I confess I was wrong – very wrong! Andrew Anderson has been saying for ages that Somkhanda Game Reserve has more than enough game, I, on the other hand, was not convinced. That was until Tuesday this week that is. I had to go to the reserve to drop off some things and Andrew suggested that I spend Monday and Tuesday night on the reserve working on the bird list. What a fantastic time I had on the reserve recording 69 bird species and an abundance of general game as well. 69 is a poor reflection and should have recorded more but I got way-laid by all sorts of things.
On Tuesday morning I did what I had to do as quickly as possible and armed with my binoculars, camera, a packet of biscuits and a cold drink I started my outing. Somkhanda has a few different habitat types so I planned a route that included them all as well as a few places that I wanted to see where the staff had been working.
Just before I left for Somkhanda on Monday I had said in the office that I couldn’t recall ever seeing a rhino on the reserve. Gwyn corrected me and explained exactly where it was that we had seen rhino. As it transpires whether I had seen rhino before then was irrelevant as I got very lucky this trip, in-fact I saw two White Rhino at the lodge entrance on the Monday evening.
The first place I wanted to see was the Mobile Safari Camp as Stewart had built ablutions with to kill for view. Both the showers, built at 90° to each other, have unrestricted views overlooking a stream with half walls in the front that offer no viewing restrictions yet still give you perfect privacy. The toilets were built along the same lines with a low wall in front where you look directly into the riverine vegetation whilst seated comfortably on the throne.
Slowly birding my way down to the Mobile Camp I came across my nemesis – a black rhino! Even sitting safely in a vehicle this animal has the ability to make my blood run cold. (I have had too many unhappy experiences with black rhino while doing walking trails in Umfolozi Game Reserve, in-fact it is the only animal that I have ever had to fire a warning shot in order to turn).
From the Safari Camp I drove down to the dam where I wanted to add some water fowl. Not only did I record a few water fowl but also Narina Trogon, damsel flies, dragon flies, wasps and the carcass of a young nyala. My route then took me back to the airstrip where I wanted to record grassland species such as Pipits, Cisticolas and larks. A bird worth mentioning at the airstrip was Black-bellied Korhaan, actually a pair of them skulking around the longer grass well aware of their cryptic coloration.
It was then down the hill to the plains of the Mkuzi River. Here I missed out on a few Swifts as I was busy watching a raptor and expected to see them later down on the plains, which I did not. A very good sighting was of a White-fronted Bee-eater devouring a dragonfly meters away from the vehicle. The plains weren’t too good for birds but were excellent for White Rhino with a family of four and a mother a calf just off to the side.
I then made my way back to the lodge for a late lunch before exploring a few more roads in search of some more birds. By lunch time I had recorded 56 species and by 6:30 pm the number was up to 69. The day had been overcast and cool which for general birding was good but for raptors it was a bit disappointing as I only recorded three. (Wahlberg’s, Bateleur and Black Shouldered Kite). General game was abundant and I ended up with 14 species and plenty of babies. Andrew you were right AGAIN!
Nigel Anderson: Guide For African Insight