White-backed Night Heron Twitch!

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12 years 2 months ago #274 by Doug
Doug created the topic: White-backed Night Heron Twitch!
Hi all.

Firstly before I even start summing up our excellent birding day, just a word of thanks to Neil Whyte from River Cottage.
His hospitality was excellent and his enthusiasm to go and look for the birds even though they had left the nest resulted in a most enjoyable and very successful outing. He managed to find the Herons for us. Thanks Neil. I will definitely be planning to make a longer stay there some time in the new year.

We started off very early and headed up to Pienaar's river to get some night birds.
We successfully got Rufous-cheeked nightjar. We tried playing the Veraux's Eagle Owl call, and succeeded in waking up a large group of Woodland kingfishers in the tree right above the car. I immediately set up my microphone and dish and hey presto, the most amazing recordings :D. The early morning progressed and we quickly got large numbers of Abdim's Stork. Again the dawn chorus made for such amazing recording. All in all I got about 1 hour of bird call for the day.

Raptors for the day were well represented and we got a total of 8 species for the day. Pienaar's offered up amur Falcon, Greater Kestrel, Black Shouldered Kite and Steppe buzzard and the highlight of the morning, a Tawny Eagle. we also picked up quite a few cuckoo species (Red-chested, Diederick, Black). We saw a cuckoo fly past and unfortunately there was not enough time to see the undertail pattern, but it was definitely either African or European Cuckoo. That one will have to remain unidentified.
The Pienaar's river section finished with an amazing close up view of Yellow-fronted Tinker Barbet, which offered mind blowing recordings, the first of many such encounters in the day. After having been inspired by Etienne and Richard's BBD we were excited to reach 100 species by 07h30. Unfortunately we did not know the area (including Nylsvlei) that well and only ended up on 149 for the day (not bad none the less).

We moved on towards Vaalwater and along the route, also picked up Bronze Manikin and Green Pigeon. Carmine Bee-eaters were also a highlight of the day.

We arrived at Vaalwater, and in 2 minutes we had it... my bogey bird... Red-headed Weaver... Nesting right above the game drive vehicle. Still never saw the male though, but a female still counts... Lifer!!!
The drive down to the river was very hot but enjoyable and we soon got Temminck's Courser (sadly I found afterwards it was not a lifer but thanks to Neil for pointing out a bird I have only seen once before). We also got Plain-backed Pipit and Orange-breasted Bush-shrike. Scimitarbill was also most welcome and a possible Garden Warbler tantalized us before disappearing. Just before the river we got Pygmy Kingfisher... Awesome! The walk along the river also produced the special of the day White-backed Night Heron, as well as several raptors, Steppe buzzard, Brown Snake Eagle and a raptor we are awaiting an answer on.

Very few duck species were seen, and the first one added was 5 White-backed Ducks on a small farm dam. In fact we only got our Duck species up as we were driving back towards Pretoria with flyovers on the N1.

Other nice sightings included Black Crake, Kurrichane Thrush and, although not seen, nice recordings of Yellow-bellied Bulbul. The end of the day also offered us Black-breasted Snake Eagle. Thinking it was all over, we got Village Weaver at the Kraanskop Engen 1-stop.

Hitting Joburg on 145, we stopped in at Melrose Bird Sanctuary after it was dark and awoke a few species from their slumber with a spotlight and managed to get too 149 for the days outing.

I can highly recommend a trip up to the area, and River Cottage looks like a very good place to stay.

We discovered an amazing drive on sand through some incredible valleys with broad-leaf woodland, but we will need to look at maps before posting directions.


As a footnote, one of the calls recorded in Pienaar's river was identified as Gabar Goshawk. 9th raptor for the day and the magic total of 150.

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