Report by Paul and Sally Bartho
Having been closeted away in Hillcrest for four months it was time to get away – St. Lucia and Mkhuze were the destinations – for four or five nights in each.
Sugarloaf campsite in St. Lucia is ideally located. It is close to the beach and the mouth of the St. Lucia estuary as well as to access to Eastern and Western Shores of Isimangaliso Wetland Park. Furthermore it is only an hours drive to Umfolozi.
The Franklin’s Gull had been seen in the St. Lucia estuary the week before we arrived so it was a target bird for me. Unfortunately I was not to be lucky. It was still around apparently. We met Themba of Themba’s Birding & Eco Tours on the beach and he said he had seen it while we were there. We were in one of the Parks at the time.
However we did see a number of different Terns among the Grey-headed Gulls. These included Swift, Sandwich, Caspian, Lesser Crested and Common Terns.
Unexpectedly among the Terns were a dozen Curlew Sandpipers closely knit.
And then we spotted a lone Lesser Sand Plover running among the many Three-banded and White-fronted Plovers and the odd Kittlitz’s Plover.
Some other birds seen at the beach:
Sugarloaf campsite proved almost as good a birding spot as any of the Parks we visited. There were Woodward’s Batises, Green Twinspots, Black-throated Wattle-eyes (five or six chasing each other), African Goshawks, Livingstone’s Turacos, Rudd’s Apalis, Brown Scrub-Robins, Green Malkoha, Wood Owls to name a few of the specials. Campsite regulars included Grey Duiker, Bushbuck (playing with the monkeys), Banded Mongooses and Crested Guineafowl.
Look at the photos of the African Goshawk above. The first impression was the two spots on the tail and we called it “Little Sparrowhawk”. Sally’s second opinion was that it was much larger than a Dove and questioned our first impression. So we checked the books and they told us to check the cere – what colour – yellow or grey. If yellow then Little Sparrowhawk, if grey then African Goshawk. Looking more closely at the spots on the tail you can see that they are in fact bands which are brightest in the middle fading towards the sides. Don’t always go with first impressions – too easy to make a mistake!
Eastern and Western Shores in Isimangaliso Wetland Park – see Part Two of Four.