• Dave Shedman
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9 years 1 week ago #10787 by Dave Shedman
Dave Shedman created the topic: GHBS@WSBG
Mariana has a few days off work and since my new job involves working from home I can decide my own hours, so we drove down to WSBG yesterday morning. Our last few trips there have been relatively disappointing from a birding point of view but yesterday was a complete turnaround in that respect.

We arrived at 7.50am and the gates were still closed so we hung around outside. Whilst waiting we had a visit from a very inquisitive Southern Boubou who came and sat about 2m away from us, checking us out. There were also the obligatory Black Eyed Bulbuls everywhere and a couple of Hadedas aerating the lawns. And then we got a lifer, before we even got in the gate. We knew there were Olive Pigeons (Rameron) in the gardens but we never seem to see them, until yesterday when two of them came and sat in a tree not far from us. A closer look with the binos confirmed they were Ramerons. A nice way to start the day!

Being a Monday morning, there were hardly any people there so the birdlife was abundant. We saw a lot of activity on the lawn to the left of the main footpath just inside the gate so we went and sat on a bench. From that bench, in the space of about 15 minutes, we saw: Black Eyed Bulbul, Common Myna, African Hoopoe, Fiscal Shrike, Puffback, Glossy Starling, Cape Sparrow, Laughing Dove, Southern Boubou, Crested Barbet, Speckled Mousebird and Hadeda. Not a bad start, though nothing spectacular.

Walking on down to the falls we spotted the usual suspects; Olive Thrush, Kurrichane Thrush, Cape Wagtail and heard Tawny Flanked Prinias, though we didn't see them. On the bridge leading to the falls we saw a male Greater Double Collared Sunbird and the usual 'crowd' of African Paradise Flycatchers. Down by the falls I got a couple of good shots of one of the Verraux's Eagles which decided to fly a lot lower than they usually do when I have my camera pointed at them! Also got some nice shots of the Spotted Flycaycher that hangs out in the trees around the edges of the lawns down there.

The highlight of the day, although it wasn't a lifer for us, came when we decided to follow the woodland walk from the falls. There was nothing happening at all in the woods, apart from a couple of Red Eyed Doves, so we sat on a bench for a while to see if anything would appear. A Crested Barbet came and sat close behind us, judging by how loud its call was, though we didn't see it, and apart from a few fleeting glimpses of movement amongst the branches we saw nothing. Disappointed, we decided to walk on and within a minute of leaving the bench, the highlight of the day occurred. Mariana saw a flash of orange in a tree in front of us and thought initially it was one of the Southern Boubous that seemed to be following us around. However, when it came into full view it turned out to be a Grey Headed Bush Shrike, only the second one we've ever seen. I didn't have my camera with me when we saw the first one, about 18 months ago, but this time I was standing there with a DSLR no more than about 2m away from this beautiful bird. I had to switch the ISO to 800 as we were under trees and I thought my pics wouldn't be good, but when I saw them on the PC back at home, they turned out really well. Whilst we were watching, it suddenly reached up and plucked an insect, probably a cricket of some kind, from the branch of the tree and hopped away to the other side of the path to eat it. We saw it tapping its prey against a branch and then it dropped it and came down to the ground to try and find it. Eventually it hopped / flew away deeper into the woods. I'll post the pictures in the bird photographs forum. I've wanted to get a shot of one of these ever since I got a decent camera and for a change, the bird obliged!

On our way to the restaurant, walking in the woods on the other side of the river from where we'd seen the GHBS, we spotted a couple of Helmeted Guineafowl scurrying through the undergrowth accompanied by a healthy brood of chicks. After a quick lunch at the restaurant, which showed how quiet the gardens were as there were only two other couples sitting at tables, we made our way slowly toward the exit. I could hear some sunbirds in the trees and went to track them down but they saw me coming and flew off before I could see what they were. However, as we sat on the grass there, the Puffbacks came back and chattered away in the trees above us and I managed to get a couple of decent shots of the female, though the male stayed well hidden amongst the leaves.

The final surprise of the day came when I went hunting a Bokmakierie. We had heard it and I thought I saw it fly up towards the park office, where it's known to hang out. I went up in that direction but couldn't see it. Then I saw some beatiful bright orange flowers in the long grass and decided I would photograph them. Just as I focussed on one, a male Amethyst Sunbird came and landed on it and started feeding! I was so close, I had to have the lens on macro to get it in focus. I followed it as it worked its way down the hill, until it eventually flew off. I took lots of photos and one or two turned out very well.

So, a lifer before we even got through the gate, an uncommon visitor (according to the WSBG species list, the Grey Headed Bush Shrike is 'uncommon'), and four species to add to our WSBG list, which now stands at 61, all adds up to probably our best birding day ever at WSBG. Funnliy enough, we had originally intended to go today when it's free to get in, but the weather forecast showed cloud and drizzle for this morning (we already have the clouds) so we went yesterday and paid R20 each to get in. Best forty bucks we ever spent!


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9 years 1 week ago #10798 by Birdlover
Birdlover replied the topic: Re: GHBS@WSBG
Dave i have been there twice while visiting our relatives. Both times i were their early morning and on a week day. I agree with you that it is a stunning birding venue so close to Johannesburg.

:D Wish i lived close anough to visit it on a regular basis.

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