Beachwook Golf Course

Led by Cecil Fenwick

Saturday 27 June 2015

Sally and I took a stroll around Beachwood Golf Course with Cecil Fenwick. Although this is not a club outing Cecil and  friends usually have a stroll around either Beachwood or Royal Durban golf courses on the last Saturday of each month.

Here are some of the photos of birds seen on our visit.

Paul and Sally Bartho

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Umbogavango and Vumbuka

Led by Barry Swaddle

Sunday 28 June 2015

Eleven birders gathered at the entrance to AECI in Amanzimtoti. The plan was to bird in Vumbuka. However Barry suggested we visit Umbogavango first as his reconnaissance the previous week had revealed that Vumbuka was quiet by comparison.

Barry took us into the grassland area behind the ablutions and then around the site visiting the bird hides and through its many various habitats.

Altogether 77 bird species were recorded including a number of raptors – African Crowned Eagle, African Fish-Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Lanner Falcon and Black Sparrowhawk. To view the list click here.

Here are photos of some of the birds seen.

The most interesting sighting was not that of a bird. Sally searched for why birds were going crazy in a distant tree when she spotted a rather large Green Mamba in the tree next to all the action.

After several hours at Umbogavango we headed for tea at the newly refurbished Lapa in Vumbuka. The Lapa has been extended and can seat many more people under shelter. There are also braai facilities available.

Several of us took a stroll around a section of Vumbuka after tea. Birds were calling but were few and far between – probably as it was already midday. However a number of butterflies were photographed and are included here to challenge your skills at IDing them.

Paul and Sally Bartho

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Dolphin Coast Newsletter

Click here to read the Dolphin Coast Newsletter.

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BL Plettenberg Bay Newsletter

Click here to read the Plettenberg Bay Newsletter.

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Bird Course 11 July 2015


We have a rare treat for you! On Saturday 11 July 2015, Adam Riley of Rockjumpers, Pietermaritzurg, will be presenting a half-day course on “The Planet’s Avian Diversity – the bird families of the world”. Adam is extremely well-known, both in the international and national birding world, for his skills in running the incredible explorations that Rockumpers organize worldwide, for his photographic wonders, and for his vast knowledge of birds and his ability to share this knowledge with so many people. His last course on the birds of KZN was packed out, and we expect the same for this one that he has offered to us in eThekwini. Adam has also been associated with BirdLife South Africa for a long while, and was at one time the chair of BirdLife Midlands. We are delighted to offer our members this course.

Venue : Paradise Valley Nature Reserve Conference Centre, Pinetown.

Directions : From M13 westbound, take the Stapleton Road/New Germany turn-off. (Exit 16). Keep left into Eden Road. Follow Eden Road past the Blood Bank, turn right into Oxford Road. The reserve is at the end of the road.

Time: 08h30 – registration.

09h00 – workshop begins

13h00 – workshop ends

Entrance fee : R80 per BirdLife member; R100 per non-member.

Materials : Notebook and pen or pencil, bring binoculars for afterwards. A print-out will be provided.

Tea, coffee and refreshments will be available on arrival and mid-morning. If you would like to stay for lunch afterwards, do please bring your own picnic baskets.

Bookings : Lesley Frescura

083 231 3408


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African Vulture Press Release

Click here to read a press release: African Vultures are declining at a Critical Rate.

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Sally and Paul Bartho

First it was Black River and the Snowy Egret then Stranfontein and finally Kirstenbosch – the third and final part of our quick visit to Cape Town.

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is one of those special treasures any country would be proud of. Recently they added an aerial boardwalk.

We had a number of pleasant surprises with birds that we saw.

The first was a Common Chaffinch. Stopping for a sit-down Sally noticed a bird in a distant bare tree. Unable to see exactly what it was, she took a  photo and zoomed in. It became obvious that it was a Common Chaffinch. So we went to see if we could get a closer look and it obliged.

Towards the end of our visit and still quite high up, we heard a call which Sally did not recognise. On investigation it turned out to be a pair of Cape Sugarbirds. Another pleasant surprise.

Then as we started to head down we were surprised by a Klaas’s Cuckoo.

As if that was not enough we turned round to watch another bird settle in a bare tree beside us – a Malachite Sunbird.

As we reached the Protea garden we kept our eyes open for an Orange-breasted Sunbird – a species we rather hope to find. Very elusive. We had seen dozens of Southern Double-collared Sunbirds so were optimistic. Then playing its call we realised why they are so elusive. The Southern Double-collared Sunbirds made it clear that they did not want to hear that species on their turf. We weren’t exactly dive bombed but their calls in response to the call and their closeness made it obvious.

Some photos of other birds seen at Kirstenbosch:

Eventually it was time to return home but we left with a strong desire to return. Lets hope for another Mega and a lot more Avios points!

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Sally and Paul Bartho

Following on from our viewing of the Snowy Egret, we took time to visit Strandfontein and Kirstenbosch.

After a wet and overcast previous day it was a pleasant surprise to have a bright sunny day for birding – albeit a wee bit cool.

Strandfontein wetlands are massive. Ponds and ponds of birds and a good road infrastructure to get around.

Greater Flamingos were everywhere.

It was satisfying to be able to review a number of species which we don’t often find in Natal and some other “Cape” birds.

Here are some photos of other birds seen as we drove around Strandfontein.

Of course there is always one bird that perplexes. In this case it was a group of about 3 or 4 birds together in a low shrub – head height. It appeared to be perhaps a tad smaller than a Bulbul with a plain dark back. Have a look and see if you can Id it.

And then we were on to Kirstenbosch – see next instalment.

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Snowy Egret

Trip to Black River, CT to see the Snowy Egret.

Sally and Paul Bartho

Saved Avios points enabled us to go to Cape Town to see the Snowy Egret. Unexpectedly there were flights available for departure the following day. And we were able to use the Avios points to book a hotel in the centre of town for 2 nights. So off we went Tuesday 16 June. Very early departure.

Arriving in Cape Town we hired a car and headed straight for the Black River where we were told it had been seen regularly.

On arrival at Black River there was only one car there. Not a good sign. We scoured the river bank and saw nothing. Then we spotted an egret further down on the grass so we headed down by car. And as we drove down so did another vehicle – straight at the egret. Of course it flew. Rats.

Back we went towards the railway bridge. Perhaps the bird was there. And sure enough it was – on the river bank between the two railway bridges. Here we met another couple who had arrived earlier.

The Snowy Egret waded along the bank – constantly on the move. Occasionally flying to a new area one side of the bridges or the other. Sometimes directly beneath us and sometimes down the inlet towards the golf course and away from us. However it seemed happiest around the bridge.

We spent almost three hours on the bridge and before we left an additional 15 to 20 other people had come and gone. Here are some of the many photos taken.

Key features are the yellow lores (top of the upper bill near the face) and bright yellow feet (like the Little Egret). Interestingly the legs appear to be bi-colour – black on the front and a pale yellow on the backs. Compare these two photos below.

Some more of the Snowy Egret photos.

Little Egrets and Yellow-billed Egrets were also present – great for comparison with the Snowy.

There were many other birds about as you might expect – including African Darter, numerous White-breasted Cormorants fishing, Hartlaub’s Gulls, herons, and other water birds. A Malachite Kingfisher also made an appearance directly below us. However the bonus was undoubtedly a Little Bittern also directly below us.

The following day we checked in here again and Snowy was still present. Then we spent the rest of the day visiting Strandfontein and Kirstenbosch. See the next instalment.

A trip to remember.

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Pigeon Valley

Saturday 6 June 2015 with Elena Russell.

A good Winter’s morning birding at Pigeon Valley on Saturday 6 June – there were 20 members and non-members plus a few late-comers and our bird count was 59.

Birders Pigeon Valley - John

Birders Pigeon Valley – John

We started off by looking for the Spotted Ground-Thrush and were not disappointed in our search – in fact SGT’s were seen on a number of occasions. Our hunt for the Buff-spotted Flufftail was unfortunately not successful, we must wait for Crispin to keep us updated on any sightings. We then broke up into 2 groups; my thanks to Dave Rimmer for leading one group.

The Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatchers were seen near the ‘broken dam’ wall. We dipped on Honeyguides/birds which we normally do see at Pigeon Valley but our Sunbird tally was excellent; Amethyst, Collared, Grey, Olive and Purple banded. Raptors were rather scarce, mainly heard with a few brief glimpses of Crowned Eagle, Black Sparrowhawk and African Goshawk.

We had some excellent birding up by the reservoir, where the veldt grasses have been allowed to grow and various fig trees and the Apodytes are fruiting in abundance!! Fiscal Flycatchers, Black-headed Orioles, White-eared Barbets, Village & Spectacled Weavers, Speckled Mousebirds, Dark-capped Bulbuls, and then the piece de resistance a Zitting Cisticola (due no doubt to the grasses being allowed to grow tall and thick).

Grey Waxbills, African Firefinch, Bronze and Red-backed Mannikins, Yellow-fronted Canaries, Cape White Eyes, Tambourine, Red-eyed and Laughing Doves, Southern Black and Dusky Flycatchers, Fork-tailed and Square-tailed Drongos, Purple-crested Turacos, Terrestrial Brownbuls, Olive Thrush kept the list ticking up very nicely.

The last bird of the morning was the Palm swift which came swooping overhead as we had our picnic tea.

Thanks to Decklan, Paul, Dave and John for their pics.



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Kosi Bay

May 25th to 29th 2015

Paul and Sally Bartho

Having received an invitation to stay at the TEBA Lodge right at the mouth of Kosi Bay, we accepted with alacrity. We had four nights at the lodge and spent our time birding early morning and in the evenings as well as sunning on the beach during the day. Early to bed and early to rise.

The habitat is pristine coastal dune forest teeming with bird life. as well as inland lake fish traps.

The first morning bird walk got off to a fantastic start with birds flying back and forth around the entrance gate to the lodge. Black-throated Wattle-eyes, Ashy and Grey Tit-Flycatchers, Sombre Greenbuls, Square-tailed Drongos and a Green Malkoha amongst them. Further along we saw African Yellow White-eyes, Woodward’s Batis, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatchers and an Olive Bushshrike which tested our skills to ID it – see photos. On the way back we encountered a shy White-starred Robin and several others were heard during the course of our stay.

On the beach we relaxed while the others were fishing. An African Fish-Eagle and an Osprey flew overhead. Three Grey-headed gulls passed over us hoping for some titbits no doubt. Other than that there were about 60 White-breasted Cormorants which came fishing each morning. A Giant Kingfisher was vociferous as it flew by each day and a sole White-fronted Plover was seen. Cattle took to the sand when the tide was out accompanied by Cattle Egrets.

Further inland from the mouth there is a large shallow area with numerous fish traps. In this area we found Pied, Malachite and Giant Kingfishers, Purple and Goliath Herons, African Fish-Eagle and White-breasted cormorants and a lone African Pied Wagtail. We also saw Sombre Greenbuls in numbers on several trees – probably the most numerous species that we encountered.

Altogether we identified 53 different bird species – many of which were special for us. Click here to see the bird list.

Paul and Sally Bartho


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Rocky Wonder Aloe Nursery.

Rocky Wonder Aloe Nursery.
Weekend and Sunday Outing 22 – 24 May 2015

Rocky Wonder is near Ashburton. It is an aloe nursery. The property is 22 acres of virgin Bushveld. Peter and Heather, the owners, have opened it up to nature lovers and birders. They have built 7 camp sites and a few self catering suites.

Our party of 7 were the first ever to camp at Rocky Wonder and we were not disappointed.



On Saturday we set off at 7:30am, the morning turned out to be perfect weather. We saw roughly 55 birds – Red Billed Quelea, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Amethyst Sunbird, Collared Sunbird, Lazy Cisticola to name a few.

We went to Darvill Park on Saturday afternoon and saw another 50 great birds. Mike spotted a Purple Heron flying away which miraculously become an African Marsh Harrier!! After that the excitement died down and there were no more unbelievable transformations.

At first we came across a field full of Blacksmith Lapwings _ or Lapsmiths as Paul likes to call them. Among them were four Grey-crowned Cranes – two adults and two immature.

The African Snipes were a lifer for me so I was over the moon!

Also seen were Southern Pochard, Cape Shoveler, African Spoonbill, Hottentot Teal, Red-Billed Teal, Squacco Heron, South African Shelduck and a Yellow Billed Duck.

There was even action in the sky as an African Fish-Eagle was bombed by a Pied Crow. And an African Marsh Harrier made an appearance.

For our Sunday outing we were joined by 9 other members totalling 16 for the outing. The weather was very good to us once again.

Click here to see he bird lists for both Rocky Wonder and Darvill.

The morning was spent exploring other well pathed areas of Rocky Wonder. It was enjoyed by all ending with a picnic / tea at the camp site. Much the same species were seen as we saw on Saturday.

A number of people also took advantage of the nursery and bought Aloes to take home for their gardens.

Cheryl Bevan



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Iphithi N.R. Outing- 20 May

Iphithi N.R. Outing- 20May

With Sandi Du Preez

Iphiti Birders

Iphiti Birders

Sixteen birders turned up for the outing to this lovely reserve, which was a rather large group for a gloomy Wednesday!

Specials were White-eared Barbets, Grey-headed Bushshrike (heard and seen), Black Crake, African Crowned Eagle, and 5 Sunbird species (Amethyst, Collared, Greater Double-collared, Grey and Olive.)

40 species were recorded with one extra seen after most had left (a house sparrow flying back and forth with nesting material).

Of interest was a rather uncommon moth – Dimorphic Tiger moth.



Sandi du Preez

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Dolphin Coast May Newsletter.

Click on this link to read the Dolphin Coast May Newsletter.

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White-backed Duck at Cotswold Downs, Hillcrest

BirdLife Port Natal ran a stand at the Kloof Conservancy Open Indigenous Gardens weekend held at The Cotswold Golfing Estate in Hillcrest. While the cold overcast weather made birding difficult, a bird list of the weekend sightings by Derek Spencer exceeded 50 species. Of particular interest to the experts was a White-Backed Duck swimming among White-faced Ducks, African Jacanas, Common Moorhens and Black Crakes. Our stand over looking a small pond, raised much interest and many inquiries from visitors.

Peter Farrington

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For ID

Seen in the Mkhuze campsite right next to the Jojo rainwater tank by its tap. Please ID.


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African Black Oystercatchers

I saw 6 African Black Oystercatchers on the beach at San Lameer last week. They weren’t on the rocks, where I have seen them before but only ever one at a time, but flew past me as I was walking on the beach and settled on the shore line just in front of me. There they stayed for at least 10 minutes until a young boy was running down the beach and frightened them off and where they went to then heaven only knows. This was on Monday 4th  Mayat about 3.00 p.m.

Tessa White

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Greater Painted Snipes Video

Click on this link to see the You Tube video of the Greater Painted Snipes seen in Umlaas Canal – just north of the old Durban Airport.

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St. Lucia and Mkhuze – May 2015 Part Four


Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

The Mkhuze campsite is expensive compared to Sugarloaf in St. Lucia. It is also out on a limb at the main entrance to the park with major water issues. That said we never experienced any problems with hot water. Power is supplied by generator from 05h00 to 08h00 in the morning and from 17h00 to 22h00 in the evening.

The kwaMalibala and  kuMahlahla hides are both being re-built. When they are complete kwaMalibala will not have well water provided but the new hide is built over the pan. Work is ongoing to secure the kuMasinga hide picnic area from the roaming lions and other Big Five animals. An electric fence will enclose the picnic site, car park and down the tunnel to the hide. Sorely needed as Lions were seen round the hide the morning after we arrived.

The only satisfying birding we experienced was to be found either in the campsite, around the main office, the kuMasinga Hide and at the hides and picnic area at Nsumo Pan. Again the area is very dry and consequently birds were scarce.

Nsumo Pan was fairly full. Most of the bird life was banked on the far side. There were hundreds of Spur-winged Geese, Egyptian Geese, Black-winged Stilts, Pink-backed Pelicans, African Spoonbills, Water Thick-knee, Grey and Goliath Heron, Reed and White-breasted Cormorants, Pied Kingfisher, Whiskered Terns, White-faced Ducks, Blacksmith Lapwings, African Darter, Great Cattle and Little Egrets, Hadeda and Glossy Ibis, Purple Swamphen, and African Pied Wagtails.

However what was really interesting was the sight of about 60 Vultures suddenly taking flight. They were mainly White-backed but there were one or two White-headed amongst them. Why they took off all together so suddenly remains a mystery.

Some photos of birds seen around the park:

We spent quite a few hours at the kuMasinga Hide each day. The birding was best here and there was a constant stream of Nyala, Zebra, Wildebeest, Warthogs, Impala, Baboons and an occasional Kudu. Playful Baboons came for water and then played all round the hide. A few even ventured onto the roof of the hide and ran back and forth slip sliding as they went.

Nearby to the campsite we had views of an African harrier-Hawk being mobbed and at the Nhlonhlela Bush Lodge we saw Marabou Storks beside one of the pans with a modicum of water.

There were several interesting Campsite birds. The White-throated Robin-Chat serenaded us from the nearby bushes.

White-throated Robin-Chat

White-throated Robin-Chat

Unlike Sugarloaf the nights were very quiet – no Owls nor Nightjars calling.

Nice to get away into the bush but our time could have been better spent relaxing in the Sugarloaf campsite and beach.

Having said that we did identify several specials: Gorgeous and Orange-breasted Bushshrikes, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Fiscal Flycatcher, Grey Go-away-bird, Pink-throated Twinspots, Rudd’s Apalis, Brubru, White-backed and White-headed Vultures, Acacia Pied barbet, Black-crowned Tchagra, Black Sparrowhawk, Red-billed Oxpecker, Golden-breasted Bunting, Marabou Storks, Green-winged Pytilia, Striped Kingfisher, Whiskered Tern, Openbill and Glossy Ibis.

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