Sunday, 10 February 2013

Trip report- Wakkerstroom 2013

Wakkerstroom 2013
(Photo Stan Culley)

Birdlife Trogons summer trip away to Wakkerstroom from 31st January to 4th February just happened to coincide with World Wetlands Day on 2nd February. What a fitting way to celebrate the day.

Attendees: Liz Blomeyer, Stan & Val Culley, Mike Fagan, Stanley & Asothie Gengan, Margaret Jones, Vic & Kay Neilson, Sandy Olver, Andy Ruffle, Irma Smook, Bob & Hazel van Rooyen, Ron Whitham, Pete & Margie Williamson. (17 attendees).

Thursday 31st Jan

We all arrived safely at the BLSA Wakkerstroom Centre which was to be our home for the next four nights. Once settled in and suitably refreshed, some of us took the short stroll through the grasslands to the Flufftail Hide. Sadly, this is now as elusive as it's namesake, having burnt down during a veld fire in August of last year. An African Purple Swamphen, a Common Moorhen and a Yellow-billed Duck were seen as we approached the wetland, but were soon spooked. Large numbers of Southern Red Bishop, Long-tailed Widowbird and Fan-tailed Widowbird could be seen flying over the grassland and an African Marsh-Harrier (possibly juvenile) graced our prescence with a flypast over the reedbeds.
The programme for the following days activities was discussed over a sizzling braai and it wasn't long before our beds beckoned.

(Photo Pete Williamson)

Friday 1st Feb

Friday morning we had secured the services of the local community bird guide                Lucky Ngwenya. Low cloud posed somewhat of a problem initially as we headed along the Piet Retief road from Wakkerstroom. This soon burnt off though, giving us glorious views of the rolling countryside and an interesting koppie nicknamed locally as 'The belly button'- they must have some strange belly buttons in Wakkerstroom. We were soon trundling, precariously, through community grazing lands, our target bird Barrow's (White-bellied) Korhaan Eupodotis (senegalensis) barrowii. Having had no success, Lucky suggested we turn around and move on. Needless to say the second we did that, there they were, a group of four birds albeit at a distance. With the help of Stan's scope we all attained reasonable views of the small family group and Hazel managed to take some photos.

Barrow's Korhaan family group
(Photo Hazel van Rooyen)

On our way out, we stopped by a small river crossing where South African Cliff-Swallows could be seen busily collecting mud and darting under the bridge to construct their nests.
Back along the main road, Lucky's sharp eyes picked up a Mocking Cliff-Chat. A quick stop revealed Steppe Buzzard and Long-billed Pipit also. Further down, Lucky asked us to pull over alongside a pathetic patch of 'Ouhout' Leucosidea sericea by the roadside. 'And now' we thought. Within seconds he had called up a very obliging Bush Blackcap.

Bush Blackcap
(Photo Hazel van Rooyen)
Certainly not what you'd expect to find in such a small section of habitat. Wondering what else may appear, we opted to have our coffee and rusks here.

Breakfast with the Blackcap
(Photo Andy Ruffle)
Back in town, we headed out along the Utrecht dirt road in search of Yellow-breasted Pipit.
Intense scouring and a climb up one of the hillsides proved fruitless, but we could hear birds calling. All was not lost though, with good views of Buff-streaked Chat and Ground Woodpecker in this area.

Ground Woodpecker [or is it Hopper]
(Photo Hazel van Rooyen)

Another interesting sighting was a Rhombic Skaapsteker Psammophylax rhombeatus on the road as we returned back to base.

Rhombic Skaapsteker on the Utrecht road
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

And Pete's fabulous shot after dicing with death :):)
(Photo Pete Williamson)

Despite dipping out on Blue Korhaan and Yellow-breasted Pipit, we had an extremely productive and enjoyable morning. The afternoon was spent at leisure recharging the batteries for what turned out to be a hectic Saturday.

Saturday 2nd Feb

This morning we met up with Brian Guerin, the chairman of Wakkerstroom Bird Club, and other members of the club for their regular walk of the vlei on the Amersfoort Road. We received a very warm welcome and it soon became apparent that our clubs are very similar in size and both have a lovely bunch of people.

Trogons in Wakkerstroom with Brian Guerin,
chairman of the Wakkerstroom Bird Club, on the far right
(Photo Norman Dennett)

Warblers were much in evidence, with Little Rush-, Lesser Swamp- and African Reed- all showing nicely. An African Purple Swamphen made a few fleeting appearances and a pair of Crowned Cranes proudly showed off their youngster. Two African Marsh-Harriers were also seen flying high over the area. Not a huge variety of birds were seen, with a list of 30 species recorded, but we thoroughly enjoyed the morning and meeting up with the local birders.

Reed Cormorant and Whiskered Terns
(Photo Stan Culley)

After a pitstop for breakfast, back at the centre, Liz, Sandy, Margaret, Andy, Vic & Kay and Stanley & Asothie met up with Lucky again to track down more local specials. Larks were the order of the day, with Red-capped and Spike-heeled a plenty on the roadsides. A V-formation flypast of some 14 Southern Bald Ibis was an impressive sight. It wasn't long before we were experiencing excellent views of Botha's Lark in a farmer's field.

'A few lost sheep Larking around'
Searching for Botha's Lark
(Photo Stan Culley)

Next stop was Fickland Pan to search for Rudd's Lark, a bird that had eluded us on our 2009 visit.
This time we (or rather Lucky) came up trumps with views as good as you are likely to get of this little Lark. The sight of a bird flying low over the grass was our first indication we had found our bird. We then managed to catch glimpses of it scurrying through the grass like a mouse.

Fickland Pan
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

As we drove back towards Wakkerstroom, a pair of Blue Crane topped the afternoon off nicely. Meerkat and Yellow Mongoose were other memorable sightings on this route.

The day was not over yet. Volksrust was our next destination after a short break at the centre. Thirteen of us headed out at 18h00 to check out the Amur Falcon roost. Half an hour later we arrived at a very dodgy location in the town, near the old railway station, which according to our directions was the right place. Would the falcons really come in to roost here, we thought. It seemed highly unlikely given the commotion going on in the area. By 19h00 things were looking bleak, with only a few falcons flying around high overhead. Then it started to happen, the sky began to fill. First there were tens of falcons, then hundreds, then thousands. We had to keep reminding ourselves that we were looking at falcons and not swallows. As the light began to fail, they made their move and swarmed in to rows of Oak Trees lining the street, noisily jostling for position for the night. What an amazing spectacle and a definite 'must see' when visiting the area.
It is estimated that on a good year up to 10,000 birds roost here. The roost comprises approximately 90% Amur Falcons and 10% Lesser Kestrels.

1000's of Amur Falcons accompanied by Lesser Kestrels
come in to roost at Volksrust- a truly amazing sight
(Photo Pete Williamson)

Sunday 3rd Feb
For our last full day at Wakkerstroom, we concentrated on the two hides at the vlei on the Amersfoort Road.
In the morning we went to the Clive Beck Memorial Hide. A Black-crowned Night-Heron was seen as we walked to the hide, along with Levaillant's Cisticola, Willow Warbler and Cape Canary a plenty. The one and only Black Crake was seen by Mike as he car guarded in the parking area.

Inside the Clive Beck Memorial Hide.
Thw WOW hide can be seen in the distance
between Bob & Hazel.
(Photo Andy Ruffle)

In the afternoon we visited the new WOW (Wings over Wetlands) Hide. This hide was not here on our previous visit to Wakkerstroom. Little Bittern and Cape Shoveler were seen amongst others.

Little Bittern seen from the WOW Hide
(Photo Stan Culley)

A juvenile Malachite Kingfisher made a very good impersonation of a Half-Collared Kingfisher, with it's black beak throwing some of us initially.
So, as the sun set over the grasslands, another thoroughly enjoyable trip away drew to an end.

Stan & Stanley doing a wind dance
(Photo Sandy Olver)

male Malachite Sunbird feeds on a Red Hot Poker
in the courtyard of the Wakkerstroom Centre
(Photo Pete Williamson)

For more photos from the trip click here.

Birds recorded: Black-collared Barbet, Crested Barbet, Southern Red Bishop, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Little Bittern, Bush Blackcap, Bokmakierie*, Dark-capped Bulbul, Jackal Buzzard, Steppe Buzzard, Black-throated Canary, Cape Canary, Ant-eating Chat, Buff-streaked Chat, Cape Robin-Chat, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Levaillant's Cisticola, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Zitting Cisticola, Red-knobbed Coot, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Black Crake, Blue Crane, Grey Crowned Crane, Cape Crow, Pied Crow*, Diderick Cuckoo, African Darter, Cape Turtle-Dove, Laughing Dove, Red-eyed Dove, African Black Duck, Yellow-billed Duck, Long-crested Eagle*, Cattle Egret, Yellow-billed Egret, Amur Falcon, Cuckoo Finch, Common Fiscal,  Grey-winged Francolin, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, Little Grebe, Helmeted Guineafowl, Hamerkop, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Black-headed Heron, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Hadeda Ibis, Southern Bald Ibis, Lesser Kestrel, Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Black-shouldered Kite, Yellow-billed Kite*, Barrow's Korhaan, African Wattled Lapwing, Blacksmith Lapwing, Botha's Lark, Rudd's Lark, Red-capped Lark, Rufous-naped Lark, Spike-heeled Lark, Cape Longclaw, African Marsh-Harrier, Banded Martin, Brown-throated Martin, Common Moorhen, Common Myna, Spotted Eagle-Owl, Speckled Pigeon, African Pipit, Long-billed Pipit, Southern Pochard, Tawny-flanked Prinia,  African Quailfinch, Red-billed Quelea*, Secretarybird, South African Shelduck, Cape Shoveler, Cape Sparrow, House Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, African Spoonbill, Swainson's Spurfowl, Pied Starling, Red-winged Starling, African Stonechat, White Stork, Amethyst Sunbird, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird, Barn Swallow, Greater Striped Swallow, South African Cliff-Swallow, White-throated Swallow, African Purple Swamphen, Horus Swift, Little Swift, White-rumped Swift, Whiskered Tern, Spotted Thick-knee, Sentinel Rock-Thrush, Cape Wagtail, African Reed-Warbler, Lesser Swamp-Warbler, Little Rush-Warbler, Willow Warbler, Common Waxbill, Cape Weaver, Southern Masked-Weaver, Cape White-eye, Pin-tailed Whydah, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Long-tailed Widowbird, Red-collared Widowbird, Ground Woodpecker. (119 species)
*birds recorded on way to or from Wakkerstroom
Animals recorded: Meerkat, Yellow Mongoose, Rhombic Skaapsteker,

No comments:

Post a Comment