In April 2018 Jody de Bruyn was birding in the Makotopong area, about 25km north east of Polokwane on the Capricorn-Letaba Birding Route. It was early morning and he was just about to leave when he spotted a peculiar-looking warbler foraging on the outside of a bush.
“The bird looked very grey and had a dark lengthy tail. These are some more features that I managed to see while photographing the bird... It had dark blue-grey legs and feet and a predominantly yellow-orange bill, which looked fairly long with a wide base. It seemed to have some white eye-ring and I didn't notice an eyebrow stripe going past the eye. It had plain lores, with plain cheeks. It had white outer-tail feathers and very slight white tips to the tail. There was uneven spacing of the tertial feathers and a noticeable white wing panel on the secondaries.
I tried to match this bird to any of the common migrant warblers that we find in our region, but none of them seem to fit the features and general "giss" of the bird. Puzzled at what species this could be I sent an e-mail to a few local experts, who in turn sent e-mails to experts around the world. The overall feeling was that this bird was an Upcher's Warbler, which was confirmed by warbler expert Peter Kennerley, co-author of the book "Reed and Bush Warblers".
The Upcher's Warbler spends its wintering months in East Africa and commonly migrates to countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania. This means that the bird I spotted was about 3,500km away from where it should be found, making this a remarkable record. So, there we have it – the second confirmed sighting of an Upcher's Warbler in the Southern African region!” – Jody de Bruyn
The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas BirdLasser Challenge focuses on the network of 112 sites identified by BirdLife South Africa’s Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) Programme. These IBAs are critical for the long-term survival of bird species that are globally threatened, have a restricted range or are confined to specific biomes or vegetation types. It is believed that the national IBA network holds more than 750 bird species, the challenge is see how many can be recorded in one year. It is hoped that valuable data about the distribution of birds within the IBA network will be collected. IBA’s in Limpopo are: Mapungubwe National Park, Kruger National Park and adjacent areas, Soutpansberg, Blouberg, Wolkberg Forest Belt, Polokwane Nature Reserve, Waterberg System, Nyl River Floodplain and Northern Turf Thornveld. To find out more about each IBA, go to http://birdlife.org.za/conservation/important-bird-areas/iba-directory
To take part, go to:
Look out for these beautiful Cape Parrot bags which are now for sale at Woolworths. They cost R35 each, R10 of which will be donated to BirdLife South Africa’s IBA Programme. Funds raised through this initiative will go towards helping to safeguard the remaining patches of Cape Parrot habitat, and supporting the annual Cape Parrot census. Read more at:
This challenge was initiated by Birdlife Polokwane in 2011 with a running list of all the bird species recorded within the borders of the Limpopo Province in a calendar year. Reports of rarities and vagrants are vetted according to the criteria used for the South African Bird Atlas Project.
The highest score recorded until 2016 was 543 in 2015. In 2017, Birdlife Polokwane Members were determined to set a new record and finally managed to achieve an incredible total of 556 species! These included some vagrant species such as American Golden Plover, Caspian Plover and Red-footed Falcon.
Download the full report by Joe Grosel in the Birdlife Polokwane newsletter The Lark 16, March/ April 2018, at:
The Houtrivier Dam area seems to have the ideal habitat that attracts some of the rare shorebird species found in Southern Africa. On the 1st of January 2018, Jody de Bruyn found himself looking at yet another rarity which
had arrived at the inlet of the dam's sandy shoreline. This time it was a Pectoral Sandpiper. This is not the first record for the Limpopo province, but still is a very rare bird to find anywhere in the Southern African region.
“To the untrained eye, it typically looks like a Ruff which is commonly found in the Southern African summer months. These are some of the features that distinguish it from the Ruff... It was a wader with a medium-sized bill which was yellow at the base, becoming dark grey/black about halfway to the tip. The bird seemed to project a slightly smaller size than a Ruff. The head was well streaked and seemed to have a dark cap. The bird had a breast band or flecking to the breast, which was well defined and limited to the breast. It had an all-white belly with no streaking or markings on the flanks. I noticed that the bird had yellow legs. The feathers on the back and wings were scalloped, dark-brown with white outer-edging.
The Pectoral Sandpiper breeds in Alaska, central Canada and north-east Asia. After the breeding season, it starts its long-distance migration south, with most of the migrants heading for South America and some ending up in Australia and New Zealand. It was great to see such a long-distance traveller so close to Polokwane when it made a pit-stop at the Houtrivier Dam!” – Jody de Bruyn
In mid-December 2017 Jody de Bruyn and Richter van Tonder were birding at the Houtriver Dam and surrounding area, 30km west of Polokwane, on the Capricorn-Letaba Birding Route.
“We found a typical-looking ‘Pluvialis’ plover at the inlet of the dam where a sandy shoreline had formed. The bird was in non-breeding plumage which is typical of these plovers when found in the Southern African region. Here are some defining features we could see on the bird that ultimately confirmed it as an American Golden Plover... The bird had a distinctive white eyebrow with a dark cap. It had a mainly grey overall look to its back with small amounts of golden-yellow spotting, and it was pale grey from the front. The bird also had an upright posture. In flight the toes didn't extend past the tail and lacked the characteristic black armpit markings of the Grey Plover. A key identification feature was that the primary feathers extended well past the tail, with the tertiary feathers projecting much less.
The American Golden Plover's breeding grounds are in northern Canada and Alaska and during the non-breeding season they migrate to South America. From time to time a few birds go off course from their regular migration route and happen to end up on the African continent. This bird has one of the longest migratory routes, estimated to be close to 40,000km. What a great bird to see, right here in our own backyard.” – Jody de Bruyn
Avid birder and photographer Jody de Bruyn had an amazing sighting at the ‘Tallest Planted Trees in the World’ near Woodbush Forest in Magoebaskloof, on the Capricorn-Letaba Birding Route, in December 2017.
“I found a raptor perched high up in one of the eucalyptus trees. On closer inspection, I identified it as a female African Cuckoo-Hawk. I was quite chuffed at seeing this difficult-to-find raptor and started taking some photos. A few minutes later I noticed another raptor move in and land about 30 metres from the female. I identified the second bird as a male African Cuckoo-Hawk. Within an instant, and without any forewarning, the male flew over to the female and they mated. The encounter lasted only a few seconds. No sound was made by either of the two birds, but the body language and facial ex
Limpopo Birding Routes, with the support of Limpopo Tourism Agency, was proud to host the Magoebaskloof Birds and Forest Festival at the Magoebaskloof Hotel from 19-22 November 2017. With a fantastic line-up of top-quality presentations by experts in their field, and excursions led by Limpopo’s top guides, the festival really had something for everyone and was extremely well supported, attracting participants from far and wide.The programme began on a high note with a gala dinner on Thursday evening, with an unforgettable keynote speech delivered by Dr Warwick Tarboton. The following two days were packed full with fascinating talks on subjects ranging from orchids to eagles; as well as excursions to South Africa’s best Afromontane Forest birding sites and the critically endangered Woodbush Granite Grassland.
During the weekend Professor Derek Engelbrecht and his colleagues conducted bird ringing sessions in a nearby forest patch, which provided valuable research data on the special forest bird species; and also afforded participants the unique privilege of seeing these elusive birds up close and personal. Nature enthusiasts of all ages joined the family walks on Sunday morning and had fun in the forest while learning about birds and preserving their precious habitats.
The festival was a resounding success with guests enthusing about the enriching and enlightening presentations; the excellent meals, service and warm hospitality at the hotel, and the exceptional experiences of the weekend.
Limpopo Birding Routes once again exhibited at the Limpopo Tourism Agency stand at the Getaway Show in Johannesburg from 23 – 25 September 2017. The spectacular Limpopo stand was well-situated and inviting, receiving many comments and compliments. Our intriguing ‘All eyes on the Limpopo Province’ banner was an eye-catching feature with many interested visitors approaching for a closer look and attempt at identifying the various birds eyes.
The three day event was well attended and there was a constant stream of interested visitors to the Limpopo stand. It was a pleasure to be part of the dynamic Limpopo team and we are most grateful to Limpopo Tourism Agency for the opportunity to participate in this popular tourism marketing event and introducing birding in Limpopo to a wide market.
Limpopo Birding Routes joined other birding-related exhibitors at the second BirdLife South Africa ‘African Bird Fair’ in the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden from 9 – 10 September 2017. The venue was stunning, the weather gorgeous and the turn-out impressive.
Independent Bird Guide Samson Mulaudzi was there to talk to birders from around Gauteng and beyond. Many visitors to our stand had already been birding at a Limpopo destination, many more are now planning a trip here soon!