Freed from the restrictions of the harsher phases of the lockdown and greatly encouraged by Crispin’s sightings at Pigeon Valley, Ismail and I returned to our birding haunts a few days ago and were rewarded by some pleasant birding at Durban Bay and Pigeon Valley.
The birding at Durban Bay was only meant to fill up the time before going to the reserve, which as with other reserves, may at present only be accessed at 08h00. It was such a pleasing surprise therefore to find ourselves spending more time than we had intended at the Yacht Mole birding the southern section of the bay where we spotted a group of Flamingos, and closer still a Goliath Heron which after a few moments took to the air and flew by serenely while several Great White Pelicans landed and glided towards two motionless Grey Herons. On a sandbank nearby were innumerable Grey-headed Gulls and a lonely immature Kelp Gull. A few flights of Terns – in all probability, Common Terns – had us desperately trying to identify them correctly, whilst feral pigeons sporadically wheeled about in the air not too far distant near Wilson’s Wharf. A pleasing addition to the morning was to see a Pied Kingfisher from the visitor-friendly lookout balcony at Wilson’s Wharf, outdoing for our attention a pair of Pink-backed Pelicans swimming in close by and a Little Egret flying across the vessels moored in the basin.
A fifteen minute drive up Glenwood then brought us to the coastal forest of Pigeon Valley where after parking our car near the hut sheltering one of the security guards employed by residents in the area – an advisable precaution against car thefts – we joined other visitors in fulfilling the very brief but necessary procedure of sanitising and signing in ordained by the lockdown, before entering the reserve.
A mixture of nostalgia for old times and relief for paradise lost being regained could not be avoided even though there was evidence at the entrance of construction works and advice from the municipal official regarding safety protocols to be observed relating to the wetland project!
The call of the Purple-crested Turaco accompanied us during our three-hour birding at the reserve and was added to by the ever-present calls if not sightings of the Golden-rumped Tinkerbird, Green-backed Camaroptera, and Southern Boubou with African Paradise Flycatcher beautifully in evidence.
Taking the upward winding trail past the uMhluhluwe creeper, Dalbergia armata towards the grassland bordering the reserve, we were treated to sightings of Olive Sunbird and of a pair of Sombre Greenbuls chasing after each other through the branches of the Natal Fig, Ficus natalensis and saw on several occasions the Red-capped Robin-chat on the leafy floor of the forest and many Cape White-eye flitting about overhead in the trees. Bronze Mannikins briefly emerged to drink at the bird bath conveniently placed for observation from a secluded nearby bench and there were Terrestrial Brownbuls chattering in the shadowy undergrowth.
Our visit to the projected wetland – an exciting development in the making – startled a Black Sparrowhawk which took wing just a few feet away from us!
It was pleasing to see the numerous benches and bird baths, strategically placed to afford good birding at various points in the reserve. Those responsible are to be complimented!
It was a delight to have a coffee break under our favourite trees in the reserve especially the White Stinkwood, Celtis mildbraedii and the Wild Fig, Ficus natalensis and to see the fluted trunk of the Fluted milkweed, Chrysophyllum viridiflorum! Even the dune poison berry Acokanthera oblongifolia now going off bloom was an old friend good to re-visit!
Our birding was a very welcome comeback to the real world of nature after our subsistence in the pages of field guides and the nature channels on TV.
Written by Adam Khan Photographs added to the report by Jane Morris and Nicolette Forbes