Trip report – KwaXimba Conservancy, Umgeni Valley (Sunday 13 November 2016)
Report by Dave Rimmer
The November Sunday outing was a second chance for BLPN birders to explore the wonders of the KwaXimba conservancy, and one I was again looking forward to sharing with many of the club’s birders.
Perhaps the week of miserable weather put people off and as a result the turnout this year was again low with only Sandi du Preez, Elena Russell and Ian Matthews assembling at the iSiThumba Cultural Village to accompany Penny and I.
The first birds of the day were on the wing including African Palm Swifts, Lesser Striped Swallows, Yellow-billed Kite, and Barn Swallows, along with some of the more common species usually encountered near human settlements such as Common Myna, Red-eyed Dove, Southern Fiscal, Red-winged Starling and Cape Sparrow. In the background, we had the chattering from the Village Weaver colony nesting in the trees behind the main building of the cultural centre.
Our host for the morning was Jeffery Buthelezi who assists with various tours organized through Durban Green Corridor (DGC).
After a bit of a delayed start we proceeded down to the river seeing Cape Glossy Starling, Black Saw-wing and the flying Vuvuzela (Hadeda Ibis).
No amount of spishing could entice a Bar-throated Apalis calling incessantly from within the Bushveld Thicket to come out and give us a visual.
Butterflies teased us into taking photos – as well as a snail.
A scan across the river to the south gave us distant views of a Goliath Heron and a couple of male Giant Kingfishers flying up river, accompanied by the distant calls of a Southern Boubou.
There have been a few cases of illegal sand mining along the river in the area, and signs of excavator tracks, road ways and stock piles of sand and rocks is certainly a cause for concern – and an eyesore!
Both sides of the river have pathways for trail runners and mountain bikers as part of the DGC initiatives for eco-tourism in the area. However, these are being spoilt by an endless stream of off-road motocross bikers over week ends, leading to erosion of the tracks and noise pollution – certainly not something that should be associated with a conservancy!
We meandered along the river edge and watched a large group of paddlers participating in a 50km two-day canoeing event, and during which picking up on various water birds, some of which they kindly flushed for us. Birds seen included Black Crake, African Jacana, Great Egret, Yellow-billed and African Black Ducks, a single Three-banded Plover, and a Purple Heron flying along the far bank.
The river is fringed with Bushveld thicket which gave us good views of Chinspot Batis, Diederik Cuckoo, African Paradise Flycatchers, Blue Waxbill, Little Bee-eaters, Violet-backed Starling, African Dusky Flycatcher, and Cardinal Woodpecker.
Our bird of the day without doubt was a group of White-winged Widowbirds flitting about in the grasslands of what is to become an agricultural project for the community.
As with all birding trips there are the inevitable birds heard but not seen, including Emerald-spotted Wood-dove, Red-chested Cuckoo, Burchell’s Coucal, Olive Bushshrike, Southern Boubou, Green-backed Camaroptera, and Black-headed Oriole.
we encountered Golden-breasted Bunting, Yellow Weaver, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Blue Waxbill, Kurrichane Thrush, Familiar Chat and a small group of Wire-tailed Swallows resting on one of the rocks in the river.
We constantly scanned above the imposing iSiThumba Mountain
– an iconic spot in the area in search of raptors but had to make do with Yellow-billed Kites and an unidentified raptor too far off to get decent visuals of.
The final tally for the day was 81 species either seen or heard, with all records submitted to SABAP2 on two Full Protocol cards – viva atlassing! Click here for a full species list for the day.
Many thanks to Sandi, Elena, and Ian for venturing out for the day, and of course to my special birding buddy (Penny) for accompanying me and sharing my passion for birds and the outdoors. It was a most enjoyable outing – so much so that Sandi insists that KwaXimba should be penciled in on the calendar as an annual outing – no objections from my side as it really is a wonderful place to visit. Hope to see more of you out there with us next time.
Light conditions on the day were poor making photography a challenge, hence only a few pictures to share with you this time.
Yours in birding,