Friday 1st to Sunday 3rd August 2014.
The River Valley Nature Reserve is situated just inland from Margate, KZN.
This privately owned reserve has a variety of different habitats and one boundary abuts the Ivungu River. The bird life is varied and plentiful.
The reserve and the walking trails which cut through the forest are well maintained. Apart from the forest, there is open grassland, several dams, two lookout points over the river, the river itself and the cliffs opposite.
There were eleven of us on the outing. Six made use of the two upmarket cottages and the rest were camping close-by – all on the banks of the river with steep cliffs on its opposite side.
Three of us arrived a day early to make it an extended weekend. On the way along the N2 near Ifafa a Yellow-billed Kite was seen.
Altogether 117 bird species were recorded. Click here if you wish to see the list.
Most of the birding was done inside the reserve following the trails and around the camp. About half the group also went to Mpenjati for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon – which was where the Cape Vulture was seen.
There were a number of interesting happenings and sightings throughout the weekend.
To start with on arrival at the gate there was a Southern Bald Ibis. Just one, and we were told he had been present in the area for a couple of months.
African Crowned Eagles and Long-crested eagles flew up and down the river. The pair of African crowned Eagles nesting in the tall gum trees just up river from the camp.
The Black-headed Orioles, Olive Sunbirds and Brown Scrub-Robins sang to us throughout the weekend especially early in the mornings.
Many forest specials were seen on the forest walks including Lemon and Tambourine Doves; Spotted Ground-Thrush; Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatchers; Olive, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bushshrikes; Yellow-throated Woodland-Warblers.; Brown-backed and Scaly-throated Honeyguides.
River specials observed on walks along the river in front of the camp included Half-collared Kingfishers, African Black Ducks, and Mountain Wagtails. The Mountian Wagtails were up and down the river all day long.
The open grassland areas were equally as prolific. There were observations of Grey Waxbills; Purple-crested and Knysna Turacos – several times seen together; Red-throated Wryneck; Little Sparrowhawks – two together in a distant tree seemingly collecting nesting material – they were constantly in and out of the same tree.
At one of the dams in the open grassland area we were entertained for about an hour with many different species regularly popping in and out of the reeds and nearby trees and grassland. There were Bronze and Red-backed Mannikins; Broad-tailed and Little Rush-Warblers; Cape and Chinspot Batis; Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bushshrikes; Weavers – Yellow, Cape, Village and Spectacled; Black-headed Orioles; Plain-backed Pipit; Neddicky; and the odd unidentified Cisticola.
In the camp area, the highlight was a Narina Trogon in one of the broad-leafed trees right beside one of the cottages.
But also present were African Firefinches, Kurrichane and Olive Thrushes, Olive Sunbirds to name a few. About 5 or 6 Red-backed Mannikins were seen building a nest together in a tree above one of the campsites – flying back and forth to the reeds to collect nesting material.
And of course at night out came the African wood-Owls and the magnificent Fiery-necked Nightjar – both hooting and singing to remind you of glorious African evenings in the bush.
At Mpenjati, the group there watched a Giant Kingfisher hovering like his cousin the African Pied Kingfisher when it goes a fishing.
Apart from the birds there were many animals seen in the reserve and the odd butterfly. Impala and Nyala roamed the open areas, Duiker in the forest, Leguaans around the water’s edges and the odd large terrapin in the dams.
A mystery Cisticola photographed and shown here for those of you interested in having a go at identifying it.
This is a special reserve and one to which we all want to return – especially to get another look at the Narina Trogon.