uMlalazi is a winter wonderland for birding. Not only is it a lot warmer than home but a number of species arrive from higher altitudes or further south down the coast to enjoy the relative warmth just as we do. One never knows what can pop up and so 20 hopeful birders assembled at uMlalazi on Friday the 12thJuly. Some lucky eager beavers were able to arrive the day before or early on the Friday morning.
Friday was spent with everyone settling in and doing their own thing. This is not to say that no birding was done as Paul and Sally had already racked up an Eastern Nicator and a Lemon Dove. The group gathered on the Friday evening for the traditional evening braai, we took over a lovely level campsite, light it up with lots of different lights and thanks to Cecil and his wonderful portable drum braai and Mike who still reigns as the fire king we were able to have a very good fire roaring in no time. It was wonderful to see a lot of the usual weekenders and even more so to have some new faces among the crowd. A lot of laughter and chatter soon ensued as everyone enjoyed the evening. The plans for the morning were discussed and then it was off to bed in preparation for a full day of birding on the Saturday.
We were very fortunate to have great weather with clear skies and no wind or rain; we were up and off birding at 6am every day starting with a morning walk. Walks were taken toward the estuary and along the boardwalk through the Mangroves swamps while the other group walked down the road, through the campsite and then along the road to the beach parking before heading back through the forest. We were joined by group of butterfly-birders who arrived on Saturday morning to spend the day with us. They managed to enticed Nicky and Ticky away so she could indulge her other great love – butterflies while also birding.
Birds seen on the morning walks included Brown-hooded, Giant, Pied and Malachite Kingfisher plus most of the group got good views of the Mangrove Kingfisher at various times over the two days.
Honeyguides were well represented with Brown-backed and Lesser being seen and Scaly-throated being heard. Sunbirds were enjoying the Erythrina trees and aloes that were in full bloom and Purple-banded, Scarlet-chested, Grey, Olive and Collared sunbirds were seen.
Warblers and Cisticola’s seen were Dark-capped Yellow warbler, Little Rush-Warbler, Rufous-winged and Red-faced Cisticola. Tawny-flanked Prinia showed well a couple of times and Black-bellied Startling was conspicuous by its call and seen flying over the canopy.
Eastern Nicator was heard and seen briefly as it moved through the thickets in the camp site. Wattle eye was more accommodating and allowed some of us good views. Chorister Robin was another skulker that was not seen well by the group, but Spotted Ground Thrush was seen drinking at a puddle in the road and photographed.
The ubiquitous White-eared Barbets were everywhere, and one looked very intent on nesting. The large trees along the road were scanned for raptors as Jenny Rix thought she had seen a Bat Hawk in flight the previous evening. What we thought was a Cuckoo Hawk was seen perching in the distance, Paul managed a photograph and when put to the expert, David Allen it turned into a Shikra. Not a bad bird despite not being a Cuckoo Hawk
The deck at the beach was as always, the perfect place to sit and gaze out at the ocean while hoping for a bird to fly past. White-fronted Plover scurried along the shore while Swift Tern and Kelp gull hoovered hopefully close to the fishermen. The dunes were not to be outdone either with a Red-capped Robin-chat hopping about, Sombre Brownbul, Dusky Flycatcher and Tawny-flanked Prinia giving us good views as they darted in and out of the vegetation.
While waiting for Doggy Kewley, a local Mtunzini resident, to arrive and show us the path to the Finfoot we were entertained by a small group of Green Twinspot in a tree on the roadside. They stayed around for quite some time allowing everyone to get a good view of them
Doggy Kewley led us on a walk among the Raphia palms and up to Forest Lodge Chalets where we were rewarded with good views of Finfoot, four Palmnut Vultures flew over us when we were on the bridge and then on the walk back to our vehicles we had fantastic views of Palmnut Vulture and practising what we had learned in Harry Gazendam’s talk on the previous Wednesday evening we managed superb photos of the bird flying from its perch on a Raphia palm.
Heading out to the mudflats and along the uMlalazi riverbank for an afternoon drive and sundowner we were surprised to see a Green Malkoha in a Vachellia sp (Acacia) tree in open habitat. The bird was calling and seemed to be quite confiding resulting in a decent view of a Malkoha for once.
We were very fortunate to have Estuarine experts Nicky and Ticky Forbes with us and they were able to give us fascinating insights into what life as a mangrove inhabitant entails.
A very enjoyable weekend was had by all. Some people were lucky enough to spend most of Sunday in the reserve while others moved on to still further birding venues. Steve and Anneli were lucky enough to find a pair of Wood Owl being mobbed in the Raphia monument area while some lucky people went home with a few lifers under their belt and I think the highest score was Anneli at 5 – well done.
Our total bird list for the weekend was 120 birds. Not shabby for a winter weekend.
Bird list attached.
Report by: Jane Morris