With the summer migrants starting to arrive back in the Lowveld, it’s a great time for birding. It is always exciting to watch our first migrants like the Yellow-billed Kites and Lesser-striped Swallows arrive. What is truly astonishing is how some migrants come back to the same place at almost the exact same time or date – proving that bird migration is indeed truly spectacular!
Our walk at Likweti wildlife residential estate was somewhat different this time round because we decided to do a late afternoon walk. All in all, we recorded just over 50 species of birds with highlights including: Martial Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, Acacia Pied Barber, Cut-throat Finch, Grey-rumped Swallow and Little Sparrowhawk.
As we head into our summer months, the migrants all start to arrive. I heard my first Klaas’s Cuckoo this morning, and soon the Red-chested Cuckoo, with its distinctive “piet-my-vrou” or, if it’s in the middle of the night “skiet-my-nou” call will be heard all over the Lowveld.
Summertime is also great for birding as this is when most of our birds are breeding. This means they are all in breeding plumage and all very vocal making identification much easier.
As we started our walk, we had Yellow-throated Longclaw, Croaking Cisticola and Lazy Cisticola calling and displaying, this with the Village Weavers all in breeding plumage made for a great start to our walk. The bubbly call of a Burchell’s Coucal was heard calling from the drainage line and soon we had some great views of this wonderful bird. As we proceeded through the open plains we enjoyed sightings of Southern Black Flycatcher, African Pipit, White-rumped Swift, African Hoopoe, stunning, Purple-crested Turaco, Brubru and a small flock of Cut-throat Finches. This bird is a new addition to the Lowveld and was first reported in 2007 in Mbombela, but the reporting rate has since then increased. The bird will breed in the nests of Weaver birds.
Walking through the grassland and mixed Acacia our bird list grew notably with some noteworthy species being: White-browed Robin-Chat, White-bellied Sunbird, Cape Grassbird, Cardinal Woodpecker, very confiding Red-throated Wrynecks, and a spectacular sighting of the resident pair of African Hawk Eagles flying over us, a great bird to see in our area.
Continuing down a well wooded drainage line we were fortunate to experience some fascinating birds including close views of Common Waxbill, African Wattled Lapwing, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, stunning White-fronted Bee-eaters, Golden-tailed Woodpeckers, and a Red-headed Weaver coming into breeding plumage.
One of the most surprising sightings for the afternoon came right at the end of a walk in the form of a Martial Eagle flying over Likweti. This is an incredible bird to see so close to Nelspruit / White River and its great to know these birds are in our areas. It seems the birds are resident on Likweti as some of the estate’s residents see the birds regularly. It’s a species one typically sees in Kruger and it’s the first one I have seen on Likweti – a great bird for the estate!
It certainly was a great afternoon of birding in the Lowveld which ended with a breath-taking sunset. A total of 55 species were seen collectively on the walk. It was great to spend time learning how to identify our Cisticolas based on their call and the group all learnt something new which is great for me as a guide.
We are very fortunate to be able to enjoy incredible birding in the Lowveld, so grab those binoculars and take advantage of the Lowveld’s stunning birdlife.
Marc will be planning more bird walks at Likweti. Keep a (hawk) eye on our Facebook page for all the details.
Written by Marc Cronje. Photos by Marc Cronje