Karoo Birding Weekend

Hi all

We spent the past weekend on another thoroughly enjoyable Karoo Birding Weekend in the Karoo National Park. It was my third time attending the event and I’ve penciled it in for October next year already. I thought I’d give an account of the experience as I really think every birder in South Africa should attend this event at least once in their lifetimes.

The format is a good old-fashioned birding competition and is organised by the Karoo Honorary Rangers. Each team (2-4 members usually) is assigned a local guide and have round about 20 hours to amass a bird list from their own vehicle. The guide is strictly along to verify sightings, and perhaps to coax the participants to possibly look up from the snack box for a second and admire the magnificent mountains on the right – whilst, for no particular reason, playing a Karoo Eremomela call out the window. It therefore (mostly) rests on the participants to spot and ID birds as well determine their route through the park.

Teams are divided into Beginner and Expert categories, so don’t feel intimidated if you’re just starting out! The prizes are excellent, with weekends away to parks all over the country for most of the placed teams! There are auctions, lucky draws and a photographic competition – all crammed into a weekend. Non-birders can relax in the subdued peace of the main camp so bring them along.

I am a keen birder and have been to numerous Birding Weekends all over the country, including Kruger, and this one still tops my list due to the fun factor. Sure, the total number of birds is far less than in other parts of the country, but the light-hearted competition, sublime landscapes and healthy dose of LBJ’s (don’t forget to bring Faansie Peacock’s book) makes this weekend shine.

If you’d like to know more feel free to contact me and I’ll forward you to the organisers, or just look out for announcements for next year’s event which will be in October again.

Cheers and happy birding

Gordon Botha

email: gbot300 at gmail.com


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Trogons Bird Club October Newsletter

Click here to read the October Newsletter from the Trogons Bird Club.

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Umhlanga Lagoon Wednesday 19th October

Report by John Bremner

Twelve of us gathered for this outing, the weather was overcast at first with a light fog for a short while which soon lifted and the day turned out sunny and a little breezy.

Some of us arrived early, just after 07h00, the birds were busy around the car park area doing what they do best and the Yellow Weavers were hard at work in the reed beds building their nests and trying to attract a mate to their rather neat nests.

Yellow Weaver

Yellow Weaver

Our walk started a little after 08h30, the whole reserve is very well maintained with neat pathways through the dune forests with boardwalks across the wetland areas.

The path through the dunes on the seaside of the wetland is closed off and there is a sign to say the dunes are off limits on that side, the path then leads to the beach.

We took a look at the beach area, which was quite busy with fishermen and sunbathers, no waders were around. We moved back across the boardwalk and walked through the dune forest. A Little Bittern flew past just before we entered the forest as well as a Black Crake flushed.

Most of the time it was very quiet in the forest with a few birds calling. We did get to see some of the usual forest birds like the Square Tailed Drongo, Sombre Greenbul, Terrestrial Brownbul, and a few Sunbirds.

We walked down to the lagoon, the path down the dune was very steep so was too difficult for some of the party who started back for their coffee break. A few of us soldiered on.

There are no mudflats around the lagoon as the vegetation is growing right up to the waters edge. Birding here was a little disappointing. We saw one Little Egret, one Three Banded Plover, some Blacksmith Lapwings, various Cormorants and a Greenshank.

On our way back to the car park Oscar pointed out a Black-throated Wattle-eye on a nest, right next to the path. This for me was the sighting of the morning, there were two eggs in the nest.

Black-throated Wattle-eye

Black-throated Wattle-eye


We saw or heard 63 different birds in and around the forest.

A few of the party felt we should have made an earlier start as things seem to have quietened down by the time we had started.

There are security guards in the park and it was quite busy with other visitors. Thanks to those who turned up and helped with the identifications. We had a good morning.

John Bremner

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Ben Vie Midlands Outing

Below are a  few species photoed at Ben Vie on Sunday 16 October 2016. This was on an outing organised by the BirdLife KZN Midlands Bird Club led by Ian Gordon.

Note the Common Buzzard was seen near Karkloof Conservancy and not at Ben Vie.

Paul Bartho

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Cape and Bearded Vulture Tracks update

Dear All

Click to open the movements of our Bearded Vultures: Jeremia, Springbok, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa, Mac, Kloutjie, Camo and Mollie and our Cape Vultures Bennie and Shuttle for the period 9-16 October 2016.  No update on Springbok yet.

Thanks and kind regards

Sonja Krüger



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Oribi Vulture Restaurant

Hi Netters,

With the holiday season creeping up on us very quickly, here are the dates for our scheduled visits for October 2016 to January 2017.

We have added Wednesday visits throughout December and the beginning of January.

R100.00 per person based on a minimum of 3 people for the visit to take place.

These visits are conducted from cliff vantage points where you can view the vultures flying and on the breeding cliffs.

For some comments from previous visitors please visit:


22 October 2016 (Sat) 0830-1030 Limited spaces available

29 October 2016 (Sat) 0830-1030 Limited spaces available

05 November 2016 (Sat) 0830-1030

12 November 2016 (Sat) 0830-1030

19 November 2016 (Sat) 0830-1030

26 November 2016 (Sat) 0830-1030

30 November 2016 (WED) 0830-1030 CONFIRMED

03 December 2016 (Sat) 0830-1030

07 December 2016 (WED) 0830-1030

10 December 2016 (Sat) 0830-1030

14 December 2016 (WED) 0830-1030

17 December 2016 (Sat) 0830-1030

21 December 2016 (WED) 0830-1030

24 December 2016 (Sat) 0830-1030

28 December 2016 (WED) 0830-1030

31 December 2016 (Sat) 0830-1030

04 January 2017 (WED) 0830-1030

07 January 2017 (Sat) 0830-1030

11 January 2017 (WED) 0830-1030

14 January 2017 (Sat) 0830-1030

21 January 2017 (Sat) 0830-1030

28 January 2017 (Sat) 0830-1030


ADVANCE BOOKING ESSENTIAL (Minimum 24hrs notice required please)


To book one of the scheduled visits or to arrange a date of your choice

or to book the hide for the day

please email:


or WhatsApp: 081 510 8333

or Cell: 072 893 3794

**based on minimum of 3 people per group for visit to take place and subject to change.

Andy Ruffle

Project Coordinator

Oribi Vulture Viewing Hide

Website: http://vulturehide.blogspot.com/

Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/oribivulturehide/

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Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Click on the following to see the Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks for the week 2 to 9 October 2016.

Cape and Bearded tracks.

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Alverstone Outing Report

Saturday 1 October 2016.  

Elena Russell

Our outing to Alverstone was marred by rather cold and damp conditions with drizzle at times but the Saturday Chat Show must go on and 11 of us braved the weather and the slippery track down to the dam.

Actually it wasn’t too bad and we had some good birding – lovely views of a pair of Green-backed Camaroptera. None of the usual calls just a soft ‘ tick’ ‘tick’ between the two birds as they quietly went about the gleaning of leaves.

The Plain-backed Pipits were on the top field and I am sure they are nesting again slightly off the field more towards the bush on the side.

Seen were Yellow-throated Longclaws calling and displaying, Fan-tailed and Red-collared Widowbirds, Tawny-flanked Prinias, Common Fiscals, Barbets – Crested, White-eared and Black-collared, Speckled Mousebirds. A female Black Cuckoo-shrike was a good sighting.

No Swifts, possibly due to the weather but we picked up both Greater and Lesser Striped Swallows as well as Black Saw-Wings all swooping low over the dam.

The area around the houses was not as good as usual but there was a superb exotic looking billy goat with the ‘sweetest’ kid in one enclosure!!

Flycatchers – Southern Black, Paradise and Dusky, Olive Thrush, Purple–crested and Knysna Turacos, Sunbirds – Amethyst, Olive, Grey, Collared and Greater-double collared, Klaas’s and Red-chested Cuckoos called as well as Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds. Cape Wagtail, Weavers – Golden, Village, Spectacled and Thick-billed.

Raptors not so good: Yellow-billed Kite and a Jackal Buzzard and much later a White-necked Raven.

Yellow-billed Kite

Yellow-billed Kite

The bird of the day must go to the Bush Blackcap only seen and photographed by Decklan – I think it must be a new one for the Alverstone list. I thought they moved down in winter as I have seen them at Iphiti and Giba Gorge but always in the winter months. Possibly another visit in high summer is called for!

Bush Blackcap

Bush Blackcap

Our total count was 64 with better weather it would have been higher – but that’s birding!!

Thanks to Decklan and Adam for the photos.



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Bearded and Cape Vulture Tracks

The latest tracks for the Bearded and Cape Vultures can be seen by clicking on the following two sites – Bearded and Cape.

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Long-crested Eagles

Long-crested eagle project in KwaZulu-Natal.

A Plea from Prof. Colleen Downs.

Long-crested eagles (Lophaetus occipitalis) are considered common raptors in parts of KwaZulu-Natal but relatively little has been documented on aspects of their ecology.

Consequently we initiated a PhD project on long-crested eagles in KwaZulu-Natal at the beginning of 2016 in the School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.

The main focus of the research is to investigate how land-use changes affects habitat use of long-crested eagles, particularly when breeding.

The main study area covers a land use gradient from urban to rural, including Durban, Pietermaritzburg and the Midlands in KwaZulu-Natal.

We are determining the home range and habitat use of long-crested eagles using GPS transmitters.

We are using camera traps to monitor nests to provide valuable information on the general breeding behaviour of these birds and possibly what they are eating or providing to the their chicks.

We are also collating data on presence of long-crested eagles in the study area and relating it to ecological factors.

Consequently we would be most grateful for any sightings of long-crested eagles, or locations of their nesting trees.

The contact persons for the project are:
Machawe Maphalala (PhD candidate) Cell: 073 532 4725

Email: Machawe158@gmail.com

Prof. Colleen Downs (Main supervisor)
downs@ukzn.ac.za; 033-2605127

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Bird Valley Estate

Thursday 22 to Sunday 25 September 2016

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho



The campsite.. Numerous flat grassy stands with water and power. Ablutions – clean with hot water.

This was both a Week-end and Sunday outing.

It was attended by ten members for the weekend and a further eleven for the Sunday outing. And as usual it was a resounding success surpassing everyone’s expectations. Not only was the birding excellent but the venue and hospitality of Richard Alcock were equally so.

As noted on both previous visits this year (and reported on the website) this can be considered the “Okavango” of South Africa.

Peter and Frankie arrived Thursday afternoon as did Sally and I. It was a drizzly cold afternoon. Despite this we took a drive round the estate heading for the hide.


Bird Hide. The path to the hide extends behind the hide to the start of the forest.

On the way just before entering the forest over 30 White-backed Ducks took off from the water’s edge showing us why they got their name. A magnificent sight. It was so unusual to see so many together.

Then we drove through the woods to the 200 metre narrow grassy path through the marsh to the hide. Our mistake was not wearing our wellies as the path was through tall wet grasses.

View from the Bird Hide

View from the Bird Hide

The hide is located at the start of the 7 kms channel into the wetland. As expected we saw many waterbirds including African Pygmy-Geese and White-backed Ducks. Two Grey-crowned Cranes did a fly pass and a pair of Wattled Cranes were observed some distance away close to the forest.

The next morning we returned to the hide – this time suitably attired in Wellies and warm weather-proof clothing. Again we saw most of the birds we saw the evening before including the African Pygmy-Geese, White-backed Ducks and Wattled Cranes.

The excitement was observing an African Rail walking along the water’s edge on the far bank.

There was one little bird right next to us which we failed to ID – have a go.

That afternoon Cecil and Jenny arrived followed by Cheryl and John. Everyone lent a hand to set up their campsites.

While setting up we had a juvenile Black-headed Oriole serenading us from the trees above as a Village Weaver tried to distract us.

After setting up, we all left Cecil and Jenny to enjoy their consumptions as we headed for the lower side of the dam wall.

View from the Dam wall looking up towards the wetland area- extending to the base of the hills in the distance.

View from the Dam wall looking up towards the wetland area- extending to the base of the hills in the distance.

Richard has cut paths through the bush below the dam with several bridges crossing the fast flowing water from the dam. Totally different habitat and birds to be seen. Here are some of the birds we managed to photograph on that afternoon and on Sunday morning (while the Sunday outing members went on the boat trip).

It was fascinating to see how all the spider’s webs had collected dewdrops.


Friday night proved too cold and windy for a braai so we all ended up chin-wagging till late around Cecil and Jenny’s open tent area! However we did manage an early night as it was up early to depart on the Pontoon with Richard at 06h30! the next day.

If you desire to visit this wetland paradise then you need to contact Richard Alcock – see their website for details: http://www.birdvalleyestate.co.za. You will need to come as a large group if you want to visit and be able to go up into the wetland area by boat.

Saturday morning we were all ready on time. The water was flat and we watched the fish jumping for the flies and the otters chasing behind. This was a treat we experienced each morning.

We also had two members from the Midlands Bird Club (Ian Gordon and Barry Taylor) join us. They had been on a similar outing with their members the week before and got a glimpse of what they thought might be a Striped Crake – the underside of the tail looked rufous.

Our hopes were high but expectations muted. The day still and sunny.

There were 10 of us and Richard as captain. Off we set towards the dam wall for a quick look round before heading up into the wetland area.

Our first surprise were a pair of African Black Ducks at the overflow of the dam.

As we headed north towards the wetland area there were large groups of African Pygmy-Geese and White-backed Ducks.

Just before we entered the channels there was this sighting of an African Darter which had us confused as to on what it was perched.

And then as we passed the Bird Hide we headed into the narrow channels going upstream towards the distant hills.

Onward we travelled with Richard imparting interesting information about the area and the formation of the channels. We eventually reached the area where the possible Striped Crake may have been. Barry disembarked and flushed the likely spots but unfortunately to no avail. Then we headed back.

On return Cecily and Mark arrived and setup their roof-top tent. Mark then proceeded to get out his fishing rod and headed to where the pontoon was tied up. Out he cast -no luck; try again – out he cast and lo and behold he brings in a huge bass which when weighed was recognised as the largest caught in the dam at a whopping 3.8 kgs. and which he generously donated to local staff.

Mark and his record breaking Bass

Mark and his record breaking Bass

Saturday evening was braai night. And then another gathering for more tales of past adventures which got more exaggerated as the evening wore on and the imbibing increased.

Sunday arrives – another glorious day – the water still and the otters playing. The Sunday outing members started arriving at 06h30 for the 07h30 start. Hennie and Decklan the first to arrive and then a little later Ann and Andy, followed by Dave and Penny then Sandi, Elena and Prem and finally Penny and Cheryl.

Decklan was quick to spot Mark fishing and joined him catching a fish in no time.

Then it was time for the Sunday outing members to depart. Richard the captain of course.

Everyone returned astonished at how good an experience they had had with Richard. Everyone wants to return and make this a regular outing. They had seen Black-backed Jackal, Reed Buck and 6 Otters – both on land and in the water – apart from the abundance of White-backed Ducks and African Pygmy-Geese. Apart from these, their sightings of the day included an African Snipe circling overhead and a pair of African Fish-Eagles trying to disperse their young.

On return everyone gathered to take in their experience and to invest in something to eat and drink before taking a walk below the dam wall, meanwhile those of us who came to make a weekend of it stayed behind to de-camp.

Some of the birds seen on their walk include:

And finally we got together to tally the birds identified for the weekend. In total there were 104 different species – click here to see the list. And we had added another 17 to the total list for Bird Valley Estate. Click here to see the Bird Valley list.

This is a very special place and a birding experience not to be missed. Get a group together, contact Richard ( see details earlier) and plan a visit.

Paul and Sally Bartho

Photos by Paul or Sally Bartho unless otherwise stated in the captions.

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Msinisi Nature Reserve

Wednesday 21 September 2016

Report back by Sandi du Preez.

Msinsi was rather quiet on arrival except for the many Kurrichane Thrushes running about busily, but soon livened up with the birds celebrating Springtime.

A few Rattling Cisticolas were calling from on top of a bush, and a White-browed Scrub-Robin gave us much pleasure as it sang it’s endless,  joyful serenade from the top of a tree.

We had lovely views of male and female Chinspot Batis and after hearing the Southern Boubou most of the morning, we eventually saw a female in the forest area. We heard a Klaas’s Cuckoo calling close by and quickly located it in a tree.

The forest was alive with the signs of Spring. There was some definite movement inside a Spectacled Weaver’s nest and our patience was soon rewarded by an adult bringing food  into the nest.

Spectacled Weavers nest -John Bremner

Spectacled Weavers nest -John Bremner

A Bar-throated Apalis flew back and forth with tidbits for it’s chick/s which must have been very demanding judging by the speed at which the meals were being delivered! Unfortunately we could not see the nest as the foliage was too dense.

A female Collared Sunbird was very busy collecting some fluffy nesting material. We were not sure, but it may have been spider web. Red-backed Mannikins were also collecting nesting material.

The sighting of the day was undoubtedly a pair of juvenile Olive Sunbirds on a branch in the foliage of a tree. They both had  bright orange gapes which none of us had ever witnessed before. (On checking later in Roberts VII – the fledglings have bright orange gapes). The little birds had a beautiful bronzy glow when the sunlight caught them. And to add to the excitement, they were being fed by the parent!

Other good sightings were female Black Cuckooshrike, a male Paradise Flycatcher showing off his long tail, Lesser Honeyguide, Black-headed Oriole, Cardinal and Golden-tailed Woodpeckers, Square-tailed and Fork-tailed Drongos, Black-collared and White-eared Barbets, Tambourine Dove, African Firefinch, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Red-capped Robin-chat, Purple-crested Turaco, Amethyst and White-bellied Sunbirds, African Black Swift, White-rumped Swift, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Dark-backed Weaver. We also heard a Buff-spotted Flufftail.

Unfortunately there was no sign of the Green Malkoha that we saw in June during the BMCG meeting.

Altogether we  recorded a list of 62 species .

Sandi du Preez



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Dear All

Click here to see the movements of our Bearded Vultures: Jeremia, Springbok, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa, Mac, Kloutjie, Camo and Mollie and click here to see the movements of our Cape Vultures Bennie and Shuttle for the period 18 to 25 September 2016.

Thank you very much to those that pledged their support for Bearded Vultures and Rhino last week. The initial tally from pledges for the Rhino Peak Challenge stands at about R300 000 raised for the two projects. These funds will go a long way to achieving our aims in the Captive Breeding Programme and your support is greatly appreciated.

It was a tough walk up Rhino Peak with very strong winds all the way. On my way up I was cursing Beardeds that nest in such remote and inaccessible places, but I guess thats what keeps them safe; and your support of the work we do makes the continuous struggle to conserve them worthwhile.

Thanks and kind regards

Sonja Krüger



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Vulture Tracks

Click here to see the Cape Vulture movements of those tagged and click here to see the movements of tagged Bearded Vultures.

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Raptor Rescue Newsletter

Click here to read the latest Raptor Rescue Newsletter.

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VulPro Newsletter

Click here to read the latest VulPro newsletter.

Information about VulPro 

VulPro – The Vulture Conservation Programme of South Africa is a unique stand-alone programme based in the North West Province.

VulPro rescues and rehabilitates grounded vultures and raptors, giving the non-releasable birds a second chance at life by using them in a captive breeding programme for population supplementation.

VulPro identifies and mitigates threats, educates, researches and is a trendsetter in vulture conservation.

Visit VulPro and see Cape Vultures, African White-backed, White-headed, Lappet-faced, Palm-nut Vultures and Condors, Bateleurs, Fish Eagles and a host of other raptors depending on what has been rescued and is undergoing rehabilitation.

Visit VulPro’s vulture restaurant and book the hide for an out of world photographic and life experience at a later date.

Families particularly love the involvement of “their” vulture, with children learning so much about these amazing birds.

We also offer a variety of memberships suited to individuals, corporates and families, contact mandyschroder.uron@gmail.com or kerri.wolter@gmail.com for more information.

We also offer the privilege of adopting one of our special vultures, some of these include rescued and rehabilitated vultures, others are captive bred chicks bound for release at a later date.

Should you sight a grounded vulture that requires urgent assistance then please contact Kerri Wolter immediately on the cell number listed below. It doesn’t matter where in the country you are, VulPro strives to assist any vulture in need.

Visit our website at http://www.vulpro.com. We also have a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VulProAfrica/?fref=ts

VulPro Kid’s Corner at https://vulprokidscorner.wordpress.com/

Tours are by appointment only.

Contact Kerri Wolter on kerri.wolter@gmail.com or 082 808 5113

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Vulture Support

This week is your last chance to pledge your support for the Bearded Vulture project. Please consider a pledge for even R1 per minute- every bit counts!

Go to http://www.rhinopeakchallenge.co.za/people-pledge/?celeb_id=4 to make your pledge.

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Repairing Binoculars

For those of you who live in and around the Durban area.

I have been asked numerous times “To whom can I go to get my binoculars cleaned or fixed ?”

Well I have a name for you. He worked for Whysalls for many a year. He is:

Nandha Naidoo (Photography), 27 Tongova Mews, 6 Ushukela Drive, Tongaat 4399.

Tel: 032 945 1565

Cell: 083 470 4077

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Kamberg Nature Reserve

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

8th t0 9th September 2016

Only one night was spent in Kamberg Nature reserve on the way to family in the Berg.

Fortunately the weather was clear but cool when we arrived until we left – although we had an entertaining evening of wind and fire.

Anyway we were grandly welcome by the birds. These photos show the first five birds we saw.

On arrival we had noticed a smell of fire and we could see the smoke rising from the top of the distant hills. The wind was obviously blowing our way.

Sitting with our sundowners enjoying the peacefulness, the smoke we had seen now changed into fire. We could see the flames creeping down the mountainside towards us. Nervously the camp manager was called and she told us there were adequate fire breaks surrounding us.

On going to sleep the fires kept getting closer and the smell of smoke not quite choking – brought to us on the wings of a rather strong wind. Sleep eventually fell upon us and when we awoke all was quiet and the smoke had gone. Looking out the window we could see the burnt area miles away from us!

The morning was spent birding around the camp and staff areas. In total we identified 39 different species – click here to view our list.

Garden birds were calling all around us with Bokmakierie playing a variety of calls.

Several things were striking. The first was the numbers of Buff-streaked Chats – they seemed to be everywhere.

A large family of Ground Woodpeckers kept us entertained as they came out to sunbathe in the warmth of day.ground-woodpeckers

A Red-throated Wryneck called all morning long moving from one clump of tall trees to the next and evading our binoculars. Eventually we found it in a distant bare tree.


Red-throated Wryneck

Cape Vultures circled overhead

Unusually a Secretarybird flew above us. We are used to seeing them on the ground so this was a treat.

And a Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk did a fly-by.

Then we seemed to save the best for last. Having settled in at Kamberg Valley Hideaway http://www.kambergvalleyhideaway.co.za/with Sally’s son and girlfriend, we took a drive towards the Hlatikulu Crane Sanctuary and Giant’s castle.

We almost turned back as the temperature was dropping and the wind was up. However just past the turnoff to the Crane sanctuary there are two large lakes on the same side of the road. As we approached we wondered if we would see any Cranes. Were we in for a surprise – 30 Wattled Cranes and 2 Grey Crowned Cranes in the first field between the lakes and another 40 Grey-crowned Cranes in the field on the far side. Thankfully we had our scope with us to get a good count.

A very rewarding 24 hours.

Paul and sally Bartho

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