Tuesday 16 July 2013

Walter Sisulu Botanic Gardens, Johannesberg, South Africa, June 2013

Mrs Gannet is a shopper and she is able to intensify her pleasures by sending me on little errands “to keep me out of mischief”. Vicarious shopping: Does she not realise that any moment spent in Africa, but not in the bush is time poorly spent? Anyway, I had to keep a close eye on the time during a quick visit to Walter Sisulu Botanic Gardens. I arrived shortly before opening time and took a quick sweep of the car park.

Laughing Doves, Red-eyed Doves and Ring-necked Doves made up the usual Streptopelia hat-trick. An African Olive (Rameron) Pigeon brought a bit of Colombidae variety.

The lawns just through the entrance gate were notable for bringing the common Vanellus threesome with Blacksmith Lapwing, Crowned Plover and African Wattled Lapwing living crown by wattle. Is there not competition for the same nesting and feeding resources between these species?

They seemed aloof from each other, yet tolerant of each other’s presence. Mind you it is the winter season in South Africa at the moment. If you have any plover experience, it would be interesting to know how well these species get on in close proximity during the breeding season.

The Sasol-sponsored hide can be found overlooking a small dam at Google Earth ref; 26 5 5.25S 27 50 36.68E. A brick path leads over the bridge and through the scrub, leading towards the hide. I stopped to look at some Speckled Mousebirds and allowed the quickstrap-style shoulder sling to take the weight of the camera for a moment. There was a sudden, sickening loss of pressure on my shoulder followed by a crunch as the camera hit the bricks. The UV filter saved the day by taking the force of the blow and protecting the lens glass, but smashed and buckled into the body of the lens in the process. It is time to give up on these magic rings. The shoulder sling has a locked karabiner on the strap clipped to a closed ring screwed tightly into the camera body. It should be secure but has failed on a couple of occasions now and I am a loss to explain how they come apart. It is like the magical split rings trick, but more expensive.

The camera was still useable and an African Darter sat up well and nicely lit at the hide. Weavers fed in the reeds close by and I am putting them down as Village Weavers, though I had become slightly pre-occupied with camera and could not be bothered to give them too much attention in their winter garb.

The one pictured above is possibly a Golden-crowned Bishop. Given the streaky crown and yellowish buff supraloral stripe, that is my best bet. A tiny Malachite Kingfisher warranted far more notice when it came to perch in the shade of the hide, just below me.

The gardens are noted for a delightful waterfall and a pair of Verreaux’s Eagles that nest on the cliff there each year. The eagles were not seen today, but the nest can be seen to the left of the waterfall. A camera sponsored by Africam watches the eagles during their nesting cycle and can be viewed at this link. The eaglecam is offline during the winter but there are other cameras strategically placed at waterholes that regularly host large mammals and bush radio to help hone your bird sound recognition skills if you are planning a trip to South Africa.

There were more lapwings on the lawns around the waterfall including a young Blacksmith Lapwing. Kurrichane Thrushes were also seen pulling worms and insects from the ground softened by regular sprinkling.

The exit takes you through a small botanical nursery that is called home by a Bokmakerie  which was easy enough to spot on the bricked path without its clear whistling call. Thank you to www.xeno-canto.org for their permission to embed the recording.

Birds seen; 28

Helmeted Guineafowl 8, Little Grebe 1, African Darter 1, Hadada Ibis 1, Gabar Goshawk 2, Blacksmith Plover 6, Crowned Lapwing 4, Wattled Lapwing 5, Rameron Pigeon 3, Red-eyed Dove 4, Ring-necked Dove 8, Laughing Dove 3, Grey Go-away-bird 2, Speckled Mousebird 14, Malchite Kingfisher 1, Crested Barbet 1, Black-collared Barbet 1, Cardinal Woodpecker 1, Black-backed Puffback 2, Bokmakerie 1, Common Fiscal 5, Pied Crow 9, Common Bulbul 15, Cape Robin-chat 2, Kurrichane Thrush 3, African Pied Starling 4, White-breasted Sunbird 2, Cape Sparrow 15.

Cape Robin-chat
For a previous post from Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens, see the following link;

Visit the dedicated African Page for more posts from Johannesberg including Pilanesberg NP, Marievale and ZaagkuildriftRoad.

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