Sunrise serenade: an exhilarating birdwatching experience at Likweti Estate

Birding with Marc Cronje at Likweti Bushveld Farm Estate – 6 October 2023

It’s a wonderful time of the year to be out and about and enjoying our summer birds arriving back from migration. Because the birds are getting ready to breed, all the species are currently very vocal and displaying and it’s great to experience this in the Lowveld bushveld.
The start of our walk was truly magical, with a splendid sunrise gracing the plains of Likweti Bushveld Farm Estate. The call of the European Bee-eaters who soared above confirms that we are well into our summer. The “Piet-my-vrou” call of the Red-chested Cuckoo followed by the Violet-backed starling’s call all added to the summer symphony of the bushveld.

I was joined by an eager group of eight bird enthusiasts for a morning of birdwatching on this stunning wildlife estate, conveniently situated near White River. A few interesting birds seen at the entrance included displaying and calling Croaking Cisticola, great views if the endemic Cape Grassbird, a fly over of the beautiful, Purple-crested Turaco and a surprise sighting of a Black Sparrowhawk hunting Doves.

As we continued, the chatter of the Weavers drew our attention, and we observed how the male Southern Masked Weaver was constructing his perfect nest in the Acacia above us. It’s incredible to witness the wonders of nature and to think that a bird can construct and weave a nest like that by only using its beak and feet! A few other birds enjoyed by the group included, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, an in the open sighting of Lesser Honeyguide, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Southern Black Tit, Red-throated Wryneck, Brubru and a displaying Black-backed Puffback.

Southern Masked Weaver

As we walked through the grassland and mixed Acacia our bird list grew significantly with some noteworthy species being Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Barn Swallows, Cardinal Woodpecker, Black Cuckooshrike, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, and an out-of-range Fiscal Flycatcher.

The morning’s highlight arrived when we were treated to a fly-by and exceptional views of an African Cuckoo-Hawk. This is not a common species for the lowveld and was a life bird for most of the group.

African Cuckoo Hawk

A few other highlights included: Black-headed Oriole, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Cardinal Woodpecker, Green-backed Camaroptera, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Orange-breasted Bushshrike, Holub’s Golden Weaver, Arrow-marked Babbler, and White-bellied Sunbird. We also enjoyed a wonderful sighting of a Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird that called and gave us some fantastic views. What made this sighting intriguing was that the individual we observed had a vivid orange forecrown, contrary to the usual yellow forecrown that the species name implies. A small percentage of birds show this deep orange forecrown, so this was something unusual to see, but is something I am seeing more and more in the birds in the Lowveld.

Arrow-marked Babbler

Just before the end of the walk, I heard the grasshopper like “zeet, zeet, zeet” call of the Brown-backed Honeybird and we were very fortunate that the bird perched on-top of a dead tree for all to enjoy. The species is being seen more regularly now in the area as we have worked out its territory.
It was a truly magnificent morning of birding at Likweti Bushveld Farm Estate and we are really fortunate to have such wonderful birding opportunities in the Lowveld. Don’t hesitate—rise early to escape the heat and relish the incredible birdlife right on our doorstep.

A total of 89 species were seen collectively during the morning walk. View our full bird list.

Marc will be leading more exciting bird watching walks throughout the year at Likweti Bushveld Farm Estate. Be sure to keep an eye on our Facebook page for all the details.

Written by Marc Cronje
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