Posted on the 19th September 2018


We had to visit Pretoria due to a family crisis and stayed with Nick and Maureen Erwee at their smallholding at Bultfontein, some 30 km north of Pretoria. The area can be described as mixed bushveld and grassveld, with large trees around the house making for outstanding birding. We have often reported on birding in this general area in the past. This time we did not have much time for serious birding, but the casual hours spent around the house did produce some spectacular “garden birds” for us being used to the birds in Hermanus. The extreme heat and very dry conditions contrasted ridiculously with the cold and wet weather upon our return home and I decided to draft a brief report.

In the short time that we were able to bird we managed to log 84 species, but it was the difference and quality of species seen in this garden that impressed us most. Lying in bed we were awakened by the calls of Arrow-marked Babblers, Black-collared and Crested barbets, Brubru, Grey Go-away-bird, African Grey Hornbill, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Black-backed Puffback, Magpie Shrike, Kurrichane Thrush and Green Woodhoopoes and more. So different to what we are used to!

African Grey Hornbill
Magpie Shrike








Slow strolls around the property produced species such as the White-fronted Bee-eater, the ever energetic Long-billed Crombec, Southern Black Flycatcher, African Green Pigeon, Lilac-breasted Roller, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Black-crowned and Brown-crowned tchagras, Groundscraper Thrush, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler and Blue Waxbill. That evening around the fire we could pick up on the calls of Spotted Eagle-Owl, Freckled Nightjar and Pearl-spotted Owlet.

Black-crowned Tchagra
Brown-crowned Tchagra








There was however a few highlights that I would like to mention briefly. One of my favourite birds is the Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike and they were very vocal around the house. I started whistling at them and they ultimately allowed us several wonderful close-up views – what a bird! A pair of White-throated Robin-Chats was very confiding and this allowed us to discover their nest in a huge pile of firewood. Nick will use other wood for the time being. I spent some time trying to locate a woodpecker that’s knocking rate in a huge wild fig tree I could not figure out. To my delight I eventually found two Yellow-fronted Tinkerbirds and their minute little nesting hole. These tiny birds are always a joy to watch and their monotonous tinkering so typical of well-wooded bushveld.

White-throated Robin-Chat viewed from side
White-throated Robin-Chat viewed from front








After watching a male Marico Sunbird for a while I decided that this must surely be my favourite sunbird – the thin blue band contrasting with the maroon breast band and the nearly black belly, with the large bill makes for a truly spectacular bird. It was also decided to investigate an area where brood parasitic action was photographed previously and I was again rewarded with the spectacle of a Lesser Honeyguide giving a pair of Black-collared Barbets grief.

Black-collared Barbet


Lesser Honeyguide at barbet nest hole








Crested Barbet viewed from patio










The best was however to come just before we left to visit my mom for the last time and leave for the airport. The labourer was watering the garden and the sprinklers caused a sensation in these very dry conditions. Species that were attracted to the showers were the Orange-breasted Bushshrike, Yellow-fronted Canary, Long-billed Crombec, Cut-throat Finch, Black-backed Puffback, Cape Glossy Starling, Kurrichane Thrush, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Southern Black Tit, together with some 20 others. All of this we were able to watch while having coffee on the patio with the birds being about four metres away!

Yellow-fronted Canary


Kurrichane Thush










This is astonishing birding if one considers that most migrants have not yet arrived and we saw very few birds of prey and all of these birds were seen around the house. And to think that Bultfontein is in close proximity to the Rooiwal sewage works, the Rust-de-Winter dam, the Zaagkuilsdrift road and Dinokeng – there are just so many exciting bird-watching destinations for us Western Cape birders to discover out there.
(A few of these illustrating images were taken during previous visits to Bultfontein).

Groundscraper Thrush
African Green Pigeon











Blue Waxbill
Black-chested Prinia




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