2 April 2022, 06h00
The weather forecasts for the morning of the 2nd of April 2022 were ominous, with many services predicting a deluge. However, with 14 of us gathered at the Bridgevale Park & Nature Reserve entrance, there had not been a drop of rain, although the clouds were dark and threatening. This walk was the first that I was leading, and I learned that a Google Maps pin alone is insufficient to direct people to the start of a walk. Luckily the other 3 birders joining us could enter the park via a different gate and meet up with us shortly after the start.
Bridgevale Park is a community-run park in the heart of Durban North, which EnviroFixers and Conservancies KZN manage. It is open to the public for birdwatching, walking, photography, and dog walking and is run through donations from the general public. The many birds found in the park have grown accustomed to dogs, so it is a safe and easy environment to look for birds.
We started the walk at 6h00, walking under the M12 bridge where a large flock of Red-winged Starlings sat on the electricity wires. As it was cloudy and before sunrise, it took us a while to locate a singing Kurrichane Thrush perched in an Albizia near the entrance.
A large heron flew overhead, and it took some quick binocular work to identify this as a Black-headed Heron. By this time, the morning chorus was in full flow, and we were able to identify the calls of Yellow-rumper Tinkerbird, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Rattling Cisticola and Spectacled Weaver, among others. Some sharp eyes identified White-eared Barbets and Fork-tailed Drongos in the tree line. We were treated to the hawking activities of Little Bee-eaters throughout the morning. They were busy catching bees all around us, sometimes alighting on a perch only a couple of meters away.
Several African Paradise Flycatchers, together with Bar-throated Apalis and Black-backed Puffback flitted around in the forested slopes, and we spotted a melanistic morph Black Sparrowhawk flying overhead. The introduced Rose-ringed Parakeets made an appearance and alighted at the top of a tall tree, which raised the discussion about what determines whether a bird is a feral population or an escapee population.
Southern Red Bishops are plentiful in the park, and the males in transition plumage made for a sad sight.
For several minutes, we watched a family of Amethyst Sunbirds (possibly the parents and their last brood) gleaning the branches of several trees around what looked to be their nest. Several White-rumped Swifts flew overhead, and the photographers in the group attempted to photograph these fast-moving birds unsuccessfully. While the photographers tried to photograph the swifts, the rest of us identified Chinspot Batis, Southern Black Tit, Violet-backed Starling and Speckled Mousebirds.
A bit further along the path, a Familiar Chat started with the characteristic wing flicking but then stopped and just sat there, confusing us as to its identity. Eventually, he began with the wing-flicking again, and everyone agreed on the ID. Upon turning the corner near the Japanese Gardens side of the park, we came upon a Brown-hooded Kingfisher sitting in some deep shade, still half asleep. A Streaky-headed Seedeater sat in a tree silhouetted by the overcast sky a bit further along. A bit of problem-solving was required to identify this bird, but eventually, the group came to a consensus. An analysis of the photographs taken by Poobalan Naidoo on the walk identified a Red-headed Finch, which had also been sitting in this tree.
After one lap of the park, several of us decided to do another lap to see what else we could find. Some of us were rewarded with views of Cape Weaver alongside Spectacled Weaver, allowing us to differentiate between the two species. After two laps of the park, we decided that we would not find many more species and headed back to the parking. As we were leaving the Park, a Hamerkop and a House Sparrow increased our species tally to 46. A good total in light of the weather conditions and the park’s size.
Report written by Mark Williams-Wynn