Birding in the Wider Gauteng (100km) Area
Nov/Dec 2013 – Part 1
Submitted by Penny de Vries.
Two days of whirlwind birding in Gauteng offered up 150 species, 25 lifers and extra 18 birds for my year list, on top of the lifers. I had no idea of the diversity of this area. I was particularly fortunate to go birding with Niall and Debbie Perrins and Allan Ridley, without whom I would not have seen half of the birds. There was much banter between Allan and Niall about the pressure of having to find 20 lifers in a day so I could hit the 500 mark. I thought they were joking as I was hoping for about 4 or 5 new birds.
We set off at 4am on the Saturday and headed for Kgomo-Kgomo which is north-west of Pretoria past Hammanskraal. We stopped at the bridge over the vast floodplain which goes on as far as the eye can see.
There had been a huge storm in the area a few days before which swelled the water levels; the consensus was that the area would be humming with crakes in a few weeks’ time. The Amur Falcons were back and there were many Lesser Kestrels too.
From there we continued driving through the area stopping at the side of the road whenever it looked interesting.
At one point I was positively overwhelmed by all the new (to me) species that were there seemingly all at once. Lesser Grey Shrike, Black-throated Canary, Black-chested Prinia and Great Sparrow to name but a few.
Some of these were on private property. I felt a little intrusive with my binoculars and camera zooming in on a bird while a very smartly dressed lady came out of her front door.
Flocks of Speckled Pigeon and Wattled Starling swirled around the sky while at ground level we saw Southern Pied Babbler, Chestnut-vented Titbabbler and a beautiful Shaft-tailed Whydah.
We drove on through the Acacia woodland and stopped every now and again at active spots, of which there were many. The sun was beating down and there was not a cloud in the sky; Bushveld birding at its best.
The call of the Pearl-spotted Owlet, most ably rendered by Niall and Allan, not only brought forth quite a few birds but also the ‘pearlie’ itself. I was delighted because I have only seen one once before.
While the Barred-Wren-Warbler led us on a merry chase, darting from one side of the road to the other, the Marico Flycatcher was far more obliging.
One of my favourite birds of the day was the Violet-eared Waxbill.
We turned off the road and went over a bridge where we got out and had a lovely sighting of a Jacobin Cuckoo.
We then headed back the way we had come when a Common Swift was spotted. I was desperate to get a good view of it as I have not seen one in SA before but soon they were swarming all over the place so it was easy. Further along, at the pans a few km east of Kgomo-Kgomo town along the Zaagkuildrift road, we not only saw a Dwarf Bittern but also the largest concentration of bullfrogs I have ever seen in one place. They were all full of the joys of spring, to put it mildly.
We then headed towards the Rust de Winter dam where we stopped at a bridge outside the resort. I felt at home because I recognized all the bird calls as this habitat was more like KZN; Puffback, Black-headed Oriole, Paradise flycatchers and Woodland Kingfishers to name but a few. The Woodland Kingfishers were on a branch displaying beautifully by fanning out their tails.
From there we were about to head for home when Niall said he knew a spot where Monotonous Larks have been known to occur. We travelled down yet another dusty road through Thornveld when suddenly we heard them. It was amazing to see them perched on top of a tree with their white throats bulging as they called.
Just before being dropped off at my friend’s house, we saw Karoo Thrush which abounds in this area but was a lifer for me; much to the surprise of all. 18 lifers for the day put me on 498 but more importantly, I had a fun-filled day and learnt a lot.
Part 2 to follow.
Penny de Vries