Exciting Birding with Marc Cronje at Likweti Estate

Bird Walk with international bird guide, Marc Cronje at Likweti Bushveld Farm Estate – 28 February 2024.

We were greeted by a crisp and clear sky as a group of enthusiastic bird watchers gathered for a morning walk at Likweti Bushveld Farm Estate. A Spotted Eagle Owl seen by some of the group on the way in was a welcome surprise. The beauty of the sunrise justified our early wake-up call. With the onset of winter, the days are becoming cooler, and migrating birds such as European Bee-eaters and Barn Swallows are busy feasting and preparing for their journey northward.

International bird guide Marc Cronje with some of the group members

The Cuckoo species, including the Red-chested Cuckoo, known as the Piet-my-vrou, are currently silent as they make their way to non-breeding grounds in Central and West Africa. Despite the seasonal changes, it remains an excellent time for birdwatching, observing the feeding frenzy of various birds and witnessing the breeding birds rearing their chicks as the youngsters begin to explore their surroundings.

Our morning commenced on a delightful note as we spotted a variety of bird species, including the Cardinal Woodpecker, Violet-backed Starling, African Golden Weaver, a displaying Croaking Cisticola, African Harrier Hawk, Willow Warbler, and a particularly thrilling sight: a Brown-backed Honeybird engaging in its rapid aerial display, accompanied by its distinctive “Zick-zick-zick” call. These sightings provided the group with fantastic views of these remarkable birds. Notably, Brown-backed Honeybirds possess a unique ability to digest beeswax, facilitated by specialized bacteria in their gut. They satisfy this dietary need by extracting wax from the protective coverings of scaled insects and woolly aphids, unlike Honeyguides, which prefer to feed directly on honeycomb and beeswax.

Additionally, our search was rewarded with the vibrant presence of a very vocal Cape Grassbird, offering us excellent views after waiting and searching patiently. As we walked through an area we never walked at before with grassland and mixed bushveld the list grew with some noteworthy species being Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Barn Swallow, Spotted Flycatcher, Brubru, Black Saw-wing, a beautiful Yellow-throated Longclaw, and African Green Pigeon calling away. I like to call them the Tarzan bird as the call reminds me of the Tarzan theme song.

African Green Pigeon

Another standout moment during the morning unfolded when a Broad-tailed Warbler / Fan-tailed Grassbird was spotted in the tall grass. This bird is not commonly found in the area, making it a special treat for the group and a lifer for everyone. As we continued our exploration, the sightings continued to impress. Some noteworthy highlights included the Black-headed Oriole, Orange-breasted Bushshrike, Woodland Kingfisher, Red-throated Wryneck, Lazy Cisticola, Red-collared Widowbird, and White-bellied Sunbird.

Woodland Kingfisher

Towards the end of the walk, the rhythmic drumming of a Bearded Woodpecker initially fooled us into thinking it was construction noise. However, we were pleasantly surprised to witness the woodpecker drumming on a dead tree, actively advertising its territorial presence.

As our visiting birds start to leave us, I encourage you to enjoy the last days of having them around as they will be undertaking their amazing migrations soon before returning in summer. I recommend reading this fascinating article authored by my esteemed friend, Dr. Warwick Tarboton, who, along with his wife Michele, has diligently monitored Woodland Kingfishers over the past 12 years. It makes for a captivating read.

It was a great morning of birdwatching on this beautiful wildlife residential estate, collectively sighting a remarkable total of 74 species during the walk. We are truly privileged to have such exceptional birding opportunities in the Lowveld, and I encourage everyone to seize the chance to rise early and partake in the splendid birdwatching right on our doorstep. I’ll soon be arranging another walk at Likweti, so please don’t hesitate to reach out and join me for more birding adventures in the Lowveld.

View the full bird list for Likweti Bushveld Farm Estate here.

Written by: Marc Cronje
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