22 October 2011 – of flufftails and trogons…
Up reasonably early this morning, we joined the rest of the group at the central meeting venue for breakfast. Whilst everyone decided that they would head off into the Little Karoo for the day to go birding, we decided to spend our time in and around the Wilderness area and try and catch up with a few bird species for our challenge list. In fact, when one of the birders asked what we planned to do, Trevor jokingly said that we were going to go and photograph Flufftails to which they all laughed. After breakfast, we packed the vehicle and headed off, not before trying to photograph an African Paradise Flycatcher around our chalet, the first time we had photographed this species during the challenge.
We made our way along several of the lake edges, encountering a number of the commoner species before arriving at a site where we would try for Red-chested Flufftail. A couple of calls played and, wham, instant response, except the bird was quite far away! A few more calls and then nothing. for a long time and then it burst into song right next to us, but still hidden in the reeds! For what seemed like an eternity, we sat patiently hoping to catch a glimpse of this little beast until, eventually, out it popped, parading across a patch of short open grass before ducking into some more reeds! A few rapid shutter releases and it was good and solidly on our challenge list! At this point in time, another birder came sauntering past us and asked whether we had seen anything good. When we told him that we had a Flufftail, he just shrugged his shoulders and walked off – not 30 seconds after he disappeared, it popped out again and showed well for a second time. Oh well, his loss!!
A drive along the forest edge and several stops en route eventually had us getting some really bad photos of an Olive Bush-Shrike before moving on. Next port of call was into the farmlands outside Hoekwil where we hoped to connect with Black-winged Lapwing which we still needed for the challenge. After scanning umpteen fields, we eventually located a group of 3 of them, but they remained distant and the photos will remain nothing more than record shots and proof that they are now on the list.
We then drove to a site where someone had reported some odd parrots recently which they thought might be Cape Parrots! This, of course, would be way out of range for this species and totally unexpected, but since we were in the area, we may as well give it a bash. We spent the next couple of hours in this area successfully managing to dip on anything that even remotely resembled a parrot and, even the habitat in the area seemed perhaps a little odd for this species, so if they were indeed Cape Parrots, at best, they were just moving through this area on their way to better feeding grounds. It was also here that we found the only other reptile of the weekend, a Common Slug-eater. It’s probably one of the commonest snakes around, but we spent a little while trying to get some photos of it anyway.
Our next stop was Woodville Forest. Here we were hoping to catch up with a few more forest dwelling species for our challenge list, but getting photos of these things can be incredibly difficult! We heard and got brief glimpses of Red-chested, Black and African Emerald Cuckoos, but never so much as managed a single photo of any of them. Fortunately, a vaguely friendly Narina Trogon was a nice consolation prize and we also managed some terrible photos of things like Green-backed Camaroptera, Black-backed Puffback, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Terrestrial Brownbul and Grey Cuckoo-shrike amongst others. Other birds encountered in the forest included Chorister Robin-chat, Cape Batis, Knysna Turaco and Bar-throated Apalis as well as several butterfly species including Common Bush Brown and Rainforest Brown.
We then headed back into Wilderness for a very late lunch in town after which we headed back to the camp. A late afternoon walk around the camp turned up nothing hugely exciting, but did offer some reasonable views of Sombre Greenbul and other common species like Red-winged Starling, Black-headed Oriole, Fork-tailed Drongo and several sunbird species. An immature Black Sparrowhawk followed just a few minutes later by an adult was a great birding distraction to end the day off with before we headed back for Trevor to prepare for his talk in the evening and, ultimately, another dinner with the rest of the group catching up on the day’s sightings and showing the “non-believers” our photo of the Flufftail…:)