A colourful day at Roodeplaat.

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8 years 8 months ago #11847 by Dave Shedman
Dave Shedman created the topic: A colourful day at Roodeplaat.
Last Sunday we decided to take a trip to Roodeplaat Dam nature reserve, as we hadn't been there since last winter. Our garden is full of LBJ's at the moment (and two or three big grey jobs!) so we were hoping to see a bit of colour to brighten up a winter day. Roodeplaat didn't disappoint.

As we turned onto the dirt road that leads to the gate, we pulled over to take out cameras, bins etc. and in doing so disturbed a group of small birds. As we were still sorting out our gear, one of them came and sat on a branch right next to the car and it turned out to be a female Blue Waxbill. Great start for us as not only was it colourful, it was our first lifer of the day and in fact the first waxbill we had ever seen (we don't get out much!). Good start getting a lifer before we even got into the reserve. Then, just as I got my camera slung round my neck I spotted a flash of bright red in the undergrowth, a pair of Crimson Breasted Shrikes. Not a lifer but the only other time we saw one, in Pilanesberg a couple of years ago, I had a cheap digital compact and because I had the settings all wrong, my photo was over-exposed. This one's better exposed but the little sod wouldn't turn to face me so it's side-on.

About 500m inside the gate we pulled over to have breakfast (with black coffee because we forgot the milk <!-- s:oops: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_redface.gif" alt=":oops:" title="Embarassed" /><!-- s:oops: --> ) and at the roadside got our next lifer, a pair of Green Winged Pytilia (Melba Finch) accompanied by another pair of Blue Waxbills. A very colourful start and a lifer either side of the gate but sadly, in my haste to photograph the melbas I failed to notice I was on a slow shutter speed so I just got a couple of green red and yellow blobs! Whilst standing by the car drinking coffee we saw Fork Tailed Drongo, Southern Boubou and Black Eyed Bulbuls in the surrounding trees. We've decided that whenever we go birding in this region we're going to write Black Eyed Bulbul on our species list before we even leave the house! We could also hear but not see Cape Turtle Dove and Crested Barbet. We did see the Crested Barbet later though.

After breakfast we carried on slowly down the road, accompanied by the sight and sound of lots of White Bellied Sunbirds feeding on the aloes in the bush. These two pics are not great because they're from a distance with my puny 300mm but I like the in-flight shot just for the composition and the second one because you can see the colour of the plants he's been feeding from all over his face.

We stopped just before a dip in the road as Mariana had spotted a bright yellow bird, which turned out to be our next lifer although we didn't discover that until we got home and saw the only photo I managed to get of it. It turned out to be a Golden Breasted Bunting. The reason we only got one photo was that my attention was distracted by a commotion in a bush up ahead. There was a raptor hovering over the bush then flying off to a tree before returning to hover over the bush again. We were hoping this would be another lifer for us but thanks to the help of you guys on the ID forum we discovered it was an immature Gabar Goshawk. I only got one half decent shot of it as it sat in the tree.

We made our way down to the hide, picking up Crested Barbet, Black Collared Barbet, White Browed Sparrow Weaver and Glossy Starling along the way. At the hide there was much noise and activity as the White Breasted Cormorants are breeding at the moment. Got a couple of reasonable in-flight shots, firstly an immature in flight.

Then an adult in flight.

And of course, lots of shots of the nesting colony.

There was also a well camouflaged Purple Heron stalking prey amongst the dead leaves.

Away in the distance we also got a half lifer, a Grey Heron. It's only half a lifer because I've seen them before in the UK so it was already on our world list, but this was our first South African one. Here it is doing a short hop, watched by a cormorant.

The only other bird down there, that we could see anyway, was a group of Egyptian Geese.

On our way out from the hide we spotted a Striped Kingfisher on a telephone wire and as we approached the office, we got our next lifer. Although unable to ID it at the time, it turned out to be a Wattled Starling. We pulled into the car park at the office because there was a lot of bird activity there. Here we managed to photograph the Wattled Starling as there were lots of them around, as well as Glossy Starling, Fiscal Flycatcher and another pair of Crimson Breasted Shrike. Mariana also spotted a small black and white bird which was possibly a Chinspot Batis but never got a good enough look as it was too active and wouldn't sit still long enough. She's still annoyed about that, she was so keen to get another lifer!

However, we didn't have to wait long for our next lifer. As we approached the picnic area we saw a tiny little bird come down to the ground in front of us. As we got closer it flew into a tree on the right with another one. Didn't manage to photograph them as they decided to stay amongst the leaves, but I got a good enough look with the bins to determine that they were Long Billed Crombecs. The pale orangey-pink underparts and unmistakeable stumpy little tail gave it away.

After lunch we walked along the edge of the dam but there wasn't too much bird activity apart from a large group of Red Knobbed Coots, three Blacksmith Plovers, two Dabchicks (another lifer for us) and a pair of Cape Wagtails. There was a large group of noisy Mynas in the trees by the picnic area too. I walked up to the entrance in the hope of photographing the crombecs but there was no sign of them, though I did see a female Kudu with her calf in the bushes at the side of the road. There were three very vocal Grey Louries up there too. On my way back to the car I saw another rapotor in the distance but because it was flying away from me I couldn't get enough detail for an ID. At a guess I would say it was a Fish Eagle as it had dark wings and a white head but I couldn't be sure enough to include it in our species list for the day.

We didn't do much birding on the way out as it was getting late and neither of us like driving in the dark, but we did get what turned out to be our final lifer of the day, although we didn't ID them until we got home and looked at the video clips, a group of Streaky Headed Seedeaters accompanied by two male Cape Weavers. We also got some good photos of and videos of a group of Kudu as they crossed the road in front of us. As we rounded a bend we saw a magnificent male Kudu with huge horns, standing statue-still at the roadside but before we could raise our cameras he trotted off into the bush.

So, lots of colourful birds, 7½ lifers and a total of 37 species made it a very rewarding day indeed. Of course, it's not difficult to get so many lifers when your list is as small as ours but all the same, seven in the seven hours we were there was a pretty good return. We will be back!!!

Roodeplaat Dam, June 28th 2009

1. Blue Waxbill
2. Green Winged Pytilia (Melba Finch)
3. Wattled Starling
4. Golden Breasted Bunting
5. Long Billed Crombec
6. Little Grebe (Dabchick)
7. Streaky Headed Seedeater
8. Crimson Breasted Shrike
9. Speckled Mousebird
10. Fiscal Shrike
11. Grey Go Away Bird (Lourie)
12. Laughing Dove
13. Tawny Flanked Prinia
14. Southern Boubou
15. Fork Tailed Drongo
16. White Bellied Sunbird
17. Black Collared Barbet
18. Crested Barbet
19. Gabar Goshawk
20. Grey Heron
21. Purple Heron
22. White Breasted Cormorant
23. Egyptian Goose
24. Fiscal Flycatcher
25. Striped Kingfisher
26. Cape Glossy Starling
27. Black Chested Prinia
28. Red Faced Mousebird
29. Crowned Plover
30. Dark Capped (Black Eyed) Bulbul
31. White Fronted Bee Eater
32. Red Knobbed Coot
33. Blacksmith Plover
34. Cape Wagtail
35. Common (Indian) Myna
36. White Browed Sparrow Weaver
37. Cape Weaver

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8 years 8 months ago #11850 by Birdlover
Birdlover replied the topic: Re: A colourful day at Roodeplaat.
Well done on the lifers . Look like you enjoyed the outing.

:) I must be honest , i have never had a half lifer !!

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