Trip Report for
Venture to South Africa:
December 22, 2012 – January 10, 2013
Given the many great birding places around Cape Town and only fours days of birding we choose to concentrate on Kirstenbosch, Boulders Beach and Cape Point, locations surrounding False Bay, the Karoo in and around Karoopoort, and West Coast National Park. Starting with Kirstenbosch we had several Cape Sugarbirds, a Black Saw-wing, and several Cape Francolins among many other species. At Boulders Beach we got the African Penguins, 3 cormorant species, the obligatory Kelp Gulls and several distant Cape Gannets. Cape Point was disappointing but we did get a pair of Mute Swans flying toward Antarctica and several Ostriches on a beach. The next day we left for False Bay locations and started with the Strandfontein Sewage Works. Highlights had to be the miscellany of herons and egrets, a selection of ducks including several pairs of Cape Teal, a Levaillant’s Cisticola and singing Cape Reed-Warbler. We then had lunch at the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens and got Yellow and Red Bishops, a beautiful Orange-breasted Sunbird, more Cape Sugarbirds, Cape Rock-Thrush and Familiar Chat. A walk at nearby Rooi Els got us two Cape Rockjumpers, Cape Bunting, Cape Siskin and Cape Grassbird.
We also saw an empty Black Eagle nest and were told a tall-tale about Leopards in the area by a local lad. The next day saw us driving to the Karoo for a short foray. We got several African Pied Starling en route, and Whiskered and White-winged Terns, and an African fish-Eagle at a roadside lake. At Karoopoort we got Namaqua Warbler, Horus Swift, great looks at a Fairy Warbler, a scope view of a Karoo Scrub-Robin and Bokmakierie, and heard two Cinnamon-breasted Warblers. Driving to the Val du Charron Estate for Christmas dinner we got White Stork and Blue Crane (National bird of South Africa). At West Coast National Park, home to one of the greatest concentrations of shorebirds in South Africa and a must visit to see a whole range of wintering shorebirds, we got Kittlitz and Three-banded Plovers, Whimbrel and Curlew Sandpiper. We also got Rufous-vented Warbler (Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler), Antarctic and Damara Terns, Large-billed and Karoo Larks, and a showy male Southern Black Korhaan.
After a short flight from Cape Town we arrived in Durban which was hot and humid and a little wet at times. We than had to drive north towards Creighton- our base for the next few nights. The scenery was beautiful as the road snaked its way through Kwa Zulu Natal. Near Pietermaritzburg and close to Creighton we took the wrong turning but ended up seeing some great birds such as Pin-tailed Whydah, Fan-tailed and Red-collared Widowbirds, and Dark-capped Yellow Warbler. After organizing ourselves at the Smithfield Guest house we went for our first walk with Malcolm of Button Birding and saw among others a Broad-tailed Warbler and four orange-breasted Waxbills. For December 28th we stayed close to Creighton and explored the local area. We had some great birding as we saw all the possible Widowbirds, Denham’s Bustard, several Cisticola s, a Black-bellied Bustard and several Black-winged Lapwing. In the afternoon we got great views of several of the endangered elegant Blue Swallows. The next day we drove to Ntsekeni Nature Reserve and on route we got less than stellar views of two Cape Parrots and but a spectacular Emerald Cuckoo. At Ntsekeni we got Yellow-breasted Pipit, Wattled Crane, African Black and Horus Swifts, Cape Griffon vultures and a Secretary Bird among others. December 30th found us venturing up the Sani Pass. At Himeville, at a small lake, we got Little Rush Warbler, Africa Rail and African Reed Warbler. Entering the pass we got a Eurasian Honey-Buzzard, a lifer for Malcolm *and an excellent bird for South Africa), several Gurney’s Sugarbird, two Ground Woodpeckers and a White-fronted Bee-eater. Up the pass we got great views of Drakensburg Rockjumper, Barrett’s Warbler and two Bearded Vultures. In Lesotho we got a Black Stork, Layard’s Tit-babbler and another Fairy Flycatcher.
The next day, December 31 was pretty uneventful except we drove on our way to St. Lucia through one of the worst thunderstorms we’ve ever experienced. The next day was great – we got several Hornbill sp., Gorgeous Bushshrike, Square-tailed Drongo, Crested Guineafowl, Rudd’s Apalis, and Livingstone’s Turaco all on the Igwalagwala Trail. On the river we saw both hippos and crocs and a Pink-backed Pelican, and Little, Caspian, Lesser-crested and Common Terns. Early January 2 found us doing an obligatory sewage pond visit where we got Thick-knees and peeps. At the beach we also got Purple-crested Turaco and Palm-nut Vulture. At Cape Vidal we also got Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Crowned Hawk-Eagle and Fasciated Snake-Eagle and Woodward’s Batis. Mark also released a beautiful Rufous-breasted Swallow that was caught up in some Ostrich feathers.
Arriving late at Rhino River Lodge entrance road we got European Bee-eaters, many Red-billed Quelea, and Gray-rumped and Rufous-breasted Swallows. The next day, an early drive around Rhino River got us Bearded Scrub-Robin, White-bellied Sunbird and Pink-throated Twinspot. Then it was off to Mkhuze for the late morning and afternoon birding where we got amongst others Long-tailed Paradise-Whydah, Red-billed Oxpecker, Goliath Heron, Comb Duck, Open-billed Stork and Golden-tailed Woodpecker.
The next day we left for Wakkerstrom to search for endemic larks. Close to Wakkerstrom we left the main paved highway and ventured out on to dirt roads. We were rewarded with our first South African Cliff Swallows and White-bellied Bustard. The next day, after an eventful night, where Mark and Terry had to find alternative accommodation in Wakkerstrom, we met Norman, our local guide for the day. With Norman leading the way out into the high veldt we got Yellow-crowned Bishops, Blue Korhaan, Pale-crowned Cistacola, Eastern long-billed, Botha’s, Pink-billed and Rudd’s Larks, Yellow-throated Longclaw and Cuckoo Finch. A great day indeed. From Wakkerstrom we turned north and drove to Krueger NP. Along the way we got Greater Flamingo.