BLPN Outing to Krantzkloof Saturday 5th May 2019

Report by Terry Walls

Weather report was not favourable, as light rain was predicted for the Kloof area.

We met in overcast conditions with some experiencing light misty rain on their way to Krantzkloof. We decided to continue as patches of blue sky were visible among the clouds which is normally a good sign that it will not rain.

From the start it was clearly obvious that Krantzkloof had experienced heavy rain and there and the river had flowed extensively over the banks in places. Our first observation was a pair of Mountain Wagtail, who were extremely tame, and came to within five metres of the group, before they moved off, Uncharacteristically, mimicking their Cape Wagtail cousins by walking around on the lawn in the picnic area.

Mountain wagtail  Photo: Mike Stead
Mountain Wagtail. Photo: Mick Jackson

Also seen in the picnic area was an Olive Thrush, which as always created some debate about Olive and Kurrichane.

Crossing the bridge on the road we could see more evidence of the wash away which had been created by the heavy rain. The pathway to the Iphithi Waterfall was closed and we had to take a diversion up the hill to make our way to the trail.

Forest trail start  Photo:  Terry Walls
Southern Black Tit  Photo: Mick Jackson

Once back on the trail, we came a across a few birds. Doves at first, and then a small bird party, quite high up in the canopy. In the poor light, we did not get good views of the birds but were able to identify most of them by their calls.

A little further up the pathway, our concern about crossing the river to the Iphithi Falls was confirmed, when we came across the bridge which had been washed down the stream.

Flood damaged bridge   Photo: Terry Walls

We decided to continue on the Long Shadow Trail, rather than to wade through the water.

The overcast conditions and the Forest habitat were however not conducive to birding and after walking a fair distance along this path and not seeing any birds, we decided to return to the picnic area.

The misty conditions closed in, and by the time we reached the picnic area it was raining, and we decided to call it a day.

A total of only 28 birds were listed.

Bird List

Apalis, Bar-throated 

Bulbul, Dark-capped

Barbet, Black-collared

Barbet, White-eared

Dove, Lemon    

Dove, Red-eyed

Dove, Tambourine

Drongo, Square-tailed

Drongo, Fork-tail

Goose, Egyptian

Goshawk, African

Greenbul, Sombre

Hornbill, Crowned          

Ibis, Hadeda

Kingfisher, Brown-hooded

Pigeon, Speckled

Puffback, Black-backed

Robin-chat, Red-capped

Starling, Red-winged

Sunbird, Collared

Sunbird, Grey

Sunbird, Olive

Thrush, Olive

Tit, Southern Black

Turaco, Purple-crested

Wagtail, Mountain 

Weaver, Dark-backed     

White-eye, Cape

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Burchell’s Coucal Eco Trail Outing 12 May 2019

Report by Tyron Dall

A perfect sunny mornings’ birding was enjoyed by a group of 13 people. I had arrived 45 minutes before the scheduled start and was greeted with a Western Osprey flying directly overhead. As the other members arrived I told them about the Osprey sighting and they were all envious and wanted to see it too. Well luck was with them as later in the day the Osprey (photo EJ Bartlett) was seen once again flying in the distance with a fish in its talons.

As the members arrived to the car park overlooking the estuary (photo Tyron Dall) we had sightings of Water Thick-knee, Malachite Kingfisher (photo Ronnie Herr), Hamerkop and some Black-headed Herons (photo Ronnie Herr) on the roofs of the nearby buildings.

We started the walk just after 7am and everyone was pleasantly surprised to see how clean the Illovo Estuary was after the recent floods. It seems this catchment was largely spared the terrible litter that has plagued other rivers in the area. As we started the walk we walked past the canoe club building and we saw that they had marked a level on the building where the recent flood waters had risen to (a couple of meters up the building!)

Continuing on the first spectacle we were treated to was a couple of large flocks of Cattle Egrets flying up the river (photo Rob McLennan-Smith). As we continued walking the calls of a couple of Red-throated Wrynecks (photo Rob McLennan-Smith) announced themselves. The photographers in the group all jostled for position to take pictures of them. Then it was the turn of a couple of Yellow-throated Longclaws (photo Tyron Dall) to show themselves, calling from the tops of some bushes.

As we climbed a small vantage point overlooking the river a small flock of Common Waxbills flew from the tall grasses and upon surveying the river a couple of Black Ducks (photo Ronnie Herr) were seen on the water as well as a couple of Three-banded Plovers.

By this point we had already seen a few Little Bee-eaters, but we were then treated to one of the trails “special” birds, a few White-fronted Bee-eater (photo EJ Bartlett). Unfortunately the sun was making it difficult for the photographers to capture these beauties as it was directly behind the Bee-eaters. 

Next we headed in to the more forested section of the trails where we managed to find African Dusky Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, White-eared Barbet (photo EJ Bartlett), Green-backed Camaroptera, Golden-tailed Woodpecker(heard), Sombre Greenbul(heard) and Bar-throated Apalis(heard).

On our way back we also managed to see some Black Saw-wings and Fan-tailed Widowbirds. While we were enjoying some food and drinks after the walk we were entertained by some Southern Black Flycatchers, and Southern Black Tits. Altogether we managed a total count of 64 species (55 seen and 9 heard)

Everyone was also pleased to hear that these trails are open to the public and no prior arrangement is necessary to visit them. Thanks to everyone who attended and to all the photographers who contributed their photos.

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Kgalagadi Trip Report

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

9th to 26th April 2019

River of Joy and Mokala

Black-backed Jackal – looks so cute

Friends of ours (Arthur and Rose Douglas) suggested we join them and their two friends (Rodney and Myra) for eight nights in the Kgalagadi. They had space in Polentswa for six nights and two nights in Rooiputs (both unfenced campsites on the Botswana side of the Park).

We decided to go and then return through the Northern Cape and Karoo to find both the Red and Sclater’s Larks which neither of us had seen.

Our program: a stopover at the River of Joy campsite and then spend two nights at Mokala on the way to Twee Rivieren before joining our friends at Polentswa. Afterwards to drive to Brandvlei for three nights and finally three nights at Gariep Dam before returning home.

On the first part of our journey we avoided the Van Reenen’s Pass and took the more scenic route via Oliviershoek Pass. We arrived early at River of Joy near Bloemfontein and set up our off-road caravan in time for a short stroll around the camp before the rains set in. And they set in for the whole night. The ground was fortunately grassy but very soggy in the morning but the rain had stopped. The sole bird of note was the back view of a Gabar Goshawk near the river.

Gabar Goshawk

The next day we arrived at Mokala very early so that we could have time to explore the Park. Weather was variable – some sun, cool and mainly cloudy with threats of possible rain.

The sunlight through the clouds had amazing lighting effects on the scenery.

Bright sunlight on the hillside amid the stormy background.

We did see two of the big five animals – a large herd of Buffaloes and a few White Rhinos. Again with strange sunlight casting this Buffalo with a red hue.

Old boy right next to us and checking us out.

Mokala has a very wide range of antelope – abundant and visible. Here are some of the variety that we saw.

There were also a multitude of birds despite the windy, cool and wet weather.

Kgalagadi Polentswa and Rooiputs

Dry weather prevailed during our long journey to Twee Rivieren where we spent the night before heading up to Polentswa the following day

The distance from Twee Rivieren to Polentswa is close to 200 kms – so another long day of driving through the Park.

The main observation was the extreme dryness compared to the same time last year and as a result a paucity of animals and birds. No sign of cats the whole way. Very unusual.

Same time last year the Park was much greener and sometimes waterlogged.

Stopping at Nossob for fuel, provisions and to fill up the trailer with water, Sally went to the Bird Hide to check if there was anything of interest to see. All was desert and deserted.

We did photo a few interesting birds along the way;

Eventually we arrive at Polentswa and set up camp alongside our friends.

There is a waterhole nearby and it was one of the few with water – piped in. This is where we were treated to our daily show of Wildebeest and Springbok;

Rocky at the Polentswa waterhole.

Some of the animals using the waterhole.

Cape Turtle Doves in their hundreds first thing in the morning and late afternoon;

Cape Turtle- Doves

Black-backed Jackal hopeful of snatching a bird or two;

Black-backed Jackal – so cute

And at 09h30 the Sandgrouse arrive (Namaqua mainly and Burchell’s) – circling for ages before settling with their beady eyes open for a Lanner attack.

Every day the Lanner Falcons were there – seemingly just hanging about but on occasion an abortive attempt was made to catch a Sandgrouse or Turtle-Dove.

The Lanners did not have everything their own way.

Lanners were plentiful as were the Bateleurs with Greater Kestrels in the air above and the occasional Gabar Goshawk lurking about. Even Tawny Eagles made an appearance.

Gabar Goshawk note the white trailing edge to the wings

This Gabar flew and sat in a tree beside a Tawny Eagle. The comparison in size difference was astounding. In the above picture the Gabar looks huge but beside the Lanner it appeared less than half its size.

And sometimes a Lanner was spot-lit in the sun.

Lanner Falcon sunbathing

The campsite was also a good source of birds as you might expect – especially as we put out water for them. It was also full of incidents. Late night animals, birds close up, snakes, fire and lions.

Every night we had a large fire which we sat around and had dinner together. It was a time when out of nowhere there would suddenly appear – less that 10 metres from us – a Black-backed Jackal, a Spotted Hyena or a Cape Fox. Many nights we heard the Lions calling – we assumed from a distance although they were getting closer.

At midday, we usually gathered together to enjoy the shade of the A Fame and shoot the breeze. Water was put out on the far side of the A Frame giving us a close-up view as the birds flocked in for desperately needed water. And from our vantage point we were able to get photos of them.

Even some non-feathered friends came for a drink.

Two quite similar birds were our constant companions at the A Frame, under our chairs and pecking at the ants. In the end we believe we have identified them correctly.

Others seen around the campsite:

Snakes. An almost 2 metre Cape Cobra slithered across the A Frame in front of us – not stopping for a drink – and headed for my car. Fortunately it took a turn up a tree beside the car. We have no idea when it left but I moved my car away smartly.

The other incident could have had serious consequences. Sally was preparing some food at our campervan kitchen. I then washed up in the same area. As I was putting the pots back in the cupboard I happened to look down at the stool I was standing on. Through the holes I saw something odd.

So I lifted up the stool to find a rather large – fortunately dopey- Puff Adder all curled up against the tyre. Sally and my feet were literally inches from it from time to time.

Puff Adder

With help from some other campers we were able to get a spade under it and flick it outside the campsite. This took some effort because the snake kept trying to scamper its way back to what was obviously the coolest place to cool down.

Lion close-up

Then there were the Lions. Three playful youngsters. They were heard calling early one morning and everyone in the three different campsites set out (by car) to find them. We were tail-end Charlie. Following the paw prints on the road past our camp, the others soon came across the three youngsters.

When we caught up the entourage of cars were coming back towards us following
the youngsters along the road back towards the camps. A couple of them were quite boisterous, stretching themselves on trees and chasing each other.

Eventually they entered one of the camps and found a rubber mat to play with. This was our only sighting of Lions except for an old collared male on our way out of the Park. One even left a landmine on the road.

Sally and I had never been up to Union’s End in the number of times we had visited the Park so we decided to have a drive – some 70 kms north of Polentswa. It was marginally greener but really not by much.

On the way we were fortunate to see a female Pygmy Falcon atop a tree over the road. And unexpectedly a Lilac-breasted Roller. A large family of Ostriches were seen along with Capped Wheatears and a Lesser Grey Shrike.

Otherwise the drive was uneventful until we were arriving at the Lijersdraai picnic site. I ran over a stick missing either end. Except it was a Puff Adder unhurt.

The Kousant waterhole just south of Polentswa had a leaking water tank – perhaps intentionally so. The birds loved it as the tank had encroaching scrubby trees around it.

Black-chested Prinia, Cape Glossy Starling, a Chat-Flycatcher and a Marico Flycatcher all made an appearance. But there was one bird – a Warbler that had us mulling over for ages until we finally identified it.

Icterine Warbler

There was one other incident at the Polentswa campsite which was finally resolved at Rooiputs. It had our other two male friends Arthur and Rodney speculating as to what could be causing this phenomenon over each campfire dinner. And it revolved around the fire itself. Strange colourful flames. Not every night though.

First it must have been the wood itself – or a chemical inside. Same wood next night – no colourful flames. Perhaps it was the paint on the cans burning. Other hypotheses were expressed but it remained a mystery until our last night at Rooiputs.

Finally our six nights at Polentswa were over and we were on our way south to Rooiputs. Along the way there was not much out of the ordinary except that the herd numbers were less than normal and were few and far between. We did however have a reasonable sighting of a Brown Hyena running across the Nossob River; White-backed Vultures and a Secretarybird.

Rooiputs only has six campsites – each distantly apart. Unfenced so risky to use the outside Loo and Shower after dusk.

L to R: Arthur, Rose, Rodney and Myra

Every night we heard the roar of the King of the Jungle. His spoor was found around the camp shower each morning.

And of course during our final fire the flames took on their extraordinary colours again. Arthur and Rodney continued their speculation until I put them out of their misery. I handed them a packet each of Mystical Fire which I had sneaked into the fires on several occasions on the pretext of adding rubbish to be burnt.

Left the loo, right the shower area.

Eventually we saw the Lion on our way out – an old boy with a collar.

Collared Lion

Campsite birds were not as friendly as those in Polentswa but we still managed a pic or two.

Groundscraper Thrush

During our short time at Rooiputs our birding was limited not only by time but also the dryness of the Park. Despite that we did have one interesting sighting.

Our unusual incident were strange sightings in a Scaly-feathered Weaver’s nest.

The skeleton of an animal head with horns and a backbone.
Up close of the animal’s head and horns.

And round the side of the nest, this – whatever it is?

About 30 to 40 cms long. Any ideas?

And here are a few birds which had us pondering over their ID. We think our IDs are right but are not 100% positive. The first: a Chat Flycatcher (undersides not white enough for a Marico but the white wing bar is confusing).

The Second. Also Chat Flycatcher. Same concerns as above.

Click here to see our bird list for the Park. In all …………….birds were identified.

Brandvlei

Brandvlei is a very small town in the middle of Northern Cape Province about 250 kms south of Uppington.

According to Birdfinder is is highly rated and both Red and Sclater’s Larks can be seen there – our goal as neither of us had seen either before.

Early afternoon we arrived at our campsite – Casablanca on the outskirts of town. Rui welcomed us and knew we were birders. It seems many people from around the world stay with him to bird the area. He gave us directions to find the Red Lark close to town.

Casablanca
Entering Brandvlei

Fortunately we misunderstood his directions and instead of going about a kilometre we travelled six kilometres down the road looking for the first gate which was open on our left. As it happens we hit paydirt as we entered. A Red Lark flew across our bows and perched closeby. We scrambled out and followed it deeper into the property getting glimpses of it. Eventually it called – very unique call – then flew and perched on a scrub that enabled me to take a photo.

Red Lark

The weather was overcast and windy for the next two days while searching for the Sclater’s Lark. This time we followed Birdfinder’s route along the R357.

We had hardly left town when Sally spotted one right next to us as we drove past. Unfortunately it did not hang around for me to get a good look at it.

We enjoyed the birding along the route – dry open land with an occasional clump of trees usually beside a water trough.

About 16 kms along the R357 we came to a trough about 100 metres off the road. We pulled onto the side and watched from the fence – with binoculars and scope.

Distant waterhole

We waited and waited watching the the trough and the variety of Canaries and Sparrows which came to drink.

Then two Sclater’s Larks came and drank together. Through the scope it was clear what they were. Photographically the shots were very poor but looking carefully one can make out the face markings.

The next day we went back to the same trough and saw another clearly through the scope. Sorry about the pictures.

Of course there were other species which we enjoyed – Spike-heeled and Karoo Long-billed Larks, Karoo Korhaan, Double-banded Courser, Pririt Batis, White-throated Canaries, Namaqua Sandgrouse, white-backed Mousebirds, Yellow Canaries and Cape Sparrows to name a few.

On the way back to camp five Bat-eared Foxes raced along beside us. Lovely to see.

Bat-eared Fox

Another special sighting were the Rufous-eared Warblers – scurrying like mice from one clump of bush to the next.

Severe thunderstorms were all round us on the last afternoon. Rui told us that the last rain that they had was last December – 4 mm only. He offered us a room for the night in the house as he believed that we could be in for a battering – rain, wind and hail. We considered this for 30 minutes until we saw thunder and lightning

Hiding from the storm

Then we raced to get the campervan packed up. As we entered the house 30 minutes later the rain started – and it rained heavily all night. Power went off but we had the comfort of a very unusual home. Very old worldly. Old tims in the kitchen above the Aga, old-fashioned clothing hanging on the walls including corsets and dresses, piles of magazines from the 50s and 60s. Real character. Wonderful place to stay.

The next day we left early for Gariep Dam. The GPS wanted us to use the main gravel roads. After all the rains I think we wisely decided to take the long way round heading south for Calvinia and then across to Gariep Dam – probably 150 to 200 kms further but all on tar.

Gariep Dam

First it was south towards Calvinia in very overcast and threatening weather. Unusual double rainbows were seen.

The first two hours we experience a little rain now and then. The next five hours it rained constantly and sometimes severely.

The fields were sodden and full of standing water.

On arrival at the Forever Resort in Gariep we decided not to camp but to enjoy the luxury of a Chalet (views above) for the next three nights.

The area was picturesque and birding varied in the different habitats.

We visited the camp’s game park. Small, but it had a busy wetland pond – with many water birds as well as others enjoying the standing water.

Wetland Pond

There we had views of a sub-adult African Fish-Eagle, Cape Shovelers, Cape and Red-billed Teals, Goliath Heron, Layard’s Tit-Babbler, Mountain Wheatear, Yellow-billed Egret, Yellow-crowned Bishops, Common Waxbills, Common Moorhen, Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coots to name a few.

During our time there we visited the Dam itself and drove along the rocky shoreline back to the resort. And we visited the Gariep Dam Game Park as well as walking around the resort.

Several views of the Dam.

On the way back to the resort we stopped at a look-out point and had good views of a Black-chested Prinia and a Short-toed Rock-Thrush.

In the Game Park we managed to see three Game – a Wildebeest, three Reedbuck and a Yellow Mongoose.

Yellow Mongoose

However the birdlife on the dam’s edge was prolific in several areas. Hundreds of Egyptian Geese dominated. Waders were present – Three-banded, Kittlitz’s and White-fronted Plovers as well as Capped Wheatears, Blacksmith Lapwings and the water birds we had seen at the wetland pond.

Other birds were also seen in the Game Park including:

In total 151 different bird species were identified. Click here to see our combined bird lists and where each was identified

Cheers

Paul and Sally Bartho

Hope you enjoyed the read.

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Latest tracks of Cape and Bearded Vultures

Dear All 

Please find attached (Click here and here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh and Mollie and our Cape Vulture N207, for the past two weeks.

Hopefully we will see the start of some breeding activity on our nest camera in the Drakensberg soon

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

Please find attached (click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh and Mollie and our Cape Vulture N207, for the past two weeks.

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BIRDLIFE KZN MIDLANDS CLUB E-NEWSLETTER

Click here to read the latest Birdlife KZN Midlands e-newsletter.

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BLPN weekend outing to Silverstreams

12 – 14 April 2019

Report by Jane Morris

Mike, Terry Walls and I set off at midday on our driving up to the beautiful Bushman’s Neck region of the southern Drakensberg.  A weekend of birding and relaxing was something I had looked forward to for some time.  On route we were pleased to see a good number of green fields and farm dams that were brimming with water.  Our route took us off the N3 at Howick and through Bulwer. We chose to go on the dirt road, it is not in the best state but did produce some good birds. A Denham’s Bustard was lovely to see, a Verreaux’s Eagle with his prominent white cross and rump was a great sighting as well, Ant-eating Chats whirred around and sat on fences for us to get a good view of them.  

Photo: Anteating Chat.  Rob McClennan-Smith

About 40 Cape Vulture circled above a valley gaining height before soaring off.  Once we arrived at Silver Streams we settled into our riverside caravan and enjoyed the bubbling stream and the solitude of the mountains.  The balance of our group, Rob and Paige McClennan-Smith and Jackie and Roland Suhr were already ensconced in their accommodation and as we had all arrived fairly late in the afternoon, we were in time to watch the sun set before congregated on the riverbank for the evening. Chilly mornings and evenings were balanced by gloriously sunny and warm days.  

Saturday morning, we were up and away to see what we could find.  It was a glorious day and we started off scanning the vlei area in the campsite for birds.  Here the euplectes species were going about their business.  Red-collared Widowbirds and Red Bishop where slowly losing their summer plumage and becoming dull and drab with only faint orange areas to show for once bright colours.  The flock of Cape Weaver which was present when I had been about earlier had sadly completely disappeared. Heading up to the border control point one passes through a mix of indigenous and exotic bush.  Cape Robin-chat, Olive Thrush, Speckled Mousebirds, Paradise Flycatcher and Southern Boubou were present here, on coming back to this area later in the day we got good views of Drakensberg Prinia which was the highlight of our trip and provide a good deal and debate.

Getting onto the grasslands was interesting as there were two streams to wade across. This caused some consternation, there were those who jumped from rock to rock with shoes on needless to say there were some wet shoes!!  Others chose to takeoff their shoes and wade in the icy water!! 

Terry and Paige ford the stream.  Photo Jane Morris.

Once across it the stream we headed out into the grasslands.  The birding here was sparse but Greater Striped Swallow, Banded Martin and Brown-throated Martin were seen and we got good views of Wryneck and Bokmakierie. The small wetland area produced Common Waxbill and Levaillant’s Cisticola but little else.  Scanning the rocky outcrops produced absolutely no sightings of any kind and it was with great disappointment that we eventually retraced out steps and headed back to the resort area.  A pair of Long-crested Eagle were very vocal and gave us a superb flyby. 

Bokmakierie.  Photo: Jane Morris

Seen along the river were Yellow-billed Duck, Giant Kingfisher and White-throated Swallow.  Cape Wagtail along with Cape Sparrow were abundant.  I got a very brief glimpse of a Malachite Sunbird as it shot over the trees behind me and a Bush Blackcap popped out only to be chased away by Cape Robin-Chat, unfortunately no one else in the group saw these two species. A White-breasted Cormorant was seen flying back and forth following the course of the river, first towards the mountains and then back again repeatedly.  It would appear it had a faulty GPS and was unable to decide which way to go! 

Southern Boubou  Photo: Jane Morris

It was distressing to see Common Starling looking quite at home here as I don’t recall seeing them on our previous trips here. We saw about 5 birds and they were constantly being harassed by the Red-winged Starlings.  

It was a short but rewarding weekend with excellent company and as always, a lot of lively discussion and laughter around the braai fire each evening. 

We got a total of 63 species including the birds seen on the trip to and from the venue.  For berg birding this is not poor but we did miss some of the species that one would hope to get, but that is the joy of birding and the reason we go again and again in the hope of seeing just that one extra species we missed last time.

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh and Mollie and our Cape Vulture N207, for the past week.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

Posted in Home, Posts | Tagged | Leave a comment

Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (Click Here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh and Mollie and our Cape Vulture N207, for the past week.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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Umhlanga Lagoon NR Outing

Report by Jane Morris

Sunday 17 March 2019

Dawned bright and clear and 21 members of BirdLife Port Natal gathered in the car park at the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve to see what the day would bring forth in the way of birds and other wildlife.

We headed down across the first walkway and had good views of a family of Tawny-flanked Prinia gleaning on the low branches of some undergrowth, Thick-billed and Spectacled Weaver were busy attending nests in the reed bed and of course the ubiquitous Dark-capped Bulbuls flitted around the area.

Heading into the forest we were assailed by bird calls but very few birds were seen so this was a good exercise in learning to be attuned to the calls.  A Southern Boubou female was seen scurrying through the dark reaches of the forest, Sombre Greenbul, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Olive Sunbird and Terrestrial Brownbul were heard many times but failed to show, despite much searching for them.

When we emerged from the forest onto the walkway across the lagoon, we were treated to sightings of birds which was wonderful after the dearth of forest species seen.  Little Bee-eaters hawked from a prominent perch, Black-bellied Starling were seen chattering away on the tops of the forest trees and there was a plethora of water birds to be seen.

A beautifully plumaged Goliath Heron stood like a sentinel on a rock and then proceeded to preen himself.

Goliath Heron

                                                                                                Photo: EJ Bartlett

Grey-headed Heron and a lonely African Spoonbill were in the company of Egyptian Geese and Hadeda Ibis.  A team of small waders were represented by Common and Wood Sandpiper, Three-banded Plover, Pied and Cape Wagtail with Blacksmith Lapwing shouting abuse at us for disturbing the morning quiet.

Some interesting tracks seen under the walkway, maybe a mongoose and a large wader.

Walkway tracks

Walkway tracks

Photos: Sandy du Preez

Then we climbed up onto the dune ridge. Here, once again, birds were heard but not seen, Southern Tchagra was one of these elusive species which was lovely to hear but a view would have been appreciated.

Then to the steep descent onto the beach, rough steps are in place and with a gentleman on each level all managed to reach the beach with dignity before we proceeded along to the lagoon. Umhlanga Lagoon has long been known as a local nude bathing area and so we must have created quite a stir arriving with our binoculars.

Beached Birders

Photo: EJ Bartlett

It was a glorious sunny day, as we wandered up the beach, we got a great view of Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird sitting on top of a bush, a Brown-hooded Kingfisher sat on a dead tree affording good views to all.

Photo: EJ Bartlett

A single White-fronted Plover was spotted on the crest of a small dune, and then one was seen sitting in the middle of an expanse of open beach, it was soon joined by a mate.

Sitting White-fronted Plover.

Photo: EJ Bartlett

When it stood great excitement ensued as it was seen to have two eggs in the shallow scrape under it.

These plovers had chosen to build their nest right in the open area where dogs and humans constantly walk.  Before long a group of beach goers walked quite close to the birds and they of course quickly moved away. I am sure it won’t be long before this nest is either destroyed or vandalised by either a dog or a human.

White-fronted Plover are aware of a human or dog when they are about 50m away and will move away from the nest at an approach of 30m.  When the eggs are exposed, they then quickly over heat in the sun and then are no longer viable and the nesting attempt will be in vain.

The exposed eggs once the brooding bird moved away.

Photo: EJ Bartlett

We met a young birder who advised us that Garden Warbler was calling from across the lagoon, the intrepid amongst us went over to attempt to see the bird but despite hearing it several times it did not show and eventually the search was abandoned.

Our morning ended with a tramp back up the beach and through the forest, by now it was extremely hot and humid, and we were very happy to sit in the shade for our morning repast and tally up the bird species.

Our total count for the day was 60 birds. Click here to see bird list.

Jane Morris

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (Click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh and Mollie and our Cape Vulture N207, for the past week.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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BirdLife Plettenberg Bay Newsletter

Click here to read the January 2019 edition of the BirdLife Plettenberg Newsletter.

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (Click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh and Mollie and our Cape Vulture N207, for the past week.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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New Germany NR

Report by Terry Walls

Saturday 2nd March, 2019

An excellent morning for birding, overcast but not a breath of wind. About twenty birders arrived. It was encouraging to meet a number of new birders and also others who have not been active for some time.

The first bird that stood out was a Yellow-billed Kite sitting quietly nearby.

We split into two groups of ten, one to do the clockwise route while the other, counter clockwise.

A hide full of birders – John Bremner

Both groups reported the usual birds one would expect in the riverine forest/bush-clump mosaic habitat.

Waterlilies on the pond – John Bremner

Significant numbers of birds were encountered by each of the groups for the small reserve.

Highlights were: Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, (bird of the day)

Blue-mantled Crested- Flycatcher, Lemon Dove (revealed by the soft call which seemed to come from the undergrowth, while the bird was seen in the forest canopy). Orange-breasted Bush-shrike,

Orange-breasted Bush-shrike – John Bremner

Little and Black Sparrowhawks, Booted Eagle and a stunning view of a Common Buzzard.

Also heard calling were a Red-throated Wryneck and a Knysna Turaco, but could not be confirmed with a sighting.

Some of the other sightings photographed include:

Tortoise on the path – John Bremner

A feature of the reserve is the biodiversity of the grassland with the beautiful flowers and insects.

Leonotis – John Bremner

The Pink Watsonia at this time of year is always a sight to behold.

One can also expect to see Yellow-throated Longclaw

Yellow-throated Longclaw with breakfast – John Bremner

and Little Bee-eater although only one of these was seen.

Contrary to the weather forecast and our expectation, the cloud did not “burn off”, and in fact closed in. The outing was concluded with refreshments under the cover of the interpretive centre due to the light drizzle.

A total of seventy seven birds were recorded. Click here to see the list.

Thanks to the photographers – Sandi du Preez and John Bremner.

Terry Walls

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February Wakkerstroom Newsletter

Click here to read the February Wakkerstroom Newsletter.

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (Click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh and Mollie and our Cape Vulture N207, for the past week.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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Jubilee Park

Report by Sandi du Preez

20 February 2019

There were 11 birders keen to see the Jubilee Park special – the Magpie Mannikins. In the reeds at the entrance the Thick-billed Weavers were diligently constructing their nests as usual. I wonder what other bird species can claim to build a neater nest!

Dark-capped Bulbul and Thick-billed Weaver

All three Mannikin species (Magpie, Bronze and Red-backed ) were present at the little pond , flitting around the grasses and reeds. I think that the Magpie was a lifer for three of the birders.

As we started our walk along the path through the forest, we could hear a Buff-spotted Flufftail calling in the distance  – pity we couldn’t see it!

Birds were few as it was hot, but we managed to get White-eared and Black-collared Barbets; Fork-tailed and Square-tailed Drongos;  Dusky, African Paradise and Southern Black Flycatchers; Black-bellied, Cape Glossy and Red-winged Starlings; Amethyst, Greater Double- collared and Olive Sunbirds; and lovely Purple-crested Turacos flying through the trees.

The biggest surprise was a Grey Cuckooshrike seen by some – the immaculate grey colour very distinctive. Unusual in summer in Durban?

Other birds of note were Lesser Honeyguide, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Black-headed Oriole, Red-capped Robin-chat and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird. See full list included by clicking here.

The trees are always a talking point in Jubilee Park and we were delighted to see a Cape Chestnut (Calodendrum capense) in full bloom.

Cape Chestnut flowers

Butterfly – Blue Pansy

At tea time we managed to add Common Buzzard and Crested Barbet. Altogether we recorded 47 species.

Common Buzzard

Thanks to John Bremner for the photos.

Sandi du Preez

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New SABAP2 website

From: Sanjo Rose

Sent: Wednesday, February 27, 2019 8:59 AM

Subject: [Sabap2-l] New SABAP2 website

Good morning everyone,

A few days ago a new website was launched for the SABAP2 project. Hopefully most of you have already seen it and fiddled about with it a bit?

We are excited about this new site and hope that you will all find it useful.

As with any evolving project that involves lots of participants we do rely on your feedback and therefore we encourage you to visit the site, check it out and please send us your comments. Michael Brooks (the site manager) has added a ‘Comment on the new site’ tab at the top of the page for you to be able to easily submit your thoughts. Please sign in first, after which the tab will be visible. Website link: http://sabap2.adu.org.za/

The website is different from the previous one, some features are renamed for example. A few key points:

  1. The website is more mobile friendly than the previous one 🙂
  2. To manually add cards navigate to the ‘Add Data’ tab (previously called ‘Add a Fieldsheet’)
  3. Coverage maps are found under ‘Coverage’ and now include some very useful province specific maps. These maps can take a while to load, please be patient it will get there eventually!
  4. When looking for the data on a particular pentad you need to double click on it (the balloon from the previous website has been removed).
  5. The last 10 sightings of a species is not yet active, this will be sorted soon.
  6. ORFs are also still a work in progress
  7. Your observer number is now called your ‘CS’ number on the log in page, but it is still exactly the same.

Please feel free to get in touch if you cannot find a specific function or need any other help and we’ll gladly assist.

Best wishes,

Sanjo Rose

Southern African Bird Atlas Project

FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology

University of Cape Town

P: 021 650 2421

W: http://sabap2.adu.org.za/

F: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sabap2/

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KZN Birds Newsletter

Read the latest newsletter from KZN Birdsby clicking here.

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Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve

Report by Jane Morris and Sandi du Preez

24 February 2019

Ten birders in total gathered for this new type activity, a group of 6 were sedentary and stayed close to their chairs and a group of 4 were the more active crowd and headed out on a 4 hour walk around the reserve.

Sedentary Group report:

We settled ourselves on the top level of the main parking area at Stainbank, with the sun behind us and a view of the vegetation slowly revealing itself as the sun caught the tops of the trees.

We had views of Purple Turaco flitting through the trees, barbets were vociferous, and we saw Black-collared, White-eared Barbets and a lovely little Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird entertained us by gleaning from the trees in front and above us.  A pair of Ashy Flycatchers also gave us a good view.

Some in the group managed to garner some energy and did the circuit around the disabled trail. It was a quiet reflective morning with zebra munching alongside us and was much enjoyed by the group that participated.

Our bird list can be seen by clicking here.

Walking group:

This group was kindly led by Sandi du Preez who has submitted the following.

Ros and I were joined for a walk through the reserve by Ben, a very experienced birder who has just relocated to the Highway area from Gauteng, and Zach, a teenager with an excellent knowledge of birds and butterflies and many aspects of nature.

The trees bordering the start of the grassland area gave us some good birding with White-eared Barbets, Southern Black Tits, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Fork-tailed and Square-tailed Drongos amongst others. A Black-bellied Starling swooped down and snatched a dragonfly right in front of us – its breakfast sorted!

In the grassland were Yellow-throated Longclaws, Rattling and Zitting Cisticola, Bronze Mannikins and Fan-tailed Widowbirds. A Narina Trogon called in the distance.

Closer to the dam the delightful Little Bee-eaters were plentiful. There was nothing swimming on the dam but suddenly a Little Bittern flew up from the reeds and landed for us to get fairly good views. Definitely the star of the day and a lifer for Zach.

Scanning the water’s edge, we got a Black Crake, a juvenile Common Moorhen, and a Malachite Kingfisher.  Bronze and Red-backed Mannikins were active in the grasses and reeds as well. Then a solitary Egyptian Goose flew over and landed with a splash in the water. It seemed to also demand some of the attention that we were giving to the Little Bittern and repeatedly got out of the water and splashed back in again!

We took a walk to the Wilderness Leadership School buildings as I wanted to show the others the Wahlberg’s Epauletted Fruit bats that Zach and I had seen flying around the buildings the previous day.  The bats were not flying but we saw a whole bunch of them hanging from the rafters – quite spectacular!

The birding in this area was quite impressive as we encountered some bird parties with Southern Black Tits, Collared Sunbirds, Cape Batis, Bar-throated and Yellow-breasted Apalis, Black-backed Puffback, Cape White-eyes etc. A gorgeous Green-backed Camaroptera entertained us by hopping on the branches out in the open in sunlight, showing off its lovely green back!

Walking back along the main road past the top picnic area we thought we saw a Lemon Dove but disappointingly it turned out to be a Red-eyed Dove behaving very much like a Lemon Dove.

After tea I took a drive to the bottom picnic site to show Zach the area and to see if there was anything interesting. On the road back towards the gate we spotted a little group of Grey Waxbills – a nice ending to a really super outing.

The cumulative count for both groups was 72 birds.  See bird list by clicking here.

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