyeing the birds at our water fountain!! It remained in the same tree for more than 4 hours and was not seen after that. A nice addition to our garden list.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ovambo Sparrowhawk at Derdepoort Recreational Park

I atlased Dedepoort recreational park today. A nice range of birds were seen but the highlight was an Ovambo Sparrowhawk. It was seen a number of times flying between the exotic trees in the park. A nice area to bird as you can walk through the park and the entrance fee is around R20. However be warned that it can become rather noisy during weekends - so choose your visiting time wisely!!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wattled Starling in my garden

My new water fountain had a new visitor today in the form of a male Wattled Starling!! I know of one other record in our area before, but this is certainly not a common bird in our neighbourhood!!

We tried to take some photos but unfortunately they are not good enough. So you will just have to trust me!!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

White Storks at Rust-de-Winter

This morning I atlased the pentad between Rust-de-Winterdam and the town. Birding was slow but I saw some nice species. The surprise of the morning was 5 White Storks feeding in the agricultural fields. Maybe they have decided to stay here for winter as more and more White Storks do.

One of the White Storks can be seen here next to a Cattle Egret

Other interesting species I encountered were Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver (more than usual), Yellow-throated Pretonia, Southern White-crowned Shrikes, Southern Pied Babblers and lots of Pearl-spotted Owlets (even two together)!!

Magpie Shrikes are very common in the Rust-de-Winter area.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sunbird Feast!!

While birding this morning I thought the title of this message should be "patience, patience...". I atlased the Seringveld and birding was really slow. It was cold, windy and unpleasant. The birds must also have thought so as for long periods they were nowhere to be seen. During the first hour I had 29 species. However during the second hour I could only add THREE. I tried all sort of roads I have not travelled before, but nothing...I was ready to go home and call it a day but decided to continue. The third hour was a lot better and I eventually managed to see 51 species. Not a great total at all, but better than I thought it would be.

The highlight of the morning was not a rarity but a whole bunch of sunbirds!! Next to the road was a large patch of Wild Dagga (also called Lion's Ear) Leonotis leonurus. They are in full bloom at the moment and can be seen all around Pretoria (by the way if you are looking for information about plants in South Africa, I found the following website of SANBI of great value: http://www.plantzafrica.com/). This patch had about 25+ sunbirds feeding in it. The majority were White-bellied Sunbirds with a few Amethyst and one Marico male. They were calling insistently and sometimes competing for the same flower. Really something special to see. Now would you think that with all that sunbirds around it is easy to get some great photographs - alas not...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Roodeplaatdam NR and Northern Farm

On Thursday afternoon I visited Roodeplaatdam NR and on Saturday Northern Farm. At Roodeplaatdam NR I had two very interesting records namely Brown-back Honeybird and Striped Pipit. Brown-backed Honeybird is not a common species in our area so it is always nice to see them.

The Striped Pipits were way out of their normal habitat, maybe they were only moving through this area. This is a new species for me for this reserve.

I love to visit Northern Farm for there is always a chance of seeing something interesting. It was no different this time around. You can learn more about this venue by visiting the following website: http://www.northernfarm.co.za/.

This must now be one of the best spots in Gauteng to see Comb Duck and I had nice views of them while they were walking with Egyptian Goose on the agricultural lands. On land they look rather comical I must say....

In the vlei area at the northern boundary of the pentad I saw a group of Orange-breasted Waxbills, to me the highlight of the morning’s birding. This was a relatively common species in Gauteng a few years back, but during the last two years a few birders mentioned to me, and it was also my experience, that these beautiful waxbills are nowhere to be seen. It was really good to see that they are still around. But I am still worried about their numbers…..

Other interesting species seen were Long-crested Eagle, Goliath Heron, Hottentot Teal, Great-crested Grebe and African Fish-eagle. The Fish-eagle’s call had the mountain bikers that were driving past me very excited especially as it was sitting right above me in a tree – however the bird they referred to was a White-breasted Cormorant!!! The Fish-eagle sat at its usual vantage point on the other side of the dam….