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Zululand Spectacular Part 3: Manyoni Private Game Reserve

Night Drive

We pick up the action, as we are about to go on a night drive in the exclusive Manyoni Private Game Reserve. At 8:30pm we meet Ivor van Rooyen from Luleka Safaris at the East Gate of the Reserve. Filled with high expectations we headed into the darkness.

After a short while we drove to a grassland section, where I think we were looking for Marsh Owls. We didn’t find them, however we were lucky enough to flush some Common Buttonquails a couple of times. This was only my second sighting of them, after getting them as my 500th bird on my lifelist a few months earlier. I did manage to get some photos of one of them, that we located standing in the grass, but the picture came out a bit blurry.

The conditions were cold and windy, and it seems that we were not the only ones feeling the chill, as we located a small group of European Bee-eaters roosting huddled up together.

European Bee-eaters | Roger Hogg

A couple of Fiery-necked Nightjars were seen next, with one stubborn individual not wanting to leave the road, so Ivor had to leave the vehicle and give it some extra incentive. We then stopped at a specific location, where Ivor said there was a fairly responsive African Scops Owl. We played the call, and it immediately responded. Now Dave has seen all of the Southern African Owls, except the Scops Owl, so Ivor made a big effort in trying to manoeuvre the vehicle closer to where the call was coming from. In the end the Owl and its army of trees and thickets prevailed, and would remain undiscovered.

We then hit a bit of a dead patch on the drive, as not many birds were seen for quite a long time. We did however also enjoy the animals in the reserve with sightings of Buffalo, and a very special sighting of a Serval.

Serval | Tyron Dall

As we were finishing up for the night, we located a Tawny Eagle roosting in a tree, which is a decent bird to get in KZN. The drive finished well after 11pm, and we would be waking up at 4:30am the next morning, so we could start our day drive in the reserve at 5am.

I woke up in the night, and thinking I had overslept I went to find my phone to see the time. However my room was pitch dark, and my phone was charging on a shelf in the middle of the room. I think it took me 10 minutes and almost injuring myself to eventually locate my phone, only to find it was 1:30am.

Day of the Broadbills

The morning proved again to be overcast and cool, however we made good early progress and racked up a large amount of birds including Desert and Croaking Cisticola, Yellow-billed Stork, Common Scimitarbill, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Brown-backed Honeybird and Bearded Scrub Robin to name a few.

One of the most common sounds of the day was the “Come Back Quick” sound of the Gorgeous Bushshrike. We tried calling it out of its domain, but it rarely ventures out, although some of us did manage to get some record shots of it.