12 – 14 April 2019
Report by Jane Morris
Mike, Terry Walls and I set off at midday on our driving up to the beautiful Bushman’s Neck region of the southern Drakensberg. A weekend of birding and relaxing was something I had looked forward to for some time. On route we were pleased to see a good number of green fields and farm dams that were brimming with water. Our route took us off the N3 at Howick and through Bulwer. We chose to go on the dirt road, it is not in the best state but did produce some good birds. A Denham’s Bustard was lovely to see, a Verreaux’s Eagle with his prominent white cross and rump was a great sighting as well, Ant-eating Chats whirred around and sat on fences for us to get a good view of them.
About 40 Cape Vulture circled above a valley gaining height before soaring off. Once we arrived at Silver Streams we settled into our riverside caravan and enjoyed the bubbling stream and the solitude of the mountains. The balance of our group, Rob and Paige McClennan-Smith and Jackie and Roland Suhr were already ensconced in their accommodation and as we had all arrived fairly late in the afternoon, we were in time to watch the sun set before congregated on the riverbank for the evening. Chilly mornings and evenings were balanced by gloriously sunny and warm days.
Saturday morning, we were up and away to see what we could find. It was a glorious day and we started off scanning the vlei area in the campsite for birds. Here the euplectes species were going about their business. Red-collared Widowbirds and Red Bishop where slowly losing their summer plumage and becoming dull and drab with only faint orange areas to show for once bright colours. The flock of Cape Weaver which was present when I had been about earlier had sadly completely disappeared. Heading up to the border control point one passes through a mix of indigenous and exotic bush. Cape Robin-chat, Olive Thrush, Speckled Mousebirds, Paradise Flycatcher and Southern Boubou were present here, on coming back to this area later in the day we got good views of Drakensberg Prinia which was the highlight of our trip and provide a good deal and debate.
Getting onto the grasslands was interesting as there were two streams to wade across. This caused some consternation, there were those who jumped from rock to rock with shoes on needless to say there were some wet shoes!! Others chose to takeoff their shoes and wade in the icy water!!
Once across it the stream we headed out into the grasslands. The birding here was sparse but Greater Striped Swallow, Banded Martin and Brown-throated Martin were seen and we got good views of Wryneck and Bokmakierie. The small wetland area produced Common Waxbill and Levaillant’s Cisticola but little else. Scanning the rocky outcrops produced absolutely no sightings of any kind and it was with great disappointment that we eventually retraced out steps and headed back to the resort area. A pair of Long-crested Eagle were very vocal and gave us a superb flyby.
Seen along the river were Yellow-billed Duck, Giant Kingfisher and White-throated Swallow. Cape Wagtail along with Cape Sparrow were abundant. I got a very brief glimpse of a Malachite Sunbird as it shot over the trees behind me and a Bush Blackcap popped out only to be chased away by Cape Robin-Chat, unfortunately no one else in the group saw these two species. A White-breasted Cormorant was seen flying back and forth following the course of the river, first towards the mountains and then back again repeatedly. It would appear it had a faulty GPS and was unable to decide which way to go!
It was distressing to see Common Starling looking quite at home here as I don’t recall seeing them on our previous trips here. We saw about 5 birds and they were constantly being harassed by the Red-winged Starlings.
It was a short but rewarding weekend with excellent company and as always, a lot of lively discussion and laughter around the braai fire each evening.
We got a total of 63 species including the birds seen on the trip to and from the venue. For berg birding this is not poor but we did miss some of the species that one would hope to get, but that is the joy of birding and the reason we go again and again in the hope of seeing just that one extra species we missed last time.