Mashatu winter avian gallery

This is the third post from our recent trip to Mashatu in mid-August. It was winter, but surprisingly the weather was mild. We were expecting warm mid-days and cold evenings, not so, even the evenings were relatively warm.

“You can’t get mad at weather because weather’s not about you. Apply that lesson to most other aspects of life.”
~ Doug Coupland

Winter is a time when all the migrants fly north for warmer climes with the promise of more food, especially insect life. Despite the winter exodus, we are fortunate enough to have a wonderful variety of resident feathers.

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
~Emily Dickinson

In front of our camp was a small waterhole which proved to be an ideal winter watering spot for our avian friends. It was in shade for most of the day but between 13h30 and 15h00 the angle of the sun’s rays was just right to light up the pond. The images in this post are a selection of birds which we saw at the small waterhole and on our game drives. It is easy to see which were which.

Male Golden Breasted Bunting.

The adult male has a striking head pattern with a white crown, black lateral crown stripes, white supercilium and black-bordered white ear coverts. The supercilium is a plumage feature,  a stripe which runs from the base of the bird’s beak above its eye, finishing towards the rear of the bird’s head – like an eyebrow.

“Let me be as a feather. Strong with purpose.

Yet light at heart, able to bend.

And tho I might become frayed,

Able to pull myself together again.”

~Anita Sams

A male Namaqua Sandgrouse. The male has an orangish buff head, throat and chest delineated by a conspicuous narrow band of white and dark brown. The male and female  carry water  back to their chicks in their breast feathers .

A female Namaqua Sandgrouse is more cryptically coloured than the male. These sandgrouse live in dry sandy environments and are known to travel great distances for water.

Adult Red-billed Oxpecker waiting for a host. It seemed to have abandoned the impala for a drink but by the time it had finished the impala had moved off.

“May your spirit soar through the vast cathedral of your being,

May your mind whirl youthful cartwheels of creativity,

May your heart sing sweet lullabies of timelessness.”

~Jonathan Lockwood Huie

A  Tawny Eagle soaring between thermals.

Tawny Eagle in flight. Tawnys, Martial Eagles and African Hawk Eagles are residents in Mashatu. I have never seen a Bateleur Eagle soaring over Mashatu.

Black Stork maneuvering to avoid the Hammerkop stealing its catch. Nature always surprises. There was a small pool of water remaining in the Matabole river close to the weir. Remarkably, this Black stork caught about seven decent size fish in this pool. This stork did not try to kill the fish but just maneuvered them so they could be swallowed head first.

This Black Stork was not going to allow anyone to steal its catch.

The Black Stork was considerably more successful as a fisherman than the pair of Hammerkops. Its fishing technique was very much like a Yellow-billed Stork, swishing its beak back and forth as it walked and snapping shut as it felt its prey touch its beak. 

“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery, not over nature but of ourselves.”
~Rachel Carson

A young male Natal Spurfowl is similarly coloured to the female. 


The male spurfowl has much bigger spurs on the back of its legs. You can tell how old the male is by the degree to which his spurs have been worn down through fighting.


A male Natal Spurfowl has exquisite patterning on its breast and belly feathers.

A Burchell’s Coucal skulking in between thickets trying to keep up with the foraging elephants. This Coucal was feeding on the insects disturbed by the browsing elephants.

A Blue Waxbill.

Waxbills are an exceptionally colourful family of seed-eaters. These Blue Waxbills were no exception with their powder blue coloured breast and belly feathers.

A Southern Grey-headed Sparrow with its characteristic grey head and white bar on its shoulder

The sexes of the Grey-headed Sparrow are alike. The horn coloured beak is the non-breeding colour.

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
~Rachel Carson

A adult male Green Winged Pytillia.

The Green winged Pytillia was previously called a Melba Finch of obvious reasons.

A female Green-winged Pytillia without the red forehead and throat and yellow breast of the male.

An adult Arrow-marked Babbler.

One of a small flock of adult Arrow-marked Babblers which noisily visited the small waterhole in front of the camp.

A male Red-headed Weaver taking on his breeding colours.

A female Red-headed Weaver with her reddish beak.

A silhouette of guineafowl walking down the river bank to the remaining pools of water.

Crimson-breasted Shrike.

This stunning coloured shrike is usually found in the acacia thorn veld.

“One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, “What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?”
~Rachel Carson

Black-headed Oriole being buzzed by bees.

You will usually hear this bird before you see it.

Once in the sunlight, the vibrant yellow of the Black headed Oriole becomes a focal point.

A male Red-crested Korhaan judging from the white patch on the side of the breast.

The red crest is only displayed in courting.

A male Cinnamon -breasted Bunting


A female Cinnamon-breasted Bunting. The male and female look similar but the female has the thinner and less defined black facial stripes. 

A male Cinnamon-breasted Bunting fluffed up in the wind. This was a male, identified by his thick black facial stripes.

A Go-away Bird or Grey Lourie

A Grey Lourie is not called a Turaco because its feet cannot reach its mouth, like a Turaco.

“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry,
and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry
are equal in value no matter what their colour.
~Maya Angelou

A lone Southern Black Tit having a quiet drink.

A male Greater Honeyguide.

This bird is brood parasite laying its eggs in a the nest of woodpeckers, barbets, kingfishers, bee-eaters, woodhoopoes and starlings.

Part of a flock of six White Helmeted Shrikes.

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”
~Rachel Carson

White-fronted Bee-eaters starting to nest.

Colony living – not always easy to get along with your neighbours!.

A pied Babbler in the early morning light.

A Black Stork in the sunlight.

The Black Stork is a migrant but a few members of the flock obviously never got the departure call but seemed to be doing just fine.

“Today is your day to dance lightly with life,

sing wild songs of adventure,

soar your spirit,

unfurl your joy.”

~Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its inter-connectedness and let it be.

Have fun,


4 thoughts on “Mashatu winter avian gallery

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