posted by kind favour of Craig Nattrass / images by kind favour of Marcelle van Wyk
Nestled in the Waterberg is the luxurious resort Mutapa, a game farm that is dedicated the conservation and preservation of wildlife. The resort is accredited by Birdlife South Africa and the owners are making a fantastic effort in creating a birders paradise.
The resort not only has an abundance of birds, but also homes a large stock of game including Blesbok, Waterbuck, Impala, Kudu and smaller buck like Duiker and Mountain Reedbuck.
After we arrived and unpacked we quickly plotted our plan for the next few days of ringing. We decided that the first place to ring was at the frog pan, about 1km northwest of the main camp. Dael and I set up nets in the trees around the bird hides. Jim also set up his nets in the same area. Although there were a number of birds around, there was very little movement and nothing flying about.
After waiting an hour or so we decided to play the call of the Pearl-spotted Owlet. This initially gave no results. However after about 20 minutes we had an owl respond and fly into the trees around the nets but not into the nets. After a few more fruitless attempts, we stopped playing the call and the owl moved off.
We left Jim to man the nets and took a drive around the farm looking for more ideal ringing spots. We made our way to the dam and walked around, deciding this would make a great spot for our nets. We headed back to Jim to see if he had any luck. To our surprise he had two bags to show us. In the first was a Juvenile Greater Honeyguide, a great catch. The second bag contained a Pearl-spotted Owlet, an even better catch.
We couldn’t believe he had caught it. The birds were safely ringed and released. We closed the nets for the evening and headed back to camp.
We discussed the plans for the following day over one of Daniel’s (the consummate host and chef) majestic potjies.
Jim said he would head back to the closed nets at the frog pan while we would set up nets in the fields surrounding the camp. After dessert we headed off to bed for the early start.
Getting up at 04h15 in the African bush is quite an easy task. After Tea & homemade biscuits we headed off to set up the nets. The wind was blowing, which is unusual for the morning, but we persisted and set up a row of four nets between two rows of bushes and two individual
nets horizontal to the four. To our luck the first two birds were caught within a short period of time. The first was a Rattling Cisticola and the second, a re-trap, a Golden Breasted Bunting.
We decided later in the morning to move the four nets as the blowing wind was making them too visible to the birds. We moved the nets to a group of trees right next to one of the Mutapa Luxury Suites. This proved quite fruitful, as we caught a Chinspot Batis and several Blue Waxbills. We also set up some flap traps and caught just one Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill.
Approaching late morning, we closed the nets and sat down for brunch. Mutapa once again did not disappoint with delicious “Oopsies” (bacon and cherry sosaties) and a scrumptious breakfast buffet.
After brunch we enjoyed some quality birding around the main camp. Later that afternoon, we moved down to the main dam, about 1.7km west of the camp. Jim had set up his nets here earlier and had by now caught quite a number of Cape White-eyes. We rang the White-eyes while the latecomers came to the dam. These included Yellow-Bellied Greenbuls and Dark Capped Bulbuls. Just before sunset we closed the nets for the evening and headed up for dinner.
Being national braai day, a mouth-watering braai with home-grown by Daniel, the general manager, vegetables was had by all. To top the dinner off we were served an excellent bread and butter pudding with homemade custard. After dinner we gathered our equipment and put on warm clothing for some night-time ringing. Our goal – Nightjars.
We headed off and found many buck eyes in our spotlights but no Nightjars. After about 1 and a half hours we came around another corner and to our surprise a Nightjar in the road. Using the spotlights to stun the bird, Dael approached with a net to catch it. It was however not ready to be caught and wouldn’t allow us within 2 meters of it. We drove around for a further 20min and back to the same area where we found a second Nightjar. This time the ranger and I moved through the bush to attempt an approach from behind. I stood back with a spotlight but the rustling of the bushes frightened the bird when we got too close and it too flew away. On our way back to the camp, I spotted in the bush the unmistakable glowing eyes of a third Nightjar. This time it was my turn. Armed with a net and a spotlight I stalked. Having learnt from experience, I pounced with 2 meters to spare.
With either beginners luck or the bird dozing off, I managed to catch it. What an unforgettable moment! The bird, after a few minutes of identification woes, we concluded was the fiery-n ecked Nightjar. I ringed it and put it back in the veld to continue its night time insect hunt. We headed back to camp as another early start was steadily approaching
We left for the dam at 04h30 and got to the dam before the morning light started to show. In the dark we opened our nets and went back to the cars to set up our ringing base. Gazebos went up, water was boiled and we waited for the early morning rush. There as no rush at first light, which gave us some time to enjoy a hot cup of coffee.
Later in the morning the birds seemed to wake up and a few interesting birds were
caught, which included Neddicky and the Cape White-eyes. We were then lucky enough to catch Brown-hooded and Malachite Kingfishers along with a Jameson’s Firefinch. We closed the morning off with more Blue Waxbills and Greenbuls. We called it a weekend at 10 o’clock and headed to camp for brunch.
We said our goodbyes and vowed to return. We thank you Mutapa, for hosting us and for accommodating our early starts and late breakfasts. We had an excellent weekend ringing and birding. The ringers: Dael, Jim, Craig and Marcel.
Mutapa – Caia Camp – in the Waterberg is offering excellent family for Family Safaris and Birders. www.mutapa.co.za