Friday, 28 October 2016

Swaziland and the Battlefields (4/6)

Being the fourth in my series of blogs on the South Africa Tour. This covers from leaving the Kruger, the trip through Swaziland with a stopover at Pigg's Peak, and then back into South Africa for a visit to the Battlefields area.

This first day was mostly given over to travelling. It is 530 km from Hazeview down to Dundee and the Battlefields Country Lodge, where we were to stay for a couple of nights. We also had a fortuitous, at least for me, three hour stop over just north of Piggs Peak in Swaziland, when the coach broke down. We just made it to the top of a steep hill, to a craft centre and small restaurant, giving what must be some of the best views in Swaziland. Cold beer, great views and Sunbirds in the garden bushes, was OK with me.

Collared Sunbird  Male

Amethyst Sunbird

Southern Double-collared Sunbird

Probably the female of the Southern Double Collared Sunbird 

White-bellied Sunbird

We arrived late at the Battlefields Lodge but next morning I was up early to explore. The grounds were like a green oasis in a rather flat and bleak landscape. That is perhaps being a bit unfair given that it was the end of the dry season in the area and there were still a lot of interesting looking birds flying out there. The ones not flying were the Ostriches, lots of them, but unfortunately these were crossbred farm animals.

A Pied Starling in the early morning light proved to be a bit of a challenge to my photographic skills but a fly over of a pair of Grey-crowned Cranes was a welcome sight.

Pied Starling

Grey-crowned Cranes

Perhaps the most interesting to watch were the Helmeted Guinea Fowl. Headless chickens have nothing on these. They seem to spend the whole day chasing each other round in circles or running up a small hill for what seemed to be the sheer joy of being able to run back down again.

Helmeted Guinea Fowl

Common Fiscal

This species got its name in honour of the fiskaal -- a taxman associated with the Dutch East India company. The fiskaal, who wore black and white whilst doing his job, collected year end (fiscal) taxes, viciously praying on people's money and leaving them hanging "out to dry".

Like all shrikes the Common Fiscal impales its victims on thorns, leaving them "hanging out to dry" until it is hungry. The species is also known as Jacky Hangman, Fiscal Shrike, and along with all other shrikes, the Butcherbird.

Red-billed Quelea

Speckled Pigeon

Cape Weaver

All these species were seen around the lodge gardens. I only saw one new bird on the trip out to look around Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift. About a mile from the Rorke's drift we passed  a few Bald Ibis feeding by the side of the road. I had a choice, walk the mile back to get a picture or do the tour of Rorke's Drift. I chose the tour, for me, it was one of the highlights of the holiday. I thought I might get a picture on the way back out but of course the birds had moved on by then.

The journey to George, Knysna, and then on towards Capetown continues in the next couple of blogs.

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