Burchell’s Coucal Eco Trail Outing 12 May 2019


Report by Tyron Dall

A perfect sunny mornings’ birding was enjoyed by a group of 13 people. I had arrived 45 minutes before the scheduled start and was greeted with a Western Osprey flying directly overhead. As the other members arrived I told them about the Osprey sighting and they were all envious and wanted to see it too. Well luck was with them as later in the day the Osprey (photo EJ Bartlett) was seen once again flying in the distance with a fish in its talons.

As the members arrived to the car park overlooking the estuary (photo Tyron Dall) we had sightings of Water Thick-knee, Malachite Kingfisher (photo Ronnie Herr), Hamerkop and some Black-headed Herons (photo Ronnie Herr) on the roofs of the nearby buildings.

We started the walk just after 7am and everyone was pleasantly surprised to see how clean the Illovo Estuary was after the recent floods. It seems this catchment was largely spared the terrible litter that has plagued other rivers in the area. As we started the walk we walked past the canoe club building and we saw that they had marked a level on the building where the recent flood waters had risen to (a couple of meters up the building!)

Continuing on the first spectacle we were treated to was a couple of large flocks of Cattle Egrets flying up the river (photo Rob McLennan-Smith). As we continued walking the calls of a couple of Red-throated Wrynecks (photo Rob McLennan-Smith) announced themselves. The photographers in the group all jostled for position to take pictures of them. Then it was the turn of a couple of Yellow-throated Longclaws (photo Tyron Dall) to show themselves, calling from the tops of some bushes.

As we climbed a small vantage point overlooking the river a small flock of Common Waxbills flew from the tall grasses and upon surveying the river a couple of Black Ducks (photo Ronnie Herr) were seen on the water as well as a couple of Three-banded Plovers.

By this point we had already seen a few Little Bee-eaters, but we were then treated to one of the trails “special” birds, a few White-fronted Bee-eater (photo EJ Bartlett). Unfortunately the sun was making it difficult for the photographers to capture these beauties as it was directly behind the Bee-eaters. 

Next we headed in to the more forested section of the trails where we managed to find African Dusky Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, White-eared Barbet (photo EJ Bartlett), Green-backed Camaroptera, Golden-tailed Woodpecker(heard), Sombre Greenbul(heard) and Bar-throated Apalis(heard).

On our way back we also managed to see some Black Saw-wings and Fan-tailed Widowbirds. While we were enjoying some food and drinks after the walk we were entertained by some Southern Black Flycatchers, and Southern Black Tits. Altogether we managed a total count of 64 species (55 seen and 9 heard)

Everyone was also pleased to hear that these trails are open to the public and no prior arrangement is necessary to visit them. Thanks to everyone who attended and to all the photographers who contributed their photos.

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