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Magoebaskloof

PARROTS IN THE MIST

The Magoebaskloof region is well known amongst bird watchers in South Africa as a premier area to spot rare species like Cape Parrot, Bat Hawk, Black-fronted Bush-shrike, Narina Trogon, Green Twinspot, Orange Ground Thrush and many more.  Kurisa Moya is a beautiful eco-lodge located right in the prime birdwatching area and you can even do some short bird walks on the property.  It’s quite an adventure to get there from Kruger National Park if you arrive after dark as there are NO lights along the mountain road once you turn off and it’s hard to see the signs.  We got lost a couple times bouncing along the muddy back roads in a rented Ford Focus and I was afraid we would fall into a pothole and be lost forever!  It’s actually much easier if you are driving from Johannesburg via Polokwane, there is a tarred road the whole way up to the access road. 

 

We did finally arrive and David Letsoalo greeted us at the gate and showed us how to get to the Forest Lodge.  It wasn’t until the next morning that we would see just how gorgeous the area really was!  The Forest Lodge is a wooden log cabin that sits high in the canopy of the indigenous forest. From your private deck, three metres up, you are eye-to-eye with the Samango Monkeys picking the ripe fruit from nearby trees and can watch the crimson flash of Knysna Turacos (louries) soaring past. You may see bushpigs and bushbuck drinking from the stream below, or vervet monkeys peering in your bedroom window.


VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH DAVID LETSOALO AND WILD CAPE PARROTS

LINK



 

Kurisa Moya has several types of accommodation available including a farm house and the two Forest Lodge cabins.  The farm’s varied habitats are home to about 250 species of birds, including the Narina Trogan, the Black-fronted Bush Shrike, the Green Twinspot and the Buff-spotted Flufftail. The Woodbush area is one of the top birding sites as mentioned in Callan Cohen, Claire Spottiswood and Jonathan Rossouw's book South African Birdfinder and in Hugh Chittendin’s book, Top Birding Spots in Southern Africa.   Co-owner, Ben de Boer, the co-ordinator of the Greater Limpopo Birding Routes is an avid birder and can offer birders great advice. Guided walks or outings in the area can be organized with renowned local guide, David Letsoalo, who is based at Kurisa Moya.  Of course being parrot lovers above all, we were hoping to see some of the few Cape Parrots (Poicephalus robustus robustus)  left in the world.  There are around 80 in Magoebaskloof and according to the Cape Parrot Working Group, they counted 1229 on the last census that took place the first weekend of May.  More details are on their website.    You can book both accommodation at Kurisa Moya and birding walks with David on their website. 

 

David picked us up early the next morning in his 4x4 truck, there was no way our Focus was going to get around the mountain roads.  Using his truck does cost extra depending on where you are going.  It had been raining the last few days, the ground was wet and there was mist everywhere.  You could barely see two metres in front of you. 

David knew the roads well and we headed off to the Woodbush Forest to look for the rare and endangered Cape Parrot.  He parked on the mountain ridge as a good vantage point and listened carefully.  Several birds were calling and of course David knew them all.  It took a while, but he finally identified the Cape Parrots calling way down in the valley.  We hopped back in the truck headed down the road, stopping to listen as the calls got louder (closer).  Finally, he pulled over to the trees where there was a flock of Cape Parrots.  We could hear them perfectly and see the movement in the dense foliage but the birds just refused to come out and be photographed.  We waited patiently for about half an hour, then all of a sudden, they took off down the mountain and we could see them flying off into the distance.  There was no chance to get any decent photographs as they didn’t come out from the trees.  Dejected, we got back into the truck and David took us to some other places to see other birds, including the famous bat hawks.  We saw lots of gorgeous sunbirds, kingfishers, and some bee-eaters.  I really needed a better lens as they tend to perch far from anyplace where humans are walking.

 

David brought us back to Kurisa Moya before lunch time and we ate on the deck overlooking the rain forest.  There are maps of the walking trails on the property in the cabin so we set out to do a couple of the walks.  There is one that started right behind our cabin called “Birder’s Loop” that we did first.  It was frustrating as we could hear the birds up in the trees but they wouldn’t come down closer.  It was still pretty misty too.  Then we did another trail called Umsenge Forest Walk that led us through more forest trails and this time we saw some Samango monkeys frolicking in the trees. 


The walk ended at the farm house.  Since there were no other guests around and most of the staff had gone off to vote (there was an election that day), we just sat on the veranda enjoying the view and watching for any birds that happened by.  I did manage to get some better photos this time!  Still no Cape Parrots, but we did see some beautiful sunbirds.  Lisa, the manager came back and let me use her computer to check my flights and the weather the next day.  It was still going to be drizzly but since we only had one more day in Magoebaskloof, we had to go for it. 

 

David picked us up again at 6am and we went back to the Woodbush Forest and listened again on the ridge.  It took a while but the Cape Parrots finally made themselves heard down in the valley again.  They were basically in the same area they were yesterday.  We went back to the area and saw some Samango monkeys so I sat in the car taking photos while David walked up the road a bit.  Suddenly, he came running back.  Cape Parrots”, he said excitedly, “There in the trees!”  I followed him up the road and sure enough, there was one lonely Cape Parrot out on a limb WAAAAAAY up in a tree.  I had to really push the lens to get him!  One by one, three more Cape Parrots joined him in the tree all squawking at the top of their voices.   A few more flew in and luckily for us, some of them perched in the front of the tree so I could get some photos and videos.  Then with more shrieks to the wind, they were off.  They circled once as if to say goodbye to us, then it was off to their foraging grounds.  We waved at them to thank them for gracing us with their presence feeling immensely privileged to have seen them at all!






 


Cape Parrot seen up close


Cape Parrots in trees about 500 metres away

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