Northern Gauteng Birding Bliss

A Birding Day Tour Report From Zaagkuilsdrift, Kgomo-Kgomo Wetlands & Mongena Private Game Reserve

Total Species Count: 167

Bird Of The Day: Mellanistic Gabar Goshawk

Highlights: Water Thick-KneeWahlberg’s EagleAshy TitIcterine WarblerAbdim’s StorkCommon House MartinLesser HoneyguideMarico SunbirdLesser Masked WeaverPurple RollerGreat SparrowGoliath Heron

Locations: Zaagkuilsdrift, Kgomo-Kgomo & Mongena Private Game Reserve

We started the day with an early morning pick-up in Pretoria at 04:30 and drove north towards the start of the famed “Zaagkuilsdrift” dirt road. Arriving there shortly after sunrise ensured that we caught the dawn chorus and all the beauty this spot has to offer. The day started off with Rufous-naped LarkLittle SwiftNorthern Black Korhaan, endless flocks of Red-billed Quelea, a lone Black-winged Kite and very vocal Zitting- and Cloud Cisticolas.

As we hopped back into the car, we started the stretch of dirt road. Various habitat types along the road edges offered up Diederick’s CuckooSouthern Pied BabblerRed-billed- and Jameson’s FirefinchSpotted FlycatcherSwainson’s Spurfowl and Namaqua Dove.

Not too far down the road, we encountered Yellow-crowned BishopWoodland-Brown-hooded- and Malachite KingfishersWhite-winged Widowbird and White-faced Whistling Duck at a watery marsh section. Other birds around here included Blacksmith LapwingAfrican DarterBlack-headed Heron and a lone flying Abdim’s Stork.

Great Sparrow – Passer motitensis

There has been a healthy set of rainfall over the last few weeks and the bush is green, lush and thick. All this greenery offered up Icterine-Olive-Tree- and Marsh Warbler in between the more common species such as Jacobin- and Levaillant’s CuckooGrey-Go-Away-BirdAcacia Pied BarbetBrubruChinspot Batis and Crimson-breasted Shrike

A few hours in we decided to stop for a cup of coffee as we birded from a large shaded tree, here we encountered Orange-breasted BushshrikeBlack-chested PriniaLong-billed CrombecChestnut-vented WarblerBurchell’s Starling and Kalahari Scrub-Robin

Other raptors in the area included Wahlberg’s EagleSteppe Buzzard and African Fish Eagle.

Cheetah – Acinonyx jubatus

Purple Roller – Coracias naevius

Before reaching the Kgomo-Kgomo wetlands we were further entertained by Ashy TitCape Penduline-TitBurnt-necked EremomelaBronze MannikinViolet-eared Waxbill and Long-tailed Paradise-Whydah among many others.

Kgomo-Kgomo is a must for any local and international birder travelling from the Johannesburg/Pretoria area. The wetlands provide superb habitat for a wide array of bird species and often offer up rarities.

As we birded around the wetlands we managed Glossy IbisAfrican Fish EagleYellow-billed StorkKnob-billed DuckBurchell’s CoucalRed-breasted SwallowAfrican JacanaWhiskered TernGreat-Little- and Intermediate EgretGiant KingfisherRed-capped Lark and Common House Martin.

After a very successful morning birding session, we decided to leave the Kgomo-Kgomo and Zaagkuilsdrift area and move on to our next location, Mongena Private Game Lodge. It’s only a 20-minute drive and we were happy about that, as we were starving and ready to eat some lunch.

After finishing lunch we first decided to bird the gardens around the lodge area before heading into the reserve. Here we ticked off Golden-tailed WoodpeckerVillage- and Lesser Masked-WeaverRed-billed Buffalo-WeaverWhite-bellied SunbirdSouthern Red Bishop and Lesser Honeyguide.

As we made our way into the wilds of the reserve, we first focused our efforts around the large Mongena Dam, where we encountered White-winged- and Whiskered TernGoliath HeronWater Thick-KneeSquacco HeronLittle Rush WarblerRed-billed TealHamerkopAfrican SwamphenBlack CrakeWhite-breasted CormorantSouthern BoubouTawney-flanked PriniaLesser Swamp Warbler and Pin-tailed Whydah.

Plains Zebra – Equus quagga

Our efforts around the acacia- and broad-leafed woodland habitats offered up Red-chested CuckooWhite-rumped SwiftHelmeted GuineafowlSwainson’s SpurfowlLilac-breasted- and Purple RollerCrested BarbetSabota LarkBar-throated ApalisNeddickyArrow-marked- and Southern Pied BabblerRed-billed OxpeckerScaly-feathered WeaverRed-crested Korhaan and a spectacular view of a Great Sparrow.

Throughout the day we encountered spectacular Mammal sightings such as Serval, Cheetah, African Buffalo, Black-backed Jackal, Slender- and Yellow Mongoose, Warthog, Zebra, Kudu, Impala and many more.

All in all, it was a great day out. We managed over 160 different bird species, explored some amazing habitats and scenery and encounter some spectacular mammals.

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