Monday, 22 May 2017

Trogons Away-trip report - Mkhuze Game Reserve, 22-26 May 2017

Attendees: Val & Stan Culley, Doug & Angie Butcher, Sandy Olver, Margaret Jones,, Bob & Hazel van Rooyen

Bird count:  145(see end)

(Text: Hazel van Rooyen)
Mkhuze Game Reserve forms part of the iSiMangaliso Wetland Park, north of St Lucia Lake.  Subsequent to the good rains this summer it has rejuvenated itself and although winter has now arrived the bush is still green and the birdlife varied.
22 May was a bit later in the year than we usually go away owing to some people being overseas so we weren’t expecting to see the summer migrants.  However we were very content with our bird count of 145, some of which were Lifers for a few people, some unusual, and still others entertaining, like the Bearded Scrub-Robin that had its daily route around our safari tent.
Bearded Robin (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Thick-tailed Bushbabies (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Also entertaining were a family of Bushbabies which visited us at suppertime and helped us do our washing-up.
The first stop was at Muzi Pan where patches of farmland were still standing under water.  White-faced Whistling Duck, Yellow-billed Ducks, Hottentot Teal graced the water, amongst others, while Pied and Malachite Kingfishers hunted from the sidelines.  Wire-tailed Swallows and Whiskered Terns performed figures of eights over the pan while a Brown Snake Eagle sat watchfully in the top of a tree.  A flock of about 20 Great White Pelicans glided overhead on thermals - who would have thought such cumbersome-looking birds could show such grace. 
Great White Pelicans  (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Great White Pelicans  (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

On arrival at Mantuma Camp, Val & Stan & Bobby and myself were delighted with our safari tent, which had en suite bedrooms and a full (if old) kitchen – luxury in the bushveld!  

Safari tent   (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
Doug & Angie, Sandy & Margaret shared a 2-bedroomed chalet which was also comfortable and in a nice setting.  Unpacking was soon done but our braai left a bit to be desired so the guys went scouting for an unoccupied tent and “borrowed” their braai which had considerably less holes.  After which we had a communal braai over a good old chat, alternating our venues nightly.
Camaraderie in the bush  (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

The next morning, bright-eyed and bushy tailed – oh no, that was the bushbabies.  Anyway – earlyish, we took the road to Nsumo Pan, including a slow visit to the airstrip which usually produces some interesting species.  As usual the Crowned Lapwing and African Pipits were guarding their territories and also as usual we wondered how they managed to rear their young on an airstrip?  Fiscal Flycatchers and  Widowbirds in winter plumage were much in evidence and a Scimitarbill perched on a tree-top.  Others included Rudd’s Apalis, Yellow-bellied Greenbull, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove and Black-backed Puffback.  Exiting the airstrip a commotion in a nearby bush proved to be an Orange-breasted Bush Shrike.  Other species seen on the way were Rattling Cisticola, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Crested Guineafowl and Val and Bobby were lucky enough to see a Harlequin Quail scurrying across the road.
African Pipit  (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove  (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
Crested Guineafowl  (photo: Stan Culley)

Sabota Lark  (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
Green-backed Heron  (photo: Stan Culley)

Half-collared Kingfisher (photo: Stan Culley)

The first thing we saw at Nsumo Pan was a pair of Pygmy Geese.  Moving around to the picnic site, Black-headed, Grey and Green-backed Heron, African Jacana, Malachite and Half-collared Kingfishers were spotted, then Stan espied a Lesser Jacana through his scope on the far far side.  We were all excited to view this find through the scope, although we had all seen it before.  Might this disprove the rumour that Lesser and African Jacanas do not share the same territory?  
Grey Heron (photo Dough Butcher)
Lilac-breasted Roller (photo: Stan Culley)

Lilac-breasted Roller  (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
A bird we all love to see is the Lilac-breasted Roller and it perched happily for us to take photographs, and suddenly flew off in a display of turquoise and blue.  A few of the other species seen in and around the pan were Woolly-necked Stork, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Yellow-billed Stork, Little Swift, Comb Duck, Water Thick-knee, African Osprey, Goliath Heron and finally an African Fish Eagle.  More birds seen on the way back were Little Bee-eater, Striped Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Hornbill, African Hoopoe, and Scarlet-chested Sunbird.
Yellow-breasted Apalis  (photo: Stan Culley)
Grey-headed Bush-Shrike  (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill (photo Doug Butcher)

Chinspot Batis (photo Doug Butcher)
On Wednesday morning we split into two groups., meeting back at the camp for breakfast.  We were keen to go to the excellent hide at kuMasinga while Team Angie wanted to do the loop and they had a good bird-spotting drive whilst we were most disappointed.  We shouldn’t really have been surprised because with all the water in the park there would have been no necessity for the animals to come to the waterhole, along with the fact that lion had recently been introduced so presumably the wildlife is being much more cautious.

In fact the whole 4 days we saw only one elephant, one giraffe (although Team Angie saw more on their game drive the following morning), no rhino, a few hippos and of course the usual buck.   
Joyous jumping (photo Doug Butcher)

Locking horns (photo Doug Butcher)

On the matter of Lions, one can no longer do the old walks.  A guide is available to take visitors on the Fig Walk where there is a possibility of seeing the Pel’s Fishing Owl but he was unfortunately on leave so we missed out there.  Seen at the water-hole  were Yellow-fronted Canary,  Yellow-breasted Apalis, juvenile Green-backed Heron, White-breasted Scrub Robin, Southern Black Flycatcher, Crested Barbet, Golden-breasted Bunting and Pale Flycatcher.
Pale Flycatcher  (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

After breakfast, we took a drive to kuMahlahla Hide (otherwise known to our group as the Pink Twinspot hide).  No twinspots put in an appearance but we did get an Eastern Nicator.  Other birds seen were Black-collared Barbet, Acacia Pied Barbet, Long-billed Crombec, Bearded and Golden-tailed Woodpecker, African Rail, Black Crake (2 juveniles), Red-billed Oxpecker, Red-faced Mousebirds, White-eared Barbet and a Crowned Eagle flying overhead.
Immature Black Crake  (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Our drive on Thursday round and about yielded, besides a lot of what we had already seen, Sabota Lark, Croaking Cisticola, Cardinal Woodpecker, Black Saw-wing and several White-backed Vultures circling.  Team Angie produced a White-crested Helmet-Shrike, Yellow-bellied Eremomela and Crowned Eagle.  Subsequently we took a southerly direction and produced a Bataleur Eagle, Southern Boubou and Rufous-naped Lark.
Crowned Eagle (photo Doug Butcher)
Sabota Lark  (photo: Stan Culley)

On our last morning a Scops Owl was heard before daybreak by Val.  Then an early walk around the camp got us a juvenile Black Cuckoo-Shrike, juvenile Black-headed Oriole and a Scarlet-chested Sunbird.  On exiting the reserve Stan saw a Marico Sunbird and a brief stop at Muzi Pan on the way back yielded a Little Egret, Burchell’s Coucal and Caspian Tern.  I can't close without mentioning the Gorgeous Bush Shrike which we heard calling so many times but never caught a glimpse of.

Thanks everyone.  It was a delightful week with good company and wonderful birding!
Expert Stan explains the difference  (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Just relaxing  (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

 Specie count including Muzi Pan: 145

Apalis Bar-throated
Apalis Rudd’s
Apalis Yellow-breasted
Barbet Acacia-pied
Barbet Black-collared
Barbet Crested
Barbet White-eared
Batis Chinspot
Bee-eater Little
Bishop Southern Red
Boubou Southern
Bulbul Dark-capped
Bunting Golden-breasted
Bush Shrike Gorgeous
Bush Shrike Grey-headed
Bush Shrike Orange-breasted
Cameroptera Green-backed
Canary Yellow-fronted
Chat Familiar
Cisticola Croaking
Cisticola Rattling
Cisticola Zitting
Common Fiscal
Coot Red-knobbed
Cormorant Reed
Cormorant White-breasted
Coucal Burchell’s
Crake Black
Crombec Long-billed
Crow Pied
Cuckooshrike Black
Darter African
Dove Cape Turtle
Dove Emerald-spotted Wood
Dove Red-eyed
Drongo Fork-tailed
Drongo Square-tailed
Duck Comb
Duck White-faced Whistling
Duck Yellow-billed
Eagle African Crowned
Eagle African Fish
Eagle Brown Snake
Egret Cattle
Egret Great
Egret Little (Muzi Pan)
Eremomela Yellow-bellied
Firefinch Red-billed
Flycatcher Fiscal
Flycatcher Pale
Flycatcher Southern Black
Francolin Crested
Go-away-bird Grey
Goose African Pygmy
Goose Egyptian
Goose Spurwing
Grebe Little
Greenbul Sombre
Greenbul Yellow-bellied
Guineafowl Crested
Helmet-Shrike White-crested
Heron Black-headed
Heron Goliath
Heron Green-backed
Heron Grey
Hooper African
Hornbill Crowned
Hornbill Southern Yellow-billed
Hornbill Trumpeter
Ibis Hadedah
Jacana African
Jacana Lesser
Kingfisher Brown-hooded
Kingfisher Half-collared
Kingfisher Malachite
Kingfisher Pied
Kingfisher Striped
Lapwing Blacksmith
Lapwing Crowned
Lark Rufous-naped
Lark Sabota
Longclaw Yellow-throated
Moorhen Common
Mousebird Red-faced
Mousebird Speckled
Nicator Eastern
Nightjar Fiery-necked
Oriole Black-headed
Owl African Scops
Oxpecker Red-billed
Pelican Great White
Petronia Yellow-throated
Pipit African
Plover Kitlitz
Plover Three-banded
Prinia Tawny-flanked
Puffback Black-backed
Quail Harlequin
Quelea Red-billed
Rail African
Robin Bearded Scrub
Robin White-browed Scrub
Robin-Chat Red-capped
Roller Lilac-breasted
Saw-wing Black
Scimitarbill Common
Sparrow Southern Grey-headed
Spoonbill African
Spurfowl Natal
Starling Black-bellied
Starling Cape Glossy
Starling Red-winged
Stork Woolly-necked
Stork Yellow-billed
Sunbird Marico
Sunbird Scarlet-breasted
Sunbird White-bellied
Swallow Wire-tailed
Swift Little
Tchagra Black-crowned
Tchagra Brown-crowned
Teal Hottentot
Tern Whiskered
Tern Caspian (Muzi pan)
Thick-knee Water
Tinkerbird Red-fronted
Tinkerbird Yellow-rumped
Tit Southern Black
Turaco Purple-crested
Vulture White-backed
Wagtail African Pied
Wagtail Cape
Waxbill Blue
Waxbill Common
Waxbill Grey
Weaver Lesser Masked
Weaver Southern Masked
Weaver Village
Weaver Yellow
Widowbird White-collared
Wood-Hoopoe Green
Woodpecker Bearded
Woodpecker Cardinal
Woodpecker Golden-tailed

(All photos property of photographer)

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