Umbilo Ponds Sit-in

28 April 2022

The morning dawned bright and clear and nine birders headed out to Umbilo Ponds for a morning of birding arriving at various times depending on how lost we all got. It was great to see some new faces and some old faces with a special welcome to Maggie Louis all the way from Australia.   While evidence of the recent flooding was apparent but this didn’t deter either the birders or the birds.

Habitat at Umbilo Ponds – Corienna Pieterse

White-faced Whistling Ducks mingle with Egyptian Geese and Hadeda Ibis on the old walkway across the ponds.

White-faced Whistling Ducks – Poobalan Naidoo

The resident, Black-crowned Night Herons were on their best behavior and sat out in the sun for a good part of the morning only moving back into the shade after everyone had had a good view of them.  There were 10 birds present of which 2 were juveniles and one was resplendent in breeding plumage with long white plumes coming from the nape of the bird. 

Black-crowned Night Heron – Poobalan Naidoo

Photo 2

Photo 3 Black-crowned Night Heron (Juvenile) – Poobalan Naidoo

A bird dashing across the ponds revealed a Giant Kingfisher and started an interesting discussion about identifying the male and female and as Jenny reminded us, the male wears a waistcoat and the female dons an apron.  At one stage a Giant Kingfisher sat in a tree showing only his very spotted back and tail and caused some confusion for a while.  Malachite Kingfisher was also present darting back and forth and later in the morning a Pied Kingfishercame in to try his luck at fishing. 

Photo 4 Pied Kingfisher – Poobalan Naidoo

Not to be outdone a White-breasted Cormorant was seen catching and swallowing a large Tilapia that it caught.  Reed Cormorant was present and gave us cracking views of his beautiful black back and lovely glossy pale, silvery grey pattens on the wings as they are spread out in the sun to dry.   

Photo 5 & 6 Reed Cormorant – Poobalan Naidoo

Purple Heron was seen by some, Grey Heron sat in the tree and preened while a Black-headed Heron flew overhead.  

Photo 7 Grey Heron – Poobalan Naidoo

An African Darter did a flyby and then graced us with its presence for a while.  

Photo 8 African Darter – Poobalan Naidoo

Little Egret was present with an adult feeding a young bird.  It was interesting to see the two birds together and compare the juvenile with its duller more greenish bill and legs that were greenish-grey.   Sitting in the tree close by was a Western Cattle Egret which also made for an interesting comparison.

Photo 9 Little Egret (Adult) – Poobalan Naidoo

Photo 10 Western Cattle Egret – Poobalan Naidoo

Other birds that came and went at various times were a Spectacled WeaverRed-billed Quelea

Photo 11 Red-billed Quelea – Poobalan Naidoo

African Sacred Ibis

Photo 12 African Sacred Ibis

and Common Moorhen.

Photo 13 Common Moorhen – Poobalan Naidoo

Some sitters opted to go for a short walk and so we ventured around the pond towards the Canal and the M7.  

Photo 13a Birders at the canal – Corienna Pieterse

Here signs of the flood damage were evident with huge piles of debris piled up around the area.  

Photo 14 Flood damage – Corienna Pieterse

Brettonwood High School has suffered badly during the disaster and the once well maintained sports field was turned into a pond where Woolley-necked StorksAfrican Sacred Ibis and Black-smith Lapwings foraged.  

Photo 15 Woolley-necked Stork – Poobalan Naidoo

An interesting sighting along the edge of the pond was the presence of bunches of pink eggs belonging to an invasive snail species, commonly known as an Apple snail. 

Photo 15a Apple snail eggs – Poobalan Naidoo

The walkers were delighted at the elegant acrobatics of a group of Little Bee-eaters and a good view of the Golden-tailed Woodpecker were had.

Photo 16 Little Bee-eaters – Poobalan Naidoo

Tea and snacks were consumed while we were entertained by Black Sparrowhawk showing well, African Goshawkflying low above us before heading off towards the Bluff, an unknown raptor flew over but didn’t give us good enough views for an identification and a Pink-backed Pelican was seen as a mere speck in the sky by one sharp eyed individual but happily most people were able to get find the bird and get a view.    

Photo 17 African Goshawk – Poobalan Naidoo

We got a bird list of 50 species and a happy, informative morning was shared by all.

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