At 3am we headed for the Polokwane Game Reserve in search of nocturnal birds. Some of the birds we managed to record include: Spotted Eagle-Owl, Southern White-faced Scops-Owl, Fiery-necked Nightjar, Rufous-cheeked Nightjar and an early rising Northern Black Korhaan. At 4:30am we headed for a hill in the Nature Reserve where we would observe the dawn chorus.
Adding new species to our list was a bit on the slow side as some fog settled over Polokwane and the Nature Reserve. Some of the birds we managed to record include: African Cuckoo, Black Cuckoo, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Black-crowned Tchagra, Brown-backed Honeybird and Cape Longclaw. At 6am we were at the picnic spot, and started adding birds in good numbers. Some of the birds we managed to record include: Fiscal Flycatcher, Southern Black Flycatcher, Common Scimitarbill, Zitting Cisticola and Common House Martin.
We ticked our 100th species just before 7am. At 7am we started moving to the back of the Nature Reserve and managed to tick a few nice species. Some of the birds we managed to record include: Bushveld Pipit, Short-clawed lark, Short-toed Rock Thrush and Anteating Chat. We started rushing towards the gate, as our time started to run out and also recorded: Black Cuckooshrike, Cape Weaver, Lesser Masked Weaver, Black-headed Oriole and Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike. We were also given an excellent sighting of a Gabar Goshawk pestering an African Hawk-Eagle.
At 8:30am we started to bird the Polokwane section. We added another 20 species to our list before moving to the Sterkloop Wetland area. Some of the birds we managed to record include: Green-backed Heron, Malachite Kingfisher, Speckled Pigeon, Rock Martin, Abdims Stork and Woodland Kingfisher. We were again entertained by an African Harrier-Hawk being followed and mobbed by hundreds of birds.
At 9:16am we started to bird the Sterkloop Wetland area. In previous years this was a prime spot to boost your list, but the wetland was in bad shape. Some of the birds we managed to record include: Orange-breasted Waxbill, African Quailfinch, Lesser Grey Shrike and an excellent sighting of a small group of Cuckoo Finch.
At 9:40am we entered the Polokwane Bird Sanctuary, and the birds started rolling in again. We recorded another 34 species covering the Polokwane Bird Sanctuary and a small little dam a few kms out to the North. Some of the birds we managed to record include: Sedge Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Yellow-billed Kite, Hottentot Teal, Red-billed Firefinch, African Firefinch, Marsh Sandpiper, Little Egret, African Purple Swamphen, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Cape Grassbird and Pied Avocet.
At 11:30am we started to bird our most North-western section of the area we would cover. These included Vencor, Doornbult and some grassland section. We managed to tick the following species: African Pipit, Black Kite, White Stork, Cape Vulture, Three-banded Plover, Common Sandpiper, Greater Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Lanner Falcon, Long-tailed Widowbird and a Long-created Eagle. We would spot Long-crested Eagle another four times during the rest of the day. We ticked our 200th species a few minutes after 12pm, and headed out of town to Turfloop dam.
We got to Mankweng sewage works at 13:05pm and rushed to Turfloop dam after ticking a few species. Some of the birds we managed to record include: Glossy Ibis, Southern Pochard, Lesser Honeyguide, African Fish-Eagle, Red-throated Wryneck, Southern Black Tit and a Maccoa Duck which was a good record for the area. We had to rush to Haenertsburg to keep up with our schedule.
At 14:20pm we started to bird the Haenertsburg area and we managed to tick a lot of the usual suspects. They include: Black Saw-Wing, Yellow Bishop, Red-collared Widowbird, Wailing Cisticola, Croaking Cisticola, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler and Jackal Buzzard.
At 14:50pm we started to bird the forest section. This included the Lesodi Trail, Bramsole Lodge and then Magoebaskloof Forest Drive. The birding was slow, and we missed out on quite a few species. Some of the birds we recorded include: Narina Trogon, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Cape Canary, Cape Batis, African Dusky Flycatcher, White-starred Robin, African Emerald Cuckoo, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Olive Woodpecker, and just before we moved on a Buff-spotted Flufftail.
We arrived in Tzaneen at 16:45pm, and managed to tick a few more species. They include: Dusky Indigobird, Magpie Mannikin, Grey-rumped Swallow, Red-faced Cisticola, Purple-crested Turaco, Golden Weaver and White-browed Robin-Chat. We ticked our 250th species at 17:20pm. We had to move on as we still had a few stops to make in the Lowveld.
After recording a few more species at some roadside hotspots, we arrived at Taganashoek at 18:05pm. Here we managed to tick species like: Black-bellied Bustard, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Square-tailed Nightjar and a Pearl-spotted Owlet. We moved onto our last section in the lowveld at 18:35pm where we ticked: Water Thick-knee and Little Bittern.
We retraced our steps back to Tzaneen and drove up to Agatha to tick the Bat Hawk, but with no luck. From here we drove back to Magoebaskloof Forest Drive to tick the African Wood-Owl. At 20:35pm we ticked our last bird for the day. Efforts to tick a few more nocturnal birds in Polokwane were unsuccessful. We ended up with 264 species.
Wat-Kyk-Jy team members (left-to-right) :
Rowan van Tonder, Richter van Tonder, Marcia van Tonder & Jody de Bruyn