Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa, Mac, Kloutjie, Camo and Mollie and our Cape Vulture; Bennie for the past week.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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An attempt to see an Egyptian Vulture

Report by Sally and Paul Bartho

19th to 27th July

Hyena pups

The Egyptian Vulture had hung around so long around the Oliphants Bridge that Sally and I took a decision to try our luck and spend some extra time in the Kruger taking our off-road campervan.

First we had to find nearby accommodation to the bridge. First attempt – no continuous availability for the duration planned. The next day we tried again and managed to find space in various camps for the period planned without any choice of length of stay at each.

So it was in a hut the first night in Pretoriouskop then 3 nights camping in Letaba followed by one night in Maroela Caravan Park near Orpen Gate then 3 nights camping in Malelane Rest Camp.

Off we set on the 19th from Howick and arriving in Pretoriouskop at around 15h00. Very nice to have a hut for the night after the long journey. Also fortunate to have a place to park with the campervan still attached to the car.

We managed a bit of camp birding before dark and had an unexpectedly good meal at the camp’s Wimpy restaurant.

Black-headed Oriole

The next morning we were up with the sparrows and exited the camp when the gates opened at 06h00. The park was dry yet there was water in the pans.

Our first sighting of note was a Cheetah crossing the road just ahead of us – too dark for photos.

We bipassed Skukuza and headed to Tshokwane for a late breakfast – amongst the pleading birds and monkeys. We were careful enough to keep our food safe unlike several of the other visitors who had their own biscuits dropped on top of them as the monkeys tried to open the packet.

One of the interesting observations we had was the comparison in differences in colour of the African Mourning Doves we had seen so far in the Park.

On the way to Tskokwane we were detoured around a bridge which had been swept away – literally – by the floods – see the pictures.

What it should look like.

And how it is now:

At about 13h30 we stopped on the Oliphants high water bridge – our prime destination. Fortunately you are allowed out of your vehicle between demarkated yellow lines. We stayed for 2 hours.

There were numerous vultures on the rocks and sand up stream- about 400 metres away. Most were easy to identify – White-backed mainly with several Hooded. However there was one group of vultures all close together which were more difficult to identify clearly as they blended one with the other. It was this group which we gave the most attention with our scope. But even with a 60x zoom it was difficult.

On occassion the group shuffled about helpfully. We identified the White-backed amongst the group and several Hooded.

But there was one – Hooded Vulture sized –  that appeared to have different facial markings. It did not have any red in its face so we assumed it was a juvenile Hooded however on closer inspection it seemed that there was no bare skin below its face.

Using the latest Roberts on page 136 we saw that there was a comparison of the faces of juvenile Hooded and Egyptian Vultures. Great excitement as we assumed we were seeing the head of the Egyptian but the bird rarely moved about and did not fly so we reluctantly agreed that we needed a better viewing for positive ID. The scope had more clarity than the photos shown below.

Several other people used our scope and they all thought they were seeing the same as us.

We eventually left to get settled in the campsite in Letaba – we still had a couple more days to come back and look.

Despite the knowledge that we had the very last campsite available, we were surprised to find a nice private site away from the hoards on the fenceline. The Letaba campsite must be one of the best for shade in the Kruger – not so important in the winter.

We were welcomed to our camp site by a seranade from a vocal and friendly White-browed Robin-Chat.

White-browed Robin-Chat

Over the next two days we paid seveal visits to the Oliphants high water bridge without success in seeing the Egyptian Vulture. However there were numerous birds to be seen there.

Migrants.

Others:

Grey Heron

Time was also spent visiting other places of interest in the area – Engelhardt Dam and Hide, Balule area and the Makhadzi picnic site.

At Engelhardt we went to the Matambeni Hide to see if we could spot the Skimmers. And we did manage to spot them at a great distance upstream from the hide. They tended to stay at the same sandy spot and whenever a potential predator flew overhead they chased it away – suggesting they may have a nest. Later on the same day we approached the area from the other side and spotted the pair again.

African Skimmers in the farthest sandbank seen from the Egelhard Hide

Other birds and nature of interest photographed at Matambeni Hide included:

Terrapins – rather large

We took a drive to the Makhadzi picnic site – near the border crossing into Mozambique. The birdlife to and around the picnic area was busy.

Kurrichane Thrush

From Letaba we headed south to Maroela Caravan Park near Orpen Gate.

Along the way we stopped frequently for Southern Ground-Hornbills – 4 times. Among those we only found one with a tag. Here are some photos.

But there were many other occassions when we saw interesting birds along the way. These included.

And a mystery raptor.

Mystery Raptor with long tail.

 

Also it is interesting to show together the variety of Hornbills seen on our trip:

And Lapwings:

Of Course the Lilac-breasted Rollers were everywhere.

Lilac-breasted Roller

And some of the animals:

On reaching Satara we hoped to find a vacant campsite there – nothing available. So we left our campervan in the car park and spent several hours exploring the area around Satara. The S100 – the N’wanetsi River Road is one of our favourites.

Along the way there was a herd of Waterbuck by the road and one of them appeared to be giving birth. We decided to stop and watch. However the Waterbuk walk to a shady spot and chose to lie down in its shade. We fully expected the birth to be quick so we waited. After half an hour with nothing we thought about moving off however we decided to wait a further 5 minutes. Our thoughts were with the poor Waterbuck as it seemed she must be having difficulty.

Then another 5 minutes with no change – so we decided to go and leave her in peace. All this time no cars had come along. Pulling out I checked my rear view mirror and thought I saw a dog in the road behind. But it was not a dog but a male Leopard. We reversed and found it hunkering down in the bush close to the road.

No doubt it was there because it was obviously aware that the Waterbuck was having difficulty with its labour. Perhaps we should have left it alone as it would have put the Waterbuck out of her misery. But we hung around until the Leopard slunk away.

Leopard

Traveling round to the Sweni hide a variety of different birds were seen.

For a short time we got stumped identifying a bird. A bit like a Fiscal Flycatcher but it seemed to have a feint rufous collar around its neck.

Rufous necked

It was only when it turned round that we were able to ID it.

Then we spent some time at the Sweni Hide – always good for strange happenings. Here the Hippos were waking up and there were crocodiles about as well as a Black-crowned Night-Heron which we had seen in the exact same place the last time we visited.

Maroela Caravan Camp was an entertaing site with Hyena and Elephant traipsing round the outer fence line. The former hoping for tit bits without success. It is a small but pleasant site. However we were given advice to protect our food from Baboons and Badgers. We had no issues – arriving late and leaving early.

Unknowingly we took the back roads cutting across to the main H1-3 road which were well corregated all the way. I suppose this is expected due to the lack of rain. Skukuza was our next pit stop for a breather and loo break.

And then we got to the Malelane Camp just in time to set up and relax before sunset. So far the weather had been cool but here it got quite cold at night.

From Malelane camp we explored the area around Berg-en-dal as well as along the Crocodile River.

On our first day there we went out of the park to enter at Crocodile Bridge to drive with the sun behind us. It took a bit longer to get there than we expected as we hit major roadworks.

On entering the park at Crocodile bridge we came across a noisy bird party and on inspection the reason for the noise was obvious. There in the tree eating its prey was a Pearl-spotted Owlet.

Mpondo Dam was our next place to visit. On the way here are some of the birds we saw and photographed.

Mpondo Dam was a bit crowded but we managed to find a quiet spot. Elephants appeared further down, otherwise the wildlife was quiet.

Gardenia Hide is always worth a visit if there is water. As we arrived there were a herd of elephants in and out of the water. Getting up to antics, the young males were pushing each other around as tests of strength. One walked right up to the lookout point in the hide. Needless to say he had me scampering for the exit – the viewing windows are a lot bigger than usual in other hides. Two of the males seemd to kiss and make up – check the photo.

Kissing and making up

A pair of African Fish-Eagles were calling in a dry river bed and attracted our attention with their courtship. We were amused by their antics and their ruffling of feathers.

We came across a large herd of Buffaloes near a river bed – there must have been over 200 in one of the 3 groups nearest us all lying down.

The whole area was particularly dry and dusty especially around Berg-en-dal. Yet there were birds about and some good ones at that.

Cane fires were burning across the river from our campsite – thankfully the wind was blowing the ashes away from us – but they were seriously impressive.

Despite missing out on the Egyptian Vulture, the Kruger Park is a fantastic park to visit – one never knows what is round the next corner. In all we identified 143 different bird species. To see our list – click here.

Cane Fire

 

Hyena cuties

Paul and Sally Bartho

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa, Mac, Kloutjie, Camo and Mollie and our Cape Vulture; Bennie for the past week.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

Posted in Home, Posts | Tagged | Leave a comment

Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa, Mac, Kloutjie, Camo and Mollie and our Cape Vulture; Bennie for the past week.

Please also find attached (click here) a recently published paper on the productivity of the southern African population.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

Posted in Home, Posts | Tagged | Leave a comment

Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (Click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa, Mac, Kloutjie, Camo and Mollie and our Cape Vulture; Bennie for the past week.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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BirdLife Sisonkwe Newsletter

Do read the BirdLife Sisonkwe newsletter – there is an interesting article in it about birding in the area by Aldo Berruti.  Click here to read the newsletter.

 

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (Click Here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa, Mac, Kloutjie, Camo and Mollie and our Cape Vulture; Bennie for the past week.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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New Germany Nature Reserve

Saturday 1 July 2017

Report by Elena Russell

We had a good turnout and broke up into two groups – thanks to Oscar for leading the one group.

The report is rather short as there were a number of photographers present John Bremner, Sheryl Halstead & Mick Jackson.   Thanks for the great photos which I am sure you would all rather look at than read my waffle!

We dipped on the Fiscal Flycatcher which should be a certainty at NGNR in winter. Our bird count at tea was 53+ (click here to see a list) and then the late stragglers (die-hard birders) came in and the count must have been over 60 by the end of the morning – not too shabby for a very dry and wintery NGNR.

Thanks to Sandi for IDing the big green caterpillar which is a Green-veined Charaxes!!

Cheers

Elena

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks,

Dear All

Please find attached (Click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa, Mac, Kloutjie, Camo and Mollie and our Cape Vulture; Bennie for the past week.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

Posted in Home, Posts | Tagged | Leave a comment

Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (Click Here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa, Mac, Kloutjie, Camo and Mollie and our Cape Vulture; Bennie for the past two weeks.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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Outing to Pigeon Valley

Wednesday 14 June

Report bu Sandi du Preez

Six birders met outside the reservoir area on a a gloomy,cloudy morning. Crispin Hemson very kindly agreed to lead the outing, and as usual we really appreciated his extensive knowledge of the birds and plants in Pigeon Valley.

A Black Sparrowhawk flew in from across the road and we spotted some restless Purple-banded and Amethyst Sunbirds in a tree next to the road. I had seen them in the same tree the week before.

First we went to the reservoir. The target bird was the Fiscal Flycatcher as it is usually there in winter and Crispin had already reported seeing it. But it was nowhere to be seen. However, there were lots of very cheerful Dark-capped Bulbuls, Bronze Mannikins and an extremely vocal White-browed Scrub-Robin who just refused to show it’s hiding place in a tree!

Hadeda Ibis

Then we walked down to the entrance gate and did some extensive birding along many of the paths.

There was a little group of Grey Waxbills on the southern fence next to the reservoir – always a treat to see. We later also saw them near the entrance gate as we were leaving.

The spotted Ground Thrush was elusive but it was seen by 3 other birders who arrived late and did their own walk around the reserve.

On the central path we came across the feathers and remains of a Purple-crested Turaco, probably the Black Sparrowhawk’s tasty meal.  Of course we all helped ourselves to some of the beautiful feathers!

Unfortunate demise of a Purple-crested Turaco

The sun came out for a little while and we were able to see some Square-tailed Drongos, Bar-throated Apalis, a Dusky Flycatcher and Cape White-eyes. Southern Boubous called constantly in duet.

We took a walk on the top contour path which runs parallel to the centre track and here we got the bird of the day. While we were watching a very busy Kurrichane Thrush, eagle-eyed Tamsin spotted a small bird on the ground close by. She described it very well. I knew that a Barratt’s Warbler (an altitudinal migrant in winter) had been seen recently by Richard Boon so we checked the field guide. Yes – that is what it was!

Tamsin, it is always such a pleasure to have you on my outings!

Morning Glory

We got together with the late-comers to compile the bird list over coffee and sandwiches and managed to get a composite list of 46 species for the morning. Click here to see the list.

As we were leaving we  added a Brown-hooded kingfisher and Fork-tailed Drongo.

After we all left, John spent an hour at one of the bird baths and was rewarded with photos of an Olive Sunbird showing yellow pectoral tufts, Spotted Ground Thrush, Red-capped Robin-Chat and Thick-billed Weaver.

Thanks to John Bremner for the photos  and to Crispin for leading us.

Sandi du Preez

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Sobhengu

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

9 to 16 June 2017

Dave and Jenny Rix invited us to join them for a week at Sobhengu timeshare. Mike and Jane Roseblade and Cecil and Jenny Fenwick also came along.

Sobhengu is located at the tip of the Nibela peninsular in the Isimangaliso Wetland Park.

Map showing Sobhengu location

It is connected to the Nibela Lake Lodge by boardwalks and along a 4×4 track. Our Chalet had a commanding view over the lake and was set in pristine sand forest. It consisted of four en suite bedrooms, a huge lounge, kitchen, a large outdoor deck overlooking the lake and a boma braai area.

We were well looked after by the always smiling and helpful staff.

Nibela Lake Lodge and Sobhengu share a huge private area of pristine forest with numerous well signed walking trails in good condition.

Sobhengu Trail Map

Much of our time was spent walking the trails in the forest looking for bird parties. Often we heard special species without being able to find them – though we did get lucky with some. Green Malkoha, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Gorgeous, Grey-headed and Orange-breasted Bushshrikes, Green and Pink-throated Twinspots, Narina Trogon, African Broadbill, Eastern Nicator, Fiery-necked Nightjar, Bearded and Brown Scrub-Robins, White-throated Robin-Chats, Black Sparrowhawk, African Wood-Owl all made their presences known – most unsighted. The Twinspots, Trogon, Nicator, the Robins and Sparrowhawk were the exceptions.

Commonly seen and heard were the Rudd’s and Yellow-breasted Apalis, Caspian and Swift Terns, Grey Sunbird (regularly heard), Black-backed Puffback, Great White Pelicans, Crowned and Trumpeter Hornbills, Grey-hooded Gull, White-fronted Plovers, Crested Guineafowl, Drongos and Flycatchers.

The trails were not only through the forest but also along the water’s edge and at the furthermost point from our cottage there were fossils to be found close to the beach.

Later on, as the sun warmed things up, butterflies were everywhere. Perhaps someone will have a go at naming #2, #24 and #27 captured in photographs at the end?

And there were flowers to catch our attention too.

And the occasional forest magic.

Of course there were other beasties too which Jane had a habit of walking into. Fortunately her keen eyes did not let her down.

Mike and Jane took a diversion to have a not-so-quick game of chess while some of us watched soaking up the sun on a coolish morning.

Serious Birding – Mike vs Jane

Then of course there is the local wetland area about 15 kms from the Nibela Gate. Lucky, our guide took us there. Great flat wetland area and a must for any birders.

There were numerous waders to be seen in and around the water’s edge including Common and Curlew Sandpipers (unusual for the time of year) Pied Avocets, Kittlitz’s Plovers, Little Stints, Common Greenshank to name a few.

However our target was Longclaws – and we saw all three of them. The Rosy-throated being the most prominent and obliging. We had wonderful sightings of both males and females. And there were Pale-crowned Cisticolas calling and displaying too.

On the way to Sobhengu we took a short detour into Hluhluwe Game Reserve and had some good sightings of Rhinos, Buffaloes, Elephant and Lions as well as many birds. The most notable of which was the Black-crowned Tchagra – singing and on display.

This was not to be our only visit to Hluhluwe Game Park.

News came through on the Sunday from Trevor Hardaker that a Striped Crake had been seen at Thiyeni Hide. Sally and I decided to try our luck on the Monday and Cecil and Jenny Rix came with us.

Now I cannot remember when this hide was last open – probably a good 10 years ago or more so I was surprised to hear that it was open.

Anyway we head off nice and early. No traffic in the park until we turned off the tar onto the gravel. Disgruntlement in the car as the car in front was, it appeared to be dawdling and some in our party were getting anxious to get there. I was happy cruising along behind.

At the turnoff to the hide, the car in front makes the turn – aha they have come to see the bird too – as I suspected. The walkway to the hide is overgrown and part of the fencing looks as though an elephant has come through. Not only that but the entrance to the walkway is well hidden.

The other couple – (Adrian and Sue as we later learned) were well ahead of us by the time we got to the hide itself. The hide was in dismal shape with layer upon layer of bat pooh underfoot – thankfully less so on the benches.

We sit and wait. Then after five minutes the Striped Crake is seen by Adrian swimming across the water into the reeds on our left. We now know where to focus and eventually the Crake appears and gives us a good sighting before disappearing again. Several more times it appeared briefly and then remained in hiding for several hours until Nicky and Ticky Forbes arrived. We left and they later told us they had great close sightings after waiting patiently for some time.

A Slender Mongoose popped out in the same area as the Striped Crake so we hope he did not have the Crake for supper.

We later heard that the hide was meant to have been closed. If so we were fortunate to have been able to have such a good sighting of the Striped Crake.

Some of the characters at large in the chalet party.

In all we recorded 117 bird species in Sobhengu and the wetland area. Click here to see the list.

Full Moon over Lake St. Lucia

 

 

 

 

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Mziki – Malagasy Pond Heron

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

21 June 2017

Our adventure started while we were at the Sobhengu timeshare on the Nibela Peninsular, Isimangoliso Wetland Park, KZN – very close to Phinda.

We received Trevor Hardaker’s report that a Malagasy Pond Heron had been seen at Mziki in Phinda. We followed Trevor’s reports each day hoping that arrangements would be made with Mziki to see the bird before we headed home.

It was only when we got home to Howick that arrangements were made for keen birders to gain access to see the bird.

Sally and I decided to go. We made a booking for the Wednesday afternoon game drive. Then we called several friends to see if they wanted to join us to make up the numbers. We got one taker. So I put out a message on SABirdnet and on the BirdLife Port Natal Facebook page. The phone never stopped ringing and within minutes we had a full vehicle – 7 people in all. Janice and Mike Isom, Nicky and Tiki Forbes, Cecil Fenwick and ourselves.

Yesterday we drove all the way back to Hluhluwe, booked into the Fever Tree Lodge where we planned to spend the night. And then on to Phinda, reaching their gate well early. To get to Mziki was a further 12 kilometres driving through Phinda’s game reserve and slowly enjoying the nature sightings along the way including a White Rhino and baby.

In seems that our party all had the same idea and we all arrived at the Mziki gate at more or less the same time – and hour and a half before the game drive.

Our game drive vehicle was ready for us at 14h00 – Brendon and Johan our guides. We set off for the wetland area where the bird had been seen regularly. We were told that they had had a 100% hit rate so far. I think we were all worried by that statement.

First area – no luck. Round the other side – no luck. To the other end of the wetland – no luck. Process repeated and another area visited – still no luck.

Thought we had a chance in one small pond where there were many African Spoonbills and a couple of Yellow-billed Storks fishing. – no luck.

African Spoonbills and Yellow-billed Storks

 

Green-backed Heron

Despair starting to set in as night drew closer. So one more complete cycle and back to the start – still nothing and now it was time to head back. One final look, and as we start to leave Sally spots the bird right next to us. We all get a brief glimpse. Unfortunately it spots us and flies across to the other side in some deep reeds.

What a lovely sighting of the bird in flight.

Anyway, we drive round to where it went into the reeds and we vaguely spot it at the edge – well camouflaged by reeds of course.

Again it spots us and flies across to the side where we had just come from, changes its mind and lands on a stump in the water.

Great views but poor light for photography, however we manage some shots. It flies to another dead tree kicking off, in no uncertain terms, a Cattle Egret which was roosting and settles there.

Malagasy Pond Heron

It is a bit further away and we suspect that is where it wants to roost so we left it alone and headed back to the cars in the now gloomy light.

At the cars we enjoyed a few drinks and snacks laid on by the Brendon and Johan.

Elated Mziki Team

We were all elated and the guides relieved.

Sally was the most popular person amongst us. Well done Sally.

 

 

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (Click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa, Mac, Kloutjie, Camo and Mollie and our Cape Vulture; Bennie for the past week.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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Palmiet Saturday 3rd June 2017

Report by Elena Russell

Last year’s outing to Palmiet was cancelled due to heavy rain which made the river crossing impossible. Another year, another attempt.

We had a good turnout mostly members and a couple of visitors. We had two options; cross the river in search of the grasslands or take the path alongside the river, both options were not without their hazards. Mike Roseblade took a group alongside the river and the other group crossed the river.

This year the crossing looked OK but some of the stepping stones were under water and a few people turned back and joined Mike’s group but we had John, Oscar and Calvin to assist us over the worst bits. Oscar was up to his knees in icy water and John was busy taking photos!