sabi sabi big birding day

birding at sabi sabi

The rusks were packed, the coffee was ready and off we went to the Sabie River to listen to and observe the dawn chorus. While walking in the riverine forest we notched up a couple of beauties - Lesser Honeyguide, Black Cuckoo, African Fish Eagle, Comb Duck, Yellow Breasted Apalis and Collared Sunbird. Luckily no Buffalo or Hippopotamus came to spoil the fun!

Upon leaving the river, Richard mentioned that he had seen a Black Stork in the area the day before, so we decided to head off and go look for it. Our strategy was to go from water point to water point, adding birds to our list while making our way to the northern sections of the reserve. At the beautiful Ngumi Crossing we were lucky enough to find Common Waxbill and the exquisite Broad Billed Roller! Further on we spotted a Jacobin Cuckoo and some curious monkeys. We reached Mativo Dam. BINGO! Black Stork! To our surprise we also found a Giant Kingfisher keeping a watchful eye on the water! With 80 species so far, what a morning!

Our next stop was Nhlamphi Dam as I knew it was a good place to look for Greater Painted Snipe. Mother Nature played in our favour and also awarded us with Black Crake, Water Thick Knee, Pied Kingfisher and Grey Heron.

We then decided to head to Earth Lodge for a scrumptious breakfast (Pre-arranged of course! The executive chefs' dad was with us so he did not really have a choice!). In the lodge area we spotted Scarlet Chested Sunbird, Bronze Manniken and Marico Sunbird and from there the decision was made to head even further north.

birding day at sabi sabi

We started moving into the area around Little Bush Camp and a couple of goodies we found on the way were Shikra, White Stork and Black Cuckoo Shrike. The area was flushed with green after a recent a bushveld fire which meant that the birdlife would be very interesting. This proved to be true as Hooded Vulture circled above and Cinnamon Breasted Bunting and Golden Breasted Bunting were picking at scraps on the ground down below.

We reached Xigamba Pan and found Common Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper sifting through the mud for insects and crustaceans. It was now nearing midday and our count was 117. We headed to Open Area Sunset, the largest seepline at Sabi Sabi, where Temminck's Courser and Flappet Lark were hiding from the hot midday sun.

Lunch Time! Bush Lodge! Once again in the lodge area we found Yellow Fronted Tinkerbird. After a well deserved and well enjoyed lunch it was time to head off to Babalas Bridge. I had previously observed a very special bird here and as the Green Sandpiper once again made its appearance it wowed us all.

Time to look for some of those northern specials. In the area around Selati Camp; Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Yellow Bellied Eremomela and Dusky Flycatcher did their song and dance. We came across a White Rhino and while watching him for a minute (we were only interested in birds that day), we noticed Wattled Starling in their full breeding plumage feeding beside him as he flushed the insects.

We headed back down to the Sabie River to start our night time expedition. Richard suggested we take a different route to the one planned and we headed off in that direction. Then suddenly! A Bat Hawk flew right above us! Our Big Birding day ended off with Pearl Spotted Owlet, Southern White-Faced Scops Owlet and Fiery Necked Nightjar.

Without leaving the traversing area of Sabi Sabi Game Reserve we racked up 153 species. Not bad for a day's birding fun!

by: darren york-roberts (bush lodge ranger)

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