We are fortunate to enjoy great birding in the Lowveld throughout the year, so don’t shy away from enjoying birding in winter!
A group of nine enthusiastic birders joined me for a morning of birding at Likweti Estate, a lovely wildlife residential estate just outside White River. Our morning got off to a wonderful start as we enjoyed a beautiful sunrise over the plains of the estate, with Giraffe and a herd of Zebra adding to the incredible scene.
Birding begun as soon as we entered the gate and some of our first birds for the morning included Red-throated Wryneck, Crested Barbet, Cardinal Woodpecker, and an African-harrier Hawk flying over the group. The morning got off to a fantastic start and it looked like we were in for a great day of birding.
As we left our cars and headed out with binoculars in hand, the drumming of a Bearded Woodpecker suddenly caught our attention. It wasn’t long before we enjoyed great views of this stunning bird in the Paperbark Acacia above us. Other birds then joined the party including a stunning male Mocking Cliff Chat, Yellow-fronted Canary, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Spectacled Weaver and Yellow-throated Longclaws displaying above us.
Walking through the grassland and mixed Acacia trees, our bird list grew with some noteworthy species being: Black-crowned Tchagra, Cape Starling, White-browed Robin-Chat, stunning African Green Pigeon, White-fronted Bee-eater, Cape Grassbird and a Scarlet-chested Sunbird.
One of the highlights of the morning came in the form of a Greater Honeyguide showing on a dead tree. This is- a special bird which is not often seen in the open. The greater honeyguide is known to guide humans to the nests of wild bees. The honeyguide will attract a person’s interest with a “chattering” call. The bird will then fly towards the bee nest in short flights, continually stopping and calling for the person to follow. When the bird finally arrives at the bees’ nest, it will display by spreading its wings and indicating the location of the nest to the person being guided. Once the nest has been raided by the human, the honeyguide will then feed on the nest. This mutualistic behaviour has been observed in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and with the hunter/gatherer tribes of the Kalahari. There is a tribal tradition or myth that says the honeyguide needs to be thanked for leading the person to a nest, with a gift of honey from the nest. If this is not done, the tradition says, the next time the honeyguide will lead the person to a hungry lion, venomous snake, or an angry elephant as punishment.
As we progressed down a well wooded drainage line, the birds just kept on rolling in and some of the highlights included: close views of Little Bee-eater, Common Waxbill, a displaying croaking Cisticola, African Stonechat, Black Saw-wing, Black-backed Puffback, Cape White-eye, Holub’s Golden Weaver, and a White-bellied Sunbird. We also enjoyed a wonderful sighting of a Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird that called and gave us some fantastic views. What was interesting with this sighting was the fact that the individual we saw had a bright orange forecrown as opposed to the typical yellow forecrown as the name of the species suggests. A small percentage of birds show this deep orange forecrown, so this was an unusual and special sighting.
Another noteworthy sighting came in the form of a Brown-backed Honeybird. As we neared the end of the walk, I heard the grasshopper like “zeet, zeet, zeet” call of the Honeybird and fortunately for us, the bird perched on-top of a dead tree. This sighting was also the 400th bird seen by Helette Pretorius, a nice milestone in birding and a great bird to achieve it with.
It was a beautiful and successful morning of birding at Likweti Bushveld Farm Estate. A total of 57 species were seen collectively which is not bad for a winter’s morning. Luckily for us, the Lowveld offers stunning birding throughout the year.
Marc will be leading another bird watching walk at Likweti Estate on the 4th of June from 06:30 – 10:00. Be sure to keep an eye on our Facebook page for all the details.
Written by Marc Cronje
083 705 6463.