Bushwillow Park campsite is spectacular. Grassy, large flat sites, good hot water with great views and surrounded by mistbelt forest. It is located just beyond the Karkloof Conservancy 20 kms from Howick.
Eleven of us braved the conditions – cold but not wet thankfully.
Some arrived early on the Thursday and enjoyed an extra day birding around the campsite. One of the first things noted was the abundance of seed available in the long grass attracting a host of Euplectes species (out of breeding plumage) and numerous Thick-billed Weavers.
Over the long weekend a lot was packed in.
Friday, everyone else arrived and enjoyed a stroll around the campsite followed by an evening braai.
Birds seen and photographed around the campsite include:
There was an exciting experience observing a host of Red-billed Queleas. Walking down a path with long grass on either side, Red-billed Queleas were seen and heard in numbers. At one point on the left going down they all flew up at once creating a loud “whooshing” sound. Then immediately on the other side behind there was a similar louder “whooshing” sound. It drew immediate attention. Expecting that there was another large flock of Queleas everyone looked round to see only 2 birds creating this noise. A Lanner Falcon hot on the heels of probably a Speckled Pigeon. No luck for the Lanner but we enjoyed the spectacle.
Saturday morning, a trek up one of the trails behind the campsite – an arduous walk through the mistbelt forest. It was all uphill and very steep in places – sometimes slippery. Going up was one challenge but coming down probably more so especially for those with dicky knees. The birding was quiet but those birds seen were special in particular Olive Woodpecker and Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler.
In the afternoon there was a visit to the Karkloof Conservancy and its two hides followed by another evening braai. Karkloof did not disappoint: Southern Bald Ibis and all three species of Cranes being the star attractions.
Some birds photographed at the Karkloof Conservancy:
Sunday, a stroll round Benvie on a cold and overcast morning – a garden paradise with many specials seen.
The rest of the day was downtime in and around the campsite.
Monday, a time to do last minute birding and to reflect and prepare for departure.
In all 94 bird species were seen and or heard including many of the specials in the area.
Some of the special birds seen and or heard included Bush Blackcap; Olive Bushshrike; Forest Canary; Blue, Grey-crowned and Wattled Cranes; Grey Cuckooshrike; African Black Duck; Lanner Falcon; African Goshawk; Scaly-throated Honeyguide; Southern Bald Ibis; Cape Parrot; Drakensberg Prinia; Chorister Robin-Chat; South African Shelduck; Red-necked Spurfowl; Malachite Sunbird; Orange Ground-Thrush; Knysna Turaco; Mountain Wagtail; Dark-capped Yellow-Warbler; Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler; Swee Waxbill; African Wood-Owl; Olive Woodpecker.