This is the fourth post from my recent trip to Mashatu. I wanted to give you a sense of the variety of birds you are likely to see on the game drives in Mashatu. This is by no measure exhaustive but gives you a taste of the diversity of avian life in this reserve.
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”
–Henry David Thoreau
The rivers in Mashatu are seasonal. The next image is of a lone Wood Sandpiper scouring the water’s edge for something to eat.
I haven’t seen Giant Kingfishers but there are plenty of Pied Kingfishers along the river in Mashatu. I haven’t seen Half-collared or Malachites yet. Where an image has a blue border, you can double click on the image and will be linked to its bird call on the Xeno Canto website. Just press the back arrow on the top left hand side of your browser to get back to this post.
You will also find Crowned and Blacksmith Lapwings and Three-Banded Plovers such as this one in the next image. They can be found along the edge of the water looking for insects.
Swainson’s Francolin are noisy. They are usually seen running through the grass away from you, but every now a then you will find one on a rock or bush declaring to all the world that this is its turf. You will also see lots of Crested Francolin.
“There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Swainson’s Francolin in full cry early in the morning with soft light.
A White-Fronted Bee-eater flying in front of its nesting bank.
These avian gems are resident in Mashatu and can be found along and close to the rivers all year through.
White-Fronted Bee-eater clinging to the river bank just next to its subterranean nest.
Migrant Carmine Bee-eaters are summer residents. Exquisitely beautiful but usually seen singly in Mashatu. My hope is that a Carmine colony will, some day, develop in Mashatu much like can be seen at Beatrice, near Harare in Zimbabwe and at Kalizo on the western bank of the Zambezi River in the Caprivi region of Namibia.
“The universe is wider than our views of it.”
― Henry David Thoreau
The main reason why migrants such as the Carmine Bee-eaters are down in southern Africa in summer is because of the abundance of insects. In winter the insect population dies down as so many of the insectivores migrate into central and northern Africa and beyond to access increased insect activity.
I have a penchant for these Bee-eaters. I have fond memories as a youngster going out to Beatrice near Harare in Zimbabwe to see the dazzling colours of all the Carmines nesting in a sandbank alongside the Hunyani river.
There are numerous species of Shrikes in Mashatu. This is a Red-backed Shrike which is common resident in the open thornveld parts of Mashatu.
Besides the common Red-backed Shrike you will also find many Lesser Grey Shrikes.
Ostriches can also be seen in Mashatu, though not in abundance. On this occasion, there were no Elephants around to disturb the insects in the grass, so the Cattle Egrets followed the Ostriches to get the same benefit. The male Ostrich is black and the female a duller brown, tawny colour.
There are numerous species of Pigeons and Doves on Mashatu. There were Green Pigeons in the fig trees close to camp but I could not get a decent photograph of them. Often on a game drive you will see these beautiful Namaqua Doves flying in front of you on the road ahead. This next image is of a male Namaqua Dove.
Many Cape Turtle Doves come down to drink from the rivers. They are also ubiquitous on the flat areas around the rivers searching for seed in the sand.
The Tawny, like the Martial, Eagle is a resident in Mashatu. The Steppe and Lesser Spotted Eagles are migrants retreating north in winter.
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”
The heaviest flying bird in the bush veld, is the Kori Bustard. They can be found throughout southern and Central Africa.
Koris seldom fly and would rather quicken their pace and walk away from you.
Being so big, these birds have to canter down the runway to get enough airspeed to take off. Once airborne they are good fliers but fly just far enough to get away from a perceived threat and do not seem to be big cross-country fliers. The next image is of a Kori having just landed. This one seems to have a wattle but Kori’s usually do not have wattles!?
Mashatu is well-known for its plethora of Cuckoos in summer. You have a good chance of seeing Diedericks, Klass, Great Spotted, Striped and Jacobin Cuckoos, such as the one below. You will hear the Red-chested Cuckoo but are less likely to see them.
It does not happen often, but every now and then you might be lucky enough to come across a Yellow-billed Hornbill displaying to a female close by.
The males put on quite show with much vocalisation and head bowing.
“Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.”
– William Wordsworth
Ubiquitous in the southern African bushveld is the Woodland Kingfisher with its insistent trilling call.
The last trip was the first time I had seen White Storks in Mashatu. I have seen Black Storks and Abdim Storks before. You will also see the rarer Saddle-billed Storks in Mashatu.
This is a juvenile Martial Eagle. These must be the most spectacular large raptors on Africa alongside the “flying leopard”, the Crowned Eagle. You will not find a Crowned Eagle in Mashatu as they prefer more forested areas such as are could along the Natal coast. The Martials frequently hunt Guinea Fowl when they gather to drink down at the river’s edge.
Interestingly, I haven’t seen a European Roller in Mashatu, but you will find the Purple and Lilac-breasted Rollers in the reserve. The latter is ubiquitous. They are stunningly beautiful birds.
Who would think of putting these colours together, but they work perfectly in this context.
“How important is a constant intercourse with nature and the contemplation of natural phenomena to the preservation of moral and intellectual health!”
– Henry David Thoreau
The Meves or Long-tailed Starling is very talkative and is as good as a Tree Squirrel at giving away the location of a Wild cat or snake.
Secretary birds are likely to be seen each time you travel around Mashatu. There are not many pairs but we saw them often. This is very much the theme in Mashatu there are not great quantities of bird and animals (except Elephants), but there is a wonderful variety.
Like the Kori Bustard, the Secretary bird will normally walk away from you rather than fly. We happened to just surprise this individual and it did not stay to chat.
That squeaky rubber-duck sound coming from among the grass and rocks is probably a Sandgrouse, in this case a Namaqua Sandgrouse. You are likely to hear these beautiful camouflage experts before you see them. Again you will not see the large flocks flying in to drink around 9h00 that you will see in Etosha or the Serengeti.
These Sandgrouse are superb fliers but would try to scuttle away from you in the grass before flying.
There are plenty of Red and Yellow-billed Hornbills in Mashatu, but fewer Grey Hornbills and you are likely to hear the Grey Hornbill first before you see it. They tend to frequent the more wooded parts of Mashatu rather than the open savanna/thornveld like the Red and Yellow-billed Hornbills.
“I love Nature partly because she is not man, but a retreat from him. None of his institutions control or pervade her. There a different kind of right prevails. In her midst I can be glad with an entire gladness. if this world were all man, I could not stretch myself, I should lose al hope. He is constraint, she is freedom to me. He makes me wish for another world. She makes me content with this.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its inter-connectedness and let it be.