Trip report – KwaXimba Conservancy, Umgeni Valley
(Sunday 11 October 2015)
The October Sunday outing was a new venue for BLPN birders, and one I was looking forward to sharing with many of the clubs birders. Unfortunately it was not until road signs went up in mid-September advertising the route of the Amashova cycle race that it dawned on me the cycle race and the bird outing shared the same date 18 October.
In order to get down into the Umgeni Valley one needs to cross the R103 near Inchanga. With the road being closed on race day, and not wanting to cancel the outing it was decided to bring it forward one week to 11 October. Despite notices going out on the net via KZN Birds and a few Facebook groups of the date change the turnout was low with only seven of us assembling at the iSiThumba Cultural Village.
The first birds of the day were mostly of the airborne brigade including African Palm Swifts, Lesser Striped Swallows, Yellow-billed Kite, Black Saw-wing and a pair of Lanner Falcons, accompanied with background sounds of a Crested Barbet vocalizing and a cacophony of chattering from the Village Weaver colony nesting in the trees behind the main building of the cultural centre.
Our accompanying hosts for the day were Jeffery and Shaks who assist with various tours organized through Durban Green Corridor and with support from Kloof Conservancy. Following a brief insight to some cultural facts about the area, we proceeded down to the river with Shaks as our escort for the morning.
The short walk down yielded Blue Waxbill, Rattling Cisticola and White-bellied Sunbird, and not far off came the sounds of a Southern Boubou. Hang on, could it not be an African Hoopoe? After much debate and comparing calls from the Roberts app we agreed to settle on Southern Boubou.
There is some great scenery along the Umgeni River, wild places through Eastern Bushveld Thicket where you are at one with nature, great views from various spots, interaction with the local community and just amazing natural beauty.
We meandered along the river edge picking up on various water birds including Black Crake, African Sacred Ibis, African Jacana, Yellow-billed, African Black and White-faced Ducks, a single Three-banded Plover, and a Purple Heron foraging along the far bank.
On the far bank we were treated by a pair of Malachite Kingfishers popping in and out of a hole in the river bank.
The river is fringed with Bushveld thicket which gave us good views of Chinspot Batis, Cape Glossy Starlings, African Paradise Flycatchers in abundant numbers, Little Bee-eaters, and Orange-breasted Bush-shrike.
And on the way back Sally heard and found an Olive Bushshrike. Then we saw a jaw-dropping Golden-breasted Bunting foraging on the ground.
As with all birding trips there are the inevitable birds heard but not seen, including the ever elusive Gorgeous Bush-shrike, as well as Diederik and Klaas’s Cuckoos, Emerald-spotted Wood-dove, Black-headed Oriole, and White-browed Scrub-Robin.
Views of the imposing isiThumba Mountain – an iconic spot in the area had us wondering if we’d see any special raptors as Verreaux’s Eagles have been recorded in the area before. Our luck was out but we continued to enjoy the sounds and sights of the valley.
The final tally for the day was 73 species either seen or heard, with all records submitted to SABAP2 on one Full Protocol card and one Ad hoc card.
Our bird of the day was a pair of Long-billed Crombecs entertaining us in the thorn trees whilst enjoying our post walk beverages and nibbles from the picnic hampers.
A worthy mention must be made for the Three-banded Plover due to its sighting being the first SABAP record for pentad 2940_3040!
A full species list for the day can be viewed by clicking here. Many thanks to Sandi, Elena, Ismail, Paul and Sally for venturing out to new territory, and of course to my special birding buddy (Penny) for accompanying me and sharing my passion for birds and the outdoors.
Yours in birding,