Hazyview & Kruger Park

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10 years 5 months ago #4839 by nkgray
nkgray created the topic: Hazyview & Kruger Park
Got back last Friday from a weekend in Hazyview followed by four nights at Mopani Camp in the Kruger Park, with a trip list of 190, not too shabby for mid-June. Now that the power is finally back on in Atlasville I can share some of the highlights with you.

The Hazyview weekend turned up a few unexpected "goodies", with Grey Cuckooshrike, Mountain Wagtail, Black Saw-wing, Red-backed Mannikin, Lesser Honeyguide and an amazing number of Ashy Flycatcher prominent among these. I saw more Saw-wings here over the Sabie River at one time than I have seen in all previous sightings of this one put together. Just two walks of only 500m along the riverside track at the resort chalked up 41 species! The pair of Mountain Wagtail was seen at the resort on rocks in the middle of the Sabie River just 2 hours after I had seen another pair on rocks in the Blyde River on the Vaalhoek road out of Pilgrim's Rest! A combination of Hazyview and God's Window turned up seven different sunbird species within 2 hours - Collared, Amethyst, Marico, Greater Double-collared, Southern Double-collared, White-bellied and Malachite.

The "almost highlight" was the sighting just a few minutes after dawn on the Saturday morning of a medium-sized raptor that swooped through the trees in front of my chalet and disappeared into the forest on the far bank of the river, leaving me with a feeling that this was "something special". I did not get a good look at it, noting that it had been uniformly dark seeing it from above, had a longish tail and put me in mind of a large falcon, and hoped I would see it again. Well, the following morning at about the same time, there was a repeat performance, with the bird gliding past below me through the trees. It did not seem to flap its wings at all. This time I confirmed the uniform dark (black or brown I could'nt tell) colour of the upper parts and noted very sharply tapering wings. At about 4:30pm on the Sunday afternoon (sunset 5:10pm) as I was on the river path, the same(?) bird swooped across the Sabie River from out of the large trees on the resort side and shot up into the thick canopy of the 10-15m high creeper-festooned trees of the indigenous forest on the other bank. Within a few minutes a call began emanating from that part of the canopy, a rather high-pitched single note about 2 per second for perhaps 5 seconds, then repeating after 10-20 second intervals. This would be interrupted every now and then by a raucous squawking for 5-10 seconds. I got the impression that there might have been a pair with call and answer some 10-15m apart. I waited until it was too gloomy to see anything more but it did not re-appear. On returning to my chalet I searched my books for likely candidates and played their calls from the Roberts Multimedia CD. I was really surprised to see that the call almost certainly belongs to the Bat Hawk! Can't tick it though as I'm not 100% certain the bird I saw was the one making the calls. The habitat though is definitely right for this one.

Given the rarity of this species I don't want to say exactly where I was (and I'm sure the clues in the above will have you all guessing wrong anyway), but would appeal to you all to contact me by private message or e-mail (<!-- e --><a href="mailto:nkgray@gmail.com]nkgray@gmail.com[/url]<!-- e -->) if you are aware of any Bat Hawk sightings or known breeding spots in the Hazyview area - we can compare notes and see if my "sighting" is at any known Bat Hawk occurrence.

As for the Kruger leg of the trip I was surprised to see both Grey-backed Sparrowlark and Larklike Bunting south of Balule (see pic in Photo Forum), as I was certain that this was out of range for these species. The latter birds were on their own in a group of +/-10. The following day I picked up more Larklike Bunting just north of Letaba, again in a small group. The day after that I watched a mixed group drinking at the Malopenyana waterhole about 15km north of Letaba. The group comprised +/- 200 Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark, +/- 100 Red-billed Quelea, +/- 50 Larklike Bunting, about 20 Red-headed Finch, half a dozen African Quailfinch and a few Yellow-fronted Canary. The birds perched on all available low bush space around the waterhole and came down to drink 20-30 at a time. Later that same day I came across yet more Larklike Bunting (+/- 50) in company with well over 100 Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark. It seems that due to the dry conditions there has been a Larklike Bunting irruption into the Lowveld. It also struck me as unusual to see such large flocks of Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark, perhaps also a response to very dry conditions.

Senegal Lapwing made my list for my fourth succesive Kruger trip - definitely seems a lot more abundant recently (or maybe I'm just more observant!), while another bird that seemed unusually widespread was Brown-headed Parrot, seen and/or heard at numerous spots from Pretoriuskop (during the Hazyview weekend) all the way up to Crooke's Corner.

For those that might not have been to Stapelkop Dam, a 20km drive due west of Mopani Camp, fit it into your itinerary next time you are in that part of the Park. During the summer months you have a good chance of seeing Black-winged Pratincole there. One certain tick at any time of year for those that might require this lifer is the Mosque Swallow. There is a resident group that roosts on one of the big dead trees in the middle of the dam, right next to a tree in which a Fish Eagle was building a nest. Drive straight from Mopani as the camp gates open and you might catch them still sitting in the tree, but as soon as the first sun's rays strike the surface of the dam the swallows begin darting above the water catching insects. I was fortunate on this trip to also get a good view of the nomadic Greater Painted Snipe - a female.

Don't ignore the short Mopani in-camp trail starting below the lookout at the cafeteria. In a matter of 45 minutes I chalked up Yellow-breasted Apalis, Chinspot Batis, Long-billed Crombec, Green-backed Camaroptera, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Shikra, Common Waxbill, Blue Waxbill, Red-billed and African Firefinch, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Yellow-billed Oxpecker (on a pair of buffalo just outside the fence), Red-faced Cisticola, Tawny-flanked Prinia and numerous waterbirds, including my first ever Kruger Park Squacco Heron.

Fish-Eagle carrying branch to nest


Nest-building Fish-Eagle to left - perching Mosque Swallows to right



Neil Gray

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  • Paul Tyler
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10 years 5 months ago #4848 by Paul Tyler
Paul Tyler replied the topic:
Hi Neil

Red-headed Finch is interesting! I spent a lot of time in the park as a guide before I moved to England and never saw it in the park, this species definitely constitutes as a Kruger rarity too!

The Black-winged pratincoles near Mopani, would those not be Collared?

Squacco is also a good bird for Kruger, I have only ever seen it at Englhard Dam.

Cheers

Paul

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10 years 5 months ago #4850 by nkgray
nkgray replied the topic:
Paul,

My mistake - you are correct in saying that it is Collared (Red-winged) Pratincole that appears at Stapelkop Dam during the summer months.

I hadn't realised that Red-headed Finches were a rarity in the Park and just confirmed this in Roberts VII. Had it been some other bird a little trickier to ID I might now be questioning what I saw - but one can't mistake a Red-headed Finch. So it looks like the unusally dry winter conditions have caused some rather extraordinary migrations this year.

Neil

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10 years 4 months ago #4977 by Margaret
Margaret replied the topic:
Please please tell me where you saw Grey cuckooshrike in Hazyview? This has been my bogey bird for many years and I havent ever found one even along the Garden Route or Lowveld! I've been under the tree's across the country when the birds have called and havent been able to spot them! I was very close in Kaapsehoop in April, but still didnt actually see them.

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10 years 4 months ago #4992 by nkgray
nkgray replied the topic:
Margaret,

This is also where I saw the Bat Hawk (and I have had it confirmed privately that there is a known resident Bat Hawk in this area), but since the resort is private property, and you'll only get in as a paying guest or on timeshare I will tell you that it is Hazyview Cabanas, on the Sabie River some 10km west of Hazyview on the Sabie road.

I was really impressed with the birding along the short riverside section, with indigenous forest on the bank opposite the resort. The Grey Cuckooshrike, Mountain Wagtail, Black Saw-wing, Red-backed Mannikin, and Ashy Flycatcher were all seen while standing at the same spot - at the eastern end of the riverside footpath.

Another place you can try for Grey Cuckooshrike is Mount Sheba (again a hotel with timeshare - don't know if they'll let you walk the trails without being a guest). The walk from the hotel to Marco's Mantle waterfall via the indigenous forest walk can be very rewarding. My first visit there some 5-6 years ago, at this time of year, turned up what were 4 lifers at the time - Grey Cuckooshrike, Olive Woodpecker, Orange Ground-Thrush and White-starred Robin.

Neil

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10 years 4 months ago #4998 by Margaret
Margaret replied the topic:
Thanks for the info, Neil, I wish I could up to the Lowveld area more often. My sons work in timeshare, so I do get to stay at various resorts, in fact I was staying at Pine Lake Country Estate when I arranged the trip to see the Blue Swallows at Kaapsehoop in March.

Pine lake Country Estate has a very good set up for birds - they have laid pathways through their own small area of forest, and built a bird bath in the middle, which is disguised as loose rocks and is fed by a pipeline drawn from the main water supply. I found that hiding behind a tree and watching the activity here was better than walking anywhere else on the estate. Purple crested Louries, Tambourine Doves, all kinds of bush shrikes would come to bath at around 8a.m.

I dont think many people are aware of this place, the staff told me they never really get any birders and their bird list is very out of date. I also found it a great place for spectacular views of Wryneck (just outside the main entrance gates).

I think we even visited Hazyview Cabanas, but its difficult to look for birds when you are with non birders!

I can easily get accommodation at Crystal Springs, which is close to Mount Sheba, but its the getting there thats the problem, it means flights from Cape Town and hired cars, but I do intend to arrange it for some time next year as I really want to visit Mount Sheba again. I was last there in 1978 when I wasnt into birds!

Crystal Springs is also wonderful, found my first Gurneys Sugarbirds there a few years ago.

Regards
Margaret

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10 years 4 months ago #5016 by mossie
mossie replied the topic:
Grey Cukooshrike can also be seen in the Gardens of the Magoebaskloof hotel. At least that was 10 years ago :)

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10 years 3 months ago #5474 by Jumbo
Jumbo replied the topic:

nkgray wrote: I hadn't realised that Red-headed Finches were a rarity in the Park and just confirmed this in Roberts VII. Had it been some other bird a little trickier to ID I might now be questioning what I saw - but one can't mistake a Red-headed Finch. So it looks like the unusally dry winter conditions have caused some rather extraordinary migrations this year.


This is very interesting. This at least gives some explanation as to why we had a flock of Red-headed Finches in our garden in Maputo, Mozambique. The first time we saw them was in August 2006 and they were regular visitors to the garden for several months.
Up to now, this sighting was really a mystery to me.

The following photo was taken in Maputo on 28 August 2006.

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