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April Birding Update - 2002

Some birding in the Gauteng area with a trainee guide produced some good birding. Suikerbosrand provided great views of both Greywinged and Redwinged Francolin. Orange River Francolin called from the flats just outside the Reserve. Eastern Longbilled Lark were still vocal on the 5th of April. We also saw more than the usual number of Short-toed (Transvaal) Rock Thrush in the Schurveberge

I spent two great days doing a very quick tour for Paul Murgatroyd of Washington. The first day (7 April) dawned cold and windy as we headed out into the Zaagkuildrift area. The birding was slow, but we picked up some good birds in the form of a Juvenile Allen's Gallinule Black Heron, Bennet's Woodpecker, Southern Pied Babbler, Cape Penduline Tit, Redbilled Oxpecker and plenty of Blackcheeked Waxbill. April is still an active month here in the bushveld, and we found a male Steelblue Widow Finch in full breeding plumage.

Other good sightings in the Pretoria area included: Southern White-crowned Shrike on the Rust de Winter Road, Peregrine Falcon at The Cullinan "big hole", 28 White storks at a grass-burn in Cullinan. 5 sightings of Purple Roller north of Pretoria in one day!! Migrants still present include plenty of Lesser Grey Shrike, 1 Juvenile Redbacked Shrike, Steppe Buzzard and about 20 Amur Falcons. Horus Swift was also present at Cullinan, although no Black Swift were seen.

Several Blue-cheeked Bee-eater in full breeding plumage were seen at both Kgomo-Kgomo and Pienaarsriver. This is a superb bird and quite a lot more stunning than the "early" summer birds.

On Monday 8 April we were in Wakkerstroom, where the weather turned fine again. The area provided all the specials we looked for. We had excellent views of Botha's Lark (4), Rudd's Lark, Blue Korhaan, Buff-streaked Chat, Sentinel Rock Thrush and Bald Ibis. Also seen were Bush Blackap, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Yellowbreasted Pipit, Redwinged Francolin and a flock of 30+ Black Crows. Quite a few swallows were in evidence including plenty of SA Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin. Banded Martin seemed to be flocking in the Wakkerstroom and were possibly passing through already, although they can be quite common in the area.

After experiencing the fine fare and warm hospitality of "Toad Hall" in Wakkerstroom, it seemed a pity to have to leave after only one day in this superb birding area!

Etienne Marais
Posted 10 April 2002

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