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Birding News:

2 days in the Pretoria region: 6-8 December 2004

Etienne Marais - 11 December 2004

This was a tailor-made trip for Dan Peak of Texas, USA.

I met Dan Peak at Johannesburg International on the evening of 6 December and we drove through to Ezemvelo, with a spotlight at the ready. On route we saw Marsh Owl and Spotted Eagle Owl. Near the chalets (moutse), we also picked out a pair of Red Rock Rabbit in the hills.

Early on the morning of the 7th, the grasslands were alive with calls of Larks, Cisticolas and Francolins. Red-winged and Orange River Francolin seemed to compete to airtime and Clapper Larks started off their aerial display flights with short little clapping flights, only a few feet about the ground. We had excellent views of Wailing and Lazy Cisticola, White-fronted Bee-eater, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Cape Grassbird and a number of displaying Red-collared Widow. At the Wilge River, 5 species of Kingfisher were recorded, the most uncommon being Half-collared. In the nearby woodlands we saw Black Cuckoo-shrike, Black Flycatcher and watched as a pair of Rock Kestrels mobbed a large raptor, thought to be an African Crowned Eagle. Here we had cracking views of a pair of Le vaillant's Cuckoo and also recorded it's usual host species, Arrow Marked Babblers. Among the many swallows and swifts shooting by we saw a single Black Saw-wing Swallow. Soon afterwards we were able to compare Little and White-rumped Swift with a few Horus which mingled among them.

We then headed into nearby wooded country, where the birds were very different. Here we saw a host of Green-capped Eremomela, Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Woodland Kingfisher, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, White-bellied Sunbird, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Green Wood-hoepoe and Chinspot Batis. Reedbed areas offered a host of bishops and weavers, including Yellow-crowned Bishop - as well as a calling Great Reed Warbler.

Grasslands north of Bronkhorstspruit and their associated wetlands provided a number of new birds, including Melodious Lark (nest building), Fawn-coloured Lark, Whiskered Tern, White-backed Duck, Abdim's Stork and Greater Kestrel. At least 4 Red-chested Flufftail called from around one dam.

The Rust de Winter area started to add more typical bushveld birds, such as Grey Go-away Bird and Lilac-breasted roller to our list. here we also saw our first Amur Falcon and Lesser Masked Weaver.

On the second full day, We were out early into the area around Pienaarsriver. Here we saw Northern Black Korhaan and the peculiar, dainty Scaly-feathered Finch. A nice surprise near Pienaarsriver was a cracking male Pallid Harrier. The dry woodlands here produced a host of "north-western" specials, including Southern Pied Babbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Black-cheeked Waxbill, Shaft-tailed Whydah, Ashy Tit. The much greener floodplain at Kgomo-kgomo produced a host of new birds in a short time, including both Red-headed and Cut-throat finch, Yellow-billed Stork and Capped Wheatear. Great migrants we saw included Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, European Golden Oriole and Olive-Tree Warbler.

A fascinating sight was the highly energetic and explosive display of a Greater Honeyguide, which involves flying in a rapid circle and violent swooping during which a loud friction sound is created. Lesser Honeyguide was also seen close by and overall we had good sightings of Brown-backed calling at no less than 3 localities, and Lesser at many more. Another interesting observation was that of large numbers of Amur Falcons apparently following a large storm system. They were accompanied by some Lesser Kestrels.

On the Uitvlugt Loop south of Rust de Winter we had excellent views of Marico Sunbird and a nice Little Sparrowhawk. Interesting here were the presence of Monotonous Larks, which seem now to have arrived in force in the region. Nearby we also saw a single Dusky Lark.

The two days ended at dusk at Elandsvlei near Bapsfontein. Here we saw large numbers of Ibis, flamingos and a big flock of Whiskered Terns moving in to roost. We did not have to wait long after sunset for the Owls to emerge. First a group of Marsh Owls, then a single African Grass Owl which dived on something in the grass, before re-emerging.

In close on 48 hourse Dan saw 234 Species which included 37 regional or South African endemics/near endemics.

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Web Site updated 10 December 2004© Indicator Birding
e-mail: etienne@birding.co.za