Rufousnaped Lark

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Mabusa Nature Reserve

Mabusa Nature Reserve is a little known, poorly visited reserve about 147km North East of Pretoria. The road network within the reserve doesn't seem to be well developed and to drive them one has to use a high clearance 4x4 but there is a well graded public gravel road that bisects the park and provides an ample amount of birding opportunities for the discerning birder! Some good Gauteng specials are to be found here including Lizard Buzzard, Green-capped Eremomela, Shelley's Francolin, White-backed Night Heron, Red-faced Cisticola, Wire-tailed Swallows and Short-toed Rock-thrush.

Adolf, Albert and I headed off early on the morning of the 5th May to try and find some of these elusive beasts for the year lists. Albert was on the hunt for some lifers and Adolf for some photo lifers (Adolf only ticks birds that he can capture on camera). They weren't too disappointed as the birds were out in force for the day with some really nice birds. Flappet Lark was calling and displaying over the grassland not far from the R25 tar road to Groblersdal. I had heard Shelley's Francolin calling the weekend before when I had visited with my wife but they were quiet today or foraging further afield. Green-capped Eremomela were heard near the Parks offices and we managed to get good views and captured a few images. Not real classy shots however. I call these Proctographs for obvious reasons.

A Lizard Buzzard called briefly and then flew over our heads to sit deep in the shade of a fairly leafy tree.

Green-capped Eremomela
While trying to take shots of the eremomelas, we hit on quite a nice bird party, with Black Flycatchers, Chinspot Batis, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbirds, Southern Boubou and a pair of Mocking Cliff-Chats. The male of this species was playing hard to get and refused to sit still for a decent photo.

Southern Black Flycatcher
Chinspot Batis Male
Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird
Mocking Cliff-Chat Female
Lizard Buzzard
Just across from the Parks Office gate I heard a Cape Grassbird calling from the grassy ditch, These birds can be very difficult to spot as they sit in a bush calling, with as many leaves and branches between themselves and the observer for safety. However after practicing a bit of patience, Albert got his lifer with good views and even a few good photos.

Cape Grassbird
A few meters further down the road, the Dark-capped Bulbuls were calling loudly and seemed extremely agitated. More and more birds gathered and made short forays into a particular tree. This is always a sure sign of a predator of sorts and on investigation we saw a Pearl-spotted Owlet who, although quite alert, seemed quite unperturbed about the ruckus going on around it.

Pearl-spotted Owlet
Leaving them in peace to sort out who stays and who doesn't we moved on further down the road and just before the high bridge a cinnamon coloured bird flit across in front of us and into a bush next to the railings. Cinnamon-breasted Bunting was the initial call but on closer inspection we found that it was a female Short-toed Rock-Thrush. A great bird for the Gauteng year list.

Short-toed Rock-Thrush Female
The list was growing longer as the sun got warmer and warmer. Just at the old holiday resort that is now disappearing slowly back to its original bushveld state (I think this must have been a beautiful place to stay in its heyday) we found a flock of White-crested Helmet-Shrikes.

White-crested Helmet-Shrike
Eventually it was time to start heading back and we stopped for one more photo shoot of a Streaky-headed Seedeater which was a lifer for Albert and a photo lifer for Adolf as well I think..

Streaky-headed Seedeater
Along the main R25 to Bronkhorstspruit we stopped off at Renosterkop and were lucky to see a small herd of Mountain Reedbuck grazing next to the access road. Obviously persecuted in this area, they immediately took off for the safety of the tall grass.

Mountain Reedbuck Male (trying his best to look like the Springbok Rugby emblem)
 Other nice species for the mountian were another Short-toed Rock-Thrush, Rock Kestrel and a Brown Snake-Eagle hiding among the aerials on one of the radio masts.

Rock Kestrel
Brown Snake-Eagle
And that was it for the day, we then headed back down the mountain and took the long road back to Pretoria.

It's amazing how bird dynamics work as just a week before I had visited the same area and saw other birds that did not feature in this days list. For example, Half-collared Kingfisher, Southern Black Tit, a pair of Lanner Falcon harassing a Pied Crow, Little Bee-eaters, Lazy Cisticola,  Buff-streaked Chat, Cape Rock-Thrush and Wailing Cisticola were all seen on that day.

Until next time, happy birding!!

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