Carryblaire River Retreat, Parys.

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6 years 6 months ago #49129 by Dave Shedman
Dave Shedman created the topic: Carryblaire River Retreat, Parys.
If you need a complete break from the hustle and bustle of life and are looking to spend some time in quiet and peaceful surroundings with good birding, you can't go wrong with [url=http://www.carryblaire.co.za:3v188ye3]Carryblaire River Retreat[/url:3v188ye3] on the banks of the Vaal river just outside Parys in the Free State.

Ths is not what you'd consider a traditional birding venue, it's really designed for peaceful and relaxing weekend breaks, but it is a great place to combine such a break with some birding at a more relaxed pace than the usual 'getting up at stupid o'clock and driving 200km' type of trips. Every time we go there (we now house-sit for the owners when they go away) I mean to do a trip report, but what I decided in the end was to do more of a review, in the style of the birding spots listed on this site. At the end I'll paste in the complete species list for the venue. Here's the review:

Carryblaire River Retreat – Where The Birds Are

After exiting the R59 Parys road there is a 9km dirt road that takes you to Carryblaire. It is always worth driving this road slowly and keeping your eyes peeled. The long grass at the roadsides as you enter the road can be teeming with seedeaters including Village Weaver, Southern Red Bishop, Long Tailed and White Winged Widowbird. Further along, watch the telephone wires for groups of Amur Falcons and in summer, European Bee Eaters. You may also see an African Fish Eagle gliding overhead. Other seed eating birds seen further up the road include Long-tailed Paradise Whydah, Black Faced and Blue Waxbill and White-browed Sparrow Weaver. The gardens of properties facing out onto the road will also produce species like Cape Glossy Starling and Crested Barbet. If you drive this road in darkness, take extra care as in addition to numerous small mammals like rabbits, hares and mongooses that you’ll see scurrying about you may find the odd Spotted Eagle Owl sitting in the road.

From the main entrance gate, taking a walk down towards reception you will find an area of long grass on your left and a number of mature trees on your right. In the early morning and late evening the short grass beneath the trees will usually produce African Hoopoe and at certain times of day both Crowned and Blacksmith Lapwings. The trees to the right of the road and around the water towers and staff accommodation are the favourite haunt and nesting areas of the noisy and active White Browed Sparrow Weaver, as well as the ubiquitous Southern Masked Weaver. A scan of the long grass to the left will generally produce both Tawny Flanked and Black Chested Prinias. Cinnamon Breasted Bunting has also been seen here.

As you walk past the owners’ house you are surrounded by trees on all sides. In summer you will find African Paradise Flycatchers flitting about here, the males displaying their resplendent long orange tails. Also look out for other smaller birds moving amongst these branches, including Chinspot Batis and Chestnut Vented Titbabbler. Red Faced Mousebirds have been seen and heard here. Other common species found foraging at ground level here are the Karoo Thrush and Laughing Dove. Both Cardinal and Golden Tailed Woodpecker have also been seen here. Turning right at the end of the road brings you to the main lodge where the large thatched roof plays host to Speckled Pigeons which can be heard calling loudly at dawn and dusk. Also watch out for Greater Striped and White Throated Swallows, both of which nest in the office. Red Breasted Swallows and White Rumped Swifts also wheel around in the sky here. At night, Spotted Eagle Owls can sometimes be observed sitting on the garden fences and in the trees around the house. If you miss out on them there, take a slow drive about 2 or 3km up the dirt road and you’ll more than likely see them in your headlights. A Barn Owl has also been observed in the area.

Walking through the dining room and lounge you descend some steps to the garden and splash pool area. Directly in front of the lodge is a small group of large trees which host a myriad of species. Scan the upper branches for Cape White Eye, Chinspot Batis, Southern Grey Headed Sparrow and in summer, Willow Warblers which have migrated down from Europe. The chatty and entertaining African Red Eyed Bulbuls are also regular visitors to largest tree, especially when it produces a crop of small berries. However, the undoubted stars of the show in these trees are the nesting pair of Black Collared Barbets. They are often to be seen hopping from branch to branch and get particularly noisy when the female Lesser Honeyguide attempts to lay her eggs in their nest hole. First thing in the morning you will often also hear the loud screech of the Golden Tailed Woodpecker. Listen for it tapping on the tree trunks in search of insects.


The whole area in front of the main lodge consists of neatly mown lawns and mature trees and is very productive in the early morning. In addition to the species mentioned above you should find Brown Hooded Kingfisher and Fiscal Flycatcher, sometimes joined by a Common Fiscal, swooping down to pick up insects from the short grass, accompanied in summer by the incessant chattering of the Southern Masked Weavers who nest in the trees on the river bank here. In the early mornings and evenings they will often be joined by Red Eyed Doves, Cape Robin Chats, Hadedas, Crested Barbets, Helmeted Guineafowl, Red Winged Starlings and Cape Glossy Starlings. Cape Wagtails will be seen all day patrolling the lawns in search of tasty morsels. Also listen for the often heard but seldom seen Brubru with its distinctive telephone ring tone-like call. You will also hear the liquid bubbling call of Burchell’s Coucal, though this shy skulker is also seldom seen. Watch out for it flying across to the island.

In front of the steps down from the lounge is a rocky area of riverbank where the canoes are launched from. This is a good vantage point to scan the river. Depending on the time of year, you should find both Reed and White Breasted Cormorants and African Darter flying over the water or standing on rocks drying their outstretched wings, and occasional Cattle Egrets coming to the river to drink. Yellow Billed and African Black Ducks can also be seen and heard here. The majestic Goliath Heron is quite a sight to behold as it glides above the river in the early morning sun. Giant and Malachite Kingfishers are also found here and when the river water levels are low, Lesser Swamp Warblers have been observed nesting in the reeds at the edge of the river. Common Sandpipers can sometimes be seen amongst the rocks. The magnificent African Fish Eagle is often heard calling from further upstream and can sometimes be seen sitting in the tall trees of the island in the middle of the river opposite the lodge.

Heading upstream from this point you will pass the splash pool, to the right of which are many small bushes and shrubs, some of which produce berries. When there are berries on the bushes they are alive with fruit-eating birds including the aforementioned Barbets, Bulbuls and Starlings and the long tailed Speckled Mousebird. Look up under the eaves of the roof above the African Sunsets room and you will see a couple of Little Swift nests. Their shrill, almost electronic sounding call can be heard as they enter and leave the nests. To the right again is a flower bed in front of some of the guest rooms where many nectar-bearing flowers grow. Here you will find both White Bellied and Amethyst Sunbirds feasting on the nectar, and in summer the courtship displays of the bright orange breeding male Southern Red Bishop are very entertaining to watch as they puff up their feathers and chatter incessantly. You may also find a breeding male Pin Tailed Whydah here in summer, with his striking black and white plumage, long thin black tail and bright red bill. He will be accompanied by up to six drab, brown females. The small trees around the edge of the formal lawn also provide hunting perches for Spotted and Fiscal Flycatchers.

The River Walk takes you along the banks of the Vaal, with tall trees to your left and long, dry grass to your right. A Steppe Buzzard has been known to sit in the trees by the entrance to the walk, so keep your eyes peeled. The trees are generally full of more of the ‘usual suspects’ such as Southern Masked Weaver, Red Eyed Bulbul and both the previously mentioned Prinia species, though Common Scimitarbills are also sometimes present. In addition to these, a Long Crested Eagle has been observed frequently sitting in the tallest gum tree and on adjacent telephone poles. This bird is well out of range for the area so it’s definitely worth looking out for. Evidence of its meals in the form of feathers and fur can be found on the ground near the path. In summer you will also hear both Diederik and Red Chested Cuckoos calling. Luck and / or patience is generally required to see either of these, though the Diederik can sometimes be seen out in the open on telephone cables.


The long grass to your right on this path will be resounding with the chatter of the Prinias but look out also for Levaillant’s and Rattling Cisticola, both of which have been observed here. As the path curves to the right and you get deeper into the grassland, walk some of the paths through the grass in summer, watching out for snakes of course, where you will find Lazy, Zitting and Desert Cisticola. It’s worth learning to recognize their calls as they are very vocal in the summer breeding months when they do their aerial displays. Early morning in the long grass that borders the property you may be lucky enough to catch sight of Swainson’s Spurfowl out for a stroll, though these are more often seen flying away from you as you accidentally flush them from their hiding places. A walk back towards the lodge on the lower footpath through the grass may also bring you into close contact with a Black Headed Heron so be prepared to be startled by the whoosh of its wings as it flies away from you. It is also often seen sitting on the telephone poles.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide and obviously season and time of day will affect what you see and where, but if you’re a first time visitor to Carryblaire it should give you some idea of what you might expect find as you stroll around the property and surrounding area. Of course, the longer you stay and more often you come back, the more you’ll discover!

Species list with Roberts VII numbers:

Little Grebe 8
White-breasted Cormorant 55
Reed Cormorant 58
African Darter 60
Grey Heron 62
Black Headed Heron 63
Goliath Heron 64
Purple Heron 65
Black Heron 69
Cattle Egret 71
Squacco Heron 72
Green-backed Heron 74
Hamerkop 81
African Sacred Ibis 91
Hadeda Ibis 94
African Spoonbill 95
Fiscal Flycatcher 98
Egyptian Goose 102
Yellow-billed Duck 104
African Black Duck 105
Comb Duck 115
Spur-winged Goose 116
Black-shouldered Kite 127
Long Crested Eagle 139
African Fish Eagle 148
Steppe Buzard 149
Amur Falcon 180
Coqui Francolin 188
Crested Francolin 189
Swainsons Spurfowl 199
Common Quail 200
Helmeted Guineafowl 203
Black Crake 213
Common Moorhen 226
Red-knobbed Coot 228
Northern Black Korhaan 239
African Jacana 240
Kittlitz's Plover 248
Three-banded Plover 249
Crowned Lapwing 255
Blacksmith Lapwing 258
African Wattled Lapwing 260
Common Sandpiper 264
Spotted Thick-knee 297
Rock Dove 348
Speckled Pigeon 349
Red-eyed Dove 352
Cape Turtle Dove 354
Laughing Dove 355
Namaqua Dove 358
Red-chested Cuckoo 377
Diderick Cuckoo 386
Burchell's Coucal 391
African Grass Owl 393
Spotted Eagle Owl 401
Fiery-necked Nightjar 405
White Rumped Swift 415
Little Swift 417
Speckled Mousebird 424
Red-faced Mousebird 426
Pied Kingfisher 428
Giant Kingfisher 429
Malachite Kingfisher 431
Woodland Kingfisher 433
European Bee Eater 438
Brown Hooded Kingfisher 435
African Hoopoe 451
Green Woodhoopoe 452
Common Scimitarbill 454
Black-collared Barbet 464
Acacia Pied Barbet 465
Crested Barbet 473
Lesser Honeyguide 476
Golden-tailed Woodpecker 483
Cardinal Woodpecker 486
White-throated Swallow 520
Red-breasted Swallow 524
Greater Striped Swallow 526
African Red-eyed Bulbul 567
Karoo Thrush 577
Olive Thrush 577
Groundscraper Thrush 580
Mountain Wheatear 586
Mocking Cliff Chat 593
Cape Robin Chat 601
Kalahari Scrub Robin 615
Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler 621
African Reed-warbler 631
Lesser Swamp-warbler 635
Willow Warbler 643
Bar-throated Apalis 645
Zitting Cisticola 664
Desert Cisticola 665
Rattling Cisticola 672
Levaillant's Cisticola 677
Lazy Cisticola 679
Neddicky 681
Tawny-flanked Prinia 683
Black-chested Prinia 685
Spotted Flycatcher 689
Chinspot Batis 701
African Paradise Flycatcher 710
Cape Wagtail 713
Fiscal shrike 732
Brubru 741
Bokmakerie 746
Common Myna 758
Pied Starling 759
Cape Glossy Starling 764
Red-winged Starling 769
Black Throated Canary 780
Greater Double-collared Sunbird 785
White-bellied Sunbird 787
Amethyst Sunbird 792
Cape White-eye 796
White-browed Sparrow-Weaver 799
House Sparrow 801
Cape Sparrow 803
Southern Grey-headed Sparrow 804
Village Weaver 811
Southern Masked Weaver 814
Red-billed Quelea 821
Southern Red Bishop 824
White-winged Widowbird 829
Red-collared Widowbird 831
Long-tailed Widowbird 832
Green-winged Pytilia 834
Blue Waxbill 844
Common Waxbill 846
Black-faced Waxbill 847
Red-headed Finch 856
Bronze Mannikin 857
Pin-tailed Whydah 860
Long-tailed Paradise Whydah 862
Yellow Canary 878
Cinnamon Breasted bunting 886

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6 years 6 months ago #49238 by Margaret
Margaret replied the topic: Re: Carryblaire River Retreat, Parys.
Thanks for the effort to write the report Dave. If I ever have to stay over in that area I will definately try to visit this establishment. Michael

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