A few days ago a new website was launched for the SABAP2 project. Hopefully most of you have already seen it and fiddled about with it a bit?
We are excited about this new site and hope that you will all find it useful.
As with any evolving project that involves lots of participants we do rely on your feedback and therefore we encourage you to visit the site, check it out and please send us your comments. Michael Brooks (the site manager) has added a ‘Comment on the new site’ tab at the top of the page for you to be able to easily submit your thoughts. Please sign in first, after which the tab will be visible. Website link: http://sabap2.adu.org.za/
The website is different from the previous one, some features are renamed for example. A few key points:
The website is more mobile friendly than the previous one 🙂
To manually add cards navigate to the ‘Add Data’ tab (previously called ‘Add a Fieldsheet’)
Coverage maps are found under ‘Coverage’ and now include some very useful province specific maps. These maps can take a while to load, please be patient it will get there eventually!
When looking for the data on a particular pentad you need to double click on it (the balloon from the previous website has been removed).
The last 10 sightings of a species is not yet active, this will be sorted soon.
ORFs are also still a work in progress
Your observer number is now called your ‘CS’ number on the log in page, but it is still exactly the same.
Please feel free to get in touch if you cannot find a specific function or need any other help and we’ll gladly assist.
Ten birders in total gathered for this new type activity, a group of 6 were sedentary and stayed close to their chairs and a group of 4 were the more active crowd and headed out on a 4 hour walk around the reserve.
Sedentary Group report:
We settled ourselves on the top level of the main parking area at Stainbank, with the sun behind us and a view of the vegetation slowly revealing itself as the sun caught the tops of the trees.
We had views of Purple Turaco flitting through the trees, barbets were vociferous, and we saw Black-collared, White-eared Barbets and a lovely little Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird entertained us by gleaning from the trees in front and above us. A pair of Ashy Flycatchers also gave us a good view.
Some in the group managed to garner some energy and did the circuit around the disabled trail. It was a quiet reflective morning with zebra munching alongside us and was much enjoyed by the group that participated.
This group was kindly led by Sandi du Preez who has submitted the following.
Ros and I were joined for a walk through the reserve by Ben, a very experienced birder who has just relocated to the Highway area from Gauteng, and Zach, a teenager with an excellent knowledge of birds and butterflies and many aspects of nature.
The trees bordering the start of the grassland area gave us some good birding with White-eared Barbets, Southern Black Tits, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Fork-tailed and Square-tailed Drongos amongst others. A Black-bellied Starling swooped down and snatched a dragonfly right in front of us – its breakfast sorted!
In the grassland were Yellow-throated Longclaws, Rattling and Zitting Cisticola, Bronze Mannikins and Fan-tailed Widowbirds. A Narina Trogon called in the distance.
Closer to the dam the delightful Little Bee-eaters were plentiful. There was nothing swimming on the dam but suddenly a Little Bittern flew up from the reeds and landed for us to get fairly good views. Definitely the star of the day and a lifer for Zach.
Scanning the water’s edge, we got a Black Crake, a juvenile Common Moorhen, and a Malachite Kingfisher. Bronze and Red-backed Mannikins were active in the grasses and reeds as well. Then a solitary Egyptian Goose flew over and landed with a splash in the water. It seemed to also demand some of the attention that we were giving to the Little Bittern and repeatedly got out of the water and splashed back in again!
We took a walk to the Wilderness Leadership School buildings as I wanted to show the others the Wahlberg’s Epauletted Fruit bats that Zach and I had seen flying around the buildings the previous day. The bats were not flying but we saw a whole bunch of them hanging from the rafters – quite spectacular!
The birding in this area was quite impressive as we encountered some bird parties with Southern Black Tits, Collared Sunbirds, Cape Batis, Bar-throated and Yellow-breasted Apalis, Black-backed Puffback, Cape White-eyes etc. A gorgeous Green-backed Camaroptera entertained us by hopping on the branches out in the open in sunlight, showing off its lovely green back!
Walking back along the main road past the top picnic area we thought we saw a Lemon Dove but disappointingly it turned out to be a Red-eyed Dove behaving very much like a Lemon Dove.
After tea I took a drive to the bottom picnic site to show Zach the area and to see if there was anything interesting. On the road back towards the gate we spotted a little group of Grey Waxbills – a nice ending to a really super outing.
The cumulative count for both groups was 72 birds. See bird list by clicking here.
This weeks starts off with a final location for Lehlwa, a bird we have been following since he was a yearling in 2009. I noticed that he had stopped moving in the Sani Pass area. A couple of searches were immediately conducted by locally based colleagues, that fortunately revealed no dead bird on site. A final search, with the assistance of two receivers, was successful in locating the transmitter in the long grass on a steep slope. The transmitter and harness (with which it is attached to the bird) were intact and in surprisingly good condition still, so we assume the bird managed to wriggle out of the harness. Fortunately we managed to find where Lehlwa is breeding last year, so will be able to confirm how he is doing during the upcoming breeding season. Many thanks to the team that assisted with the search- your quick response is greatly appreciated.
Please find attached (Click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, Lehlwa (final location) and Mollie and our Cape Vulture N207, for the past week. Our Cape Vulture is still moving quite extensively.
It was time to get away – you could say the lure of the bush was calling. This time a short trip – 4 nights in Mkuze and a couple in St. Lucia.
Rain and overcast conditions followed us and remained intermittently at both venues.
Mkuze was lush- the vegetation was green and grown up. There were no bare patches to be seen unlike the last time we visited in July 2018. The Fig Forest was flooded from rains upstream and consequently Nsumo Pan was as full as we had ever seen. Despite that only two inland hides had water (KuMasinga and Malibali) and all of the other scattered pans and wallows were dry.
Nsumo Pan was one of the first places we visited. We stopped at the first hide heading towards the Nsumo Pan Picnic site. As we approached we noticed what looked like two ducks in the shadows under the hide. However they were something entirely different and most unexpected.
With the water level so high there were no waders about at Nsumo Pan.
However there were a number of waterbirds about at Nsumo hides and at the Picnic site.
As expected, Kumasinga hide was busy. Many animals as well as birds close-by – making for reasonable photographic opportunities considering the sunless skies. A number of birds appeared with confusing ID issues which made it all the more interesting trying to get to their correct ID. One bird in particular – a Sunbird – was an interesting example of this.
What we saw immediately was a Sunbird with a distinct bib and yellow Mylar stripes either side of the bib. A quick look at the Roberts App suggested a Plain-backed Sunbird – and its plain back also seemed to confirm that.
It was feeding what we considered to be a fledgling so we considered it to be an adult bird despite its yellow gape.
However a Plain-backed Sunbird would be a rare sighting in Mkuze so it did not feel quite right. We checked the Roberts App for pictures of Sunbirds and nothing had the bib except for the Plain-backed Sunbird. The new Roberts Field Guide eventually gave us the correct ID by showing a picture of a juvenile male Marico Sunbird. It shows that sometimes initial impressions can be so wrong.
The antics of birds and animals were a pleasure to watch. Burchell’s Coucals chasing each other, Little Bee-eaters and Swallows coming in for a drink or a bath, Red-billed Oxpeckers having a communal bath spraying drops of water over each other, Giraffes drinking, a Slender Mongoose casing the joint and many birds just coming to the water’s edge for a drink. One oddity were the Red-billed Oxpeckers. There were at least 20 present all the time. They never left with the animals but hung around for their next feed. We tried to work out if the animals not only came for a drink but also for a clean up. Or was it that the Oxpeckers hung around because they knew they were on to a good thing. Perhaps both options.
But there was one bird which appeared unexpectedly.
Yes, a Dwarf Bittern up high in a tree. Wonderful sighting.
Of course there were camp birds. We were greeted by a pair of singing Striped Kingfishers. As the sun set, the Little Swifts serenaded us. However because of the weather the camp was quiet.
It was on the Loop road where we saw the most raptors and an unexpected one at that as well as bushveld species.
Our last morning was spent at Malibali hide. And surprisingly the activity was as interesting as that at the Kumasinga hide. Now that there is water all sorts of creatures appear out of the woodwork.
Over a three hour period we saw three different elephants coming in for a drink and a splashing.
The last sadly with a vicious snare wound (which the camp conservation team were aware of). The elephant had to be darted to remove the snare and to be given treatment. You can see from the photos how bad it looked. Fortunately it appears that the medicine is doing its work. It can walk normally and put weight on that leg. What was interesting was the elephant, having arrived with the would very visible, left with it fully coated in mud by the elephant to act as protection for the wound.
Here are some of the other species photographed at the waterhole.
Then there was a full breakfast to be seen.
Our bird list for Mkuze can be seen later as it has been combined with our viewings at St. Lucia.
Our next destination was St. Lucia. The main purpose at St. Lucia was to enjoy the waterbirds seen at the mouth of the estuary and to try and find one or two of the special birds seen there earlier this year – Gull-billed Tern, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Lesser Frigatebird or the vagrant Noddy on the off chance.
St. Lucia weather was even more overcast and rainy than Mkuze. We took our chances when the heavens were not crying to walk the beach and explore the estuary. We managed to get out twice. On both visits we came across a small Tern roost in the estuary. Despite the numbers it was good to see the variety there – Little and Swift in numbers with Common, Lesser-Crested and Sandwich Terns among them. Even a Caspian appeared. However amongst the Terns and Gulls there was no sign of the Gull-billed Tern.
Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters were feeding over the sand dunes. Not a sight we expected to see.
No sign of the Noddy – not a surprise as we know how fleetingly it was seen in the first place. And the Lesser Frigatebird did not make an appearance either. Fortunately we had seen it there on a previous visit.
Black Oystercatchers were seen on the beach water’s edge in the distance. Whenever we got close they moved on. Grey Plovers and Whimbrels were also present. On one occasion we saw a distant Black Oystercatcher with another smaller wader – we assumed either a Grey Plover or Whimbrel. Because it was so distant we did not pursue it and visited the Tern roost instead. After some time we left the roost and headed back to the beach to see if by chance we would have any luck spotting the Eurasian Oystercatcher.
The beach came into view and there was the Black Oystercatcher we had seen earlier. And with it the other smaller bird. Once we had our binoculars on it we realised it was the Eurasian Oystercatcher. As close as we came so they moved away. I managed to get a photo or two but it was a nightmare photographing into the sun.
Hooray – a lifer for me.
On our last – yes, rainy afternoon – we ventured into Eastern Shores – more for something to do than sitting around the camp in the intermittent rain. As expected both animals and birds were scarce but we persevered. Eventually we got to the Lake Bhangazi turnoff having explored most of the other loops on the way.
This drive is a 17 km drive back to the main road. Initially it passes through dune forest and onto a raised road between Lake Bhangazi and a wetland. This part of the road is also well forested and narrow. Coming round a corner I said to Sally “Look ahead”. She was scouring for the bird she thought I had seen. Only it wasn’t a bird but a magnificent creature lying alongside the road.
Well worth the drive and a good way to end our trip. Our bird list for both Mkuze and St. lucia can be seen by clicking here. 135 species identified in Mkuze and 77 in St. Lucia.
Please find attached (click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vulture N207, for the past week. Our Cape Vulture has moved quite extensively this past week compared to the Bearded Vultures.
Korongo nestles in the rolling Ixopo hills and is the ideal spot for a bit of relaxation. Our group of 9 consisted of Jackie and Roland Suhr, Cheryl and John Bevan, Virginia Cameron, Heather Mills, Este Shearer and Mike and me.
This 39-hectare farm has two small dams, a grassland area and an area of indigenous bush. To access these areas, one can amble wherever one wishes as there are no formal trails. This makes birding a little difficult if there are members of the group who have difficulty with walking.
The best position for birding was on the wall between the two dams which overlook a lovely area of tangled brush and where we saw most of our species. Some fruiting Grewia in front of the camping stands and the fruit trees in the garden were also productive.
We discovered on arrival that the Blues Swallows have not nested on the farm for several years now and other normally habituated sites in the Ixopo area were also without breeding birds. The vlei which runs along the valley floor was also quite dry and so this limited wetland species.
Our bird list was a bit disappointing but considering the weather, steaming hot on Saturday and raining on Sunday, we didn’t fare too badly.
On the Saturday morning we headed to Xumeni State Forest just outside Donnybrook.
Just as we started to walk the 1.5 km through this enchanting mist belt forest we heard the call of Cape Parrot as they left to forage for the day. Unfortunately we did not get a look at them. They would have been lifers for some in our group.
Birds were few and far between but the most common bird was Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler. Thrushes and Robins were noticeable by their absence as we did not so much as hear a squeak let alone see one.