BeKZN Walks…Durban Botanical Gardens 

We have a rare treat in this report, a walk from the perspective of two of the participants rather than from the leader.  A total of 50 birds were seen and the walk was led by our very able Ismail Vahed.

Scadoxus puniceus (Paintbrush Lily) – Anne Robinson

Anne Robinson writes: 

In celebration of Woman’s Month Ismail was the leader for the club walk in the Durban Botanical Gardens with six keen female members, Ros, Jenny, Bridget, Virginia, Anne and the eagle-eyed Cara. The spotting started the minute we were out of our vehicles in the main car park, with a count of 16 species before we even entered the gardens. There was much excitement when this included a pair of Red-headed Finches that we understand had escaped from the Umgeni River Bird Park many years ago and now successfully breed in the wild in Durban, an area that is not officially within their range. 

Red-headed Finch – Anne Robinson

A pair of Rock Doves were going about their business on the building next door and several African Palm Swiftswere swooping and diving overhead while a Pied CrowAfrican Spoonbill and Grey Heron did a fly past. Beautiful Bronze Mannikins were taking advantage of the water in the pond on this perfect Durban winters’ morning. 

Palm Swift – Anne Robinson
Bronze Mannikin – Anne Robinson

The Village Weavers were touching up their nests and a curious Speckled Mousebird and Thick-billed Weaverobserved all the early morning activity. Also seen from the carpark were the House SparrowSouthern Black FlycatcherRed-eyed DoveHadeda IbisFork-tailed Drongo and Dark-capped Bulbul.

Village Weaver – Anne Robinson 
Speckled Mousebird – Anne Robinson

As we ventured into the Gardens it was wonderful to hear Jenny comment on how neat, clean and tidy the gardens were compared to one month ago when she last visited. Congrats to the team responsible & long may it continue!

Cara Christensen, a new member writes:

Saturday dawned as a lovely sunny morning for our trip to the Durban Botanic Gardens. It was a small group today, led by the very knowledgeable Ismail. I met up with the group just inside the entrance – despite only having just moved past the parking area, they’d already jotted down a whopping twenty different species, the most exciting being Red-headed Finch – most likely escapees. Onward we went into the gardens, where we were greeted with what seemed like every Egyptian Goose in the country ambling about on the lawns, Woolly-necked Storks posing by the pond, and a single Malachite Kingfisher who very obligingly sat on the low pond wall for photographs. 

Egyptian Geese – Anne Robinso
Malachite Kingfisher – Anne Robinson

Over by the dam, a flock of African Palm-Swifts swooped down low amongst the tall palm trees. In the dam: more Egyptian Geese, to no one’s surprise, many of whom were followed by their entourage of immature goslings. A Common Moorhen poking around on the water’s edge, while African Spoonbills wallowed in the muddy shallows and Yellow-billed Ducks paddled along. 

Yellow-billed Duck – Anne Robinson

The Malachite Kingfisher reappeared, intent on having more photographs taken of him. In the trees, Pink-backed Pelicans created a fuss alongside nesting Spoonbills and African Sacred Ibis, and the usual cacophony of Villageand Spectacled Weavers was present. 

Pink-backed Pelicans – Anne Robinson
African Spoonbill – Anne Robinson
Grey Heron – Anne Robinson
African Sacred Ibis – Anne Robinson

Ismail took us through his methodical approach to birding – always checking the small, diagnostics details before making an identification, using the grey flight feathers of the Pink-backed Pelican and the mask of the Village Weaver as an example. He led us along the dam, pointing out the Raffia palms which were unfortunately devoid of any Palm-nut Vulture. Further up the path, a singular African Dusky Flycatcher preened for us in the Courtyard Garden, hawking from the leaves of the aloes planted there. 

African Dusky Flycatcher – Anne Robinson

Back along the path and we saw the first sunbird of the day – a female Amethyst Sunbird in the treetops. We hurried along the next section of path – pelicans, while awe-inspiring to watch, can create an absolutely disgusting odour. Southern Black Flycatchers were in no short supply along this section, alongside Fork-tailed Drongo – frequently there’d be groups of three or more hawking for insects right in front of pedestrians, utterly unconcerned about our presence. We stopped in front of an Erythrina tree to admire a group of Cape White-Eyes feasting upon the flowers. This prompted the discussion of always actually double checking the identity of what you’re looking at, rather than simply assuming, and lead to speculation that we may sometimes get Yellow White-Eye in the area and simply don’t know about it. Further along the path, a Red-capped Robin-Chat strutted around for us by the old Tea Room entrance, and a White-eared Barbet was spied at the top of a tree. 

Red-capped Robin-Chat – Anne Robinson

Red-backed Mannikins flustered around the top of a Dracaena app stand in front of the old tearoom. And then, an unidentified thrush – it could not be an Olive, since you apparently don’t get them there, and didn’t fit the diagnostic criteria for Kurrichane either. Ismail informed us that there are a surprising number of hybrid Olive x Kurrichane Thrushes in the Garden, and that we should always check each diagnostic criteria before assuming. No thrush we saw after completely fit the Kurrichane criteria. Further along, we watched a Black Sparrowhawk’s nest keenly for any sign of movement, but our patience was not rewarded. Looping back down towards the reception, a pair of African Pied Wagtail strutted across the lawn, while a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird flitted about on an overhanging branch. A lone, Black-collared Barbet called from the treetops unseen. 

Cape Wagtail – Anne Robinson

Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird and non-breeding Southern Red Bishop – Anne Robinson

Off in the Butterfly Habitat Garden, a lone Laughing Dove sat perched atop a Euphorbia, while a few Tawny-flanked Prinia flitted about amongst the shrubs. Several female or non-breeding Southern Red Bishop came flying through, and a single Green-backed Camaroptera let us have the briefest glimpse before disappearing back into the undergrowth.

Laughing Dove – Anne Robinson
Non-breeding Southern Red Bishop – Anne Robinson

Ismail had to bid us goodbye early, and as we readied to leave a Greater Double-collared Sunbird zipped out from the fig trees and into a patch of Scadoxus flowers. The rest of us decided to retire to the cafe area for coffee and rusks to tally up and chat, when a Crested Barbet announced his presence with a short burst of trills. I caught a brief glimpse of the Brown-hooded Kingfisher that had been calling later in the morning, and last but not least, a lone Spur-winged Goose standing sentinel in front of the pond.

Grey Heron – Anne Robinson

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