Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wakkerstroom Birding– Jeremy Williamson

South Africa’s birding hotspot, Wakkerstroom is a destination where the birding is really excellent. This is primarily a high veld grassland biome, along with some wetlands, mountains and wooded valleys, offering habitat for a wide diversity of our avian species.

Wakkerstroom town close to one of the wetland hides.

Ideally located mid-way between Durban and the Kruger Park / Johannesburg, which suited our birding itinerary perfectly. Our good friend out from Scotland, Gordon, with Lana and I, had planned an extended birding trip starting in Durban, through Zululand and on to the Kruger National Park.

There is a variety of Bed and Breakfast accommodation available in and around Wakkerstroom, we opted for the self-catering chalets at Bird Life, just a few kilometers out of town.

We had mixed weather whilst there, dramatic cloud effect before the rain.View from our chalets.
Hiking to one of the hides

Wakkerstroom is a small farming community town with limited shops. The grocery stores were quite adequate for basic supplies. The town has some intriguing craft / antique and cheese shops. All a bit Olde Worldly.

Typical of the architecture

But then Wakkerstroom is all about birding and it's specials such as this Botha's Lark

Botha's Lark

Nine of South Africa’s 11 endemic bird species are to be found here ! It is knowing where these birds secret themselves in this area, being the key to a successful visit. In order to ‘tick’ a broad spectrum of the local specials, a guide is essential in my opinion, especially if you have limited time there. 

We were to arrive late afternoon with only one a full day in the area on the following day, departing early on the next, rather limited for birding the area properly. Gordon, Lana and I were fortunate to have an excellent local guide, Lucky, recommended by Bird Life SA, who very capably led us to virtually all the species we were keen to see.

Out with the scope for some sightings, this was Denham's Bustard at quite some distance

The wetlands have an array of hides, and for those days without a guide, these afford excellent possibilities of finding the water birds and waders.  

A 'float' of Red-knobbed Coot

How many species can you ID here ?
There have been around 370 different bird species ticked for the area. We identified 91 and heard another four in the limited time of our visit, mind you, some were mega-ticks in my book and a few new ones too!

Some of the more special birds we were fortunate to see;
Southern Bald Ibis quite a few too, Maccoa Duck, Montague and African Marsh Harriers, African Snipe, Eastern long-billed Lark, Rudds Lark,

Rudd's Lark

Long-billed Pipit

Botha’s Lark, Red-throated Wryneck,

South African Cliff Swallow, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Denham’s Bustard and White-bellied Korhaan.

A pair of White-ballied Korhaan which had chicks too

Grey Crowned Cranes and Spur-winged Geese
Greater Striped Swallow, we managed some close sightings

Common Waxbill

The majority of the birds we found  were mainly at a long distance for the equipment we have, allow oneself more time if capturing these rarities on camera is a priority. This venue come highly recommended.

All photographs by Gordon MacKinnon, Jeremy and Lana Williamson

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