Cumberland Weekend Outing end January 2014.
Cumberland Private Nature Reserve is run by John and Stella Behn. They have chalets dotted around in the reserve, a large campsite and rooms at the top of the hill. All very reasonably priced. Note: if you book the campsite then only your party may share the whole campsite – irrespective of whether there are 2 of you or 20 and you are charged R60 per person. There is a female and male shower/toilet on site with good hot water. There is no power but you can rent the use of a campsite fridge.
There were 14 people on the Weekend Outing – joined by another 10 or so for the Sunday Outing.
The weather played its part in making the outing successful – from a birding point of view. Friday was hot, hot hot. So those who arrived early did not get a lot of birding done. In fact it was best sitting in the shade of the campsite and watching the birds in the surrounding bush and stream. A late afternoon swim up on the hill by the rooms was a great way to cool off.
Overnight we had rain and Saturday morning started overcast, misty and cool – which brought out the warblers – Broad-tailed Warbler in particular.
The Saturday walk started at 05h30 in the campsite, progressed through the extensive picnic area and up the hill to the alternative accommodation area. There we were treated by Stella and John to tea or coffee and home-made cheese scones.
On the circular route back to the campsite it started to drizzle. Mike and Jane (the weekend outing leaders) decided that a break was in order and that we would meet at 10h30 at the “hide” next to the dam immediately outside the entrance gate. At first the birding seemed quiet with little on the dam. Then it all started to change. African Black Duck appeared, Common Moorhen, White-throated Swallows, an African Purple Swamphen, Malachite Kingfisher to name a few.
Wandering upstream from the hide one bird in particular attracted us by its call. A Warbler. It was thought to be a Reed Warbler but we were unsure which one so we played the call to see if we could recognise it. It continued calling. Perhaps co-coincidently it stopped and remained quiet after we played the call of the Eurasian Reed Warbler. How we all would have liked to have had a positive ID on the bird. In the opinion of some the call was not as harsh or grating as the Great Reed Warbler nor as tuneful as the African Reed Warbler. Anyway we shall never know.
In the same area a Half-collared Kingfisher was spotted which seemed to be happy in the area with us about.
Further upstream, a Great Reed Warbler was spotted. Consequently many people felt that this must have been the bird which we had heard earlier, though as you might expect, there was disagreement amongst us.
Some photos of birds seen during the walk.
And some Butterflies and other creatures.
The rest of the afternoon we were left to our own devices, to recover from the previous evening braai in the campsite and to prepare for the one to come up the hill where a number of people were staying.
The rooms are in an excellent location right at the edge of the cliffs with fantastic views all round. We made good use of the facilities available to those staying in the rooms – a large kitchen and lounge plus outdoor covered patios with seating available for all. John and Stella joined us for the braai – again for some a late night!
Sunday started overcast but dry. Another 10 people or so joined us at 07h00 as part of the Sunday Outing. We split into 2 groups and both parties headed down to the Horseshoe Bend of the Umgeni River. One group checked the campsite gorge while the other went on ahead.. Two Mountain Wagtails were seen flying through the gorge.
The birding was good in both groups with Pygmy-Kingfishers seen by both groups and Little Sparrowhawk by one group. Further excitement was to follow as we approached the Umgeni River.
One group, aware that there was a Python mound checked to see if there was any activity. And there we saw a 4 metre 15 cm diametre (at least) python basking in the sun. Stella told us there were two that size there and someone had sent them photos of 7 little ones. Three of us got as close as we could to take the following photos.
Yet further down a Bearded Woodpecker was spotted and photographed. An incidental report will be sent to the Atlas Project.
On Horseshoe Bend is Horseshoe cottage where we relaxed. Some of us went to the river’s edge and saw a small crocodile.
That put paid to anyone’s intention to cool off in the river! Standing there on the edge, about 10 metres from us at the edge of the reeds, there was a sudden loud fluttering of a large bird scampering further downstream and darting back into the reeds. Those who saw the spectacle concluded that it was probably an African Finfoot – though none of us could be certain.
Some pictures of birds seen on the Sunday walk.
Then is was the long trudge back up the hill to the campsite. Lunch and preparation of the bird list for the weekend. Then for some of us packing up our camp as we all headed home.
Altogether 127 species were recorded.