30th December 2016 – There were 2 days left of my Big Birding Year and I was on a mission to get my total for the year to 350.
We headed out for the first of my last two attempts to reach this goal. We went up to the Rust De Winter area just over the border into the Limpopo province as I have heard good things about the birding in this area. We started off just doing the roadside routes and very quickly had ticked off 3 birds which was a great start.
There were Amur Falcons lined up on the telephone lines, as well as Lesser Kestrels who were also sitting on the Centre pivot irrigation out in the farmlands. I finally got a Greater Striped Swallow, which has only taken forever to find.There was a Zitting Cisticola zitting around close by which we managed to spot and watched it land on the fence close by so I could get a decent shot. It’s one of those birds which if I had just seen it sitting there, I would never be able to tell you it was a Zitting Cisticola, damn LBJ’s.
Closer to the “village” of Rust De Winter in a big open field we found a large flock of Abdim’s Storks which are funny looking birds, with their pink ankles and feet on grey-green legs. There were also about 4 large raptors sitting at the far end of this field, which I think could have been Harriers, but were just too far off to even get a decent pic of.
From here we went into the Rust De Winter Nature Reserve were I saw my first ever Indigobird! Much excitement for this tiny black bird. After looking through the 3 Indigobird species we get in South Africa, I concluded that this one was a Purple Indigobird with white bill and white legs.
The rest of the reserve was very quiet, with the most species being seen down by the river inlet. Herons, including the funky Black Heron hunting with his ‘cape’ up, egrets, waders, terns, ducks, geese, swallows, spoonbills and even a baby croc!
I then decided we should try the Zaagkuildrift to Kgomo Kgomo Route. Another area spoken very highly of in birding groups. It started out with a tricky raptor which turned out to be a female Lesser Kestrel and then got quieter from there on. It was the middle of the day again so what can you expect. I imagine the floodplains can be quite entertaining earlier in the morning and when there has been more water coming through. From there we headed home…
I was still short of birds and so we would have to make one last effort to reach the target number.
The next morning we drove out with no real plan. I was desperate for birds but didn’t know where to go to find them, or where to go to get the maximum number of different birds. I also didn’t want to have to drive out to far, so looked closer to home for places. I decided to start with the Hartebeespoort Dam wall in the hopes of seeing some different swallows, swifts and the Cliff Chats which can be seen there. But when we arrived there it was fairly early, not many people around and it didn’t look like there was anywhere to actually walk along the dam wall safely, so we gave up on that one very quickly.
After a coffee break we headed out to Buffelspoort Dam to hopefully see something, but got nothing. There were hardly any birds of any kind there anyway.
We then went up to the Mountain Sanctuary Park, which is a popular hiking spot that has trails to some awesome looking natural swimming pools. As we were driving up to the camp, my Dad stopped the car, looked out his window up into the sky and asked “What’s that?” whilst clapping his hands fast. With him looking up and clapping his hands like that, I knew straight away it was a Flappet Lark. They display by flying high up with rapid wing clapping for a few seconds which causes that flapping sound, and then fall quite fast back down again. Yay, finally a new bird for the list…and this would turn out to be the final bird for the list and for the year!
My Dad and I did a short trail down to the river which was flowing nicely, a very beautiful spot with amazing views across the Magaliesberg area. There were a few cisticola’s and prinia’s around, and the mournful song of a Black Cuckoo nearby. We also had a fairly good sighting of a female Dideric Cuckoo, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen, only the males. The female has buff coloured throat so this threw me off the ID for a bit. A male did arrive, and I think he was trying to win her over by bringing her food.
We stopped in at Cradle Moon to see what their day visitor facilities are like for future reference, and of course to look for some more last minute birds. We did see another Dideric Cuckoo there. This one sitting on the leaf of a Aloe posing quite nicely in an unusual plant, although a bit hidden in the shade. It looked like we were watching the same scene again with the male bringing in juicy worms for the female.
We didn’t find anything new, but it was still nice to walk around the place. We ended off the day having a late lunch and enjoying an ice cold drink, while listening to the trill of a Woodland Kingfisher close by. A great way to end off my Big Birding Year!!!