Palmiet Nature Reserve – Sit In

Wednesday, 30th October 2019

On an overcast morning which was threatening rain 6 die-hard birders gathered for the sit-in at Palmiet Nature Reserve.  Having set ourselves up at the group picnic site we had a good view of the river, cliff face and a section of forest and scrub vegetation.  

The birding was slow to begin with but as the day brightened and the sun started to warm everything up and we were rewarded for our patience.

Cape Batis
Photo: Maxine Carter

Half-collared Kingfisher came and perched to our left before diving into the Palmiet River and then flying off.  The bird was again sighted going behind us to the small wetland area above the picnic site.  Maxine Carter, for who the bird was a lifer, followed and was able to get good views. 

Dusky Flycatcher and its mate had commanded the trees along the cliff as vantage points for hunting and we watched as they busily hawked insects with great skill.  A passing dragonfly was soon caught and Bashed repeatedly until the wings were removed and the body duly swallowed.

Other birds seen were:

Not to be outdone were the mammals and we were joined for our sit in by an attentive group of Banded mongoose. Several Rock hyrax were on the cliff face and coming down towards the water’s edge, they seemed unusually active for such a cold morning.

One Rock Hyrax was sitting, partly concealed by a rock, but wiggling next to and around her were two wet very new looking babies. 

Debate about Rock hyrax breeding ensued and this was resolved as we discovered the following interesting facts from Nicky Forbes as she had the large reference work Mammals of the southern Africa sub-region by Skinner and Chimimba 2005 on her phone:  

  • Rock hyrax young are often born in pairs, they are precocial being born fully haired with their eyes open.  
  • They will suckle from any lactating female and the mother is very lax in her parental care.
  •   They also climb up onto the back of any adult they come across, probably as a scenting behavior and we saw this behavior displayed by these two youngsters.  
  • Within a day of birth Rock hyrax are capable of agile movement on the rocks and of eating solid food.  

The young ones we watched were very curious and within a short time were scampering about and clambering across branches and between the ferns around the area where they were first seen having already been left quite alone by their mother.

The group had great sightings of Mountain wagtail which sunned itself on a small tree in the river before going in to forage in the rapidly flowing river. Ros Conrad commented that she wondered whether any of the late Dr Steve Piper’s ringed birds remained. Palmiet Nature Reserve was one of the study sites for Steve’s 25 year study on this species.

We also had a float past by a family of Egyptian geese with only a single surviving baby with them and we were serenaded by Purple-crested turacos which gave us great views.

The grand finale came as we were packing up to head home and we saw this tiny blue missile hurtle down the river, initial thoughts were that it was a Malachite kingfisher but quickly realised we had a lovely little African Pygmy Kingfisher.  It came and perched where we could all see it well and was a perfect end to a morning of birding.

African pygmy kingfisher
Photo: Cati Vawda
African pygmy kingfisher
Photo: Maxine Carter

Report by Jane Morris with photos by Maxine Carter, Cati Vawda and Nicolette Forbes

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