The day began with a game plan and spirits boost on where to go and what to see. Brett Heasman, James Simpson, Amy Roberts and Rebecca Boshoff as the official team with Graeme Stewart joining for the first half, made up the Sabi Sabi Big Birding Day team.
We set off at midnight to find nocturnal birds and soon started racking up numbers and having a blast being out in the reserve at night. We even stopped for a coffee at 2am, making Amy’s favourite moment! Side note: Four male lions were seen at our coffee spot on game drive later on!
While searching for night dwelling birds we heard hooves beating franticly and watched a herd of Wildebeest storm over the plains. We continued and found the cause of the stampede as we came across two female lions panting and resting after causing all the chaos. The search for a Pearl-spotted Owlet began but instead, two Southern white-faced Owls showed themselves. Perched perfectly on a branch and calling, one even flew down and landed in front of the vehicle, making Graeme and James’ favourite sighting.
We watched the sun blaze on the horizon – a highlight for us all, especially James, and jotted down as the day birds began their chorus, growing our list as the light spread. With the light, came the heat and it became a race against the midday lull as we drove from waterhole to riverine area searching for feathered treasure. After searching for water birds, Brett had a feeling that we would find African Black Duck at a waterhole in front of Bush Lodge. As it turns out, his knowledge of the area payed off and we found TWO, happily paddling in the cool waters. Great call on Brett’s part and his favourite sighting of the day!
As the sun began to dip below the horizon, a chance sight by Amy of a Hamerkop in a waterhole warranted a shout of triumph as we had been searching all day, this was by far Amy’s favourite moment and we took it as an omen for good luck to follow!
Driving near a main road, a far distance view of Dark Chanting Goshawk confirmed the good luck making Rebecca’s favourite moment with high 5’s all around. The day was ending but the sightings were not as we spotted a Shikra perched next to the road, a lifer and favourite for Rebecca! Night had fallen but we hadn’t finished yet, setting a goal of a few more birds we simply must find. Energy and enthusiasm were still high, making for a special moment for Brett as we marched on and found the last few birds on our list including Bronze-winged Courser and finally, the Pearl-spotted Owlet!
What an exciting and fun-filled time with so many special moments; hours of shared laughter and a ranger tan to brag about! Team work and a love for the bush pushed us on, allowing for a whopping 184 birds listed and found including some incredible creatures, Lions, Rhino, Elephant, Buffalo, Hippo, African wild dogs, Honey badger, Mongoose, African wild cat, Crocodiles, Monitor lizards and many more!
Herewith the list of birds spotted:
Cape turtle dove/Ring-necked dove
African fish eagle
Brown snake eagle
Western great egret
Grey Go-away bird
Green-backed heron /striated heron
Southern red-billed Hornbill
African wattled lapwing
African Scops owl
African barred owlet
African green pigeon
White-bowed scrub robin
Common fiscal shrike/Common Fiscal
Cape glossy starling/glossy starling
Southern black tit
African Pied wagtail
Lesser masked weaver
Long-tailed paradise whydah
Green wood hoopoe
Emerald-spotted wood dove
African mourning dove
African black duck
White-faced whistling duck
African hawk eagle
African paradise flycatcher
Southern black flycatcher
African Grey Hornbill
Southern yellow-billed hornbill
African pygmy kingfisher
Black shouldered kite/black winged kite
Lesser grey shrike
Greater painted snipe
Southern grey-headed sparrow
Greater blue-eared starling
Red-billed buffalo weaver
Well done to everyone involved and what an achievement!
Blog by Rebecca Boshoff
Images and videos by Amy Roberts and James Simpson