Boston Outing

Report by Crystelle Wilson

Sunday 24 January 2016

The garden at Gramarye farm at Boston in the KZN Midlands benefitted from recent good rains and provided a flurry of feathered activity before we set off for the river.

Pin-tailed Whydah lorded it over the bird table, keeping sparrows and Village Weavers at bay.

Pin-tailed Whydah
Pin-tailed Whydah

Speckled Mousebird, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Robin-Chat, Olive Thrush, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape White-eye were among the resident birds at their regular hangouts.

The Fan-tailed Widowbirds, Southern Red Bishops, Levaillant’s Cisticolas and African Stonechat were noisily busy in the vegetation along the path.

Levaillant's Cisticola
Levaillant’s Cisticola

Then the call went out to check out a Red-collared Widow perched on tall grass. Instead of a red collar, it had a yellow collar, a rare occurrence.

Dave Rimmer explained: “This colour anomaly is called Xanthochromism which presents as red pigment being replaced with yellow pigment. It is exactly the same genetic mutation that gives rise to the yellow forms of the Crimson-breasted Shrike or the Black-collared Barbet.”

The Little Rush and African Reed Warblers were very busy and gave good displays.

From the height of the platform we had excellent views over the grasslands. Noticing Cape Weavers, Fan-tailed Widowbirds, and a Yellow-crowned Bishop.

Decklan Jordaan built on his reputation as an owl spotter by pointing out a Spotted Eagle-Owl very well hidden behind branches in a willow tree along the river and then spotted a Barn Owl just further along.

A number of other birds were spotted on the walk through the grasslands.

There were much by way of plants and other creatures to intrigue people.

On the way back the resident pair of Grey Crowned Cranes was seen, but sadly with only one chick. On Friday evening I photographed the family with three chicks. On Monday morning I could confirm that there was only one chick remaining with the parents.

Once again we finished off the morning with a walk in the forest at Boschberg Cottages. On the way there were about three White Storks in one of the pastures.

White Stork - Decklan Jordaan.
White Stork – Decklan Jordaan.

Bush Blackcap was one of the highlights, while Cape Batis, Bar-throated Apalis, Sombre Greenbul and Terrestrial Brownbul also put in appearances as well as White-starred Robin-Chat and Purple-crested and Knysna Turacos.

My SABAP2 atlas list for pentad 2935_3000 had close to 80 species for the day.

Crystelle Wilson

Photos care of: Crystelle Wilson, Hennie and Decklan Jordaan, and the unacknowledged above by Paul Bartho

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BLPN outing to Boston 25 January 2015

THE outing began at the Gramarye smallholding at 07h00 on a very hot day. The garden provided a good start with a number of birds and then about a dozen of us walked down to the river.

There was plenty of birding activity starting with a Red-throated Wryneck.

In the tall grass there were Fan-tailed and Red-collared Widowbirds flitting around, Levaillant’s Cisticolas and Common and Orange-breasted Waxbills. Along the stream there were Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, African Reed and Little Rush Warblers. Hadeda and Sacred Ibis, Burchell’s Coucal, Cattle Egret, Red-eyed and Cape Turtle-Dove, African Stonechat, Cape Grassbird, all contributed to make up the numbers.

Heard, but not seen, were African Rail and Red-chested Flufftail. The highlight for Hennie and Decklan Jordaan was catching a glimpse of a large bird disappearing in the trees, pursuing it across the river and finding a Barn Owl which Decklan photographed.

Barn Owl - Decklan
Barn Owl – Decklan

And another surprise – photographed by Decklan.

Cuckoo Finch- Decklan
Cuckoo Finch- Decklan

On the way back we saw one of the Grey Crowned Cranes currently nesting in a pan in the wetland feeding in a home paddock next to the garden.

Driving to the forest cottages on Boston View farm we saw several Amur Falcons, a pair of Lanner Falcons, a Rock Kestrel and a Steppe Buzzard.

At Boston View we parked at Bottom Cottage . From there we did a forest walk.

The forest walk provided a change of habitat and we had to focus on hearing birds as much as trying to see them. Bar-throated Apalis, Green-backed Camaroptera, Sombre Greenbul, Terrestrial Brownbul, Cape Batis were amongst the birds marked as present, while another highlight was Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher.

Then it was lunch on the verandah of the cottage overlooking a dam, where an inexhaustible Decklan checked out the frogs as well.

And then it was time to leave Bottom Cottage.

The Moon
The Moon

On my SABAP2 atlas list I notched up over 60 species which included a pair of African Fish-Eagles circling Gramarye after we had returned home.

African Fish-Eagle - Decklan
African Fish-Eagle – Decklan

Crystelle Wilson

Gramarye Farm, Boston – Sunday Outing

Gramarye Farm, Boston

The 3rd Sunday outing for November took place in the Midlands, kindly hosted by Crystelle Wilson at her charming country home on the Dargle road just outside Boston.

A group of 15 keen birders assembled at 8am with a welcoming mug of coffee with rusks for those that made the journey on the morning. Others had made it a birding weekend and overnighted in the area. Gum boots of all sorts, shapes and colours were kindly on offer for those without, and off we set for a gentle walk to the river with paths running through the wetland and along the Elands River.

Boots 'n All, Boston
Boots ‘n All, Boston

A good number of birds were seen and heard including warblers (Little-rush, African Reed, and Dark-Capped Yellow Warbler), cisticolas (Levaillants), widows (Red-collared and Fan-tailed), weavers (Spectacled and Village), water birds (Yellow-billed Duck, Spur-winged Geese) and a few raptors (Steppe Buzzard, Black Sparrowhawk). Unfortunately the cranes were not on offer which will mean a return trip next year, but also seen were Cape Grassbird, Drakensberg Prinia, Southern Red Bishop, Common Waxbill and Giant Kingfisher.

Once out of the wetlands and back at the house, a few birds seen in the gardens surrounding the house included Cape Wagtail, Cape Canary, Amethyst Sunbird and a lovely pair of African Hoopoe.

Gum boots were soon discarded as next up on the agenda was a short drive to a farm further north for a spot of indigenous forest birding. Here we were treated to wonderful views of rolling farmlands, small dams and quaint cottages – the latter perfect for a week end away of quiet birding and fly-fishing away from the bustle of city life. A leisurely stroll through the indigenous forest yielded cracking views of Bush Blackcap, Bar-throated Apalis and Yellow-Throated Woodland-Warbler. A few other birds seen included Olive Thrush, Blue-Mantled Crested Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher, Forest Canary and Jackal Buzzard. Not to be outdone by the birds, a pair of Common Duiker also put in a brief appearance.

Once done with the forest walk, we proceeded down to a second fishing cottage overlooking a small dam – picnic time and time to discuss events of the day. En route a few picked up Plain-backed Pipit, Yellow Bishop and Cape Robin-Chat. The final tally for the week end was approximately 70 species seen, to be confirmed by Crystelle once her atlas card has been submitted to the SABAP2 database.

Some photos taken during the outing.

Yours in birding,
Dave Rimmer