Boston Outing

Report by Crystelle Wilson

Sunday 24 January 2016

The garden at Gramarye farm at Boston in the KZN Midlands benefitted from recent good rains and provided a flurry of feathered activity before we set off for the river.

Pin-tailed Whydah lorded it over the bird table, keeping sparrows and Village Weavers at bay.

Pin-tailed Whydah

Pin-tailed Whydah

Speckled Mousebird, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Robin-Chat, Olive Thrush, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape White-eye were among the resident birds at their regular hangouts.

The Fan-tailed Widowbirds, Southern Red Bishops, Levaillant’s Cisticolas and African Stonechat were noisily busy in the vegetation along the path.

Levaillant's Cisticola

Levaillant’s Cisticola

Then the call went out to check out a Red-collared Widow perched on tall grass. Instead of a red collar, it had a yellow collar, a rare occurrence.

Dave Rimmer explained: “This colour anomaly is called Xanthochromism which presents as red pigment being replaced with yellow pigment. It is exactly the same genetic mutation that gives rise to the yellow forms of the Crimson-breasted Shrike or the Black-collared Barbet.”

The Little Rush and African Reed Warblers were very busy and gave good displays.

From the height of the platform we had excellent views over the grasslands. Noticing Cape Weavers, Fan-tailed Widowbirds, and a Yellow-crowned Bishop.

Decklan Jordaan built on his reputation as an owl spotter by pointing out a Spotted Eagle-Owl very well hidden behind branches in a willow tree along the river and then spotted a Barn Owl just further along.

A number of other birds were spotted on the walk through the grasslands.

There were much by way of plants and other creatures to intrigue people.

On the way back the resident pair of Grey Crowned Cranes was seen, but sadly with only one chick. On Friday evening I photographed the family with three chicks. On Monday morning I could confirm that there was only one chick remaining with the parents.

Once again we finished off the morning with a walk in the forest at Boschberg Cottages. On the way there were about three White Storks in one of the pastures.

White Stork - Decklan Jordaan.

White Stork – Decklan Jordaan.

Bush Blackcap was one of the highlights, while Cape Batis, Bar-throated Apalis, Sombre Greenbul and Terrestrial Brownbul also put in appearances as well as White-starred Robin-Chat and Purple-crested and Knysna Turacos.

My SABAP2 atlas list for pentad 2935_3000 had close to 80 species for the day.

Crystelle Wilson

Photos care of: Crystelle Wilson, Hennie and Decklan Jordaan, and the unacknowledged above by Paul Bartho

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Dolphin Coast Newsletter

Click here to read the latest Dolphin Coast Bird Club Newsletter.

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Crowned Eagle Conservancy

Outing to Crowned Eagle Conservancy

Report by Sandi du Preez

A few of us attended the outing on Wednesday 13 January 2016. This is a new outing venue for the Bird Club and one that will definitely be repeated.

Clive and birders

Clive and birders

Twin brothers Clive and Mervyn George have created a paradise by developing this Conservancy. I won’t go into detail here, but Google it at: http://www.iol.co.za/dailynews/news/brothers-conservation-project-crowned-with-success-1.1440785. It is fascinating!

We began by birding from the deck of Clive’s house which overlooks the pond. There was a profusion of Bronze and Red-backed Mannikins flying back and forth from garden bird feeders to the pond and settling on the waterlilies.

Mervyn gave us a comprehensive historical background to the area and we were shown some ancient artifacts as well as posters of frogs and other fauna occurring in the area.

Pretty Mushroom

Pretty Mushroom

Then we walked to a viewing deck to see the waterfall (very pretty). At the dam we were greeted by a Mountain Wagtail bobbing it’s tail on a rock.

As we walked through the forest we heard and saw some different bird species including Cape Batis; Terrestrial Brownbul; Green-backed Camaroptera,; African Paradise Flycatcher; Black-headed Oriole; Black-backed Puffback; Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird; Dark-backed Weaver. In all, we recorded 44 species.

We were also fortunate to see some non-bird specials such as the endangered Pink-footed Giant Black Millipede

Pinl-footed Black Millipede

Pinl-footed Black Millipede

and the eggs of the endangered Kloof Frog, and a cute green Reed Frog.

Reen Frog

Reed Frog

We went back to Clive’s deck and were treated to iced water with lemon slices – so refreshing! To end it all, two male African Firefinches were feeding below the deck and an Olive Sunbird flew in to take advantage of the nectar from some flowers!

It was a real privilege to experience the wonderful work done by Clive and Mervyn who are obviously so proud of what they have accomplished. Well done, guys!

Sandi du Preez

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Bird Valley Estate

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

18 January 2016

Sally and I were invited to visit Bird Valley Estate to assess its birding potential.

Wetland

Wetland paradise.

Bird Valley Estate is at Satellite Dam just north of Albert Falls in the Midlands, KZN. Satellite Dam is about 1.5 kms in length and on average about 250 metres wide. Most of this is wetlands. There is no habitation on the catchment area .

Bird Valley Estate is nestled in a SAPPI forest. It is a small residential area with 30 large plots around the water’s edge – some with water- skiing rights. So far only 10 plots have been developed.

The estate is surrounded by pine forest. The habitat on the estate includes predominantly grasslands and wetlands. The wetlands are no ordinary wetlands – they are huge. The channel through the wetlands is 7 kilometers from one end to the other.

There are about 8 level grassy campsites with decent ablutions. Cost per night – R60 per person. Unfortunately no cabins or cottages (though that type of accommodation can be found 7 kms away).

Arriving at 06h30, we were met by our host Richard Alcock. We were taken for a ride to the dam wall where we could see into the grasslands below. Then to the bird hide overlooking the extensive wetland area.

And finally on a flat-bottomed boat along the waterways through the wetland area. Most of our time was spent on the water going through the channel so most of our birding was focused on water birds.

In all we identified 60 different species while there. To see our list click here. Many of the birds were in breeding pairs. The Bird Valley Estate’s Bird List is now 115 different bird species (Click here to see their list) and ADU records 219 bird species in the pentad 2920_3025. The ADU bird list can be seen by clicking here.

Some of the specials we saw included: At least 3 pairs of African Pygmy-Geese; White-backed Ducks; African Rail; African Black Ducks; African Marsh-Harrier; numerous Red-backed Mannikins; African Purple Swamphen; Little Bittern and 3 Grey Crowned Cranes.

The mystery bird – any ideas?

This is a special place to visit and I am sure if we spent more time there we would have come away with an impressive bird list.

As this land is privately owned permission is required before any visit is made. Birders interested in visiting are asked to contact Richard Alcock: 082 903 5187. See their website: http://www.birdvalleyestate.co.za.

 Paul and Sally Bartho

View from the bird hide showing the extent of the wetland area - to the base of the hills in the distance.

View from the bird hide showing the extent of the wetland area – to the base of the hills in the distance.

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SAPPI, Stanger again

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

Sally and I took the opportunity to visit SAPPI again on Saturday 16 January. It was the day of the Dolphin Coast AGM held in the picnic area so there were many people about.

Overnight rains had raised the level of the water moving the mud banks further into the reeds – so the Crakes were difficult to see clearly.

However we were not disappointed. The Spotted Crake was seen several times preening itself low down in the tall reeds.

The Baillon’s Crakes popped up all around and gave excellent views.

The Blake Crakes were mainly heard and rarely seen. Similarly the African Rails.

Someone saw a Greater Painted Snipe in the same area and another person spotted a pair of Corn Crakes on the drive out.

It was not a great day for photography but here are just a  few of the photos taken.

Sally and I also spent three lunchtimes at low tide outside Wilson’s Wharf looking for the Franklin’s Gull with no success.

Pink-backed Pelican - from Wilson's Wharf

Pink-backed Pelican – from Wilson’s Wharf

African Fish-Eagle - juvenile

African Fish-Eagle – juvenile at SAPPI

Paul & Sally Bartho

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150 km Annual Bird Challenge

Please note there is a new link on the right side of each page titled “Bird Challenge”.

Under this heading is the link to the “150 km Annual Bird Challenge website”: http://www.rarities.co.za/100km/dbn2010_intro.asp?usercode.

Have some fun and see how you do.

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SAPPI beckons.

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

8th January 2016

Sally and I set out this morning at 04h45 to try and find the Spotted Crake in at SAPPI, Stanger.

The weather forecast was for heavy rain in Stanger – we were well prepared. Driving down Fields Hill – drizzle; then heavy drizzle as we went through Durban and up to the tolls. However when we got to SAPPI it was overcast but dry – and it stayed that way all morning.

On arrival we headed for the hide. Fortunately other birders had got there first and locked the gate behind them so we could not get in. Instead we headed down the road towards the picnic site. There we met Nicolette and Ticky Forbes sitting quietly waiting for the Striped Crake to re-appear. They had seen it 5 minutes before we arrived.

I returned to the car and fetched our chairs to join them. We sat for some time with no sign of the Crake. However many different birds made an appearance keeping our eyes alert.

More people arrived . We waited. Then after a while some of us trundled down the road to see if we could get a better view. Suddenly out popped a Baillon’s Crake – close by. Big excitement – a special bird. As the morning went on the Baillon’s Crake kept making an appearance. I was told that 4 were seen together yesterday.

After an hour the Spotted Crake was seen and showed itself well – a lifer for many of us.

At times both Crakes were seen together.

IMG_0626a

Spotted and Baillon’s Crakes together.

Nicolette told us that the Spotted Crake is quite wary of movement and it is best to sit quietly and wait. I think she is right because after our first view of the Crake, with people moving about for a better view, it disappeared for a long time and was only seen briefly once later on.

We then had some more excitement with a small wader which looked unusual. At first it was believed to be a Curlew Sandpiper based on its down curved bill. But questions arose because it did not appear to have an eye-brow and had an unusually plain back for a Curlew Sandpiper. It was on its own and liked to forage away from the mud into the reeds – also unusual. We waited and took numerous photos just in case. Could it possibly crown the day by being a Dunlin. No. It flew and we noticed it’s white not dark central rump – it was as we first suspected a Curlew Sandpiper.

Around us we saw Goliath Herons; Black-crowned Night-Herons; Greater Flamingos and their young amongst the many other typical species usually seen at SAPPI.

Then as we were leaving we observed 3 raptors circling high above us. One was a Yellow-billed Kite, another raptor was of similar size with a rounded tail and they were bombing a larger bird below which I think may be a Palm-Nut vulture but the photos are rather poor.

Overall a well spent morning.

Paul and Sally Bartho

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A brief visit to Tala Private Game Reserve

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

4th January 2016

Tala Game Reserve is located in Eston between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

Directions: Follow the N3 from Durban and exit at Camperdown – exit 57. Turn left at the end of the off-ramp and continue to the T-junction. Turn left and continue for about 20 kms to the entrance of the reserve on the left.

There is an entrance fee of R80 per vehicle and R70 per person. However I have negotiated with the General Manager – Mike – for BirdLife Port Natal members to enter at a cost of R80 per vehicle. The driver must produce their BLPN Membership card. Any passenger who is not a BLPN member will pay R70. Note: no cash will be taken – only cards.

Recently seen on the Reserve: a pair of Blue Cranes and juvenile. Both of the other Cranes – Grey Crowned and Wattled – have also been seen there recently.

Our visit was primarily to show my American relatives the animals in the Reserve. However we did manage to do some birding.

Even before we entered there were many Ostriches to be seen on the hillsides and round the dam.

Our first surprise occurred just after the entrance – on the left by the water’s edge. An African Openbill.

Also in close proximity were numerous Black-winged Lapwings in the shade.

At the water’s edge we observed many Egyptian Geese with several South African Shelduck and Cape Shovelers among them. There were also Red-knobbed Coots; Little Egret; Greenshank and a Wood Sandpiper.

Looking across the water to the hide there were many other waterbirds: Grey and Black-headed Herons; Cattle Egrets; African Spoonbills; Reed and White-breasted Cormorants; more South African Shelduck and lots more Egyptian Geese.

Flying overhead at the hide was an African Marsh Harrier while a family of White-throated Swallows shared unperturbed our enjoyment in the hide.

Driving around we came across a small pond with 4 White Rhinos enjoying a rest in the mud and behind them on the far bank was a solitary Southern Bald Ibis.

Southern Bald Ibis

Southern Bald Ibis

Then in the picnic site sharing a few crumbs were Village Weavers; a lone Red-billed Quelea with a yellow bill; a Southern Red Bishop and a Southern Grey-headed Sparrow.

And on the way out a lone juvenile Barn Swallow with interesting flight feather colouring.

In all we identified 55 different species. Click here to view our list.

This is an excellent place to photograph waterbirds. Good for a photographic outing.

Paul and Sally Bartho

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Injisuthi

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

28th to 30th December 2015

This was intended as a family gathering but the location is spectacular and the birding was good so I thought to share the experience with readers of this blog.

Injisuthi is located in the Drakensberg Giant’s Castle Reserve (E29.07.140; S29.26.441). Directions: Follow the N3 from Durban. Take exit 179 to Loskop. After 20 kms turn left at the brown sign for Injisuthi. The camp is a further 30 kms along this quite variable road. The main issue is potholes and it can be narrow in places – mostly tar.

The scenery gets more spectacular as you approach the camp.

There are 16 four bed (2 bedroomed) cottages; one 8 bed cottage in grassy and shady grounds. There is also a large grassy campsite with 3 two bed Safari tents.

For prices and booking visit: http://www.kznwildlife.com/accommodation-rates-in-injisuthi.html.

The camp has numerous walks some quite daunting. The habitat is typical of the Drakensberg: riverine, pools, wetlands, rocky slopes, grassland, forests and mountains.

Rock Pools

Rock Pools

Power is only available in the cottages at certain times: 08h00 to 10h00 and 18h00 to 22h00. There is no power in the campsites.

The campsites are grassy; slightly slopey with some shade here and there. Costs R90 per person per night – no discounts which I find surprising. There are 2 ablution blocks – which I would imagine to be inadequate when the camp is full.

An extensive camp site before the well treed cottage area.

An extensive camp site before the well treed cottage area.

Whilst my brother-in-law and my two sisters went for long walks, Sally and I stayed round the camp enjoying the birding. We did take a testing walk to the Yellowwood Forest.

We found a Dusky Flycatcher’s nest with 3 babies.

Red-chested and Black Cuckoos were calling all the time – with an occasional Klaas’s and Diderick’s joining in.

Outside one of the cottages was a Red-chested Cuckoo juvenile squeaking for its Cape Wagtail foster parent to feed it. I was lucky to see it catch a caterpillar perhaps for the first time feeding itself.

Under the eves of another cottage there was a Rock Martin’s nest – we saw a parent fly out.

Rock Martin nest

Rock Martin nest

The walk to the Yellowwood Forest was worth it despite the steepness and rocky nature of the path. It did, however, put pressure on Sally’s knees following her double knee replacement 6 weeks earlier. The forest is not too extensive but between us we spotted White-starred Robin, a pair of Bush Blackcaps, Cape Rock-Thrushes and a family of Cape Batises.

The grassland beside the camp gave us good sightings of Southern Red Bishops; Lazy, Levaillant’s and Wailing Cisticolas; African Firefinch; an adult Black Flycatcher feeding its young; Cape Grassbirds nesting; Neddicky; African Stonechat; Red-collared Widowbirds; Malachite Sunbirds; Swee Waxbill; Spectacled Weavers nesting in the trees beside the grassland area and a Dark-capped Yellow Warbler.

At a bridge we saw up to 4 African Olive Pigeons.

In all we identified 53 different species. Click here to see the list.

This is possibly a good venue for a weekend away – only 2.5 to 3 hours from Durban.

Paul and Sally Bartho

In case you missed it – Click here to read the report on the African Skimmer at Kosi Bay.

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Shongweni 2nd January 2016

Report by Elena Russell.

Again we had an early start 05:30 – according to the weather forecast we were in for a very hot day but it turned out very pleasant with a lot of cloud cover which kept the morning  reasonably cool.

People came and went but at about 06:00 there must have been about 19 of us.

We started off at the office and walked to the soccer field, down the road and on to the maintenance sheds.  It was here that we must have had between 20/30 Trumpeter Hornbills – fabulous sight.   Lots of Violet-backed, Glossy, Red-winged and Black-bellied Starlings; Barn and Lesser Striped Swallows and a few Black Saw-wings.

Emerald Spotted Doves called continuously but seldom seen! Also identified were Black-headed Orioles; Black-collared and Crested Barbets; Chinspot Batis; Common Fiscal; Grey-headed Sparrows; Familiar Chat; Rattling Cisticolas; Neddicky; a fly-by of Cattle Egrets and good views of Long-crested Eagle and Common Buzzard and of course Yellow-billed Kites. Red-chested, Diderick and Klaas’s Cuckoos were heard and again seldom seen.  Black-crowned Tchagra was also heard calling.

Our 1st tea break was at the ‘dam wall’ looking down at the dam (lots of green algae) and the birding was not too good on the dam. We did pick up a lovely Cape Rock Thrush; White-breasted Cormorants; Egyptian Geese; Wire-tailed and White-throated Swallows.

Then we went down to the dam wall proper. Here we had African Pied and Cape Wagtails (see Hennie’s great shot of a wagtail having a roll in the grass!) –  crazy bird.

African Pied Wagtail

African Pied Wagtail

A very obliging Green-backed Heron was also seen, and on the cliff face an African Harrier-Hawk was robbing Black Swift (?) nests.   White-necked Ravens; Rock Martins; Palm Swifts etc, etc.   On the way back popped down to the stream by the tunnel – hoping for a Mountain Wagtail but no luck but we did get a pair of African Black Duck.

And on the cliff face an African Harrier-Hawk was robbing Black Swift (?) nests.   White-necked Ravens; Rock Martins; Palm Swifts etc, etc.

On the way back popped down to the stream by the tunnel – hoping for a Mountain Wagtail but no luck but we did get a pair of African Black Duck.

Then on to the ‘Giant Steps’. Some of the birds seen and heard – White-browed Scrub Robin; Red-capped Robin-chat; Willow Warbler; Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler; Swee Waxbill; Cape, Thick-billed, Yellow, Spectacled and Village Weavers; Green Wood-hoopoe; Cardinal and Golden-tailed Woodpeckers; Olive Thrush; Red-fronted Tinkerbird; Southern Black Tit; Amethyst and Grey Sunbirds; Natal Spurfowl; Mocking Cliff-Chat; Brown-hooded Kingfisher.   Flycatchers were pretty good – Black, Spotted, Dusky and Paradise. Plus lots more!!

Our bird count at the 2nd tea break, down at the camp site, was 98. Then a few diehards walked the Ipithi (?) trail up to the contour road and back down to the camp site and picked up Little Rush Warbler; Crowned Eagle; Terrestrial Brownbul ; Collared Sunbird; Lesser Honeyguide and Dark-backed Weaver bringing the total to 104. We also had some good bird parties on this walk.

Here are some of the Dragonflies, Butterflies/Moths photographed.

Hennie and Declan picked up a European Roller on the lines on the way out  – I checked with Jenny Norman and she says it is sometimes seen there but not often so it was a pretty good sighting.

The picture of the snail is a Cannibal Snail which was courting death crossing the road – we all thought the approaching taxi would take out the snail but the driver carefully positioned his tyres so that the snail was under the body of the taxi – hooray for taxi drivers.  We then saved the snail by picking it up and placing it in the grass on the verge of the road – hooray for birders!!

DSC_0089

The snail is actually an African Land Snail of the genus Achatina (not sure which species). The cannibal snail is genus Natalina and has a much flatter spiral shell that is olive green in colour. If anyone is interested, I have a photo of Natalina eating Achatina taken in our garden for comparison purposes. Regards Steve Davis

Thanks to Hennie and Decklan Jordaan for the great pics – and a great first outing for 2016.

Elena Russell

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Kosi Bay and the African Skimmer

16th to 20th December 2015

This was meant to be a family holiday at Kosi Bay and Umfolozi showing special areas to my sister and her husband from Montana – not a birding adventure.

Doug and Tania went up early with by RSA sister and husband and another couple. Sally and I followed 3 days later. Sally and I decided to break the journey with an overnight stop in Mkuze. We spent part of the afternoon and early the next morning driving around Mkuze.

There is now a new enclosed area from the car park to the kuMasinga Hide (the picnic area remains for the more adventurous or foolhardy). Lions have frequently been seen in the area. This green snake was seen in the fencing next to the entrance gate.

The kuMahlahla hide also has a new entrance tunnel and surprisingly there was a lot of water in front of the hide.

The kwaMalibala hide near the campsite remains incomplete. Nsumo pan was not at its fullest.

The weather was quite windy and the birds evasive.

The next morning we continued to Kosi Bay.

We were staying at the TEBA lodge right at the river mouth past the day visitors parking area. We were fortunate to stay there as it is reserved for Chamber of Mines employees.

After a windy stormy first night

we got up and noticed many terns on the sandbank some 300 metres in front of the lodge. It was still quite windy and the tide was rising. That was the 17th December.

With the scope I noticed an unusual bird amongst them and my immediate thought was African Skimmer but I felt I must be wrong so I called to Sally to run and have a look – not a clever thing to say to her just a month after a double knee replacement. Anyway she hurried over took one look and confirmed my thoughts.

The initial photos were quite ropey in those conditions with the bird so far away but it was enough for an ID. Not expecting a second chance they had to do.

As the tide rose and the day visitors arrived so the terns flew into the centre of the mouth on a distant sandbank. Later as the tide receded I took a chance and waded out to the sandbank – camera and binocs held above my head in places. Eventually on the sandbank with the terns I searched for the Skimmer – and there it was.

As I approached so I started taking shots. I managed to get up to 50 metres from the terns and the African Skimmer was still among them. Also on the sandbank were numerous waders – Sanderlings, Grey, Kittlitz’s and White-fronted Plovers and a lone Bar-tailed Godwit. The terns included Swift, Sandwich, Common, Little, Lesser Crested and Caspian – a nice variety.

The next day the weather was calm and hot and the terns did not return to the river mouth. We thought they had gone.

On a short walk in the pristine forest we managed to see and hear a number of forest birds and other critters.

As an aside my sister’s husband – Doug – from Montana went for an afternoon stroll along the beach towards Mozambique. Over an hour later he returned and mentioned in passing that he had seen a large Turtle going up the beach! We were taken aback by his casualness to such a great sighting. He had no idea how privileged he was to see such a creature in broad daylight. When we retraced his steps the Turtle had long gone. All we got was a photo of the tracks it left behind. Can anyone ID which Turtle it was from this photo?

Turtle tracks

Turtle tracks

Then on the 19th Sally and I took a short drive round to a lookout point over the fish trap area and spotted a tern roost in the far distance but could hardly ID any of the birds even through the scope.

So later that day as the tide was receding I took a long walk from the lodge round the headland to the fish trap area, trundling more than half way to the entrance of the first lake – passing through a deep fast moving trench in the process.

As I was approaching so the terns were flying overhead and out to sea. I thought I was too late. However many remained and the African Skimmer was still amongst them. I managed to get reasonably close for several more photos.

I believe they roost at the mouth on southerly windy days and in the fish trap area when it is calm. The African Skimmer was content among the terns and not being chased away.

Many different waders were about including Bar-tailed Godwit; Greater Flamingos; Grey, Common Ringed, Kittlitz’s and White-fronted Plovers; Curlew and Common Sandpipers; Grey-headed Gulls; Ruddy Turnstones; Greenshanks; White-breasted and Reed Cormorants; Sanderlings apart from the 6 different terns – Caspian, Lesser Crested, Swift, Sandwich, Common and Little.

Apart from the seabirds we had two special sightings of Palm-Nut Vultures. An adult circled overhead and came down right next to a friend to retrieve a morsel nearby. Later a juvenile visited the lodge landing in a tree not 10 metres from where we were sitting. 

In all we recorded 52 different species without making any real effort to walk through the pristine forest. To see the list click here.

Quite a special place.

PS Access. A permit is required which can be obtained at the Kosi Bay Lakes Reception – see details at http://www.kznwildlife.com/accommodatin-rates-in-kosi-bay.html.

The road from the gate to the Day Visitors parking area is about 3 to 4 kms. It requires a 4×4 vehicle – or you can hike down (don’t fancy the walk back!). Alternatively the Lodge right before the entry gate may be an alternative to try for transport if you don’t have a 4×4.

African Skimmer - in flight

African Skimmer – in flight

From here our family went to Umfolozi tented camp for 2 nights. We entered at the Hluhluwe gate and drove through the park to Mpila camp on a comfortably cool day.

As we approached the gate and before entering the park we spotted an elephant strolling along a road inside. Then within the first kilometre we saw a pack of 4 lions sheltering in the deep shade of a bush right beside the road. A herd of Buffalo and 2 White Rhinos amongst them were on the hillside behind. A fantastic start for our family from Montana.

African Elephant

African Elephant

And beside us we had a view of this beautiful bird and a sweet young Zebra.

Further along at a viewsite overlooking the Hluhluwe river there was a large herd of elephants with Buffalo and White Rhinos amongst them.

Elephants, Buffalo and White rhinos.

Elephants, Buffalo and White rhinos (in the water at the far end). More elephants with their young were beneath us.

The focus on the time there was on mammals. However we did get a chance to take a few photos of some birds.

And then there is this bird. We debated its ID. The first impression was that it was a Kite sized bird with white undersides to its head and a black line passing through its eye – suggesting Osprey. However we thought it was an odd bird to see in the bush. We then considered juvenile Martial Eagle – but its shape and size seemed wrong. What do you think?

The second day there was quite uncomfortable except for the air conditioning in the car. It was registering 44 degrees on the car temperature gauge!

Mfafa hide has a new entrance tunnel from the car park – otherwise quiet except for the Mocking Cliff-Chats.

The Bejane hide was also quiet – perhaps we were too early. Its entrance had also been newly refurbished.

But the most pleasant surprise was that the tar road from Hluhluwe camp right through to Mpila had been repaved! No Potholes!

In the course of the second day we came across a Hyena which popped out as we neared the camp and a pair of mating Lions near the Umfolozi gate.

On the way home we decided to pop in to St. Lucia for a short visit. It was a cool overcast morning. Stopping to chat with one of the game viewing vehicles in Umfolozi we learn that Wild Dogs, a Leopard and the mating Lions had all been spotted along the way to the gate. Unfortunately we were unable to locate any – rats.

And on to St. Lucia to see the Hippos and Crocodiles. Readily visible both at the bridge in to St. Lucia and at the mouth.

Walking along the boardwalk to the sea a snake was spotted. Black end to its tail is all I managed to photograph.

IMG_0323a

Snake under the board walk.

A few birds were photographed in the car park area next to the board walk.

And to finish a repeat of the bird that we least expected to see – An African Skimmer.

African Skimmer – in flight

Paul and Sally Bartho

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Christmas Outing to Springside NR

Report by Elena Russell

Saturday 5 December 2015

Photos by Frankie Berghorst

A very short report on our rainy ‘Christmas’ outing!

As I drove up Field’s Hill in a very hard drizzle which turned into thick mist as I hit Hillcrest and  then heavy rain, I presumed I would be the only birder to turn up at Springside.   How wrong can one get there were 15 birders all waiting to go birding!!   Eternal optimists.

At first we sheltered on the veranda of the Conservancy/Activities centre until Peter said that if he went and brewed a pot of tea (he has a little primus stove and kettle!) and as soon as the tea was brewed the rain would stop – funnily enough we believed him and it almost worked.

The rain did ease off so we all set off in anticipation of some good birding but within 10 minutes the heavy drizzle returned. Forever hopeful we soldiered on. And did we take a short-cut? Of course not, we took the long and winding path back to the veranda looking forward to the toasted cheese and tom sarmies.

However Frankie did manage a photo or two – interesting critters. Too wet for bird photography.

Thank goodness for Marion and John who had brought their gas braai and this was set up under cover and John toasted our sarmies to perfection. He deserves a Michelin star or two!  Thanks to  Marion who supplied the cheese and toms, I forgot the salt and pepper but nobody seemed to mind.  Plus a big thanks to Liz and Anne for putting the sandwiches together.

A few were keeping tabs on the bird count which was in the region of 40.  In total we raised R370 for the conservancy.  Well done!

Lots of good wishes for Christmas and an excellent birding New Year.

Cheers

Elena

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Wingfield NR Sunday 22 November

We were greeted with a beautiful sunny if not windy day after some welcome rain over the previous four days amounting to 30mm. It had threatened to put paid to our Wingfield visit although I had a plan B.

There were eight of us including myself and having sussed out the road earlier decided to go down. Although we slowly slithered our way down for part of the route when we got there it was perfect. By the time we left it had dried out completely.

Wingfield runs along the Mgwahumbe River with rustic accommodation surrounded by indigenous forest. The river is made of large pools joined by fast flowing rocky areas (normally). The trail runs along the edge of the river and we managed to cover about half.

Finfoot have been spotted in the past. In the two and a half hours of walking the trails we spotted some 51 species. Penny de Vries did the recording for us. Click here to see the list of birds identified.

Some of the species encountered were Narina Trogon, Trumpeter Hornbill, Kysna Turaco, Black Sparrowhawk, Lanner Falcon, Goldentailed Woodpecker, Dark-backed Weaver and Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler to name a few.

I believe everyone enjoyed the experience having been introduced to such a beautiful spot. From reports they are keen to return.

Malcolm Stainbank.

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Cape Parrot Newsletter

Click here to read the latest Cape Parrot Newsletter.

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Wakkerstroom Weekend

Click here to see how to book for the Wakkerstroom weekend in January. Deadline now 10 December.

The SANParks Honorary Rangers of KZN are hosting our second annual Birding Weekend in Wakkerstroom on 15-17 January 2016. The weekend features a packed programme with guided excursions, evening meals, entertainment and give-away prizes and will cost only R 850/pp. And you’ll be contributing to adding sniffer and tracking dogs to the fight against poaching in Kruger National Park!

We held our first Birding weekend at the fantastic venue of Wakkerstroom last year and it was a resounding success. I am happy to send you the report so you can get a sense of the event. For this coming event, we have ironed out the teething issues and the weekend promises to be even better. All proceeds from the weekend will go directly to support the SANParks tracking and sniffer dog (K9) units that are combatting poaching in our national parks.

So WING YOUR WAY TO WAKKERSTROOM – ONE OF THE BEST PLACES TO SEE THE GRASSLAND BIOME SPECIES.

For more information or to book, please contact the following Hon. rangers:

Theuns Botha (bothahuis@hotmail.com / 082 8809 010)

Martie Strydom (martiestrydom@telkomsa.net  / 083 4587513)

Please find additional information and the registration form attached. Feel free to forward it to any Birder friends, club members and customers!

Registration has been extended and now closes on 10 December 2

We hope to see you there!

Best regards,

Lene

SANParks Honorary Ranger, KZN Region

Cell: 0766 445090

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Wakkerstroom Newsletter

Click here to read the latest Wakkerstroom newsletter.

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Newsletter Dolphin Coast Bird Club

Click here to read the latest Dolphin Coast Bird Club newsletter.

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BirdLife Port Natal Citations

Good Day fellow BLPN members.

It is that time for you to consider to whom we should make Awards at our AGM on Saturday 20th February 2016.

It is important that you complete the following document – click here and return it to Lesley (galefra@mweb.co.za) before December 15th. 2015.

The form is designed to make it easy for you to complete. So please give this a lot of thought and do respond if you consider someone is deserving of an Award. Unfortunately the committee is not fully aware of all the efforts our members make in their various ways.

Please do submit the form if you think of someone deserving an Award or mention at the AGM.

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