Myself and Stephan Terblanche decided to do our bit to get Gauteng to 100% coverage by atlasing one of the few remaining virgin pentads in Gauteng on 2 Janaury 2009. This pentad (2520_2800) covers the western section of the Tswaing Nature Reserve while the rest of the pentad consists of mostly rural villages.
We had a fantastic beginning when one the first birds we could add to our 2009 year list was a Bronze-winged Courser!! Sitting in the middle of the road!!
This sighting was quickly followed by a string of more common species as for instance Red-chested Cuckoo, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Grey-backed Camaroptera, European Bee-eater and Crimson-breasted Shrike. The pan itself had lots of water and we could tick Cape Teal, Ruff and Black-winged Stilt. While scanning the water from the rim of the crater, a Striped Pipit called from its perch near us. A female Thick-billed Weaver prompted some remarks about how far this species have expanded their distribution in recent years. Black and Diderick Cuckoo also made themselves heard.
We then went for a walk through the reserve and could tick some very nice species including a few raptors namely Amur Falcon (we thought for a moment we also saw Red-footed Falcon but could not confirm the ID), Steppe Buzzard, Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Yellow-billed Kite, Brown Snake-Eagle and Black-shouldered Kite.
The second highlight of the day was a flock of Black-winged Pratincoles. Always nice to see.
This was quickly followed up with the third highlight of the morning - Common Whitethroat, sitting only a few meters from us. Icterine and Willow Warbler were seen a few meters from each other and the difference in size and feeding behaviour could be nicely seen. The walk back to the car through the veld was tough but for our efforts a Kurrichane Buttonquail was flushed right in front of us.
Leaving the reserve we had listed just under 80 species and with lots of common species missing from our list we thought we would try to get to 100 by driving through the villages in the remainder of the pentad. As I have now reported regularly on my blog the fact that the atlas "forces" you to visit areas that you would otherwise not visit, has it advantages. We found a number of dams and vleis right between the villages and we could tick a number of more common water birds. Of these Great Reed-Warbler was a really nice record. We soon passed the 100 species mark – only the second time that I have personally managed to reach this milestone for SABAP2.
A fantastic day of birding!