In the Eastern Cape, our most diverse national park offers superb birding opportunities.
Words and Pictures by Peter Chadwick www.peterchadwick.co.za
Season and weather
Addo lies in a malaria-free area with unpredictable but largely summer rainfall where temperatures can reach 30°C. Winters are mild and temperatures seldom drop below double digits.
The main and oldest section of the park comprises mainly sub-tropical thicket with patches of open grassland. Other sections of the expanded area vary between fynbos, Nama Karoo, forest, coastal dunefields and the marine environment.
Birding checklist: 10 specials to try and spot in Addo
The Little Tern (Kleinsterretjie), only reaches 28cm in length and is a Palaearctic migrant that visits the South African east coast to as far as Port Elizabeth. It swoops or plunges for fish, crustaceans and insects and often feeds in estuary mouths.
The male of the recognisable, chestnut-coloured South African Shelduck (Kopereend) has a grey head and upper neck, the female a white face with patches of grey. Their nest is an underground chamber, usually excavated by a warthog or aardvark.
An uncommon, non-breeding, summer visitor here, the Terek Sandpiper (Terekruiter) is mainly found at estuary mouths. It is usually only seen in small flocks and runs after small crabs or probes the mud with its long bill.
A quiet species, often overlooked, the Streaky-headed Seed-eater (Streepkopkanarie) is usually seen in pairs or small groups. It favours the flowers and seeds of aloes.
The Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk’s (Bleeksingvalk) beautiful Afrikaans name comes from its habit of singing loudly and melodiously while perched or in flight. It swoops onto prey from a perch or runs on the ground to catch it.
Found in wooded gorges and thicket vegetation, the Red-necked Spurfowl (Rooikeelfisant) occurs in pairs or small coveys where it feeds in open clearings. It is generally a shy species that retreats to thick vegetation.
The Sombre Greenbul (Gewone Willie) is easily identified by its white eye-ring. It has a penetrating ‘willie’ call uttered from the crown of trees and shrubs. It inhabits forest, coastal and thicket vegetation, feeding mainly on small fruits and insects.
With a rufous chest, short tail and broad wings in flight, the Jackal Buzzard (Rooiborsjakkalsvoël) is unmistakable. It hunts from a prominent perch or by stooping onto prey that may include small mammals up to the size of a rock hyrax, or birds up to the size of spurfowls.
The nest of the highly gregarious, nomadic Wattled Starling (Lelspreeu) is a large, untidy ball of sticks with a side or top entrance, and is usually placed in thorn trees. 2-6 pale-blue eggs take about 11 days to hatch and the chicks remain in the nest for up to 16 days.
Widely distributed across South Africa, the Neddicky (Neddikie) is a common resident in rank bushveld. It is often in the company of a mixed birding party. When alarmed it flies up to a perch with a flicking tail and a loud alarm call.