01 December 2012 – bustardless…
Rumours had been filtering through of Kori Bustard sightings throughout the Swartland in the last few days and, since it was a species that we still needed for our challenge list, we thought we would go and check it out. We suspected that the locals who had reported them were probably referring to Ludwig’s Bustards rather than Koris, but it was worth checking out anyway.
We started with a quick stop early on at the Cape Fox den that we had recently visited and found the parents with the 2 pups still active in the early morning – great to see this so close to home. Most of the usual farmland species were also present and an immature Peregrine Falcon hunting over the area was probably the avian highlight of this stop.
We then headed north, stopping for a quick take-away breakfast, before driving through to Malmesbury and then taking the road across to Darling. This turned out to be a rather stupid decision as there were lots of roadworks happening along this route and we got held up quite a lot by this, losing out on a lot of the early morning activity because of this. After eventually grinding our way through all the roadworks, we arrived in Darling and started looking around. The wind had already picked up quite substantially by now, so it made photography a little tough, but we constantly scanned the open fields looking for anything resembling a bustard without any success.
After a while, we contacted local birder, Wilferd Duckitt, and asked whether he had any further information on the sightings. Wilferd got on the phone to several locals getting the latest info and, pretty soon, we were collecting him at his house and driving out into the area where the most recent sightings had been. Fortunately, Wilferd knew many of the farmers which assisted with getting access on to their properties to look around. Over the course of the next few hours, we wandered around on a labyrinth of farm roads scanning the fields to see what we could find. Unfortunately, we were unable to locate anything that looked remotely like a bustard, but we enjoyed the plethora of larks and pipits and also noticed that the irruption of Lark-like Buntings had now also reached this area whilst, overhead, there were good numbers of raptors around including many Steppe Buzzards. Eventually, we called it a day and made our way back home, but it would be interesting to hear if anyone else picks up on these bustards in the near future.