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Birding and Tour News:

11/03/2002 - Indicator Tour gets 456 in Eastern South Africa

A recent 13 day tour gives an idea of the huge diversity of birds possible in Eastern Southern Africa. Although February is often regarded as a "less-than-optimal" time to visit the region, and several days were badly affected by rain, 456 species were well seen by participants. The highlight was probably seeing Sooty Falcon, Bat Hawk and Taita Falcon on one trip!

Abridged Trip Report

Feb 5

Etienne Marais, the tour leader, met up with the group in Bulwer and transferred them to Robin Guy's place in Underberg.

Feb 6 - Day 1 Sani Pass and Lesotho

The all day trip up Sani Pass produced virtually all the local specials, On the way up we saw Bush Blackcap, Barrat's Warbler, Buff-streaked Chat, Wailing Cisticola, Gurney's Sugarbird and Ground Woodpecker.

At the top of the pass we had Drakensberg Siskin, Orange-breasted Rockjumper and, Sentinel Rock Thrush.

In Lesotho we recorded Sickle-Wing Chat, Bald Ibis, Bearded Vulture, Mountain Pipit and the highland race of the Southern Thick-billed Lark. We also saw Layard's Titbabbler, Horus Swift, Fairy Flycatcher, Karoo Prinia, Southern Grey Tit, Jackall Buzzard and Greywinged Francolin.

In the afternoon we descended the pass and spent some time exploring grassland areas at the base of the mountain where we saw Stanley Bustard, Wattled Crane, Black Harrier and Yellow-breasted Pipit.

Feb 7- Day 2 Underberg to Eshowe

This day involved a drive to Durban, and then on to Eshowe, in Zululand. We had time for a stop at Umgeni Mouth in Durban, where we saw Caspian Tern, Sanderling, Whimbrel and Swift Tern. Further north, rain spoiled efforts to locate Black Coucal at Groutville, but we did see African Marsh Harrier, Black Goshawk and Redshouldered Widow. A stop at Mtunzini produced Yellow-throated Longclaw, Eastern Olive Sunbird, White-eared Barbet, Gymnogene, Wooly-necked Stork and Yellowbellied Bulbul. At Richard's Bay we had both Great White and Pinkbacked Pelican, Brownthroated Golden Weaver, Blackbacked Cisticola, Lesser Jacana and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. A stop near Empangeni produced a juvenile Sooty Falcon, before we then headed back to Eshowe, arriving after dark.

Feb 8 - Day 3 Eshowe and St Lucia

We were at the Dhlinza Forest at opening time, and from the boardwalk saw species such as Narina Trogon, Grey Cuckoo Shrike and Black Sparrowhawk. A search through the forest produced Delegorgue's Pigeon and Cinnamon Dove, Purple-crested Lourie and Forest Weavers.

The weather deteriorated and mid-morning found us looking at Hugh Chittenden's superb slides of his project on the Spotted Thrush in Dhlinza.

Eventually we headed for Ngoye, picking up Black Widowfinch along the way. We got to Ngoye in driving rain, and flushed a Black-rumped Buttonquail in the grasslands at the top - where some stately Ground Hornbills crossed the track. As we got into the forest, the rain increased steadily, and we abandoned the quest for Woodward's Barbet, fearing that rising rivers could cut us off.

Next stop St Lucia, and we arrived in time to do some birding on the road to Cape Vidal. Here we recorded Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Redbreasted Swallow, and Brown Robin.

Feb 9- Day 4 St Lucia & Bonamanzi

The Eastern Shores Park produced some good birds, including Woodward's Batis, Livingstone's Turaco, Redbacked Mannikin, Rudd's Apalis, Gorgeous Bush Shrike, Wattle-eyed Flycatcher and Green Coucal (Yellowbill). We made up the Snake eagles with Black-breasted and Brown Snake Eagles and located Pygmy Goose on a small pan. At the estuary Mouth we had Palm-nut Vulture, Yellow-billed Stork, Little Tern and Giant Kingfisher.

We arrived in Bonamanzi towards evening, having found a party of Lemon-breasted Canary on the way in. Here we saw European Bee-eater, Bearded Robin. Blackbellied Glossy Starling, Terrestrial Brownbul and Natal Robin.

Driving back to camp after dark, there were plenty of Nightjars around, and we identified European, Rufous-cheeked and Mozambique.

Feb 10- Day 5 Bonamanzi and Mkhuze Game Reserve

An early start again produced views of Gorgeous Bush Shrike, but the normally responsive Broadbill was not co-operative. Birds seen included Grey Penduline Tit, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Croaking Cisticola, Pallid Flycatcher, Orange-breasted Bushshrike and Bateleur.

On the way to Mkusi we picked up quite a few raptors including Lesser Spotted and Tawny Eagle and Redfaced Cisticola.

At Mkusi, a stop at a waterhole on the way in produced Redbilled Oxpecker and Eastern Paradise Whydah.

We visited the Nsumo Pan, which was very full indeed, but did provide views of African Fish Eagle and a distant breeding colony of Pink-backed Pelican. The Ediza pan proved far more productive with a host of waders and other birds present, including Broadbilled Roller, Heuglin's Robin and Trumpeter Hornbill.

Feb 11- Day 6 Mkusi to Wakkerstroom

An early start to Kumasinga and Kubube hides proved very fruitful as we immediately got onto Neergaard's Sunbird, and also had Pink-throated Twinspot and Bearded Robin in the same area. At the hide we had superb views of African Pygmy Kingfisher, Redbilled Helmet Shrike and various sunbirds. In the woodlands we picked up Striped Kingfisher, White-headed and Lappet Faced Vulture, and White Rhinocerous.

We then headed for the Mkusi River south of the reserve, where Pel's Fishing Owls had recently finished breeding. The Owls had moved on, but we did see a number of other species in the riverine woodlands including: Yellow White-eye, Woodland Kingfisher, Grey Sunbird and Thickbilled Weaver.

In the afternoon we headed North for Wakkerstroom, seeing quite a number of Eastern Redfooted Kestrel's on the way.

Feb 12:- Day 7 Wakkerstroom to Pretoria

In the grasslands around Wakkerstroom we had excellent views of Botha's Lark, and less good views of Rudd's Lark. Other species recorded in this area included Blue Korhaan, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Redfooted Falcon, Eastern Clapper Lark, Common Quail, Purple Swamphen, Mountain Wheatear and Redcapped Lark.

At around midday we headed for Johannesburg, arriving in time to spent a few hours birding Marievale Bird Sanctuary. The highlight of this stopover was seeing no less than 9 painted snipes on the mudflats. Other species seen here included Goliath Heron, Whiskered Tern, Black Heron, Glossy Ibis, Fulvous Duck, African Snipe and Orange-breasted Waxbill.

Feb 13- Day 8 Pretoria and Seringveld

We headed out into the grasslands early, but the weather was not in our favour today! Probably the fluke sighting of the tour was a Redchested Flufftail right in front of the car! At Elandsvlei we added Grass Owl, Marsh Owl, Maccoa Duck, SA Cliff Swallow and a host of other waterbirds.

The Lunch stop at Cullinan produced an Ayre's Eagle, as well as Black, Alpine and Horus Swift and White-fronted Bee-eater. We got into the thornveld west of Pienaarsriver in time to add a couple of dry western birds to the list including Southern Pied Babbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike and Blackchested Prinia.

Feb 14 - Day 9 Pienaars River to Magoebaskloof

The early part of the morning was spent birding Zaagkuildrift and Kgomo-kgomo where we added birds like Burchell's Glossy Starling, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Great Sparrow, Scaly-feathered Finch, Melba Finch, Blackcheeked Waxbill, Cut-throat Finch, Shaft-tailed Whydah, Steel-blue Indigobird and Cape Penduline Tit to our list.

We then headed via Borakolalo where we saw Striped Pipit, European Golden Oriole, Dwarf Bittern, Greater Kestrel and Pearl-breasted Swallow.

The afternoon was taken up with a longish drive, with one or two stops for White-quilled Korhaan and White-browed Sparrow-weaver. We arrived at our camp at Magoebaskloof after dark.

Feb 15 - Day 10 Magoebaskloof - Kruger National Park

Into the Woodbush forest, where good birds included Cuckoo Hawk, Knysna Lourie, Mountain Wagtail, Olive Woodpecker, BlackfrontedBush Shrike, African Goshawk, Yellow-streaked Bulbul and Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler.

Further down towards Tzaneen we had excellent views of European Hobby, Bat Hawk, Long-crested Eagle,

We arrived at the Kruger Park in time for some birding (and game viewing) In addition to several elephant, we saw Saddlebilled Stork, Knobbilled Duck, Coqui Francolin, Striped Cuckoo, Klaas's Cuckoo and Purple-crested Lourie. The night drive from Punda Maria camp produced Spotted Eagle Owl, Fiery-necked Nightjar, Kurrichane Buttonquail, and Water Dikkop,

Feb 16 - Day 11 Kruger National Park Pafuri - Shingwedzi

We were out of the gate first thing, and headed northwards. In the grasslands near Klopperfontein, there were plenty of Harlequin Quail, and later on we also saw Wire-tailed Swallow and Doublebanded Sandgrouse. Plenty of raptors were in evidence including European Hobby and several Lesser Spotted Eagles.

Pafuri provided the goods as usual, with a host of new birds, including: African Openbill, Greenbacked Heron, Hooded Vulture, Longtailed Starling, Olive-tree Warbler, Lemon-breasted Canary and White-crowned Plover.

After Lunch we headed south and as well as several Montagu's Harrier and one Pallid harrier we saw plenty of game including a herd of Cape Buffalo being attended by Yellowbilled and Redbilled Oxpecker. Further on we encountered a Little Sparrowhawk, and in the camp, Mourning Dove.

Feb 17- Day 12 Kruger Park northern to central plains (Satara).

This was to be a "mammal day" - and we saw plenty of them, including an early morning Spotted Hyena, very close to a pair of Giant Eagle Owl. A beautiful pair of African Hawk Eagle greeted the morning.

Out on the plains there were more Harriers, and both Secretary-bird and Kori Bustard being attended to by Carmine Bee-eaters. On the plains we also encountered Red-crested Korhaan and further on Blackbellied Korhaan - and more Harlequin Quail. In the woodlands towards Letaba camp, where we stopped for a short break we saw Purple Roller and Gabar Goshawk.

At Letaba itself the last possible swallow: Grey-rumped Swallow was well seen.

Further south, some superb Lions added to the excitement along with an assortment of Cape Buffalo, Hippo, Nile Crocodile, Kudu, Blue Wildebeest, Giraffe and Burchell's Zebra. We got to Satara restcamp in time for some photography around the camp, which was interrupted to look at some superb Brownheaded Parrots.

Feb 18- Day 13 Kruger Park to Pretoria

A half day in the Kruger Park was dedicated to photography for Chris Burney, while we explored the plains. Plenty of birds and an assortment of mammals were seen, the highlight being the sight of an African Crake dismembering a stick insect not 10 feet from the car.

On the trip out of the Park, we picked up a pair of Black Stork, and had clinching views of an African Cuckoo. Then it was off to the Strijdom Tunnel where it took only a few glances to locate a young Taita Falcon.....for once, the last bird of the trip, is probably the rarest!

For a full list of species recorded, please e-mail us.

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