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A Report from

South Africa July 13th till August 3,

Jan van der Laan

Participants: Roy de Haas, Anja Nusse, Chris Quispel, Jan van der Laan

Antarctic Skua off Durban


Between July 12th and August 4th 1996 we (Roy de Haas, Anja Nusse, Chris Quispel and Jan van der Laan) made a trip to Transvaal and Natal (now officially called KwaZulu-Natal) in South-Africa by car. Our main purpose was to see as many endemic bird species as possible and try to see and photograph some of the spectacular bigger mammals like Leopard, Cheetah and Rhinoceros. In the evening we tried to enjoy the better South-African wines! The birding proved to be very good, although it can be better when visiting in another season (spring!). Travel was pleasant, the roads good and quiet, the traffic few and a good car made everything perfect. Weather was most of the time sunny, but at Kruger we experienced cool weather and rains and at Wakkerstroom frost at night. At Dullstroom we experienced dense fog, which did not allow any birding at all. People, either black or white, were very nice, helpful and nobody bothered us at all during these three weeks.


July 12th Flight with Air France from Amsterdam Schiphol to Orly Airport, Paris. After a three-hour break a Boeing 747 took us at night to South-Africa.
July 13th Arrival at Jan Smuts Airport at Johannesburg, South-Africa. Somebody from the Car Rental Company was already waiting for us with the car (Toyota Camri) and after changing money and having no custom problems we went to Naboomspruit in Transvaal. Roads quiet and clean, weather sunny but not very warm and when looking at the trees, it became clear it was winter here! We first saw common birds like Indian Myna, Garden Bulbul, Cape Wagtail, Black-winged Kite, Fiscal Shrike, Blacksmith Lapwing, Grey-headed Gull and House Sparrows. At Naboomspruit we tried to find Nylsvlei, according to Hugh Chittenden's Top Birding Spots in Southern Africa, p 134, but there was no water enough to attract a lot of birds. We found a hotel in the centre of the village as described in the Lonely Planet and after that we did some birding in the surroundings. We saw e.g. Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Neddicky, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, White-breasted Sunbird, Black Sunbird, Rufous-vented Warbler, Pearl-breasted Swallow, African Stonechat, Chinspot Batis, Common Grenadier, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Coqui Francolin, Crested Francolin, Swainson's Spurfowl, African Grey Hornbill, Red-billed Hornbill, Crimson-breasted Gonolek, Burchell's Glossy-Starling and Red-shouldered Glossy-Starling. Dinner at a nice family restaurant with good food and very good wine!
July 14th Early morning we drove to Mosdene Private Nature Reserve (see Chittenden's Top Birding Spots in Southern Africa, p 134), but we had difficulties in finding suitable habitat. Everything was dry and water seemed to be always on the horizon. Interesting birds were Ostrich, Marsh Owl, Long-tailed Shrike, Lesser Striped Swallow, African Hawk-Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, Cardinal Woodpecker, Greater Honeyguide, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Burnt-neck Eremomela, Wailing Cisticola, Pale Flycatcher and Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike. A group of Baboons watched us from the bushes. Next we went to Nylsvlei Nature Reserve (see Chittenden p 134-135). This was an interesting spot, with many wetland species like Dabchick, Long-tailed (Reed) Cormorant, Grey - Black-headed and Purple Heron; Intermediate Egret, Hamerkop, Glossy Ibis, African Spoonbill, White-backed Duck, Comb Duck, Red-billed Duck, Southern Pochard, Red-crested Pochard (escaped?), Black Crake, African Snipe, Pearl-spotted Owlet, African Palm Swift, Black-collared Barbet and Ashy Tit. We stayed till dark, had dinner in the hotel (vlek swyn!) and went to sleep early.
July 15th After some early morning shopping we went north with a first stop at Pietersburg. According to Stephen Terblanche this was the spot for Short-clawed Lark. We found suitable habitat just outside Pietersburg and quickly found several savanne species like White-quilled Bustard, Temminck's Courser, Desert Cisticola and at least four Short-clawed Larks. From there we drove to the Magoebaskloof and Wood Bush Reserve. During this drive we saw our first White-backed Vultures, African Harrier-Hawk, White-necked Ravens and Fiscal Flycatcher. First we went to the Debenjeni Falls, where we saw interesting species like Dark-Chanting Goshawk, Wahlberg's Eagle, Purple-crested Lourie, Southern Boubou, Bokmakierie Bushshrike, Cape White-Eye, Cape Crombec, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Swee Waxbill, Red-backed Mannakin, Cape Batis, Tawny-flanked Prinia and Long-tailed Wagtail. At Troutman Lake Resort we found a nice hotel, saw our first Cape Robin-Chat and had very good dinner. When leaving the restaurant, the Hadada Ibises were still on the tennis court (playing tennis or was it the wine?).
July 16th Early in the morning we went back to Woodbush Reserve and drove some miles on the Forest Drive. It was foggy and the treetops were shrouded in the mist. However, we managed to spot some very good species like Olive Woodpecker, Chorister Robin-Chat, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Yellow-streaked Bulbul, Grey Cuckoo-shrike and probably the best bird of the entire trip, a pair of Black-fronted Bush Shrikes! At 10:00 hours we sadly had to leave the area to be in time in the Kruger Park.  We drove via Tazneen to Phalaborwa, one of the gates of Kruger National Park. In Kruger we drove north to Punda Maria, where we made reservations for two nights.  Interesting birds were Lappet-faced Vulture, African Fish Eagle, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Bataleur, Red-crested Bustard, Verreaux's Eagle Owl (on nest just inside the gate), Purple Roller, Black Cuckoo-shrike, Arrow-marked Babbler, Ground-scraper Thrush, Ashy Alseonax, Wattled and Greater Blue-eared Starling, Grey-headed Sparrow and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting. Furthermore we saw our first Burchell's Zebras, Giraffes and Elephants. At Punda Maria we had a good dinner and a good night sleep.
July 17th We woke up with the sound of rain and this proved to be the coldest and wettest day of the entire trip. We drove to Pafuri and tried to make the best possible. On our way near the Mashikiri Well we saw a Dickinson's Kestrel in a Baobab tree. Interesting birds at Pafuri were Woolly-neck Stork, Natal Francolin, White-headed Lapwing, Emerald-spotted Dove, Red-billed and Scimitar-billed Woodhoopoe, Wire-tailed Swallow, a lone White-throated Swallow, White-browed Robin-Chat (Heuglin's Robin), Red-capped Robin-Chat (Natal Robin), White-throated Robin-Chat, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Green-capped Eremomela, Red-faced Cisticola, Tawny-flanked Prinia, African Paradise Flycatcher, Tropical Boubou, Meves's Glossy Starling, Yellow-throated Petronia, Spectacled Weaver, White-winged Widow-bird, Queen Whydah and African Golden-breasted Bunting. We searched in vain for Crowned Eagle and Narina Trogon. In the afternoon we drove back to Punda Maria, where again we had an excellent dinner and a good night sleep.
July 18th Today the weather cleared a little and sometimes the sun was visible, so again we headed for Pafuri to look for Narina Trogon amongst others. Beside the species mentioned yesterday we saw Little Banded Sparrow, African Goshawk, Double-banded Sandgrouse, African Pigeon, Little Swift, Böhms Spinetail (the most peculiar bird and certainly one of the highlights of the entire trip!), Trumpeter Hornbill, Half-collared Kingfisher (only seen by Roy), Bennett's Woodpecker, Grey-rumped Swallow, Southern Black Tit, Terrestrial Bulbul, White-browed Robin, Black-headed Oriole, Grey-backed Bleating Warbler, Wattle-eyed Flycatcher, Red-winged Starling and Yellow-White-eye. At noon we drove back to Punda Maria and through to Mopani, where we had booked for another three nights. On our way to Mopani we saw Burchell's Coucal, White-fronted Bee-eater, Tawny Eagle, Bataleur and Dickinson's Kestrel at Balabala. At Mopani we bought meat for barbecue, had a delicious dinner and the most beautiful sight of the stars, more than in the Northern Hemisphere. At night I had a bad dream about an elephant who was sleeping in our cottage so I woke up Chris to remove it! Sorry Chris...
July 19th Early morning we heard a Lion roaring and this proved to be the only record we had the whole holiday! A Familiar Chat sat on the barbecue, living up his South-African name (spekvreter!). The weather was finally sunny and because I forgot my pair of glasses and fluid for my contact lenses in Punda Maria we drove back north. On our way a very nasty Elephant blocked the road for half an hour, but finally he disappeared. We decided to check Pafuri first and this was a good move, since we found 4 Mottled Spinetails at the bridge over the Luvuvhu River and on our way back 5 Arnot's Chats! Other birds at Pafuri were another Böhm's Spinetail, Yellow Warbler, Martial Eagle, Gymnogene, Pearl-spotted Owlet, White-fronted Bee-eater, Sulphur-breasted Bush Shrike, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver and White-crowned Plover. At Punda Maria I collected my lost things and after observing a Scarlet-chested Sunbird we went south to Mopani. At Balabala we had our first Monotonous Lark, on our way to Mopani another Dickinson's Kestrel and just before Mopani Gabar Goshawk, White-headed Vulture and a Martial Eagle. Another male Elephant blocked the road, but we escaped just in time. In the evening after observing a Freckled Nightjar over the cottage, we barbecued again, but this was not as good as the day before, despite the crafty hands of our maître de cuisine, Roy de Haas and my pyromaniac abilities to build a good fire.
July 20th This day we drove around Mopani, Letaba River and the Engelharddam and it became the least productive day all: nothing special was found and nothing exciting happened. For Roy it was even more worse, since he did not see any new species. The best birds were Verreaux's Eagle, Little Banded Sparrowhawk or Shikra, Kittlitz's Plover, Collared Pratincole, Red Bishop, Saddle-billed Stork, Dickinson's Kestrel, Lappet-faced Vulture, African Hawk Eagle, Double-banded Sandgrouse, White-bellied and Marico Sunbirds, White Pelican and Red-backed Scrub-Robin (White-browed Robin). In the evening we had dinner in Mopani and when phoning to the Netherlands we learned a Semi-palmated Sandpiper was seen for two days, 10 kilometres from Roy and Anja's home. After hearing that I dreamt about the Semi-palmated Sandpiper almost every night, while Anja was dreaming about large male Elephants lurking before the car.
July 21st Today we drove from Mopani to Skukuza, in the south of Kruger Park and did some birding at regular stops. Near Satara we saw our only Cheetah, walking next to the car, paying no attention to us. Interesting birds were Woolly-necked Stork, Marabou, Saddle-billed Stork, Martial Eagle, Shelly's Francolin, Kori Bustard, White-fronted Plover, Cape Parrot, Burchell's Coucal, Ground Hornbills, Bearded Woodpecker, African (Grassveld) Pipit, Sabota's Lark, Bearded and Red-backed Scrub-Robin and Red-billed Quela. With 20 kilometres to go before Skukuza Roy suddenly discovered a large cat sitting at the side of the road: a male Leopard! We turned the car and made excellent pictures of this most beautiful animal. As the Cheetah seen earlier today, he paid no attention to us and leisurely he crossed the road and disappeared in the grass, the last we saw of him was the white tip of the tail. Now we had to hurry and we just made it before closing time in Skukuza. There we celebrated the sighting of Leopard with champagne and the best wine of the restaurant! With Roy's mobile telephone we phoned home and all had a good night sleep, although the curtains were prints of male Elephants...
July 22nd In the morning in the river behind the cottage we discovered a pair of Water Dikkops. In the camp itself we tried to get information about the two species of Rhinoceros and we spent the whole day looking for both in the surroundings of Skukuza and the Sabie River, without success and to make things even worse, we missed a Black Rhinoceros in minutes. Birds were not uncommon and some birds we saw were Martial Eagle, Black Crake, African Jacana, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Green Pigeon, Cape Parrot, Pearl-spotted Owl, Malachite, Pied and Brown Hooded Kingfisher, Yellow-fronted Tinker Barbet, Sombre Bulbul, Dusky, Paradise and Black Flycatcher, Helmeted Shrike and Masked Weaver. Again a nasty male Elephant tried to side-impact our car, but we escaped and another was chased away by a lorry. In the evening we heard a White-faced Owl behind our cottage in Skukuza, where we had dinner and sleep.
July 23rd

Today we left the park, taking the H3 in the park. From there we observed Black Sparrowhawk, Crested and Coqui Francolin, Red-crested Korhaan, Green-spotted Dove, three species of Hornbills, Pied Crow, Dusky Flycatcher, Scarlet-chested Sunbird and Grey-headed Sparrow. We left at the Malelane Gate. There we took the N4 and drove straight to Dullstroom. On our way just before Waterval Boven we discovered a flock of 7 Southern Bald Ibises, feeding on a rugby field. The weather was cooler now, since we were reaching higher altitudes. At noon we had an excellent lunch somewhere near Waterval Boven, with smoked trout and sandwiches, the local speciality. In the afternoon we reached Dullstroom. Immediately we did some birding in the surroundings before dark and had good species like Alpine Swift, Southern Ant-eating Chat, Mocking Chat, Buff-streaked Chat, Orange-throated Longclaw, Bokmakerie, Red-winged Starling, Yellow-rumped Whydah and Cape Bunting.

We took a nice hotel in Dullstroom, gained information about crane species like Wattled and Blue Crane, had dinner in a nice pub with a stuffed Bald Ibis and a very cold sleep.

July 24th We woke up early and went north to a small village called De Burg, where a Crane Sanctuary was with a pair of Wattled Cranes, but beside three wing-clipped Blue Cranes, it was too foggy and windy to search the area properly. We went back to Dullstroom for breakfast and after gaining some extra information about cranes we went back to De Burg, but it was even more foggier, so we decided to leave and to go to Mkuzi in KwaZulu/Natal. Interesting birds at Dullstroom and De Burg were Great Crested Grebe, Dabchick or Little Grebe, Hamerkop, Yellow-billed Duck, Wattled Plover, Black Crow, Pied Starling, African Rock Pigeon, Ant-eating Chat and Orange-throated Longclaw. The long drive to Mkuzi Game Reserve (via Belfast, Carolina, Ermelo, Piet Retief and Mkuzi) gave us Lappet-faced Vulture, Black-winged Kite, White-backed Vulture, Tawny Eagle, Little Swift, Cape Wagtail, Masked Weaver and Bokmakerie. We checked in the reserve itself and were just in time a get hold of a cottage. We bought food for the evening and did some birding behind the camp, with species like Grey Lourie, Pied, Brown-hooded and Striped Kingfisher, Crowned Hornbill, Black Sawwing Swallow, Kurrichane Thrush, White-throated, White-browed and Bearded Robin, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Chinspot Batis, Blue Waxbill and Melba Finch. Roy and Chris observed a group of Pied Mannikins, but Anja and I failed to find them. Just before preparing dinner, a girl from the camp came to ask at what time we wanted dinner. We replied we would cook ourselves, so she left smiling. Roy tried to start cooking, but could not find the stove and pots and pans, so we asked the girl if she wanted to do the cooking in the central kitchen of the camp! The dinner was very good and after hearing several Fiery-necked Nightjars we went to sleep.
July 25th In the morning we took a walk in the Fig Forest, a walk for 3 kilometres and a good spot for the Narina Trogon. The entrance to the forest as very exciting, since we had to cross a wooden hanging bridge over a muddy river with invisible crocodiles. Interesting birds on our way to and in the Fig Forest were Crested Guineafowl, Brown-headed Parrots, Little Bee-eaters, Giant Kingfisher, Trumpeter Hornbill, White-eared Barbet, Golden-rumped Tinker Barbet, Flappet Lark, Natal Robin, White-throated, Bearded and White-browed Robin, Long-billed Crombec, Black-breasted Snake Eagle, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Blue-mantled Flycatcher, Wattled-eyed Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Black-bellied Starling, Purple-banded Sunbird, Forest Weaver, Cape Weaver and Pink-throated Twinspot (at the spot of the Twinspot a saw an Elephant lurking, but I did not dare to tell my comrades, who believed Elephants were not in Mkuzi, but later we red in a newspaper Elephants were introduced a couple of days before we arrived!). We saw no Narina Trogon and no Green Coucal, birds we hoped to see, but at a break at the parking place of Fig Forest, a Crowned Eagle soared over our heads, very much to the delight of Roy and Anja, who never saw one, despite trips to Kenya and Gambia! From one of the hides of the Ensuma Pan we observed Goliath Heron, Lesser Flamingo, a lone Greater Flamingo, Spur-winged Goose, Black-bellied Korhaan, our only Cape Vulture (easy to recognise though!), Black-winged Stilts and Whiskered Terns.  In the afternoon we went to the airstrip, were we saw Flappet Lark, Grassveld Pipit and Rudd's Apalis. In the evening we took a night trip and saw our only two Black Rhinoceros and other mammals like Spotted Hyena, Large Spotted Genet and Thick-tailed Bushbaby. Birds like Spotted Dikkops and Fiery-necked Nightjars and a self-improvised meal completed the day.
July 26th Early in the morning we heard a Spotted Eagle Owl behind our cottage. After a quick breakfast we went to Fig Forest again. We saw basically the same species as yesterday, but today we dared to identify difficult (for us) species like Black-backed Cisticola and Bushveld Pipit. Furthermore we saw Black-breasted Snake Eagle, Black Cuckooshrike, Black-crowned Tsachra, Red-billed Oxpecker and when we left the park Streaky-headed Canary. A short stop at St. Lucia did not give us more new species and at False Bay we tried to look for Neergaard's Sunbird and Woodward's Batis, but failed to find any, but a few Grey Sunbirds made us happy again. We took a nice hotel (Marina Lodge) in Richard's Bay and after some drinks and a good meal, we spent the whole evening phoning birdwatchers and booked a sea trip at Durban for July 30th.
July 27th In the morning we went birding in the vicinity of Richard's Bay, with our main goal the Lesser Jacana. A hide there was old and apparently re-decorated by local vandals. However, it was possible with some effort to watch birds from the roof of the hide and had good, but far-away views of Reed Cormorant, White Pelican, Darter, Yellow-billed Duck, African Pygmy Goose, African Marsh Harrier, c 100 Collared Pratincoles, Whiskered and White-winged Tern, Croaking Cisticola, Cape Reed Warbler and Lesser Masked Weaver. Next we went to Umlalazi Nature Reserve (with a Long-crested Eagle along the N2), where we spent the rest of the afternoon, including a dive in the Indian Ocean. Interesting birds were Kelp Gull, Common Tern, Olive Sunbird, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Emerald Spotted Dove, Burnt-necked Eremomela and Yellow Weaver. No sign here of Lesser Jacana, Mangrove Kingfisher or Palmnut Vulture. In the evening we went back to the hide at Richard's Bay, where we saw a beautiful Black Sparrowhawk hunting and a nightjar we could not identify. In our hotel we did another load of phone-calls and made an appointment with Barry Amberton to go birding in Dlinza Forest next morning.
July 28th We rose up early to get in time in the Dlinza Forest at Eshowe. In Eshowe we had difficulties finding the forest, but a nice lady brought us to it and we saw Barry Amberton and Hamish Campbell waiting. They guided us through the forest and taught us a lesson in South African bird songs. Everywhere was a new species singing! Actually we were focusing on the Spotted Ground Thrush, but we heard or saw Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Grey Cuckooshrike, Chorister Robin, Black-headed Oriole, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Bar-throated Apalis, Green-backed Bleating Warbler, Olive Bush Shrike, Lesser Double-collared Sunbird and the four highlights: first a singing Spotted Ground Thrush, which we could see singing after some effort, second a Narina Trogon, which responded to our tape and took a look what was going on, third a Green Coucal, also showing itself beautifully after playing the tape for just a milli-second and fourth a Emerald Cuckoo, singing from one of the higher trees. At the hide in the middle of the forest we waited for Green Twinspot, but we only heard their faint almost Goldcrest-like calls. When leaving the forest at the end of the morning we got a flat tire. Barry offered to bring it to a garage for repair and after changing it, he guided us to the museum of Eshowe, where a sleeping Spotted Eagle Owl was. Next we went to the other forest nearby, the Entumeni Nature Reserve. In that forest we searched for Brown Robin, which we finally found and another Emerald Cuckoo. We left very satisfied, took a hotel in Eshowe, had good dinner and saw the Dutch Rowing Team ('Holland-Acht') getting a golden medal on the Olympics at Atlanta.
July 29th In the morning we went to Dlinza Forest again, but this time, only a tenth of the birds compared with yesterday were present, so we left for Entumeni Nature Reserve. There we waited from a vantage point for Delegorgue's Pigeon, which we saw after quitting the search! Other interesting birds were (both in Dlinza and Entumeni) were Purple-crested Lourie, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Trumpeter Hornbill, Spotted Ground Thrush, Green-backed Bleating Warbler, Lazy Cisticola, Drakensberg Prinia, Croaking Cisticola, Olive Bush Shrike, Lesser Double-crested Sunbird, Bronze and Pied Mannikins. We collected our tire and we noticed Barry Amberton had paid for the repair. Thank you very much Barry! In the afternoon we drove to Durban. After a boring trip we checked in at the Holiday Inn, booked the pelagic trip for the next day and visited Sea World, where a Great White Shark was shown, caught a few years ago at the same spot were we had a swim two days before!
July 30th Today at 6:00 hours we went c 20 miles out into the Indian Ocean on the Isle of Capri with a sailor, who's name I forgot, but this day was the most exciting of the entire trip. Thousands of Cape Gannets, Hundreds of White-chinned Petrels, c 30 Sooty Shearwaters, c 30 Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, c 20 Antarctic or Brown Skuas, 2 Dove or Antarctic Prions, one Shy Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Pintado Petrel and Wilson's Petrel and several porpoises and a distant whale! Chris did not take any motion-sickness pill and turned green instead. At 13:00 hours we returned at Durban, observed some Swift Terns and returned to our hotel for a short afternoon sleep. The rest of the day and evening we spent doing nothing, although on television we saw our Formula-1 driver, Jos Verstappen, crashing at the first turn. Well done, Jos!
July 31st In the morning at Durban we bought some presents for home and next we headed west to find the Wattled Cranes near Mooi Rivier. After a long winding road in a very beautiful landscape (snow-topped Drakensbergen on the horizon) we managed to find a pair of this beautiful bird (later we learned there was a wing-clipped pair in the same general area with a chick, but these two birds were seen courting and photographs revealed both were unringed and unclipped, fortunately!). Also around in the same area (i.e. 28 kilometres west of Mooi Rivier) were Jackal Buzzard, Secretary Bird, Crowned Crane, Red-capped Lark, Buffy Pipit, Black Crow, Levaillant's Cisticola and Red-throated Longclaw. In the afternoon we tried to find our last goal, the Blue Crane in the area north of Estcourt and Ladysmith. Near Corenso we found some Southern Bald Ibises, Temminck's Courser, Pied Crow and Red-winged Starling. At Ladysmith we checked in at a motel, where we saw Familiar Chat, Cape Wagtail and Cape Sparrow. We had dinner in a Pizza Restaurant with good wine and next a dreamless sleep without Elephants and Semi-palmated Sandpipers.
Aug 1st After breakfast we drove from Ladysmith via Newcastle and Volksrust to Wakkerstroom in Transvaal. North of Newcastle a Black Harrier crossed the road, the only one of the trip. In Wakkerstroom we checked in at the Weavers Nest. The Weavers Nest is run by a nice couple (Gene and Simon), who arranged a guide for us for the next day. Also we bought the Wakkerstroom Bird & Nature Guide by Warwick and Michele Tarboton. This proved to be a very good guide for the Wakkerstroom area. After a short lunch we drove along the Amersfoort Road, where a few days before a group of Blue Cranes was observed. Other interesting birds were Hottentot Teal, Cape Shoveler, Bald Ibis, Grey-winged Francolin, Swainson's Francolin, Blue Korhaan, Crowned Crane, Greenshank, Long-billed Lark, Spike-heeled Lark, Red-capped Lark, Pink-billed Lark (a group of c 15), Mountain Chat, Southern Ant-eating Chat, Mocking Chat, Black Sunbird, Masked Weaver and large flocks of Long-tailed Widows. In the evening we had an excellent dinner and a very good bottle of wine from the private collection of the owner, Simon.
Aug 2nd Early in the morning John McAllister took us for a trip in the Wakkerstroom area. First we went looking at the Zaaihoek Dam for Ground Woodpecker (no luck), but we managed to find Cape Rock Thrush, Sentinel Rock Thrush, Buff-streaked Chat, Mountain Chat, Giant Kingfisher and Black-throated Canary (with no black throats, because they were in winter plumage!). Next we searched till noon for the elusive Rudd's Lark at private property, but John said it was too windy and they stayed tight at the ground invisible in the long grass. Other birds were Blue Korhaan, Secretary Bird, Jackal Buzzard, Long-billed Lark, Spike-heeled Lark, Cape bunting and Ayer's Cisticola. At the Weavers Nest we had a short and quick lunch, before our final search for the Blue crane north-east of Wakkerstroom. We managed to find three of them on a corn field and later another four near Dirkie's Dorp. The last hours of daylight we spent looking for the White-bellied Korhaan, but we had to comfort ourselves with a Stanley's Bustard! Other 'goodies' were Spotted Dikkops and a Marsh Owl ended this good day of birding. In the evening we were to tired to do some midnight owling.
Aug 3rd Our final morning was spent at the Over Langberg Area (north of Wakkerstroom) for a desperate search for Rudd's and Botha's Lark. Between E7 en E6 (see Warwick and Michele Tarboton p 35) our attention was drawn by two small larks, with a small breast band, consisting of spots, a reddish pink thrush-like bill (not a seed-eater bill like Pink-billed Lark), which proved to be Botha's Larks! Other birds in that area were two Blue cranes, three Blue Korhaans, Marsh Owl, Spike-heeled Lark, Long-billed Lark, Red-capped Lark, Ant-eating Chat and a rock thrush-species. Our final action was to play a tape of the Red-necked Wryneck in the garden of Weavers Nest. The poor bird responded immediately and was still calling when we left Wakkerstroom an hour later. Sorry Wryneck, not done! Via Volksrust and Bethal we moved to Johannesburg, found the Jan Smuts Airport without problems, parked the car and checked in and finally at last our reservations for seats with room for the long-legged was accepted. Thank you Air France! In the evening our plane left for Paris. In the plane I tried to sleep in vain and half-way there was lot of turbulence...
Aug 4th We made a stop-over in Paris in the morning and there I learned my credit-card and other cards were lost or still in the plane. This being the only black spot of the holiday, but all things lost were returned in the a couple of weeks, and when we arrived at Amsterdam, we realised we had a very good trip. South Africa is indeed worth another visit. The Semi-palmated Sandpiper however, was gone...

Suggested Reading

In South Africa several good identification guides and where-to-find guides are available.

Personally, we like to use as many field guides as possible and in addition photographic guides. We used the following:

·       The Larger Illustrated Sasol Guide to Birds of Southern Africa (Sinclair, Hockey, Hayman & Arlott, 1996)

·       Newman's Birds of Southern Africa (Kenneth Newman)

·       South African Birds: a Photographic Guide (Sinclair & Davidson, 1990)

·       Field Guide to the Birds of the Kruger Park (Sinclair & Whyte, 1991)

Also very useful are sound recordings, especially when you are not familiar with the songs. We used: South African Birds Sounds by Guy Gibbon (1991); a very useful box, containing 6 cassettes and a booklet.

Due to copyrights, we did not include site maps, but we strongly recommend the where-to-find guides, since they explain well the sites we visited. We used the excellent Top Birding Hot Spots in Southern Africa by Hugh Chittenden et al (1992).


We like to thank the following persons: Barry Amberton, Hamish Campbell, Pete Outhwaite, Stephen Terblanche, John McAllister, Dave McKinnon, Gene and Simon (the owners of Weavers Nest), Trevor Snyman, Jenny Norman, Les Underhill, Pete Irons, Peter Ryan, Alan Wilkinson, Rob Goldbach and several birders who's name I forgot, but were very helpful.

The Species Accounts

The order of 'A World Checklist of Birds' by Sibley and Monroe (1993) is followed, but when the names were too different from the most commonly used names, the name in the new 'The Larger Illustrated Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa' by Ian Sinclair and Phil Hockey (1996) is also given.

Amsterdam, January-June 1997

If you have any remarks, questions or suggestions, please contact:

Jan van der Laan                                    or:                       Roy de Haas & Anja Nusse
Brouwerstraat 19                                                               Symfoniestraat 21
1814 HX Alkmaar                                                              1312 ET Almere
The Netherlands                                                                 The Netherlands
Telephone: ++31-72-52023091                                      Telephone: ++31-36-5362819
E-mail:                                          E-mail:

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