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A Raptorous Delight | Jandre Verster

Updated: Oct 1, 2020

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to spend five days birding at Paradys Safaris, Ellisras. This is located in the Coal mining area of the Limpopo Province in South Africa.

Birding here was great, as I was able to chalk up quite a few lifers over the five days. One can clearly see why this area is highly regarded for birding given the quality of species that I was able to see. Top species for the area included Southern White-faced Owl, Bennett's Woodpecker, Harlequin Quail, Shikra, and Verreaux's Eagle-Owl as lifers over the time I was there. Luckily still, I was able to get some good photos of the different species.

Bennett's Woodpecker on a branch
Bennett's Woodpecker

To call this Raptor heaven may be an understatement as, during the day, the area is a dream for raptor enthusiasts (which I am sure that most birders are). The large open skies presented opportunities to see a good selection of raptors soaring in the thermals. Species that were seen included Lappet-faced and White-backed Vulture. Like with many places that one visits, working through the campsite can deliver some great species. Here I was rewarded with African Hawk-Eagle, Shikra, Gabar Goshawk, and a Martial Eagle.

Sub-adult Shikra, on branch
Sub-adult Shikra

The night times sitting around the bonfire was a special time. Two Barn Owls joined us, while the Southern White-faced Owl and Pearl-spotted Owlet called in the distance. I was able to get a photo of a Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, which I had to work hard for, but my patience was rewarded as it sat motionless on a dead tree!

Verreaux's Eagle-Owl perched
Verreaux's Eagle-Owl
 Pearl-spotted Owlet on branch
Pearl-spotted Owlet

On a night drive, I had a very special moment with a Harlequin Quail. On the drive, we accidentally flushed it out of the grass, causing it to fly up and land next to a bush. I have a crazy side to me (as many younger folks do), and I decided to try and catch it. Luckily, it was sitting still so I was able to pick it up as it was mesmerized by our torch lights. At first, I thought it was a Common Quail, but I started to wonder if perhaps it was not a possible a Female Harlequin Quail. I decided to consult with the experts, to confirm the sighting. I sent a message to Trevor Hardaker and John Kinghorn, who both agreed with my ID of a Female Harlequin Quail.

Over the time I spent there, I was also able to see a host of other great birds such as Barred Wren-Warbler, Black-faced Waxbill, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Little Bee-eater, Sabota Lark, Common Buttonquail, Marico Sunbird, White-crested Helmetshirke, Greater Honeyguide, Brubru, and so much more! I highly recommend this area for anyone in and around Limpopo wanting to have a great birding experience.

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Green-winged Pytilia at water bath
Green-winged Pytilia


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