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Report by Paul and Sally Bartho
Monday 20 July to Friday 24 July 2015
Sugarloaf campsite in St Lucia was not too busy. School holidays had ended. There was water rationing in St Lucia which meant that one day we had no tapped water but the rest all day. Water bottles were laid out at each of the ablutions blocks. Power cuts were from 5 to 6 pm several nights – yes only one hour.
We spent a morning in each of the two parts of the Isimangaliso Wetland Park – Eastern and Western Shores. And one morning in the Gwalagwala trail. Time was spent on the beach too, though the gulls and terns were mostly down the coast chasing the sardines. No Franklin’s Gull!
The weather was mostly kind to us and we did have rain on several nights which helped to bring out the birds the following mornings.
In all we identified 63 birds in Eastern Shores, 64 birds in Western Shores and 82 birds in and around the campsite, Gwalagwala trail and on the beach. In total 125 different bird species were identified. Click here to see the lists.
Here are some photos of the birds seen.
And a few butterflies and mystery Cisticolas for ID.
Report by Jenny Rix
We had a lovely sunny day for our outing to Simbithi on Sunday the 19th July
Eighteen birders came including two environmental ladies from Simbithi. Margi Lilianveld organised all our security codes so that we could get through the security. Many thanks to her.
We drove down to the Fish Eagle dam and met up with Elayne Tranter who was the other environmental lady. We decided to do the Mfuleni Trail and split into two groups, the one doing the trail clockwise and the other anti clockwise.
Birding around the Fish Eagle dam was rewarding with Village Weavers very busy building their nests and collecting nesting material. We saw the Goliath, Black-headed, Grey and Purple Herons, the Common Moorhen, Burchell’s Coucal, the White-eared Barbet and lovely views of the Malachite Kingfisher.
Birding along the pathway was quiet as it was still in shade but as we reached the beginning of the pathway into the forest the sun was shining and the birds were all there. We had wonderful sightings of the Red-fronted Tinker Bird, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Olive Sunbird, Black Cuckooshrike and a very fast flyby of the Grey Waxbill.
The mature riverine forest growing along the stream was beautiful with many trees over 100 years old. A lot of the trees were named and along the path a camera had been placed to capture the night animals. Sunbirds were plentiful and we saw Amethyst, Collard, Grey, Olive and Purple-banded Sunbirds. The Black-collard Barbets, Crested Barbets, Sombre Greenbul and Yellow-bellied Greenbul were calling and we had a quick fly past of the Tambourine Dove.
When we reached the other side of the Fish Eagle dam there were a lot of Bronze Mannikins and we saw two nests and then another three built under the eaves of a house – just like the swallows do. It had us all fascinated.
In the open grassland area we heard the Neddicky and saw the Lesser-striped Swallow – that was a surprise, White-rumped Swift, Little Swift and African Palm Swift. Walking alongside the dam we saw the Black-throated Wattle-eye, lovely sightings as the bird sat still for quite a while.
In the next patch of grasslands we saw the Yellow-fronted Canaries and the Dusky Flycatcher. The next part of riverine forest we saw a lot of orchards growing on the trees but unfortunately they were not flowering.
We met up with our other group there and they had seen an African Crake at the Heron Dam. Elena was delighted as it was a lifer for her.
We eventually reached the dam but the African Crake had disappeared but we did see the White-throated Swallow, Little Rush Warbler, Spur-winged Goose and heard the Fish Eagle calling.
On the way back to the Fish Eagle dam we heard Yellow-breasted Apalis and saw a Kurrichane Thrush. We had tea at the Fish Eagle Community Centre, very civilized with table and chairs provided and whilst having tea we saw the Red-capped Robin Chat, two sparrow species, the Yellow-rumped Tinker Bird and another good sighting of the Purple-banded Sunbird.
We managed to see 78 birds altogether which is not too bad for a winters birding. The bird of the day – African Crake.
Photos courtesy of Decklan Jordaan and Dave Rimmer.
Click here to read an article by Charles Botha on “Are monkeys really guilty?”
Report Back by Elena Russell.
There were 7 of us and our bird count at tea was 44 – then Jenny spotted a Southern Tchagra on leaving the reserve and Ros spotted a juvenile Fiscal Flycatcher and Crowned Eagle which brought our count up to 47.
Large areas of the reserve have been burnt, I thought the veld was only burnt before the Spring rains but I’m no fundi on grassland management so maybe this is a new strategy?
We had great views of a Long-crested Eagle and eventually found the White-browed Scrub- Robin; lots of Bronze Mannikins; Sombre Greenbuls; Dark-capped Bulbuls; a few Cape White-eyes; Thick-billed, Village, and Spectacled Weavers as well as Dusky Flycatchers.
The best bird-party we had was in fact in a burnt area but up adjacent to some gardens. Here we had Yellow-throated Longclaw; Southern Boubou; Brown-hooded Kingfisher; Rufous-naped Lark; Yellow-fronted Canaries; White-eared Barbets; Southern Black Tit; Fork-tailed Drongos; Black Flycatchers. And heard: Crested Barbets; Golden-tailed Woodpeckers; Black-headed Orioles; Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds.
As we were having tea we picked up Terrestrial Brownbul and Red-capped Robin-Chat. The three butterfly pictures are :– Blue Pansy, African Common White and Mocker Swallowtail. In fact the butterflies at times outdid the birding!!
Not to mention the tree “huggers” – we all had a very pleasant morning!!
Thanks to John for the photos.
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
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
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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Click here to read a press release: African Vultures are declining at a Critical Rate.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.