Sunday 23rd April 2017
By John Bremner
Ten keen birders arrived at the waterworks at 7 am to be greeted with a heavy mist settled over the ponds, it was 11 deg C on my car’s temperature gauge, welcome to Petermaritzburg.
It didn’t take long for the mist to start lifting and we started our walk at the top pond near the Duzigrass fields. These were covered with Blacksmith Lapwings and Egyptian Geese. The top pond had only two Little Grebes ducking and diving as Grebes do, but other than that it was quiet.
As we turned down the first path we saw some movement amoung the reeds with a few LBJs flitting about very quietly. We noticed a group of at least 10 men coming over the lawns towards us with at least 20 hunting dogs in tow, these were of every shape and size and we thought that would put a halt to our birding, they passed us by and disappeared off down the path never to be seen again. Needless to say we would not be on the lookout for any small game animals.
As we got to the second pond things started to pick up when the Warblers started to call and we spent some time trying to distinguish which was which.
The pond was full of water birds of all different varieties and on the edges of the pond we saw African Jacana, Three-banded Plovers and a Black Crake.
Sandi spotted some Kittlitz’s Plovers and then we spotted the Lesser Jacana on the far side of the pond. We did not get great views but we were sure that that is what we could see. We headed round to the other side seeing a variety of Weavers and Bishops in their drab non breeding plumage.
We spent some time trying to sort out what was what. Elena spotted an African Rail darting in and out of the reeds, it took some time but I think everyone got a glimpse, be it only a tail feather or two for some, sadly it did not show itself long enough for a photo but we could hear it calling.
We moved down the other side and saw a lovely Malachite Kingfisher and then spotted the Lesser Jacana again. I hung back taking photos of the Black-winged Stilts and some Red-billed Teal and as luck would have it the Lesser Jacana appeared right next to me and I was able to get some good photos of it.
We also got a fly past by a pair of South African Shelduck, which was most enjoyable.
The group was now ready for coffee so we headed back to the cars for some refreshment. While at tea break we still had work to do with a variety of Swifts and Swallows flying past as well as a variety of grassland birds in the nearby bushes and long grass. Three Crowned Cranes flew over, what a great sight.
After a half hour break Elena called time and we started a trek down to the river to see what else may show up.
We saw a few Cisticolas and a variety of other grassland birds. We hear the cry of a Fish Eagle and spotted a juvenile African Fish Eagle flying overhead.
Not much was seen at the river however.
On our return to the cars we went past the bottom pond and were lucky enough to see the three Crowned Cranes at the waters edge, two adults and a juvenile, a really great sighting.
It was getting close to lunchtime by now so we went back to the cars for our lunch, chatted over what we had seen and made a bird list. All in all we recorded just over 60 different species, which we felt was not bad seeing all the migrants had already left us.
Thanks to everyone who came and a special thank you to Elena for leading us.