From grassland to coastline to gorges, KwaZulu Natal has it all and more! Over the past 9 days I have visited Umdloti Forest, Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve, Umhlanga Lagoon and Krantzkloof Nature Reserve for birding day trips and to stretch my legs and feel free.
Umdloti Forest is much like Umhlanga Lagoon, but they are also so different. At Umdloti I really enjoy seeing Bushbuck and Red Duiker, the walking pathways are also more exciting, and it is more tranquil. Umdloti Forest has revealed many more birds for me personally as well; I see more sunbirds, Grey Waxbill, Crested Guineafowl, Spotted Ground Thrush, and the sounds are more diverse and busier.
At Umhlanga Lagoon I love seeing the Blue Duiker, this visit included a tiny lamb as well! My favourite thing at Umhlanga are the water birds and the surprise factor. There are the regulars like Sombre Greenbul, Red-capped Robin Chat, Terrestrial Brownbul, White-breasted Cormorant and Little Bee-eater, but there are always surprises. Last time I visited, it was Common Ringed Plover and Western Osprey and on my most recent walk it was Swift Terns flying above the waves and Water Thick-knees.
Taking my walks inland, I always enjoy the different habitats at Kenneth Stainbank NR. This time round, I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but I always hope to see African Fish Eagle or Black Sparrowhawk. I arrived mid-morning and decided to cover as much of the reserve as possible. It was great to hear Black–headed Oriole and Purple-crested Turaco. I spotted some Golden-tailed Woodpecker in an open area with Southern Black Flycatcher and Cape White-eye close by. Walking up the main road, I passed a small herd of Burchell’s zebra before finding some Green Twinspots! A new species for my life list, yay.
Over the next 3 hours I saw Rattling Cisticolas, White-eared Barbets, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Red-backed Mannikin, Green-backed Camaroptera, Lesser Striped Swallow, Amethyst Sunbird and an African Fish Eagle collecting nesting materials. What a great day out and about!
My most recent walk took place at Krantzkloof NR along the Longshadow Trail. It is a cool and relatively easy stroll, but it is never boring. At the start, well before the first little bridge, I found Dark-backed Weaver, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Square-tailed Drongo and a female Black Cuckooshrike. After crossing the bridge and turning onto the trail I spotted Olive Sunbird and Black-headed Oriole. It was at this time that I saw a woodpecker but there was something new about this one, its back was plain and green/yellow in colour. Grabbing my Robert’s App, I identified it as an Olive Woodpecker! Another new species for my list, bonus.
Further into the forest I heard so many new sounds but also familiar ones of Tambourine Dove, Cape White-eye, Black-backed Puffback, Sombre Greenbul and Terrestrial Brownbul. It made me miss the group outings with our more experienced friends. The walk took about 3 hours, but I did stop quite a bit and look up quite a bit. There was evidence of small mammals along the way. Tracks and scat from mongoose or genets perhaps.
I think I will do Giba next week but only after a trip to Hluhluwe this weekend! Birding must go on!
Report and photos by Noleen C. Turner