At the end of February 2017 I had another short trip to southern India. The visit was again to the province of Kerela, and the city of Trivandrum. I stayed the the beautiful Leela Hotel in Kovalam. This trip was work related but I could fit in a few hours birding in the early mornings, and one afternoon along the Green Cove. I added three new lifers in this trip: Purple Sunbird, Common Tailorbird and Crested Tree-swift
I was privileged enough to be invited to guide for the Shingwedzi Birding Big weekend again in January 2017. It was great to be birding with a group that has now become good friends. The park was wonderfully wet and green and afforded some superb birding.
After Shingwedzi a numbre of us went further north to stay a few days at the new Pafuri Border Camp. This is a stunning camp and the photos below does not do it justice.
It was also great to be able to bird the Levubu a the crack of dawn and to sunset, something one cannot do from Punda Maria.
The trip was great in terms of lifers with me adding Orange Winged Pytilia, Thrush Nightingale, Racket-tailed Roller and Lemon-breasted Canary.
Our December holiday had us once again visiting the Eastern Cape, and this time an area that i had longed to visit for a long time, the Wild Coast. I wish we had more time to explore more of the Wild Coast, but as road conditions require many hours of travel we were limited to Dwesa Game Reserve and surrounds.
From Dwesa we moved down to Tsitsikamma National Park and the Storms River Camp, but with a huge family and friends Christmas gathering, there was little time to explore.
The trip ended at the usual haunt of Bornmansdrift farm in the South Eastern Freestate.
The trip added two new lifers to my tally, Mangrove Kingfisher and Cape Siskin, ending 2016 with 7 new bird lifers
At the end of November 2016 we made a trip up to Mapungubwe National Park to do the annual Birding Big Day in the park. Our accommodation was in the Honorary Rangers special camp in the middle of the bush with no fences.
2016 had seen one of the worst drought years in memory in South Africa, and Mapungubwe was no less hard hit. Grass for grazing was nonexistent, and we could see that the animals were suffering. But then during our stay the heavens opened up and the drought was broken. Overnight we had more than 70mm of rain, and it was amazing to see the Limpopo river turn from a dry bed of sand into a flooded river.
Birding was still excellent, and a managed two lifers in the park – Three Banded Courser, and a very special bird that i had been looking for some time, Pels Fishing Owl.
These are some of the spectacular scenery shots from our recent trip to Dwesa Game Reserve on the Wild Coast in Eastern Cape.
Who would have though that our rarity maps would look this hectic this December, especially taking into account this being one of our worst drought years in a long time.
Unfortunately, or is that fortunately, work, time and budgets does not allow for chasing. Once you know you cannot chase, then the stress of seeing/not seeing the bird is quite gone.
Hover over the bottom of the pin for the name of the bird
We set off on our annual holiday to Kruger National Park again this July.This year we decided to brave the busy south again, and once again, I realise that I like the area but not the crowds.
Staying our first few days in Berg-en-Dal the current drought just hit home again. The veld is bare of grass, but it almost seems asif the trees were staying green longer this year. Almost as if they new that they needed to provide food. Around the camp and up to Afsaal game was quite scarce in abundance, although we did see a good variety.
Up at Skukuza Golf Course there was a lifer waiting for me, and upon entry to the clubhouse I spotted the Lesser Jacana down on the lily pads on the dam. Almost too easy.
The next days at Pretoruiskop were quite good, with and excellent sighting of a Sable Antelope Bull. Camp birding was great as well with the biggest surprises being a Bat Hawk hunting every morning and night, and finding a family of Green Twinspot at the pool. Both these have never been recorded in the area on the Bird Atlas (SABAP2)
At the end of May we spent some time on a game farm called Kameel,north-west of Thabazimbi, almost at the Botswana border. This is a good transitional area between Bushveld and Kalahari, wich allows for some interesting birds to be present. the highlight of the weekend was finding three Sandgrouse species: Double Banded, Yellow-throated and Burchell’s.
I spent around 5 hours hanging out a small watering hole, and had cracking shots of 2 male Burchell’s Sandgrouse coming in to drink, and filling up their belly feathers with water to take back to thier offspring. Also at the waterhole were some nice sightings of Barred Wren-warbler, Yellow-throated Petronia and Violet-eared waxbills. On an open field we also had far off sightings of Temminck’s Courser.
This past Easter holidays we spent an enjoyable week on the Dolphin Coast in Kwa-Zulu Natal, at a favorite spot – Salt Rock. The weather was not all that great, but still some birding and other sightings to be shared.
This was followed by a quick stay on the Freestate farm, for Easter.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to be a guide for this year’s BBW in Letaba. Once again we had the privileged to guide an awesome group of birders, and it was great to do some birding with good friends.
The drought this year has had a severe impact on the park, and grazing, especially along the rivers was non-existent. This has a huge impact on the hippo population and all along the rivers we found dead hippos. Other tall grass grazers like buffalo were also not in top condition. Animal life was quite scarce but the birdlife was surprisingly good. Abundance of birds was less, but the number of species seen was still quite high. Seed eaters were scarce due the lack of grass. We found quite a few nice finds for the park which included Great White Pelican, Glossy and Sacred Ibis, and two Eurasian Golden Orioles in one tree.