Mashatu’s fine feathers

This the fourth post from a trip to Mashatu in July. As the title suggests, it is about birds seen in the area.  The bird life in Mashatu is diverse and prolific. This post takes the form of a gallery. 

” A great photograph is one which fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed”.

~ Ansel Adams

Female Namaqua Sandgrouse drinking from water in the rocks below the weir on the Matabole river.


Male Namaqua Sandgrouse in the same area.


Pied Kingfisher with its catch from one of the remaining pools of water in the Majale river.


” For me, the camera is a sketch book, and instrument of intuition and spontaneity.”

~ Henri Cartier Bresson

In the same pool of water was this Grey Heron. It was early morning with deep shadows and the light was catching the back of the heron.


Also in the same pool of water was this Hammerkop which was busy fishing, successfully.


“Taking an image, freezing a moment, reveals how rich reality truly is.”

~ Anonymous

Away from water, among the thorn trees, we first heard, then saw this pair of Crimson-breasted Shrikes. These shrikes are often heard first, then seen later, despite their vivid crimson breast colouring.


This pair was busy foraging for insects in a rocky section of the thornveld belt. The gorgeous crimson breast provides a vivid contrast to the browns and yellows in this winter dried area. If this bird only has its back toward you it is difficult to see, being pure black.


Pied Babblers are found in Mashatu. Like most babblers they move is small flocks and also provide a vivid contrast to the winter browns.


Further along the Majale we were watching a small family of elephants drinking water from one the remaining pools of water when we realised that there was a Saddle-billed stork fishing in the same pool.  

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
Elliott Erwitt


This was a male Saddle-billed Stork, identified by its black eye though I could not see its yellow wattle hanging from its throat.. Together with the Saddle-bill was this seldom seen Black Stork.


Driving through one of the many croton forests you will find many Long-tailed Starlings, African Hoopoes and many Laughing and Turtle doves.


We saw big flocks of Helmeted Guineafowl in Mashatu all foraging in the dust for seeds and insects. Along a  well-known bend in the Majale river where the White-fronted Bee-eaters usually build their nest in the river bank, we sat and watched many guineafowl fly from the river bank down to the edge of one of the many pools of water in  the river to drink.


“Taking pictures is savouring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.”
Marc Riboud

The blues of the water in the river below provided an unusual winter background for these flying guineafowl.


There were numerous Lilac-breasted Rollers in Mashatu. They hunt from a perch, flying down onto the ground to catch their insect prey.


These rollers can sit on their perches for longer than your patience lasts but every now and then one flies off to give you a chance to capture  the vivid  blues under its wings and lilac on its breast feathers.


I was amazed the at the massive flocks of Quelea in Mashatu during last winter. They move and feed in very large flocks of many thousands of birds. They feed on seed still on the dry grass stems and also seed lying on the sand on the ground. They tend to move as a dynamic whole which looks more like a perpetual relay.

“I wish that all of nature’s magnificence, the emotion of the land, the living energy of place could be photographed.”
Annie Leibovitz


In the evenings,  we were spellbound but the thousands and thousands of quelea flying back to their roosting area in groves of acacias close to the Limpopo river.  We watched wave after wave of these quelea flocks flying past us for about 45 minutes – one of nature’s spectacles.


I hope this small gallery gave you an impression of the abundance and variety of bird life in the Mashatu Nature Reserve. We also saw but did not photograph White-helmeted Shrikes, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, White-fronted and Little Bee-eaters, Black Headed Orioles, Puff-backed Shrikes,  and Little Egrets to name just a few. There are a number of wonderful underground hides operated by C4 Photo Safaris which provide excellent opportunities for up-close animal and bird photography.

“My life is shaped by the urgent need to wander and observe, and my camera is my passport.”
Steve McCurry

Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be.

Have fun,


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