BeKZN Walk | Juniors at Springside Nature Reserve

29 October 2022

The group arrived early and waited patiently for the gate to open at Springside Nature Reserve in Kloof. 

Whilst waiting we racked up a few good birds, with aerial feeders such as Lesser Striped Swallow, African Palm Swift and Little Swift abundant in the overcast skies.  The cuckoos were active too, with Diederik cuckoos chasing each other overhead with the odd call of a Klaas’s Cuckoo, and Red-chested Cuckoo calling from further into the reserve. 

Now well past 7:30 and with no sign of the gate opening, Jane’s Suzuki produced a series of hoots that would make many birds proud.   This got the attention of the caretaker and soon after we were in, with a bunch of junior birders eager to go! We quickly started adding birds to our list, one of the first being the bubbling call of the Burchell’s Coucal right at the start of the trail. We all locked our binoculars onto the bird and enjoyed a great sighting.

We took the main path up through the reserve and stopped to enjoy the Burchellia bubalina in flower, and the Halleria lucida which still had the odd flower but nowhere near its winter spectacle. 

The list was growing as we added both Red-backed and Bronze Mannikins in the grassland and Tawny-flanked Prinia as he announced himself loudly from the tangles.  Amethyst Sunbirds, Speckled Mousebird, Spectacled Weavers and Cape Robin-chats kept us entertained as we neared the start of the Protea Trail. 

The excitement for one young fledging was a bit much and soon we had lost part of our crew. As they headed back for the picnic site, the rest carried on up the path where we met some other birders, who were club members.

Whilst enjoying views of Holub’s Golden Weaver on the nest, a lifer for some, a large black bird caught our attention.  This turned out to be the sighting of the day, a dark morph Jacobin Cuckoo. This is a great bird for the reserve and the area in general.

Further up the Protea trail we came across a Crowned Eagle and Yellow-billed Kite in an aerial battle and a few other raptors too, namely Common Buzzard and Long-crested Eagle.

Towards the top of the reserve, we had a good sighting of Violet-backed Starling, Bar-throated Apalis, and another highlight of the day, a stunning female Black Cuckooshrike.

We took the trail through the grassland and back down through the forest and along the stream, where we enjoyed the grasses in flower, abundant swallows, swifts and Black Saw-wing, and were treated to great flybys by both Black Sparrowhawk and Lanner Falcon

As we got to the bridge to join back on the main path, a cuckoo flushed just ahead of us. It skulked low in the thickets, but despite our best efforts we were not able to confirm its identity. We finished off the walk with 47 species, some lifers and a great morning of birding with the enthusiastic fledglings.

Written by Marco Franchini

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