Kosi Bay and Mkuze

9 to 16 May 2019

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

A chance remark to my sister resulted in Sally and I being invited to join her in the TEBA Cottage at the very mouth of Kosi Bay Estuary for four nights. We had a couple of days to prepare for our trip.

A long way to go for four nights so Sally organised for us to have three nights in Mkuze on the way back – staying in the hutted camp accommodation.

We prolonged the forecast six hour journey by taking a longcut through Phinda on the district road. Instead of turning off the N3 at Hluhluwe we went on a further 20 kms and took the Phinda off ramp to the Phinda reserve entrance and because we were passing through there was no charge.

The 30 km dirt rode through the reserve enabled us to see aminals and birds. Towards the end of the road we encountered a pair of Cheetahs lying in the shade with their legs protruding onto the road. We stopped (although strictly speaking they suggest as we were passing through not to do so in case of trouble). The Cheetahs took little notice of us and stayed put. An pleasant and unexpected start to our trip.

My sister had organised our entry permits for us so we were able to pass quickly through the gate and proceed down to the TEBA Cottage at the river mouth.

The cottage is rustic. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms (one with shower the other with a bath), large kitchen, dining room and a deck with panoramic views across the bay. Yes hot water in the kitchen and for the bath as well as the basins in the bedrooms. No electricity, just a generator powering batteries for lights and the fridges and freezers. That said, it was a privilege to stay there. No neighbours and the bay in front of us.

TEBA Cottage

Each morning, up early and into the coastal forest – following the sandy road to the cottage- listening and trying to spot the many birds present. Getting good sightings was very tricky and many of the birds we identified were by ear – Sally’s mostly.

Thick Coastal Forest

There were Green Malkoha, Black-throated Wattle-eyes, White-starred Robins, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatchers, Grey and Olive Sunbirds, Dark-backed Weavers, Black-backed Puffbacks, Southern Boubou, Natal Robins, Crowned and Trumpeter Hornbills, Rudd’s Apalis, Sombre and Yellow-bellied Greenbuls, Terrestial Brownbuls, Brown Scrub-Robins all adding their sounds to the bush.

Black-throated Wattle-eye
Green Malkoha (Banana Bill)

Of course there were many butterflies too – which we have been unable to identify.

The weather was kind to us – not too hot and cool at night. Mossies were few and far between. A lot of time was spent on the beach and wading up the estuary looking for birds.

A group of waders on one of the sand strips – the tide was out – caught our attention.

About 20 Waders

Through the scope we decided that we needed to get closer to confirm our ID. A long distance photo confirmed our ID. Then I decided to wade out to get closer. As it happened a group of people got too close to the group and they flew landing on the same sand strip that I was on. I took my photos and then they flew up the coast towards Mozambique.

Here are some photos of other water birds we sighted in and around the estuary.

Fish seemed to be plentiful for the locals – perhaps their methodology was unusual.

Spear Fisherman with a plentiful catch of rather small fish.

A walk the other side of the estuary southwards along the coast with my sister, Natasha and Sally also gave us an unexpected surprise. My sister spotted shoals of fish riding in the waves and then she spotted a Loggerhead Turtle doing the same. In the end we had three more sightings of others doing the same.

Right at the bottom of the stairs leading down to the beach from the cottage there were several large trees which had collapsed into the sea due to corrosion. A the base of one of these lived an eel. Very colourful – bright yellow with dark markings – seen several times.

And in the water at the base of a tree there was a Lion Fish. On one morning it swam around in the sunlight enabling me to get a few nice photos of it.

Our bird list was not prolific and many of the bush birds were identified by sound. In the end we identified a total of 48 different species. Click here to see the list.

Mkhuze

After four relaxing days at Kosi, Sally and I headed for three nights at Mkhuze staying in the hutted accommodation. We had two full days to explore the Reserve and visit the hides.

As an aside, if you plan to visit, be careful at night as the hutted camp is not secure. We were told that the previous week a lion was seen around the nearby cottages

We did see an elephant as it walked past the Masinga Hide without popping in to disturb the other aminals there. Other than that we encountered only the usual zebra, giraffe, nyala, impala, warthogs, gnus, baboons and monkeys.

Lone elephant at KuMasinga Hide

Of course Masinga Hide is always worthwhile to see aminals and birds.

Baboons enjoying the early morning sun
Could you do this?

And some of the birds seen there.

The campsite is a good place to see birds and we were not let down when we went there. Here a few of the specials we saw there.

Malibali Hide – near the campsite – was full and we enjoyed the new hide. This time however it was relatively quiet but again we had a few specials to see.

Driving around the bird life was patchy in places yet we did manage to see a wide variety of different species which we had not see at any of the hides.

African Cuckoo-Hawk

The second hide to the right of the picnic site at Nsumo Pan is another of our favourite hides except when the wind is blowing. Fortunately the weather was kind to us when we visited. Here are some views from the hide.

On arrival we were treated to a sight we had not expected. Looking out to the left there were pairs of Little Grebes, African Pygmy Geese and White-backed Ducks. And as we scanned the pan there were at least another 20 African Pygmy Geese and about 8 White-backed Ducks. In the past we would have been lucky to see just one pair of African Pygmy Geese.

African Jacana were on the lily pads, a Malachite Kingfisher put on a show, Whiskered Terns were seen all across the pan. And on the far side many other water birds could be seen.

On the shore line heading towards the Picnic site we spotted several Water Thick-knees and what appeared to be a three legged Black-winged Stilt – 2 red legs and one straw coloured!! All close to the African Fish-Eagle which was occupied on a meal.

The picnic site at Nsumo Pan is also one of our favourite places to visit especially for a tea and pee break. Birding is also good normally. And the day we visited was our lucky day – very special.

On the way in an African Paradise Flycatcher welcomed us.

African Paradise Flycatcher

Hippos greeted us bobbing up and down among the lily pads close to shore.

Pink-backed Pelicans and Yellow-billed Storks flew overhead.

Western Cattle Egrets were fishing from Hippo perches. And even a Grey Heron took its chances.

Even the bush around the picnic site had some interesting birds.

It was only as we were leaving that Sally heard a Sunbird calling. When we found it we both were thrilled by what we saw.

Neergaard’s Sunbird
Neergaard’s Sunbird

On one afternoon drive we returned quite late and driving up from the kuMahlahla hide, we encountered several Spotted Thick-knees as well as Fiery-necked Nightjars.

The Thick-knees I managed to get a few reasonable photos. But I lost out big time with the Fiery-necked Nightjar. There was one sitting on a bare branch right beside the driver’s side of the car. Quickly I put my camera onto Auto and took a shot. Flash goes off bouncing off the inside of the car. Rats. The bird is still there so I try again. This time the flash works perfectly but the bird flew off as the camera took focus. Later I checked the photo and it was a perfect shot of the branch – if only the bird had stayed.

Spotted Thick-knee

Zululand birding is always full of pleasant surprises. The variety is plentiful. We love going to visit the many different habitats.

In all we recorded 122 birds – identified for Bird Lasser. Click here to see the list.

Hope you enjoyed the read.

Paul and Sally Bartho

Pink-backed Pelican – Have Wings Will Fly

12 Comments on “Kosi Bay and Mkuze

  1. Lovely – Paul and Sally always a pleasure to read

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  2. You certainly saw some special birds and even better, managed to photograph them well. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. I enjoy the sheer excellence of the photos. To consistently get the exposure so spot on when pointing the camera up into the sky is an art and with the crisp focus on the best bits gives stunning pics that even a non-birder can enjoy.

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  4. Always enjoy reading, and seeing the photos, of what you get up to. It makes our wildlife look very tame here. Xx

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  5. Dear Paul and Sally, absolutely amazing for us novices to see, many of your birds are newbies to us and motivate us to have a go ! thank-you so much for your report brilliant

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  6. Always enjoy reading about your adventures Paul & Sally. Thank goodness Sally has such excellent ears 😊😊

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