BLPN DAY TRIPPING to Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve.

The late spring BLPN outing to Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve on the 22nd November 2020, was led by Steve Davis and was well attended, with all COVID-19 protocols observed. Although the time of year was a little late for the best of the flowers, the reserve was looking in excellent condition after the good rains, and there were still lots of flowers out. Both the Cape Chestnut (Calodendron capense) and the wild pomegranate (Burchellia bubalina) were in full pink and orange flowers, respectively, giving splashes of colour to the forest,

After meeting at the gate, the convoy moved up the road slowly, stopping here and there to bird, butterfly and flower-look. It was noticeable how thick the bush had got, and the normal first stopping point, the ‘Focus’ as the late Hamish Campbell named it, was so overgrown that it was not worth stopping. The first big clearing before the old dip picnic site was productive, with a Fan-tailed Grassbird (old name: Broad-tailed Warbler) calling on the opposite hillside, and abundant Croaking Cisticolas displaying everywhere.

The first dam at the top of the hill was quiet and even the vocal Rufous-naped Larks were quieter overcast day. The usually numerous raptors were scarce and we moved on to the plateau by the radio masts, with the group somewhat strung out along the road with numerous distractions catching the eyes of some. On the way, there were stops for Village Weavers and Lazy Cisticolas, while Yellow-billed Kites circled overhead. The plateau had Croaking Cisticolas and numerous Zitting Cisticolas in full display mode while the Wing-snapping and Pale-crowned Cisticolas were not interested in displaying, preferring to hide in the grass.

At the little dam at the end of the plateau, we found a Little Grebe, a Common Moorhen and a pair of Yellow-billed Ducks, before we moved on to the cliffs overlooking the main valley. There were plenty of swifts and swallows to keep the birders busy, as well as a fly-by of a falcon that might have been a Lanner, while Jackal Buzzards also cruised past. By this time, some interest had been generated by Steve Woodhall, who had found some scarce butterflies among the rocks, while others wrestled with various LBJs in the grassland.

We then moved on to the main picnic site for tea and snacks, followed by meanders around the trails near the main dam. Anneli generated some excitement by finding a small colony of Amakhosa Rocksitter butterflies nearby, which prompted many people to divert from the birds to see these well-camouflaged butterflies sitting on the lichen-covered sandstone. A walk around the main dam revealed lots of dragonflies along the dam wall, and eventually all gathered back at the picnic site for lunch.

Some of us had stayed overnight at the camp and had been treated to brilliant close-up views of Brown Scrub-robin singing and displaying there, so many of the party left to go and see them, as they are normally quite skulking birds. All in all, it was a pleasant day’s outing enjoyed by the group, but the bird list was , possibly because of the dull windy weather. In the end, the total birdlist was a creditable 94 species, but many were only heard and in low numbers.

Trip report Steve Davis and photographs by Anneli Mynhardt and Steve Davis

Combined Bird List

Apalis, Bar-throated
Barbet, Black-collared
Batis, Cape
Boubou, Southern
Brownbul, Terrestrial
Bulbul, Dark-capped
Bush-shrike, Gorgeous
Buzzard, Jackal
Buzzard, Steppe
Camaroptera, Green-backed
Canary, Brimstone
Canary, Yellow-fronted
Chat, Familiar
Cisticola, Croaking
Cisticola, Lazy
Cisticola, Wing-snapping
Cisticola, Zitting
Coucal, Burchell’s
Cuckoo, African Emerald
Cuckoo, Black
Cuckoo, Diderick
Cuckoo, Red-chested
Dove, Red-eyed
Dove, Tambourine
Drongo, Fork-tailed
Drongo, Square-tailed
Duck, Yellow-billed
Firefinch, African
Fiscal, Common (Southern)
Flycatcher, African Dusky
Goose, Spur-winged
Grassbird, Cape
Grebe, Little
Greenbul, Sombre
Harrier-Hawk, African
Heron, Black-headed
Hornbill, Trumpeter
Ibis, Hadeda
Kite, Yellow-billed
Lark, Rufous-naped
Longclaw, Yellow-throated
Mannikin, Red-backed
Martin, Brown-throated
Moorhen, Common
Mousebird, Red-faced
Mousebird, Speckled
Myna, Common
Oriole, Black-headed
Palm-swift, African
Paradise-flycatcher, African
Prinia, Tawny-flanked
Puffback, Black-backed
Quail, Common
Raven, White-necked
Robin-chat, Red-capped
Saw-wing, Black
Scrub-robin, Brown
Scrub-robin, White-browed
Sparrow, House
Sparrowhawk, Black
Spurfowl, Natal
Starling, Black-bellied
Starling, Cape Glossy
Starling, Red-winged
Starling, Violet-backed
Stonechat, African
Sunbird, Amethyst
Sunbird, Collared
Sunbird, Greater Double-collared
Sunbird, Olive
Sunbird, White-bellied
Swallow, Barn
Swallow, Lesser Striped
Swift, White-rumped
Tchagra, Black-crowned
Thrush, Kurrichane
Tinkerbird, Red-fronted
Tinkerbird, Yellow-rumped
Tit, Southern Black
Trogon, Narina
Turaco, Knysna
Turaco, Purple-crested
Wagtail, Cape
Warbler, Broad-tailed
Weaver, Cape
Weaver, Dark-backed
Weaver, Spectacled
Weaver, Village
White-eye, Cape
Widowbird, Fan-tailed
Widowbird, Red-collared
Woodpecker, Cardinal
Woodpecker, Golden-tailed

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