The morning started out cloudy, and at six o'clock when we arrived at the wetland, we were greeted by the day's first light as well as a huge flock of cattle egrets (Veereier) flying overhead! We rapidly logged a number of species including an impressive, perched fish eagle (Visarend), and comb ducks (Knobbeleend) flying by, showing their unique profiles. Quite interesting to see at the spot were Wire-tailed Swallows (Draadstertswael), a species more characteristic of the lowveld.
Moving on we stopped at a spot where a previous expedition had seen a Baillon's Crake (Kleinriethaan), which unfortunately didn't turn up this time. The spot did reward us with European Sedge Warblers (Europese Vleisanger), Lesser Swamp Warblers (Kaapse Rietsanger), Purple Swamphens (Grootkoningriethaan), Hottentot Teal (Gevlekte eend), and White-backed Ducks (Witrugeend) (which I unfortunately didn't see). Other wetland species we saw over the course of the day included Cape Shovellers (Kaapse Slopeend), Yellow-billed Duck (Geelbekeend), Egyptian Geese (Kolgans), Red-knobbed Coot (Bleshoender), Moorhen (Grootwaterhoender), Dabchick (Kleindobbertjies), Black Crake (Swartriethaan), Blacksmith Lapwing (Bontkiewiet), both White-breasted and Reed Cormorants (WitborsĖ en Rietduiker), and Darter (SlanghalsvoŽl). Both the Giant and Pied Kingfishers (ReuseĖ en Bontvisvanger) were seen in flight.
We took a detour into the riverine bush to seek the elusive Gorgeous Bush Shrike (Konkoit)! Though calling loudly all the time, it teased us with nothing more than glimpses throught the dense foliage. No attempt to lure it out by playing call backs seemed to make the slightest impression upon it. We were similarly teased by Terrestrial Bulbul (Boskrapper). Some of us (but again not me personally!) did net a satisfying sighting of a Garden Warbler (Tuinsanger) here. Davin Letsoalo led us into some dense bush in search of it, and we did manage to see and photograph a warbler, but Richter assured us that it was merely a Willow Warbler (Hofsanger)! The callplayback technique also did succeed in drawing a Lesser Honeyguide (Kleinheuningwyser). Owl calls brought us an excited-looking Common Scimitarbill (Swartbekkakelaar).
Back to the reeds and the water, we moved through some squelching mud which almost ate one of Mark's shoes! We glimpsed a Painted Snipe (Goudsnip) as well as an African Snipe (Afrikaanse Snip) flying past. We also saw a Three-banded Plover (Driebandstrandkiewiet) and Wood Sandpiper (Bosruiter) at the spot. African Black Swifts (Swartwindswael) flew overhead and treated us to a display at their prowess of skimming drinks from the water surface. We were teased some more, by the African Rail (Grootriethaan), and Redchested Flufftail (Rooiborsvleikuiken), calling from the reeds but refusing to show themselves! Again attempts by Richter and Rowan to lure them out by playing call backs, failed to make any impression on them. I was happy enough to hear them call as I had never encountered them before. A special sighting, and a lifer for some of us, was a Little Bittern (Woudapie/Kleinrietreier) perched peacefully in a tree by the waterside. A wonderfully pretty bird, and also a lifer for some of us, and a great sighting was a Pygmy Kingfisher (Dwergvisvanger). Snazzy White-winged Widows (Witvlerkflap) were conspicuous all over the place.
Birds not spicifically associated with water, included Black-Chested Snake Eagle (Swartborsslangarend), Gabar Goshawk (Witkruissperwer), Little Bee-Eater (Kleinbyvreter), and Quail Finch (Gewone Kwartelvinkie) flushed from the grass by Richter (or was it Rowan?) We also spotted some Orange-Breasted Waxbills (Rooiassie) flying by. The dense vegetation also hosted Common (Rooibek-), Blue (Gewone Blou-) and Black-Faced Waxbills (Swartwangsysie), Melba Finch (or Green-Winged Pytilia/Gewone Melba), Red-billed (Rooibek-) and Jameson's Firefinch (Jamesonse Vuurvinkie). A cute sighting was a Yellowbreasted Apalis (Geelborskleinjantjie). We got good sightings (and for some of us, photo's) of active little Burnt-necked Eremomelas (Bruikeelbossanger). Always elegant Paradise Flycatchers (ParadysvlieŽvanger) were also around. We spotted some female (or maybe non-breeding male) Pintailed Whydahs (Koningrooibekkie) and also a perched Shaft-tailed Whydah(Pylstertrooibekkie). In all, it was a very rewarding morning's birding. Thanks to everyone involved, including David for his dilligence in leading us to elusive birds; Richter of course for organising this outing and his all-round expertise; for Mark and Julia to allow me to travel along with them; and Susan Chapman for allowing me to play around with her camera!