SA Rare Bird News Report - 13 December 2010

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Trevor Hardaker

Dec 13, 2010, 3:58:25 PM12/13/10
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This is the Southern African Rare Bird News Report issued at 23h00 on Monday, 13 December 2010. Information has been gleaned from various websites, email groups as well as from individual observers who have passed on their sightings. This report cannot be taken as being totally comprehensive as it is based only on information made available at the time of writing. All bird sightings reported here are reported in good faith based on information as provided by the observers. Any inaccuracies are totally unintentional and the writer cannot be held liable for these. For those who may have only joined the group recently and are interested in finding out what has been seen in the past, previous reports can be viewed at


As usual, we start in the Western Cape where the best new find of the last few days was a LESSER CRESTED TERN roosting with other tern species at Yzerfontein yesterday. This is a particularly tough bird to connect with in the province and will surely draw interest from many of the provincial listers. The following directions have been provided for where the bird was seen:


You have to go right into Yzerfontein heading towards the harbour. The tern roost is on the rocks not far before you reach the harbour. If you drive towards the harbour and take the last right hand turn before you actually reach the harbour, you go straight into a small parking area and, in front of that, is the old information office. On the lawn in front of this small building there are two benches looking across the bay and the rocks on the beach are about  a hundred ft or so directly in front of you, and you are looking down onto them. This is where the terns roost.


Staying on the west coast, the West Coast National Park still had both BLACK-HEADED CANARIES and LARK-LIKE BUNTINGS on view yesterday as well, both arid zone species that have moved into the area.


Moving across to the Garden Route, the PECTORAL SANDPIPER at Woodbourne Pan in Knysna showed well throughout the weekend and the latest photos confirm that it is definitely that species (and not something more esoteric!). A number of people have also queried where the pan is, so here are some directions:


To get to Woodbourne Pan, turn right off the N2 once you have passed through the centre of Knysna in the direction of Plettenberg Bay on to George Rex Drive which is the road that leads down to the Knysna Heads. Drive past the golf course until you get to an area with water on both sides of the road and you will see a road turning right to Leisure Isle. Woodbourne Pan is on your left opposite this turn-off. According to Google Earth, the co-ordinates are roughly  34 04 00.25 S 23 04 17.95 E


Also in the area, the male RED-BACKED SHRIKE reported a few weeks ago from near the Rondevlei hide in the Wilderness National Park was still present yesterday as well whilst a BLACK-CHESTED SNAKE EAGLE was noted flying over Langvlei Dunes in Wilderness on Wednesday. It would also seem that the WHITE-FRONTED BEE-EATER noted recently at Matjesvlei near Calitzdorp is still in the area and was reported again on the weekend.


Earlier today, there was also confirmation that there are still a couple of AFRICAN OPENBILLS present at the Vermont Salt Pan.



Lesser Crested Tern at Yzerfontein

© Margaret Maciver

Lesser Crested Tern at Yzerfontein

© Andre van Sittert



Lark-like Bunting in the West Coast National Park

© Mike Buckham

Pectoral Sandpiper at Woodbourne Pan

© Geoff McIlleron



In the Eastern Cape, the only report received in the last few days concerns 2 AFRICAN OPENBILLS seen alongside the N2 at the intersection with the road to Kareedouw on Thursday morning.



Moving into Kwazulu Natal, there is no doubt that the major drawcard over the weekend was the spectacular male GOLDEN PIPIT at Pongola Nature Reserve. The bird continued to show extremely well at its usual spot at the intersection of Tsetsebe and Nkonkoni Drive to well in excess of 100 people who made the journey there from all over the country. And, even today, it continued to perform to a constant crowd, sometimes numbering up to 20 people.



Golden Pipit at Pongola Nature Reserve

© David Allan

Golden Pipit at Pongola Nature Reserve

© Johann Grobbelaar



Golden Pipit at Pongola Nature Reserve

© David Taylor

Golden Pipit at Pongola Nature Reserve

© Trevor Hardaker



The province has not stopped there producing yet another mega in the form of a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER which was located at Muzi Pan earlier today. The bird was seen feeding in association with Kittlitz’s Plovers on the edge of the pan and the co-ordinates for the sighting have been given as S27.653853 E32.404608. To the best of my knowledge, this is only the 11th record of this species in Southern Africa. The first record was in Richard’s Bay in December 1977 followed by one in Swakopmund in February 1984 and one in Walvis Bay in November 1984.  The next record was from Barberspan Nature Reserve in January 1986, followed by one at the Berg River estuary in September 1993, one at the Umvoti River estuary in March 1995, a dead bird found at Durban Airport in December 2000, the famous twitchable one at Marievale Bird Sanctuary in January 2001, another bird at Barberspan Nature Reserve in February 2001 and then, the most recent bird at Krugersdrift Dam in the Free State in February 2008.  

Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Muzi Pan

© Niall Perrins



With the alert going out just after 15h30 this afternoon, several groups of birders dropped everything and raced off to Muzi Pan and managed to connect with the bird before dark this evening. Well done on reacting so quickly!



At sea, the province did not disappoint either with a trip getting back late last week that had spent the previous week fishing east of Richard’s Bay between 80 and 200 nautical miles offshore turning up yet another 2 BARAU’S PETRELS and at least 4 RED-TAILED TROPICBIRDS! Prior to this year, there were only about 16 records of the former species in Southern Africa, but trips in the last 3 months or so have taken this number upwards of 50 records now!


You may also remember a few weeks ago that there was a mention in one of these reports of a potentially very exciting all dark storm petrel that had been recorded east of Richard’s Bay.


Photos of the bird have been circulated both amongst local and international experts and the opinions have come back as unanimous – we have yet another new species for the Southern African subregion, SWINHOE’S STORM PETREL!

Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel east of Richard’s Bay

© Meidad Goren



Elsewhere in the province, there were also a few other good birds reported with an immature LESSER SPOTTED EAGLE located on Wednesday at a pig farm between Pietermaritzburg and Greytown (at the Wartberg turn-off) and at least 4 AFRICAN OPENBILLS at Mount Edgecombe in Durban earlier today.  There was also some excitement on Saturday when a COMMON WHITETHROAT, a very rare bird in the province, was caught and ringed at Darvill Bird Sanctuary in Pietermaritzburg. Also of interest are several reports of MONOTONOUS LARK coming from Mkhuze Game Reserve, the most recent record being earlier today. There seems to be a small influx of this species into the area which is also a rather uncommon species in the province and there don’t seem to be any records noted for the province since the inception of SABAP2. From the Harrismith area, there were also some interesting reports last week including no fewer than 5 YELLOW-BREASTED PIPITS on the top of Platberg, the mountain behind the town, as well as a LILAC-BREASTED ROLLER just outside of the town as well.


There also seems to be a minor invasion of EURASIAN HONEY BUZZARDS into the province with several different individuals reported recently from Phinda Game Reserve and another two birds located yesterday along the Grassland Loop road near Cape Vidal in the Eastern Shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. One bird was found at Lokothwayo at the south-western corner of Lake Bhangazi South while the other was seen further down the road near the start of the Red Dunes (Ezibomvini).



Lesser Spotted Eagle near Greytown

© David Allan

African Openbills at Mount Edgecombe

© David Allan



Eurasian Honey Buzzard near Cape Vidal

© John van Zyl

Eurasian Honey Buzzard near Cape Vidal

© Tertius Gous



Eurasian Honey Buzzard at Phinda Game Reserve

© Daryl Dell

Common Whitethroat at Darvill Bird Sanctuary

© Dominic Rollinson



In Mpumalanga, Mkhombo Dam was still hugely popular over the weekend drawing good numbers of locals to catch up with all the goodies that are currently there. Both PECTORAL SANDPIPERS remained on view along with the male AFRICAN PYGMY GOOSE and RUDDY TURNSTONE, whilst the SPOTTED CRAKE only showed itself intermittently to a lucky few. Added to all the various specials, a single GREY PLOVER was also located at the dam yesterday, another extremely good provincial record.



Pectoral Sandpiper at Mkhombo Dam

© Martin Benadie

Pectoral Sandpipers at Mkhombo Dam

© Gerben van de Wetering



Pectoral Sandpiper at Mkhombo Dam

© Per Holmen

Spotted Crake at Mkhombo Dam

© Johann Grobbelaar



Grey Plover at Mkhombo Dam

© Johan van Rensburg

African Pygmy Goose at Mkhombo Dam

© Per Holmen



Still in the province, there was also some excitement on Thursday when what appears to be another new species for the Kruger National Park, SOUTHERN BROWN-THROATED WEAVER, was located  at Crocodile Bridge. Further investigation showed that the birds were actually nesting there and, in total, 2 males and a single female were seen in the area.


In the North-west Province, the CUCKOO FINCHES at Kroondal near Rustenburg continued to attract attention and showed well throughout the weekend.


Moving into Limpopo Province, intensive searching at Debegeni Falls in Magoebaskloof on the weekend could not turn up either of the GREY WAGTAILS that have recently been present there. A slightly delayed report (28 November 2010) has also been received of 8 CASPIAN PLOVERS close to the bird hide at Mapungubwe National Park.

Southern Brown-throated Weaver at Crocodile Bridge

© Duncan MacKenzie



Cuckoo Finch at Kroondal

© Per Holmen

Caspian Plover at Mapungubwe NP

© Ard van de Wetering



Heading northwards into Namibia, there was some local excitement last Tuesday when a EURASIAN HONEY BUZZARD was seen in Olympia, a suburb of Windhoek.


And, finally, in Zimbabwe, just to add to all the brilliant birds that have been seen around the subregion recently, the country produced a male NORTHERN WHEATEAR in post-breeding moult yesterday patrolling around on the front lawns of the Trader Horn Boat Club at Lake Chivero.


Although there have been a number of historical records of this species in the subregion, to the best of my knowledge there has never been a twitchable one and, should this one remain reliable in this area, it may well draw a reasonable crowd from the neighbouring countries, especially South Africa.

Northern Wheatear at Lake Chivero

© Tony Wood



Don’t forget to send through your details to be included on the various listing clubs that are hosted at This website also has an extensive rarities gallery that has many additional photos of a number of rarities that are mentioned in these reports.



Thank you to all observers who have contributed their records. Please continue to send through any reports of odd birds as well as continued updates on the presence of rarities already previously reported, no matter how mundane you think they may be. Even if you think someone else has probably sent in a report, rather send the report yourself as well. The only way to improve this service and to make it as useful as possible to everyone is if it can be as comprehensive as possible.


Kind regards





Cape Town, South Africa




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