06 November 2009

Mkhuze Game Reserve…(South Africa): October 10, 2009

After our roadwork-plagued drive down here from Johannesburg the afternoon and evening before, a short drive into Mkhuze was just what we needed. This has been described as a “Mecca for southern African birders” and we soon learned why. We bumped into just one other family while in the reserve this day, but for the most part we felt as if we had the birds and game all to ourselves. Game was abundant and the now very familiar species like Burchell’s Zebras, Impalas, hippos, Giraffes, and Warthogs were all seen once more along with a few striking Nyala too. The birding was fantastic too, and despite a drizzly morning that had us sheltering in some of their well-placed hides for cover, the rain did not dampen our spirits and the birds behaved as if they were oblivious to these “spring showers”. As we drove into the heart of the reserve a less than gorgeous call led us to an absolutely gorgeous bird, called rightly enough, the Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, a bird that eluded my camera, and that sports a vibrant vermilion-red throat patch bordered in black. The rain continued to spit on us, although a number of Pink-throated Twinspots (see photos) both within the main reserve and along the entrance track showed no signs of being affected by the regular downpours. While we sheltered from a particularly heavy shower in one of the blinds set in amongst sand forest, we found Bearded Scrub-Robin, and best of all watched on as the rare Neergard’s Sunbird sang from the treetops, and frequently visited some blooming flowers beside the blind. This is a localized sand forest specialist and one we had really hoped to find. A respite from the rain had us out walking in the sand forest where more twinspots were always welcome and we also eventually tracked down one of several calling Eastern Nicators, a few Grey waxbills, and the localized Rudd’s Apalis that was extremely obliging. We then slowly made our way back towards the entrance, stopping for some inquisitive and distinctly funky-looking Crested Guineafowl (see photo). A little further on down the road came one of the highlights of our three-week jaunt around this fascinating country, when we noticed a flurry of bird activity, that we soon realized was caused by an emergence of termites from a small mound. While various swallows, swifts and bee-eaters swooped on the wing overhead to take advantage of the harvest a Lizzard Buzzard (see photo) dropped down on the ground and greedily munched on termites from the place they emerged. This all got very ridiculous when a huge Trumpeter Hornbill even started to hunt them on the wing overhead, very unexpected as this is not usually an aerial hunter. Everywhere you looked there were birds desperate to get in on the act. A very exciting end to our day before the heavens opened once more and we “set sail” for St. Lucia

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