Submitted by Penny de Vries
I went on this weekend last year with Cheryl King and we loved it so much we determined to return again this year. It is run by George Zaloumis who was assisted, on this particular weekend, by Geoff Kay of Origin Birding Tours and three of the amazing Ndumo game rangers; Sonto, Joseph and Bongani. We were taken on various birding walks and birding drives and it was wonderful to have 5 birding and Ndumo experts every step of the way. Furthermore, everyone was a birder so we did not have to worry about non-birders getting impatient while we painstakingly tried to spot the elusive bird flitting about the branches.
In the late afternoon of the first day, Geoff took us to the hide where we had a lovely sampling of Ndumo water birds including a whole crew of African Jacana and a lovely Malachite Kingfisher. I dipped on both the Little Bittern and White-winged Tern which quite a few did see. But I made up for this later.
We spent the evening getting to know each other and I was delighted to see some familiar faces such as Ismail Vahed and Norman Freeman of Port Natal. Glyn and Jill Lewis are also members that I thought I had not met before though we later realised that we had been on a Bluff outing together last year.
The next morning we set off at 5am and on the way, Sonto showed us this Orange-breasted Bush Shrike on its nest.
Cheryl, Glyn, Jill and Ismail walking in the fig forest with our two young overseas visitors, Nicky and Sebastien, bringing up the rear.
Soon enough, Cheryl and I had our first two lifers; Red-faced Cisticola was very difficult to see at first as it flitted in between the reeds but eventually it moved to a nice visible spot. The next was Burnt-necked Eremomela, for which we also had to work hard. Joseph and Sonto heard and located them; then Geoff played the call to entice it back. I despaired of getting a good look at them but finally they settled at the top of a tree and we had a good sighting.
In between stops, Stierlings Wren-Warbler was seen as well as Arrow-marked Babbler, Grey Tit-Flycatcher and this lovely Tambourine Dove.
Also a Broad-billed Roller right at the top of the canopy.
Often heard rather than seen, I was delighted that this White-browed Scrub Robin
posed in the open.
This huge dead branch threaded in between the fig tree branches was apparently washed up there during the Domoina Tropical Storms of 1984 and has been there ever since. This gives one some idea of the immensity of those floods.
We heard the low hooting of this beautiful Narina Trogon long before we saw it. I was the last to see it and Ismail did not let me forget how patient he and everyone else had to be with me.
I am trying to learn a different tree on every outing. This one has such a distinctive flower, hopefully it will stick in my mind. Dichrostachys cinerea or Sickle-bush.
After an afternoon rest we went back to Shokwe Pan in the hopes of seeing an African Broadbill.
On the way we saw the customary group of giraffes accompanied by their co-operative Red-billed Oxpeckers.
Also a Bearded Woodpecker seen on the drive after lunch.
We were also shown the nest of the White-crested Helmet-Shrike, replete with babies.
The amazing thing about this nest is that, according to Roberts, it is constructed by all members of the group and thickly bound with cobwebs, as can be seen in this photo.
No African Broadbill, unfortunately, but we did see its nest (below); a messy, tatty affair.
We walked in the beautiful forest without seeing as many birds as we had in the morning but enjoying the surroundings. Sonto and Joseph heard the call of the African Barred Owlet; they were convinced they would be able to locate it for us. I was a little sceptical but was happy to wander from tree to tree peering into the foliage. Then, bingo! It was found and we were all able to see it. What a treat and a perfect end to a day’s birding in which we saw well over 100 species.