South Africa
Birds, Wildlife & the Total Eclipse

Saturday 30 November - Monday 16 December 2002

Neil Arnold , The Travelling Naturalist

Peter Lawson, Lawson's Tours

Dave Steyn, Lawson's Tours


I am grateful to you all for making this such a pleasant trip. Our thanks go to Peter and David who led us so well. Since our return they have indicated that they much enjoyed the experience, having been stimulated by the width and depth of your interest in so many aspects of everyday life and wildlife in South Africa. I hope to meet you all again soon.

Best wishes

Neil Arnold


Flight from London to Johannesburg




We were met at the airport by Peter and Dave and were soon on our way to Pietersburg (Polokwane) in Limpopo Province.

We lunched at Kranskop where we had our first chance to watch birds including a Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Paradise Flycatcher and Red-winged Starling.

By mid-afternoon we had reached The Ranch, Pietersburg, a beautifully adorned garden lodge in an area of dry grassland. The garden was a magnet for birds including colourful sunbirds, flycatchers, seed-eating birds and thrushes. As dusk approached flocks of Sacred Ibis, White-faced Duck and Cattle Egrets flew to roost.



WEATHER 6/8 cumulus, fine, still

An early morning walk around the lodge grounds was very productive. African Hoopoe, Crested Barbet and Southern Red Bishop were much admired, as were wetland species which included herons, geese and an African Spoonbill.

As we left after breakfast several elegant Blesbok were feeding nearby. We pressed on to the Polokwane Game Reserve. A brief stop en route enabled us to watch Cape Vultures soaring overhead. Then two adult Black Eagles and a Black-breasted Snake-eagle were found over a nearby hillside. Much the most unexpected event though was the discovery of a singing male Short-clawed Lark, a scarce, local species.

Notable bird species at the game park included Crimson-breasted Shrike, Red-billed Wood Hoopoe, Kalahari Robin, Shaft-tailed Whydah, Spotted Dikkop and Black-cheeked Waxbill. The mammals though were the stars of the morning. These included Nyala, Sable, Tsessebe, Blue Wildebeest, Warthog and Vervet Monkey.

On our drive to Louise Trichardt we came across more bird species including Cardinal Woodpecker and a Lanner.

Cloud's End was set above the valley in mature woodland, an ideal venue for wildlife. A short pre- dinner walk in the nearby meadow was dominated by swallow-watching: Rock Martins, Barn and Greater-striped Swallows were in the majority but we were also blessed with close views of a House Martin, and a Black Saw-wing Swallow. Palm and White-rumped Swifts and European Bee-eaters also took advantage of an abundance of insects. Nearer the hotel we found Purple-crested Lourie and Olive Woodpeckers. The delightful Common Duiker were also there to charm us.



WEATHER 1/8 cirrus, fine, still

An early morning drive brought us to Hanglip Forest Station, an area of Afro-montane forest at 1,700 m a.s.l.. On the lower slope dominated by conifer forest we encountered Lazy Cisticola, Jackal and Mountain Buzzards and a Long -rested Eagle. The moist, moss-hung forest on the ridge was a haven for Lesser-double Collared Sunbird, Chorister Robin, Knysna Lourie and a number of bird species that were heard but not seen including the elusive Narina Trogon and Scalythroated Honeyguide. Overhead were Alpine and Black Swifts and White-necked Ravens.

Later in the morning we set out for the Pafuri River Lodge. We passed through the Soutpansberg Mountains as we headed north. At Tshipise we noted a fine Martial Eagle and at the Njelele River White-fronted Bee-eaters and a rather criptic Painted Snipe.

On reaching Pafuri River Lodge we soon settled into our chalets, which were built on stilts. The fact that half the party were assigned chalets in the 'Poison Pod' enclosure was purely coincidental!

A walk by the river revealed the presence of one of Africa's gems, the Pygmy Kingfisher, with a supporting cast of Pied Kingfisher, Little Bee-eater and Broad-billed Roller.



WEATHER Clear early, but by 05.00 the cloud cover was almost total. Dry and still.

This was the day of the total eclipse of the sun. We were greeted by the calls of a Mozambique Nightjar.

We drove to the 'Makaya Turn' a spot on the path of totality where there was a good outlook and where we expected there to be few other watchers. In this we were right as we shared the experience with a white couple and some local villagers.

The birdwatching was good. We saw a Dark Chanting Goshawk, Black Cuckoo Shrike, displaying Striped Kingfishers and Melba Finches as we waited for the eclipse to take place. There was plenty of bird song, and a herd of cattle passed us on their way to feed.

Sadly the cloud cover was almost complete. Although there was only a slight indication that the sky was darkening, the birds were more perceptive; the singing stopped and flocks of Barn Swallows and Plum-coloured Starlings set off to roost. At one point the clouds parted and we were able to see that the sun was half obscured by the moon. It was at this point that the cattle began to return to their evening routine. Before long there was a very sudden change, and darkness fell in seconds. The duration of this state was brief, followed by a surprisingly rapid increase in light. At that moment the cloud parted and we were able to see that we had missed witnessing the full corona by only a couple of minutes. The rest of the eclipse was visible through thin cloud. Soon the birds began to sing again. Despite the cloud cover the eclipse was an exciting experience; our hearts sang too!

Dawn had come again. Our drive to the lodge was punctuated by views of a wide variety of very active birds including Greater Scimitarbill, Red-billed Helmet Shrikes, Lesser Honeyguide and a fine African Hawk-Eagle.

The Champagne breakfast at the lodge was much appreciated. There was a tangible sense of excitement as we ate.

An afternoon walk in the bush enabled us to enjoy fine views of Heuglin's Robin, Yellow-bellied Bulbul, Collared Sunbird and Green-backed Heron. One of the other features of the walk was the discovery of a fine Water Monitor.



WEATHER 7/8 cu. cool early becoming hot later, still

We arrived at The Pafuri Gate of the Kruger National Park as it opened at 05.30. This proved to be a good tactic as we were soon enjoying fine views of perched birds of prey including Steppe Eagles, Bateleur, White-backed Vultures, an African Fish Eagle and a flock of five Amur Falcons. We were also lucky enough to see Brown-headed Parrot and the local Mever's Long-tailed Starling. Crested Francolin, Giant Kingfisher and Trumpeter Hornbill were also noted.

We were once again in mammal country, soon recording Impala, Chacma Baboon, Nyala and Jackal.

The Pafuri Picnic Site was a fine venue for breakfast. Amongst those taking breakfast were Saddle-billed Storks, Tamborine Doves and a Goliath Heron. A short walk after breakfast revealed Yellow-eyed Canary and a single Bohm's Spinetail, a swift with a very local distribution.

The highlights of our drive to Shingwedzi were sightings of two Dickinson's Kestrels, three Comb Duck, Tawny Eagle and both Yellow-billed and Red-billed Oxpeckers. Zebra, Giraffes, Tsessabe, Buffalo and a herd of Elephant also set the pulse racing.

We took lunch at Shingwedzi.

Sightings on our onward journey included a Martial Eagle, an elegant Steenbok and a breeding herd of Elephant with several solitary males. One young male amused us with its antics while drinking; it stood on its hind legs and dipped its trunk into the water of a tall concrete 'tank', completely ignoring the water in the nearby trough!

We arrived at Mopani Lodge just in time to settle into our accommodation before nightfall.



WEATHER A mainly overcast but warm day

An early morning watch over the main lake enabled us to record the first waterbirds in any numbers. Eurasian waders rubbed shoulders with genuine Africans like the Open-billed Stork, Water Dikkop, Three-banded Plover and the Fish Eagle. Water Buck and the dashing Tree Squirrel also graced the scene.

Soon after breakfast we sat in the vehicles witnessing the wonderful, noisy display of a Red-crested Korohaan. As though this was not impressive enough the bird suddenly flew up and performed a mid air somersault!

Other stars of the morning included a pair of hunting Montagu's Harriers, Pearl-spotted Owlets and a fine Temminck's Courser.

Hippo, Giraffe and Elephant were probably the salient features of the drive in the late afternoon.



WEATHER 8/8 cu. dull, still

The early morning watch over the lake was rewarding as an Osprey, three Greater Flamingo and two Ground Hornbill were recorded.

A slow drive to Letaba Lodge revealed that there were large groups of Elephant in the area. In contrast we were also delighted to see the diminutive Dwarf Mongoose.

In one area of bush we were suddenly aware that we were surrounded by Buffalo. At first there only seemed to be a few but eventually over a thousand animals passed by the vehicles.

By 11.30 we had reaches Letaba. This once again is a great place to watch wildlife as it is situated on a high bluff overlooking the Letaba River. It was wonderful to able to sit in the shade, watching Giraffe, Bushbuck, Rock Monitors and a host of birds in action. Later in the afternoon we explored other parts of the river.

A cloud of dust revealed that something of note was about to happen on the other side of the valley. Soon we were watching a breeding herd of elephants careering down a steep bank to the river below. Eventually there were thirty-three, all drinking from the river. In contrast to these giants was the minute Pygmy Kingfisher which sat still on a perch whilst being watched by those in both vehicles.

By 17.00 we were comfortably settled into the Matambeni Hide overlooking a broad stretch of the Letaba River. This was a paradise for wetland bird species There were herons galore, storks, ibis, spoonbills and waders. A Black Heron busy fishing, breeding Collared Pratincoles, a Malachite Kingfisher and constantly dipping marsh terns were the icing on the cake.

As dusk closed in we watched a pair of Wahlberg's Eagles attempting to catch Tomb Bats as they emerged from their roost.



WEATHER 7/8 cu. dull, 0

An early drive along the river edge to the Malambeni Hide was very worthwhile as we had more time than on our previous visit. White-crowned Plover and a Purple Heron were notable as was a display of noisy and quite violent aggression between male Hippo.

A short distance away was the Engelhard Dam, which gave the appearance of being the local meeting place for Crocodiles, there were dozens. Nearby there was a kill long since abandoned by its killer but being eagerly devoured by a Tawny Eagle, a Steppe Eagle and a White-headed Vulture.

Once back at Letaba we went to check on a site where we hoped to see a roosting Barred Owl. The owl proved to be a winner as it was sat low in a tree in just the right place to be photographed. Fan-tailed Flycatcher and Green-capped Eremomela were also seen well.

By 10.00 the sun was breaking through as we set off for Olifants Lodge. Yellow-throated Sparrow, Black Stork, Lesser Grey Shrike and Black-crowned Night Heron proved to be the most notable features of this drive.

By 17.30 we were on the night drive led by a local Ranger. He managed to show us good number of Mozambique Nightjars, a pair of roosting Little Bee-eaters, Crowned Plover and a number of mammals including Scrub Hare and Springhare. The climax of the evening though was the finding of a pair of Double-banded Sandgrouse. This is not a rare bird but it can be very elusive.



WEATHER 7/8 cu. dull. Afternoon -heavy rain, 0

A pre-breakfast walk around the lodge produced sightings of Spotted Hyena and Ground Hornbill.

At 09.15 we left the lodge. More Elephants were seen. A Mozambique Spitting Cobra crossing the road was appreciated by all, especially as we were all in the vehicles!

Coffee was taken at Masorini Archaeological Site and lunch was eaten soon after we left the Park at the Phalabora gate.

Heavy rain fell after lunch, thankfully clearing as we reached the Strydom Tunnel at the approach to the Drakensberg Mountains. Once at the pass we searched the cliff face. Soon we had found an adult Taita Falcon plucking a dark bird, perhaps a swift. Soon the bird flew along the cliff edge chasing Black Swifts flying overhead. This was an exciting event as the bird was elegant, dashing and very rare. Speckled Pigeons and Cape Rock Thrushes were also seen at the site.

As we arrived at Aventura Resort, Blyde River Canyon we were greeted by a dozen Southern Bald Ibis. We soon settled into our chalets, all of which had wonderful views of the Canyon



WEATHER 4/8 cu. close, SE3-4

An early morning walk around the resort was illuminating. We found Greater-double Collared Sunbird, Grassveld Pipit, White-throated Swallow, and a number of local songbirds. The birds of the morning, though, were the very local Long-tailed Wagtail and, much to our surprise, a European Nightjar at roost on a branch.

Later in the morning we visited the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, which is comprised of areas of grassland and rock platforms high above the canyon. Here we spent much of the time examining the local flora, insects and a range of lizards. Birds included Rock Kestrel, African Stonechat, Cape Bunting and Wailing Cisticola. As we looked out over the canyon a pair of adult Black Eagles swooped into their dramatic display flight.

Our next port of call was Bourke's Luck and the Koligate Potholes. This was a fantastic area where the river had cut a narrow gorge at the bottom of which were a series of deep potholes cut by revolving pebbles in the fierce water flow.

In the late afternoon we visited a viewpoint within the resort. Here we found land crabs and frogs high above the gorge. We also tracked down three Olive Bush Shrikes, another very elusive species.



WEATHER 7/8 cu., dull, 0. Sunny afternoon.

Before we left the resort more bird species were discovered including Bronze Mannikin, Swee Waxbill, Striped Pipit and Yellow-fronted Tinker Barbet.

We were soon en route to Mount Sheba. Our first stop was Lisbon, a huge estate where grassland species abounded. Long-billed Pipit, Levaillant's Cisticola, Buff-streaked Chat and Wattled Plovers were soon located, Further on at Graskop we discovered Yellow-billed Duck and Black Sunbird.

By 11.00 we had reached Long Tom Pass and Misty Mountain Lodge. The gardens were full of birds including the very elusive Barratt's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola and Olive Thrush. The prize of the day though was in the shallow valley that ran from the hillside towards the lodge. Here in wonderfully flower rich grasslands we saw a pair of Blue Swallows flying over our heads in bright sunshine. This is probably the rarest breeding bird species in South Africa! The al fresco lunch was a delight too.

By 14.00 we had reached the Ceylon Estate and the Lone Creek Falls. This proved to be an area of grassland and forest bisected by a fast flowing stream. We were not surprised to come across Long-tailed Wagtails again. Here we discovered Yellow Warbler and in a nearby reedbed Thick-billed Weaver.

As we climbed through the grassland to Mount Sheba we were delighted to see a Secretary Bird and a Stanley's Bustard.

Once we had settled into our plush surroundings we took a short local walk.



WEATHER 8 /8 cu. dull ,0 6/8 cu. sun later

The early morning walk in the forest was a delight, revealing a wonderful male Narina Trogon, Orange Ground Thrush, Yellow-throated Warbler, Grey Cuckoo Shrike, Starred Robin and both Terrestrial and Yellow-streaked Bulbuls.

Later in the morning a walk on the grassy hillside proved to be a treat for the botanists and full of birds including Malachite Sunbirds and Gurney's Sugarbirds.

We then drove to Pilgrim's Rest, an historic gold mining town which has retained much of its character. Having walked the town and visited the museum we ate lunch in the garden of a local cafe. Golden Weavers, Bronze Mannikins and Pin-tailed Whydahs entertained us at the bird table.

As we approached Mount Sheba we were surprised to come across two young Jackals.



WEATHER 7 /8 cu. dull, 0. Sunny spells later.

The day started with opportunities to see Samango Monkeys and Purple Crested Lourie.

We were soon heading through rolling countryside towards Dullstroom. Some of the notable bird species seen en route included Common Quail, Spur-winged Goose, Long-tailed Widow, African Marsh Warbler and the Grassbird. Near Lydenburg we stopped to admire a collection of concrete animals at a roadside farm. They featured most of the mammals we had seen to date plus some we would have liked to have seen, such as Black Rhino. We were amused to note that nearby there were six very real Kudu looking on! As we drove on through the grasslands and past small pools we found Peregrine Falcon, two Lanner and three Cape Vultures. We were also delighted to find a pair of Black Duck, a species confined to fast flowing rivers. Orange-throated Longclaw and a Black Sparrowhawk also made an appearance.

We arrived at Dullstroom at 13.00. It had taken us five hours to drive 112 k. Peter thought this might be some sort of a record!

Later in the afternoon we explored the area to the south of the town. It was to be an afternoon of mammal watching. We were soon watching Springbok, Black Wildebeest, Zebra, Blesbok and from time to time Yellow Mongoose.

The birds were not neglected though: Red-winged Francolin, Mountain Chat, Golden Bishop and Bokmakierie being the highlights.



WEATHER Heavy rain early, cleared later

An early morning drive to the south was very productive, despite the rain. Once again the mammals were exciting as we had close encounters with Steenbuck and more distant sightings of Oribi, Blesbok and Grey Rhebok. After a long search we eventually found a pair of Wattled Cranes but we failed to find any other species, perhaps due to the unseasonable dry weather. We did, however, manage to find a number of local species, the most notable of which were Yellow Pipit, Sentinel Rock Thrush, Mountain Chat, Long-billed Lark, Anteating Chat and Red-chested Sparrowhawk. The variety of flowers in the area was also quite splendid.

Lunch was taken in a shaded area of a cafe in the town. During the meal we were visited by yet another Red-chested Sparrowhawk.

Later in the afternoon we took another drive, enjoying a more leisurely look at some local ponds. The somewhat cryptic Ethiopian Snipe was probably the find of the afternoon.

As dusk approached we drove to the Dullstroom Dam, a small body of water overlooked by a rather imposing kopie. We were hoping to see the very rare Cape Eagle Owl. As we waited a Jackal Buzzard flew over and was chased away by a much smaller Black-shouldered Kite. Suddenly a group of antelope moved on the kopie and there with a metre or two was the owl. It was sitting in the pale sunlight preparing for the rigours of the night. We were able to watch this magnificent creature through telescopes until the light failed. It was a great end to the day!



WEATHER A fine, sunny day

The aim of the day was to drive to Johannesburg to catch our homeward flight. This was far from the end of the wildlife watching however.

We were soon at the nearby Lakenvlei Forest lodge, an area of rolling conifer plantations in the midst of a huge wetland area dominated by open water and reedbeds. It was not long before we were watching Purple Galinules, Hottentot Teal and Little Bittern, all species not preciously recorded on the trip.

We then moved on towards Johannesburg, stopping at a series of shallow pools in the Carolina area. Once again we were able to find considerable numbers of 'new' birds. Cape Shoveler, Maccoa Duck and Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes abounded as did Grey-headed Gulls, Whiskered and White-winged Terns. In one pool we found some fifty Greater Flamingoes. The area was also frequented by African Cliff Swallows. The most unexpected event of the day took place when a European Marsh Harrier was found as it quartered the reedbeds of one of the larger pools.

We were able to make a brief stop overlooking the Witbank Wildlife Sanctuary. As we watched Red Hartebeest, Springbok, Blesbok and a magnificent male Eland, we were over flown by a flock of Eurasian and Alpine Swifts.

We had run out of time. Next stop the airport.


The party and its luggage arrived on time at London Heathrow!

Neil Arnold

December 2002



In this list locations have been abbreviated. Each letter indicates a general area:-

P Pietersburg (Polokwane)

LT Louise Trichardt

PA Pafuri River Camp - Masisi

K(M) Kruger - Pafuri to Mopani

K(L) Kruger - Letaba area

BR Blyde River Canyon

MS Mount Sheba

D Dullstroom

L Lakenvlei Forest Lodge

C Carolina area

(E) Endemic species

(NE) Near-endemic species


Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus Several C

Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis Two C

Dabchick Tachybaptus ruficollis Widespread

White Breasted Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Common

Reed Cormorant Phalacrocorax africanus Noted almost daily

African Darter Anhinga rufa Scattered records

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Widespread in small noS.

Black-headed Heron Ardea melanocephala Mainly in the highlands

Goliath Heron Ardea goliath Four records K

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea Two K(L) and two L

Great White Egret Casmerodiusa albus Only K,L,C

Little Egret Egretta garzetta In K and C

Yellow-billed (Intermediate) Egret Egretta intermedia Scattered records

Black Egret Egretta ardesiaca One K(L)

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Common and widespread

Common Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides One P and six K

Green-backed (Striated) Heron Butorides striatus Only PA,K and BR

Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax One River Olifant K

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus One L

Hamerkop Scopus umbretta Widespread

White Stork Ciconia ciconia In pastures P, MS and D

Black Stork Ciconia nigra Two K(L)

Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus Four K(M)

African Open-billed Stork Anastomus lamelligerus Up to twenty K(L)

Saddle-billed Stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis Small groups K

Marabou Stork Leptoptilos crumeniferus Up to forty-five K

Yellow-billed Stork Mycteria ibis Up to twenty K

Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus In pastoral areas LT,D,L and C

Southern Bald Ibis (E) Geronticus calvus From BR to D

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus In K and D,L and C

Hadeda Ibis Bostrychia hagedash Noted daily

African Spoonbill Platalea alba Two P, Up to thirteen K and one C

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber Three K(L) and 50 C

White-faced Duck Dendrocygna viduata At least 100 LT and then scattered records throughout.

White-backed Duck Thalassornis leuconotus Up to eight D

Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus Widespread

Yellow-billed Duck Anas undulata One MS and then widespread D,L and C

African Black Duck Anas sparsa Records of two pairs D

Hottentot Teal Anas hottentota Two L

Red-billed Teal Anas erythrorhyncha Small groups D and C

Cape Shoveler (E) Anas smithii Several C

Southern Pochard Netta erythrophthalma Three D and several C

Knob-billed Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos Three K(M) and six K(L)

Spur-winged Goose Plectropterus gambensis Numerous D and C

Maccoa Duck Oxyura maccoa Only at C

Secretary Bird Sagittarius serpentarius One P and at least two MS

Hooded Vulture Necrosyrtes monachus One K(L)

Cape Vulture (E) Gyps coprotheres Four P, one K and three near D

African White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus Up to twenty K

White-headed Vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis At least three K

Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius From LT to K

Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus Common except K

Verreaux's (Black) Eagle Aquila verreauxii Two P and two in display BR

Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax Eight records K

Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis Six records K

Wahlberg's Eagle Aquila wahlbergi Widespread K and two BR

African Hawk Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus One PA

Long-crested Eagle Lophaetus occipitalis One LT, singles MS and one L

Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus One PA and eight K

Brown Snake Eagle Circaetus cinereus Common in the north and one D

Black-breasted Snake Eagle Circaetus gallicus One P

Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus Common K

African Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vocifer Common K and one D

Steppe Buzzard Buteo buteo Very widespread

Forest Buzzard (E) Buteo trizonatus Two LT and one MS

Jackal Buzzard (E) Buteo rufofuscus Eighteeen records in the highlands

Lizard Buzzard Kaupifalco monogrammicus Two K

Red-breasted Sparrowhawk Accipiter rufiventris Two D

Little Sparrowhawk Accipiter minullus Two records K

Black Sparrowhawk Accipiter melanoleucus Two D

Little Banded Goshawk (Shikra) Accipiter badius One P and one K(M)

Dark Chanting Goshawk Melierax metabates One PA

Eurasian Marsh-Harrier Circus aeruginosus A female at C was a surprise as this is a scarce species in South Africa

Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus A pair K

Gymnogene Polyboroides typus Five scattered records

Osprey Pandion haliaetus One K(L)

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus One near Lydenburg

Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus Five scattered records, mainly in open grassland areas

Taita Falcon Falco fasciinucha A single bird at Strydom Tunnel seen in flight and at rest

Eastern Redfooted (Amur) Falcon Falco amurensis Two flocks of seven and three K

Rock (Common) Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Common except in K

Dickinson's Kestrel Falco dickinsoni Two seen well K

Crested Francolin Francolinus sephaena Common in the north

Redwing Francolin Francolinus levaillantii Two D

Natal Francolin (NE) Francolinus natalensis Common in the south

Swainson's Francolin (NE) Francolinus swainsonii Widespread

Common Quail Coturnix coturnix Five records D

Helmeted Guineafowl Numida meleagris Noted almost daily

Wattled Crane Grus carunculatus Three D

African Rail Rallus caerulescens Heard L

Black Crake Amaurornis flavirostris One PA and common K

Purple Gallinule Porphyrio porphyrio Three L

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Common except in K where scarce

Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata Common on the highveld

Stanley's Bustard Neotis denhami One MS

Red-crested Korhaan (NE) Eupodotis ruficrista Excellent views K

African Jacana Actophilornis africanus Common K

Greater Painted Snipe Rostratula benghalensis Five records of this elusive bird - all K

White-fronted Plover Charadrius marginatus Several K

Kittlitz's Plover Charadrius pecuarius Four K and two C

Three-banded Plover Charadrius tricollaris Common K and one C

Crowned Plover Vanellus coronatus Scattered records

Blacksmith Plover Vanellus armatus Very common

White-crowned Plover Vanellus albiceps Four K

Wattled (Senegal) Plover Vanellus senegallus Common in the highveld

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos Common and widespread

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola Common

Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis A handful of records K and C

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia Common

Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea Small flocks K and C

Little Stint Calidris minuta Small flocks K and C

Ruff Philomachus pugnax Flocks of up to five K and C

Ethiopian (African) Snipe Gallinago nigripennis In well vegetated waters D and C

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus Up to sixteen K and smaller numbers C

Spotted Dikkop Burhinus capensis One P

Water Dikkop Burhinus vermiculatus Common K

Temminck's Courser Cursorius temminckii Two K(M)

Red-winged (Collared) Pratincole Glareola pratincola At least thirty-six K

Grey-headed Gull Larus cirrocephalus Only at C

Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus One K and common D and C

White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus At least eight K and two C

Double-banded Sandgrouse (NE) Pterocles bicinctus K(L)

Feral Pigeon Columba livia In towns

Rock Pigeon Columba guinea Common from BR onwards

Rameron Pigeon Columba arquatrix Small flocks LT,BC,MS and D

Red-eyed Dove Streptopelia semitorquata Common

African Mourning Dove Streptopelia decipiens Local K

Cape Turtle Dove Streptopelia capicola Common

Laughing (Palm) Dove Streptopelia senegalensis Common

Namaqua Dove Oena capensis Confined to the dryer north

Green-spotted Dove Turtur chalcospilos Confined to PA and K

Tambourine Dove Turtur tympanistria Very local K and BC

African Green Pigeon Treron calva Only K

Brown-headed Parrot Poicephalus cryptoxanthus Sightings of eight birds K

Knysna Lourie (E) Tauraco corythaix Only at LT and MS

Purple-crested Lourie Tauraco porphyreolophus Only seen LT

Grey Lourie Corythaixoides concolor Common and widespread

African Cuckoo Cuculus gularis One K

Red-chested Cuckoo Cuculus solitarius Heard throughout but rarely seen

Black Cuckoo Cuculus clamosus Heard LT and D

Striped Cuckoo Clamator levaillantii Common K

Jacobin (Pied) Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus Common PA and K

Emerald Cuckoo Chrysococcyx cupreus Heard PA

Klaas's Cuckoo Chrysococcyx klaas Heard K and BR

Diederik Cuckoo Chrysococcyx caprius Common

Burchell's Coucal (E) Centropus burchellii Noted LT and K

Wood Owl Strix woodfordii Heard PA

African Scops Owl Otus senegalensis Heard K(L)

Pearl-spotted Owl Glaucidium perlatum Only K

African Barred Owl Glaucidium capense Two K(L)

Cape Eagle Owl Bubo capensis One at roost D

Giant Eagle Owl Bubo lacteus Heard K(M)

European (Eurasian) Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus One at roost BR was a great find

Fiery-necked Nightjar Caprimulgus pectoralis At PA and K

Mozambique Nightjar Caprimulgus fossii Several K(L)

European (Eurasian) Swift Apus apus A flock Witbank

African Black Swift Apus barbatus Common in mountainous areas

White-rumped Swift Apus caffer Common except K

Horus Swift Apus horus Only P

Little Swift Apus affinis Common in open countryside often breeding in culverts

Alpine Swift Apus melba Widespread except K

African Palm Swift Cypsiurus parvus Commonly associated with palms

Bohm's Spinetail Neafrapus boehmi One in the far north K

Speckled Mousebird Colius striatus Very common

Redfaced Mousebird Urocolius indicus Common in the north

Narina Trogon Apaloderma narina Heard LT and wonderful views of a male MS

Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis Common

Giant Kingfisher Ceryle maxima Common

Malachite Kingfisher Alcedo cristata Scattered records

African Pygmy Kingfisher Ispidina picta Two sightings at PA and K

Woodland Kingfisher Halcyon senegalensis Common in the north

Brown-hooded Kingfisher Halcyon albiventris Common in the north

Striped Kingfisher Halcyon chelicuti Two pairs PA

European Bee-eater Merops apiaster Common in the north

Southern Carmine Bee-eater Merops nubicoides One K

White-fronted Bee-eater Merops bullockoides Common PA and K

Little Bee-eater Merops pusillus Very local P, PA,K and MS

European Roller Coracias garrulus Common in the north

Lilac-breasted Roller Coracias caudata Common in the north

Purple Roller Coracias naevia Only K

Broad-billed Roller Eurystomus glaucurus Only PA and K

African Hoopoe Upupa africana Common in the north

Red-billed Woodhoopoe Phoeniculus purpureus Only P,PA and K

Greater Scimitarbill Rhinopomastus cyanomelas Two PA

Trumpeter Hornbill Bycanistes bucinator One K

Grey Hornbill Tockus nasutus Common in the north

Red-billed Hornbill Tockus erythrorhynchus Common in the north

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill Tockus leucomelas Common K

Ground Hornbill Bucorvus leadbeateri Six birds K

Black-collared Barbet Lybius torquatus Scattered records in the north

Acacia Pied Barbet (NE) Tricholaema leucomelas Only P and PA

Yellow-fronted Tinker Barbet Pogoniulus chrysoconus Only BR

Crested Barbet Trachyphonus vaillantii Common

Greater Honeyguide Indicator indicator Heard P

Scaly-throated Honeyguide Indicator variegatus Heard LT

Lesser Honeyguide Indicator minor One K

Golden-tailed Woodpecker Campethera abingoni Three K

Cardinal Woodpecker Dendropicos fuscescens Two P

Olive Woodpecker Mesopicos griseacephalus Only LT and MS

Monotonous Lark (NE) Mirafra passerina Common K

Rufous-naped Lark Mirafra africana At MS and D

Sabota Lark (NE) Mirafra sabota Common K

Eastern Long-billed Lark (E) Certhilauda semitorquata Two D

Short-clawed Lark (E) Certhilauda chuana One P

European (Barn) Swallow Hirundo rustica Noted daily

White-throated Swallow Hirundo albigularis Common BR onwards

Wire-tailed Swallow Hirundo smithii Common PA and K

Red-breasted Swallow Hirundo semirufa Five records K

Mosque Swallow Hirundo senegalensis Very local K

Greater Striped Swallow (NE) Hirundo cucullata Common except K

Lesser Striped Swallow Hirundo abyssinica Common in the north

South African Cliff Swallow (NE) Hirundo spilodera Very local C

Rock Martin Hirundo fuligula Common in suitable breeding habitat near cliffs

Common House Martin Delichon urbica Only at LT

Brown-throated Martin Riparia paludicola Three records only K

Banded Martin Riparia cincta Only D

Black Saw-wing Swallow Psalidoprocne holomelas A single bird LT and small colony MS

Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea A pair seen in brilliant sunlight Misty Mountain Lodge

Black Cuckoo-shrike Campephaga flava One PA and a pair K(L)

Grey Cuckoo-shrike Coracina caesia Three MS

Fork-tailed Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis Common

European (Eurasian) Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus Only PA and K

Black Crow Corvus capensis Only in agricultural areas

Pied Crow Corvus albus Widespread

White-necked Raven Corvus albicollis Only LT and BR

Ashy Tit (NE) Parus cinerascens One P

Southern Black Tit Parus niger Common in the north

Arrow-marked Babbler Turdoides jardineii Only K

Black-eyed (Common) Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus Noted daily

Terrestrial Bulbul Phyllastrephus terrestris Only PA and MS

Yellow-streaked Bulbul Phyllastrephus flavostriatus Only MS

Sombre Bulbul Andropadus importunus Only BR and MS

African Yellow-bellied Bulbul Chlorocichla flaviventris One PA

Kurrichane Thrush Turdus libonyana Common in the north

Olive Thrush Turdus olivaceus Common from BR onwards

Karoo Thrush Turdus smithi At P and LT

Orange Ground Thrush Zoothera gurneyi Wonderful views MS

Groundscraper Thrush Turdus litsitsirupa At P,LT and MS

Cape Rock Thrush (E) Monticola rupestris Well seen BC, MS and D

Sentinel Rock Thrush (E) Monticola explorator A pair D

Mountain Chat (NE) Oenanthe monticola Only D

Buff-streaked Chat (E) Oenanthe bifasciata Only MS and D

Familiar Chat Cercomela familiaris From BC onwards

Southern Anteating Chat (E) Myrmecocichla formicivora Two D

Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata Common BR onwards

Chorister Robin (E) Cossypha dichroa Only at LT and MS

Heuglin's Robin Cossypha heuglini At LT and PA

Natal Robin Cossypha natalensis Only at BC and MS

Cape Robin Cossypha caffra Common except in K

African White-throated Robin (E) Cossypha humeralis Four records K and BC

Starred Robin Pogonocichla stellata Only at MS

Whitbrowed Robin Erythropygia leucophrys Common in the north

Kalahari Robin (E) Erythropygia paena Only P

Eastern Bearded Robin Erythropygia quadrivirgata One P

Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler (NE) Parisoma subcaeruleum One P

African Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus baeticatus One D and one L

AfricanYellow Warbler Chloropeta natalensis Two records MS

African Sedge Warbler Bradypterus baboecala One seen L

Barratt's Warbler (E) Bradypterus barratti A sighting of this very elusive warbler Misty Mountain Lodge

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus Common

Yellow-throated Warbler Phylloscopus ruficapillus Several MS

Bar-throated Apalis Apalis thoracica Only BC and MS

Yellow-breasted Apalis Apalis flavida Scattered records

Long-billed Crombec Sylvietta rufescens Several sightings K

Green-capped Eremomela Eremomela scotops Two K(L)

Burnt-necked Eremomela Eremomela usticollis One P

Green-backed Bleating Warbler Camaroptera brachyura From BC onwards

Grey-backed Bleating Warbler Camaroptera brevicaudata Common to the north of K(L)

African Barred Warbler (NE) Calamonastes fasciolatua One P

Stierling's Barred Warbler Calamonastes stierlingi Heard K

Grassbird (E) Sphenoeacus afer Often heard, seen well D

Fantailed (Zitting) Cisticola Cisticola juncidis In rank grassland K and on the high veld

Desert Cisticola Cisticola aridulus Only K

Cloud Cisticola Cisticola textrix Heard MS

Wailing Cisticola Cisticola lais Only BC to D

Rattling Cisticola Cisticola chiniana Very common in the north

Red-faced Cisticola Cisticola erythrops Elusive K

Black-backed Cisticola Cisticola galactotes An unexpected record of a male in full song River Olifant (KL)

Levaillant's Cisticola Cisticola tinniens Common in wet areas MS onward

Lazy Cisticola Cisticola aberrans Only LT and BR

Neddicky Cisticola fulvicapillus Scattered records

Tawny-flanked Prinia Prinia subflava Common throughout

Black-chested Prinia (NE) Prinia flavicans Only P

Drakensberg Prinia (E) Prinia hypoxantha MS onwards

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata Noted every day except 15th

Dusky Flycatcher Muscicapa adusta Only BR

Blue-grey Flycatcher Muscicapa caerulescens Only PA

Fantailed Flycatcher Myioparus plumbeus One K(L)

Southern Black Flycatcher Melaenornis pammelaina Scattered records K

Marico Flycatcher (NE) Melaenornis mariquensis One P

Mouse-coloured Flycatcher Melaenornis pallidus One K

Fiscal Flycatcher (E) Sigelus silens Only P

Cape Batis (E) Batis capensis Noted BR, MS and D

Chinspot Batis Batis molitor Common in the north

African Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis Common

African Pied Wagtail Motacilla aguimp Common in the lowlands

Long-tailed Wagtail Motacilla clara Excellent views of this very local bird BC and D

Cape Wagtail Motacilla capensis Common except K

Grassveld Pipit Anthus cinnamomeus Only BR and D

Long-billed Pipit Anthus similis Confined to MS and D

Buffy Pipit Anthus vaalensis One BR

Striped Pipit Anthus lineiventris One BR

Yellow-breasted Pipit (E) Hemimacronyx chloris Four records of this local species D

Orange-throated Longclaw (E) Macronyx capensis Only D

Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor Two records K

Common Fiscal Shrike Lanius collaris Common except in K

Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio Common

African Long-tailed Shrike Corvinella melanoleuca Common in the north

Southern Boubou (E) Laniarius ferrugineus Only P and BR

Tropical Boubou Laniarius aethiopicus Only PA

Crimson-breasted Shrike (NE) Laniarius atrococcineus Only P

Black-backed Puffback Dryoscopus cubla Common in the north

Three-streaked Tchagra Tchagra australis Only PA and K

Black-crowned Tchagra Tchagra senegala Only PA and K

Bokmakierie (E) Telophorus zeylonus Common D

Gorgeous Bush Shrike Telophorus quadricolor Heard PA and K

Orange-breasted Bush Shrike Telophorus sulfureopectus Heard K(L)

Olive Bush Shrike Telophorus olivaceus Seen well BR

Grey-headed Bush Shrike Malaconotus blanchoti Several K

White Helmetshrike Prionops plumatus Several K(L)

Red-billed Helmetshrike Prionops retzii Several PA

Indian (Common) Myna Acridotheres tristis Common except K

African Pied Starling (E) Spreo bicolor Common D

Wattled Starling Creatophora cinerea Common in the north

Plum-coloured Starling Cinnyricinclus leucogaster Common in the north

Meves' Long-tailed Starling (NE) Lamprotornis mevesii Six in the very north of K

Glossy Starling Lamprotornis nitens Common in the north

Greater Blue-eared Starling Lamprotornis chalybaeus Only in K where common

Red-winged Starling Onychognathus morio Noted almost daily

Yellow-billed Oxpecker Buphagus africanus Scarce K

Red-billed Oxpecker Buphagus erythrorhynchus Common K

Gurney's Sugarbird (E) Promerops gurneyi Seven MS

Malachite Sunbird Nectarinia famosa Surprisingly common MS and D

Marico Sunbird Nectarinia mariquensis Common in the north

Lesser Double-collared Sunbird (E) Nectarinia chalybea Only at LT and MS

Greater Double-collared Sunbird (E) Nectarinia afra From BR onwards ~ common

White-bellied Sunbird Nectarinia talatala Common in the north

African Black Sunbird Nectarinia amethystina At P and from BR onwards

Collared Sunbird Anthreptes collaris One PA

Cape White-eye (E) Zosterops pallidus Common except K

Red-billed Buffalo Weaver Bubalornis niger Only found K

White-browed Sparrow-weaver Plocepasser mahali Only P, and PA

House Sparrow Passer domesticus Common in inhabited areas

Cape Sparrow (NE) Passer melanurus Only P and C

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow Passer diffusus Common

African Yellow-throated Sparrow Petronia superciliaris Three records K

Scaly-feathered Finch (NE) Sporopipes squamifrons Only P

Thick-billed Weaver Amblyospiza albifrons Very local in the high veld

Spectacled Weaver Ploceus ocularis Only P and BR

Spotted-backed Weaver Ploceus cucullatus Only P and K(L)

Cape Weaver (E) Ploceus capensis Widespread except K

Southern Masked Weaver Ploceus velatus Common BR and MS

Lesser Masked Weaver Ploceus intermedius Common in the north

Golden Weaver Ploceus xanthops Only at a bird table at Pilgrim's Rest

Red-headed Weaver Anaplectes rubriceps Common and spectacular in the north

Red-billed Quelea Quelea quelea Huge flocks in the north

Southern Red Bishop Euplectes orix Very widespread

Golden Bishop Euplectes afer Common D

Yellow-rumped Widow Euplectes capensis Common from MS onwards

Red-shouldered Widow Euplectes axilaris Common in grasslands D

White-winged Widow Euplectes albonotatus Common in agricultural areas

Red-collared Widow Euplectes ardens Comon BR onwards

Long-tailed Widow Euplectes progne Common D

Melba Finch Pytilia melba At P and PA

Blue-billed Firefinch Lagonosticta rubricata At P,PA and Misty Mountain Lodge

Jameson's Firefinch Lagonosticta rhodopareia Common in the north

Red-billed Firefinch Lagonosticta senegala Only K(L)

Blue Waxbill Uraeginthus angolensis Common in the north

Violet-eared Waxbill (NE) Uraeginthus granatinus Wonderful views P

Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild Common

Black-cheecked Waxbill Estrilda erythronotos Only P

Swee Waxbill (E) Estrilda melanotis From Misty Mountain Lodge onwards

Bronze Mannikin Spermestes cucullatus Only at BR and MS where there were at least twenty

Pintailed Whydah Vidua macroura Common

Shaft-tailed Whydah (NE) Vidua regia Only at P

Eastern Paradise Whydah Vidua paradisaea Only at P and K

Yellow-eyed Canary Serinus mozambicus Widespread

Black-throated Canary Serinus atrogularis Only P

Cape Canary Serinus canicollis Common from BR onwards

Forest Canary (E) Serinus scotops Only MS

Streaky-headed Canary Serinus gularis Mainly at BR

Golden-breasted Bunting Emberiza flaviventris Two K(L)

Cape Bunting (NE) Emberiza capensis A male BR

Cinnamon-breasted Rock Bunting Emberiza tahapisi Common K and one L


Baboon, Chacma Papio ursinus Common

Bat, Tomb Taphozous mauritianus Several River Olifant K(L)

Blesbok Damaliscus dorcas phillipsi Good views mainly P and D

Buffalo Syncerus caffer Very common - thousands- K

Bushbaby, Thick-tailed Otolemur crassicaudatus One heard PA

Bushbuck Tragelaphus scriptus Common K

Dassie, Rock (Hyrax) Procavia capensis Only six D

Duiker, Common Sylvicapra grimmia Common LT and D

Eland Taurotragus oryx A fine pair Witsand

Elephant, African Loxodonta africana Very numerous. At least forty animals noted K

Giraffe, Southern Giraffa camelopardalis Numerous - over thirty sightings K

Hare, Scrub Lepus saxatilis Four on night safari K

Hartebeest, Red Alcelaphus buselaphus Common D

Hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius Forty or so K

Hyaena, Spotted Crocuta crocuta Three K(L)

Impala Aepyceros melampus Very common K

Jackal, Black-backed Canis mesomelas Two K and two MS

Kudu, Greater Tragelaphus strepsiceros Eleven noted K and six near Lydenburg

Lion Pathera leo A pair K

Mongoose, Dwarf Helogale parvula Four K and three BR

Mongoose, Slender Galerella sanguinea Widespread

Mongoose, Yellow Cynictis penicillata Eight sightings D

Monkey, Samango Cercopithecus mitis Common but elusive MS

Monkey, Vervet Cercopithecus aethiops Common in the north

Mouse, Four-striped Grass Rhabdomys pumilio One MS

Nyala Tragelaphus angasii Good views p and K

Oribi Ourebia ourebi Two D

Rhebok, Grey Palea capreolus Only D

Sable Antelope Hippotragus niger Only P

Springbok Antidorcas marsupialis Only D and Witsand

Springhare Pedetes capensis One on night safari K(L)

Squirrel, Tree Paraxerus cepapi Only K and MS

Steenbok Raphicerus campestris Mainly K , scattered records D

Tsessebe Damaliscus lunatus At P and K

Warthog Phacochoerus aethiopicus Common P and K

Waterbuck, Common Kobus ellipsiprymnus Common K(L)

Wildebeest, Black Connochaetes gnou Only D

Wildebeest, Blue Connochaetes taurinus Only P

Zebra, Burchell's Equus burchelli Common K also noted D


Other species noted include:-


Elegant Grasshopper Zonocerus elegens

Foam Grasshopper Dictyophorus spumans

Bush locust Phymateus sp

Green-banded Swallowtail Papilio nireus

Citrus Swallowtail Papilio demodocus

Hummingbird Hawkmoth sp Sphingidae sp

African Moon Moth Danaus chrysippus

Mopane Worm Gonimbrasia belina


Red Toad Schismaderma carens

Co. River Frog Rana angolensis


'Leopard' prob. Spek's Hingeback Tortoise Kinixys spekii

Hinged Terrapin sp Pelusios sp

Mozambique Spitting Cobra Naja mossambica

Striped Skink Mabuya striata

Northern Rock Lizard Australolacerta rupicola

Warren's Girdled Lizard Cordylus warreni

Co. Flat lizard Platysaurus intermedius

Rock Agama sp Agama sp

Flap-necked Chameleon Chamaeleo dilepis

Rock Monitor Varanus albigularis

Water Monitor V. niloticus

Nile Crocodile Crocodylus niloticus

© The Travelling Naturalist 2002