for quality writing

Ken Borland



Pilanesberg National Park 0

Posted on July 11, 2016 by Ken

 

The Secretarybird is one of the great wanderers of the African grasslands, covering 20 to 30km a day as it strides purposefully across the savanna in search of terrestrial prey like insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and rodents.

There is something imperturbable about them, as if they are on an important quest and will not be distracted. Considered vulnerable, their numbers in decline, I am always happy to see them and it was a hot morning in the Pilanesberg National Park in March when I came across a pair marching across the grasslands beneath the Nkakane hill.

But on this occasion their smooth progress was to be disturbed in humorous fashion. Between myself and the Secretarybirds there were bunches of little thicket-like bushes and resting in the shade of one of them was a Steenbok … I was the only one who could foresee what would happen next.

IMG_1445

A distressed Grey Lourie tries to find some shelter during the heat of the day.

The raptors made inexorable progress towards the bush and, as they disturbed the Steenbok, both the birds and the little antelope were surprised with all three charming animals leaping away in fright!

Just before turning on to the Nkakane Link from Tshepe Drive, having entered the park through the KwaMaritane Gate, those selfsame low bushes had Pearlbreasted Swallows perched on top of them. They are one of the Hirundines that spend their time lower to the ground.

These bushes also provide vantage points for the Lesser Grey Shrikes, which thrive in the open spaces of the savanna, as well as providing some shelter from the midday sun when it is especially hot.

I guess 34°C qualifies because respite from the heat seemed to be on everyone’s mind. It was so hot that a Blue Wildebeest sheltering under a thorn tree almost on the road was very reluctant to move away from my car, while even a European Bee-Eater was being surprisingly inconspicuous lurking in the foliage of a tree.

The Hippopotami had the right idea with 13 of them in a little dam, along with two Elephant! Arrowmarked Babblers were also making a beeline, descending towards the water.

Little pools of water formed from streams running down from Magare Hill were also full of life, with Common Waxbills flying up from the water’s edge as I drove past.

The main stream coming out of Mankwe Dam obviously had fish in it because African Spoonbill and Grey Heron were in attendance.

There were no other surprises for me, although it was nice to see Wattled Plover and Wood Sandpiper amongst the Warthog at Tilodi Dam.

Sightings

Blue Wildebeest

Common Waxbill

Impala

African Elephant

Plains Zebra

Lesser Grey Shrike

Blackeyed Bulbul

Pearlbreasted Swallow

African Spoonbill

Grey Heron

Secretarybird

Steenbok

Blacksmith Plover

Hippopotamus

Yellowthroated Sparrow

European Bee-Eater

Arrowmarked Babbler

Egyptian Goose

Warthog

Wattled Plover

Wood Sandpiper

Pied Crow

Greater Striped Swallow

Grey Lourie

Pilanesberg National Park 0

Posted on February 15, 2016 by Ken

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1541[1]

IMG_1538[1]

 

 

 

IMG_1533[1]

IMG_1540[1]

Some of the beautiful pride of 10 Lion seen on Tshepe Drive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pilanesberg National Park has open grasslands and plenty of soothing aquatic habitats, but, driving around the fourth largest conserved area in South Africa, one cannot help but notice the violent, almost cataclysmic events that shaped the spectacular scenery.

Pilanesberg is centred on the crater of an extinct volcano with its mountains being a series of concentric rings of igneous rock i.e. solidified lava. The forces of erosion, operating on cracks and faults, have then created a broad valley running from the south-west of the park to the north-east.

The fascinating geology of Pilanesberg gives rise to diverse vegetation, which in turn produces great birding.

Although much of the park comprises broadleaved woodland and open grassland, which contains fewer birds, there are areas of thornveld and its rich insect life, as well as some of the special birds that call Acacias home.

These thornveld endemics can be tricky to spot, but the Manyane campsite is set in a stand of typical Kalahari Thornveld, dominated by stately Acacias.

So walking around the campsite always provides plenty of birds at close quarters and on this occasion, the highlight was a Burntnecked Eremomela which hung around for a long time in a thorn tree close to our site.

Crested and Swainson’s Francolin, Redbilled Hornbill, Yellowfronted Canary, Goldenbreasted Bunting, Redwinged Starling and Whitebrowed Scrub Robin were also friendly neighbours, along with a Blackbacked Puffback and a Brubru amongst a host of species in a bird party in the tree above our camp.

Arrowmarked Babblers would move determinedly through the camp, grabbing breakfast tidbits, while a business of Banded Mongoose would also come foraging through camp, making their delightful purring noises. Longtailed Shrike was a visitor to the Acacia trees as well, which often also held colourful Southern Tree Agama. Chacma Baboons were less welcome intruders.

The Tlou Drive, pretty much in the centre of the park, goes through classic Acacia thickets in areas of open grassland, both short and long. In other words great bushveld country and ideal habitat for the beautiful Violeteared Waxbill.

Being August, the bush was dry and brown, so a Violeteared Waxbill with its dazzling mixture of blue, violet and red offset against chestnut, really stands out when the bird is strolling around on the ground on an exposed culvert.

In the same area, a Crimsonbreasted Shrike and a Pied Barbet were also hanging around, so there was a sudden, startling burst of colour amongst the otherwise drab winter tones of the Tlou Drive.

A Steenbok was hiding in a little grove of trees and African Elephant were also around.

The Mankwe Dam is the largest water body in Pilanesberg and an ideal place to spot the mammals and birds that are attracted to the water. There were lots of Blue Wildebeest and Giraffe (including, unfortunately, a deceased one) on this occasion, as well as Nile Crocodile.

The Hippo Loop is one of the better roads from which to explore Mankwe Dam, allowing one to get very close to the north-western shore.

There, where the last of the previous summer’s water was draining away, leaving soft mud perfect for waders in its retreat, were some strange long-billed birds.

Heavily marked with brown, black and buff, there were four of them probing deeply and rhythmically into the mud. It took a while to identify them because the only African Snipe I had seen previously were single birds either flying over a wetland, doing their characteristic drumming display, or crouching in thick vegetation.

But apparently they are known for coming out and foraging in the open when water levels recede, exposing the soft mud that contains the worms that are their favourite prey.

A Tawny Eagle and a few Greater Striped Swallow were flying about, while a Chinspot Batis was investigating the bushes.

The other water birds present were Great White Egret, Yellowbilled Duck, Reed Cormorant, Egyptian Goose and African Fish Eagle.

Tlodi Dam is a much smaller water body close to Manyane Camp and Pearlbreasted Swallow is often seen here collecting mud from the water’s edge for its nest.

There are usually Hippopotamus in the dam as well and plenty of Southern Masked Weaver starting to get into breeding plumage.

Heading north from Manyane will bring you to the Malatse Dam, which has an excellent hide that allows you to get close to the action. With the hide facing east, it’s a good place to spend the late afternoon, only about 9km from camp, and the sort of place to spot exciting stuff.

African Spoonbill, African Darter and Dabchick were out on the water, while a Threebanded Plover was dashing about and a Natal Francolin was right below the hide window.

The Tshwene Drive links Manyane camp with the centre of the park and Mankwe Dam, and goes through often tall grassland with thorny and bushy thickets.

This is ideal country for the Browncrowned Tchagra and sure enough one landed on top of a bush, vigorously wagged its tail and then dived into a thicket as we possibly disturbed an imminent flight display.

IMG_1545[1]

Marico Flycatcher are common, friendly inhabitants of the Acacia savanna in Pilanesberg

The area also produced Blackchested Prinia, Marico Flycatcher and Lilacbreasted Roller.

Ntshwe Drive is one of the gateways to the western portion of the park and is rather scenic with trees and koppies.

White Rhinoceros, accompanied by Redbilled Oxpecker, were present as was a solitary Redeyed Bulbul, which was much more secretive than its common cousin, the Blackeyed. Kalahari Robin was also present but inconspicuous.

The Tshepe Drive also heads towards Mankwe Dam, approaching from the south-east of the park and is well-vegetated and full of game. Having spotted Tsessebe and Springbok, we came across a beautiful Lioness and then, shortly after she sauntered towards the road, a nine-strong pride of youthful, virile-looking males followed her.

Sightings list

Helmeted Guineafowl

Crested Francolin

Redbilled Hornbill

Arrowmarked Babbler

Forktailed Drongo

Common Myna

Longtailed Shrike

Longbilled Crombec

Swainson’s Francolin

Whitebrowed Scrub Robin

Burntnecked Eremomela

Impala

Pied Crow

Vervet Monkey

Cape Turtle Dove

Redfaced Mousebird

Warthog

Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill

Southern Masked Weaver

Blackshouldered Kite

Greater Kudu

Marico Flycatcher

Browncrowned Tchagra

Grey Lourie

Blue Wildebeest

Blackeyed Bulbul

Giraffe

Chinspot Batis

White Rhinoceros

Redbilled Oxpecker

Redeyed Bulbul

Kalahari Robin

Crimsonbreasted Shrike

Sabota Lark

Southern Boubou

Slender Mongoose

Pied Barbet

Chestnutvented Tit Babbler

Fiscal Flycatcher

Violeteared Waxbill

African Elephant

Speckled Mousebird

Steenbok

Groundscraper Thrush

Glossy Starling

Blackchested Prinia

Rock Pigeon

Blackbacked Puffback

Brubru

Pearlbreasted Swallow

Hippopotamus

Blacksmith Plover

Blue Waxbill

Tsessebe

Lion

Springbok

Crested Barbet

Whitebreasted Cormorant

Grey Heron

Greater Striped Swallow

Tawny Eagle

Laughing Dove

Banded Mongoose

Yellowfronted Canary

Chacma Baboon

African Spoonbill

African Darter

Dabchick

Natal Francolin

Threebanded Plover

Familiar Chat

Kurrichane Thrush

Neddicky

Grey Hornbill

Lilacbreasted Roller

Nile Crocodile

Great White Egret

Yellowbilled Duck

Reed Cormorant

Serrated Hinged Terrapin

Egyptian Goose

African Snipe

African Fish Eagle

Goldenbreasted Bunting

Southern Tree Agama

Redwinged Starling

 

 

 

 

Schwartzel & Coetzee lead after daunting day at Millvale 0

Posted on February 05, 2016 by Ken

 

Millvale Private Retreat is a little-known championship course hidden away in the fertile bushveld between the Magaliesburg and Pilanesberg ranges and there is very limited access for golfers, which is maybe not such a bad thing considering how darn difficult it was to play on the opening day of the Chase to the Investec Cup final on Thursday.

With slick greens, numerous bunkers and a gusting, awkward wind, Millvale put the top 30 golfers on the Sunshine Tour to the test and it was no surprise the two who came out tops were class performers in Charl Schwartzel and George Coetzee.

They both shot four-under-par 68s and were three shots ahead of Justin Harding and Shaun Norris, the only other golfers to break par.

Schwartzel is trying to groove his swing ahead of the Masters, which starts at Augusta on April 9, and he seems to be making rapid progress in that regard, as well as cracking the code for how to succeed at Millvale.

“For a while now I’ve been working out my swing and it’s getting better and better. It’s a matter of trusting it out on the course, because it doesn’t matter on the range. So today was a good round in hard conditions, it was challenging and anything under par was good,” Schwartzel said.

In terms of Masters preparation, the greens were also to Schwartzel’s liking, although he said Augusta would ask even more of his putter.

“The greens definitely had speed and they’re up with the best I’ve seen here. You don’t often get greens at this speed in South Africa and I was very pleased to see that. We’re not used to having that in South Africa and when I played Lost City on Tuesday, the greens there were very slow, so I hope they speed them up for our two rounds there on Saturday and Sunday.

“But today was more than good enough practice for Augusta, although the greens there have even more slope and the ball just doesn’t stop,” Schwartzel said.

While Schwartzel was fairly consistent with six birdies and just two dropped shots, Coetzee had a round which he described as “all over the show” – two bogeys, an eagle, six birdies and a double-bogey were all crammed into his wild round in the Limpopo River watershed.

“I don’t know how I shot four-under because my game was all over the show. This is not the easiest course to play in the wind and the speed of the greens was very fast and the placement of the pins meant you had to really plot your way around the course, it was hard work,” Coetzee said.

A run of eagle and four successive birdies from the par-five seventh hole was key to Coetzee’s success and, being sponsored by Investec, the owners of Millvale, he admitted some local knowledge really helped.

“The eagle on seven was a bit of local knowledge because I know there is a small gap on the left and you’re able to take it on with driver. For my second I hit a seven-iron to three feet,” Coetzee said.

http://citizen.co.za/347133/schwartzel-coetzee-came-out-tops/

Pilanesberg National Park 0

Posted on January 01, 2013 by Ken

A Pied Kingfisher stands vigil on his hunting perch at Mankwe Dam

The Pilanesberg National Park is often not for the faint-hearted in mid-summer, especially if you set off during the heat of the day.

Thanks to the wonderful hospitality of Sun City and their Final Round golf day, I only managed to get into the park at midday and a boiling hot afternoon saw the temperature hover between 34° and 37 ° celsius.

On days like that, searching for waterbirds is often the best option and I headed from the eastern Manyane Gate to Ratlhogo Waterhole in the northern section of the park.

The waterhole was quiet, apart from a couple of Blacksmith Plovers hanging about … But there, behind the common Plovers was something different and a lot smaller …

It turned out to be a lone juvenile Ringed Plover pottering about in the shallow water … a bird I have not seen for some time.

On my way to Ratlhogo, I came across some Redbilled Oxpeckers on Impala, some lone Elephant, a Kalahari Scrub Robin and a Lesser Masked Weaver was a welcome sighting too. A Southern Boubou revealed himself in the thicker streamside vegetation, while the typical, but charming Pilanesberg birds like Familiar Chat and the sweet-calling Rufousnaped Lark were also spotted.

Glossy Starling

From there I headed for much-needed liquid refreshment at the Pilanesberg Centre and their grossly overpriced shop. It was quite busy with birds, though, including a nice sighting of a Diederick Cuckoo, and from there I headed for Mankwe Dam.

A Greenbacked Heron was found sheltering in one of the quieter tributaries, while Horus Swift and Yellowbilled Egret were two less commonly seen birds. Three species of duck – Yellowbilled, African Black and Whitefaced – were at the dam as was a solitary needle-billed Marsh Sandpiper, along with Yellowbilled Stork.

An inquisitive Grey Lourie at the Kubu picnic site

Heading towards the Bakubung exit, Marabou Stork were having their usual congregation at Lengau Dam and, surprisingly considering the temperature, I finished the afternoon jaunt with a respectable 57 species of bird.

 

Sightings list

Greater Striped Swallow

Plains Zebra

Helmeted Guineafowl

Familiar Chat

Blue Wildebeest

Warthog

European Swallow

Laughing Dove

Impala

Redbilled Oxpecker

Elephant

Pied Crow

Rufousnaped Lark

Kalahari Scrub Robin

Glossy Starling

Lesser Masked Weaver

Egyptian Goose

Waterbuck

Cape Turtle Dove

Goldenbreasted Bunting

Blackeyed Bulbul

Southern Boubou

Forktailed Drongo

Blacksmith Plover

Ringed Plover

Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill

European Bee-Eater

Springbok

Sabota Lark

Giraffe

House Sparrow

Southern Masked Weaver

Vervet Monkey

Cape Wagtail

Redwinged Starling

Diederick Cuckoo

Greenbacked Heron

Horus Swift

Nile Crocodile

Common Moorhen

Pied Kingfisher

Yellowbilled Egret

Threebanded Plover

Marsh Terrapin

Reed Cormorant

African Jacana

Black Crake

African Darter

Grey Heron

Yellowbilled Duck

Dabchick

African Black Duck

Great White Egret

Whitefaced Duck

Little Egret

Cattle Egret

Marsh Sandpiper

Yellowbilled Stork

Hippopotamus

African Fish Eagle

Lesser Striped Swallow

Redeyed Dove

Whitethroated Swallow

Common Waxbill

Nile Monitor

Slender Mongoose

Kurrichane Thrush

Grey Lourie

Marabou Stork

Chacma Baboon

Southern Black Flycatcher

 



↑ Top