Trip report by Dave Rimmer
A small group of 15 birders assembled at the main gate to the site, and those early enough were treated to seeing a flock of 34 African Openbills fly in from the direction of the Toti area heading northwards. Fortunately, they did not travel too far and we found them later on in the morning perched on top of the trees at the top end of the reserve. Those with cameras were afforded a great photographic opportunity. (Not for me though, my kit got thoroughly washed on a pelagic trip a few weekends prior – and still waiting for insurance to come good!!!).
I opted to walk the route anti-clockwise to avoid looking into the sun early on. In hindsight not such a good idea as the coastal forest section was awfully quiet, and once out in the open for the return leg on the western side the sun was out – and boy did it get hot! Nevertheless, a Tambourine Dove gave us a brief fly by as did a Burchell’s Coucal, and a few Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds called from the tops of the dead trees.
Other birds seen early on included Southern Red Bishop, Reed Cormorant, Black-bellied Starling, and Little Bee-eater whilst also hearing the calls of Sombre Greenbul, Black-collared Barbets and the chattering and churring of the Terrestrial Brownbuls from the undergrowth.
The first hide with views down a narrow water channel upstream provided us with sightings of African Swamphen, Black Crake, African Jacana and Egyptian Goose whilst those that could not all squeeze into the hide saw Crested Barbet, Southern Black Tit and African Paradise Flycatcher.
And on we trundled to Barry’s corner which if anything gave a few time to rest on the benches provided, but sightings were limited, bar a Cardinal Woodpecker and Cape White-eye.
The Owl shed was peeped into but all the boxes were empty and no one home!
The second hide at the top end of the reserve proved to be a bit more productive, and particularly for the wonderful views for all to see and photograph the Openbill Storks perched atop the trees – no doubt the same group that flew over us when assembling at the gate entrance. Everyone had turns to peer from the hide from which we saw Yellow-billed Duck, Red-billed Teal and a Hamerkop.
The return leg was at a slightly more brisk pace than before – which could have been due to the heat, or the hunger pangs, or the prospect of answering a call from nature!! Despite that we did spend a fair amount of time in the mowed area around the Fever trees in search of a Willow Warbler among all the white-eyes, Southern Grey-headed Sparrows, Yellow-fronted Canaries, a pair of Violet-backed Starlings in among a number of Lesser Masked Weavers. Fortunately, a couple of males showing typical head markings and pale eye enabled us to clinch their ID. According to Sandi, the first time in 20 years that she’s recorded this species in the Umbogavango reserve.
Whilst peering upwards over the course of the morning the only two raptors on view were Common Buzzard and Yellow-billed Kite, whilst others airborne species included, Black Saw-wings, White-necked Raven, Lesser-striped Swallow. A few people managed to see Red-throated Wryneck and Lesser Honeyguide.
Coffee, sandwiches, nuts and biscuits etc. were welcomed by all – and relief for some when the toilets were finally opened.
The outing ended with a brief sojourn to the Vumbuka reserve – the heat of the day took its toll on both the birds and the birders producing no new sightings for the morning. Unless of course the final group of die-hards saw anything after I had departed. Click here to see the bird list.
Until next time,
Yours in birding,