Umhlanga Lagoon NR Outing

Report by Jane Morris

Sunday 17 March 2019

Dawned bright and clear and 21 members of BirdLife Port Natal gathered in the car park at the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve to see what the day would bring forth in the way of birds and other wildlife.

We headed down across the first walkway and had good views of a family of Tawny-flanked Prinia gleaning on the low branches of some undergrowth, Thick-billed and Spectacled Weaver were busy attending nests in the reed bed and of course the ubiquitous Dark-capped Bulbuls flitted around the area.

Heading into the forest we were assailed by bird calls but very few birds were seen so this was a good exercise in learning to be attuned to the calls.  A Southern Boubou female was seen scurrying through the dark reaches of the forest, Sombre Greenbul, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Olive Sunbird and Terrestrial Brownbul were heard many times but failed to show, despite much searching for them.

When we emerged from the forest onto the walkway across the lagoon, we were treated to sightings of birds which was wonderful after the dearth of forest species seen.  Little Bee-eaters hawked from a prominent perch, Black-bellied Starling were seen chattering away on the tops of the forest trees and there was a plethora of water birds to be seen.

A beautifully plumaged Goliath Heron stood like a sentinel on a rock and then proceeded to preen himself.

Goliath Heron

                                                                                                Photo: EJ Bartlett

Grey-headed Heron and a lonely African Spoonbill were in the company of Egyptian Geese and Hadeda Ibis.  A team of small waders were represented by Common and Wood Sandpiper, Three-banded Plover, Pied and Cape Wagtail with Blacksmith Lapwing shouting abuse at us for disturbing the morning quiet.

Some interesting tracks seen under the walkway, maybe a mongoose and a large wader.

Walkway tracks
Walkway tracks

Photos: Sandy du Preez

Then we climbed up onto the dune ridge. Here, once again, birds were heard but not seen, Southern Tchagra was one of these elusive species which was lovely to hear but a view would have been appreciated.

Then to the steep descent onto the beach, rough steps are in place and with a gentleman on each level all managed to reach the beach with dignity before we proceeded along to the lagoon. Umhlanga Lagoon has long been known as a local nude bathing area and so we must have created quite a stir arriving with our binoculars.

Beached Birders

Photo: EJ Bartlett

It was a glorious sunny day, as we wandered up the beach, we got a great view of Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird sitting on top of a bush, a Brown-hooded Kingfisher sat on a dead tree affording good views to all.

Photo: EJ Bartlett

A single White-fronted Plover was spotted on the crest of a small dune, and then one was seen sitting in the middle of an expanse of open beach, it was soon joined by a mate.

Sitting White-fronted Plover.

Photo: EJ Bartlett

When it stood great excitement ensued as it was seen to have two eggs in the shallow scrape under it.

These plovers had chosen to build their nest right in the open area where dogs and humans constantly walk.  Before long a group of beach goers walked quite close to the birds and they of course quickly moved away. I am sure it won’t be long before this nest is either destroyed or vandalised by either a dog or a human.

White-fronted Plover are aware of a human or dog when they are about 50m away and will move away from the nest at an approach of 30m.  When the eggs are exposed, they then quickly over heat in the sun and then are no longer viable and the nesting attempt will be in vain.

The exposed eggs once the brooding bird moved away.

Photo: EJ Bartlett

We met a young birder who advised us that Garden Warbler was calling from across the lagoon, the intrepid amongst us went over to attempt to see the bird but despite hearing it several times it did not show and eventually the search was abandoned.

Our morning ended with a tramp back up the beach and through the forest, by now it was extremely hot and humid, and we were very happy to sit in the shade for our morning repast and tally up the bird species.

Our total count for the day was 60 birds. Click here to see bird list.

Jane Morris

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