On Sunday 21 August, Steve Davis with the assistance of Dave Rimmer led a Day Tripping walk for BirdLife eThekwini KZN to Msinsi Inanda Dam and Resort. The group was pleasingly big so we had two groups. We met at 06h00 in Hillcrest, where the car announced that the outside temperature was a chilly 3°C. Coffee from the local garage was very welcome.
Once assembled, we drove along Inanda Road and followed the spectacular hairpin descent into the Umgeni Valley, with glorious views as the sun was rising. Once at the gate, it took a while for everyone to get through as the gate guard was quite surprised to see so many people arrive at one time.
While waiting, we watched the congregation of Western Cattle Egrets roosting on the boat waiting to get warm, while an African Fish Eagle flew quite low overhead.
Once everyone was in, we parked at the start of the trails, and split into two groups, one led by Steve and one by Dave. Dave’s group set off along the road, while Steve followed the waterside trail, stopping to look at Black Crakesand African Jacanas on the water hyacinth.
Shortly along the trail, we were startled by a pair of birds that flew off the path and landed in the trees. With careful observation, most managed to see the Fiery-necked Nightjars, but they were hard to pick out among the branches, and they were soon disturbed by all the excited people and moved off. At least most people saw them fly.
There were plenty of birds calling by this stage, but most were hard to see in the thick bush. We came across a pair of Cape Batises, and later on Chinspot Batises as well – serious habitat overlap. Coming to a clearing, we disturbed a small group of Grey Waxbills, but they were obliging enough to perch for a while for people to see.
We also spent a while watching the comings and goings of sunbirds in a Cape honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis), with Grey, White-bellied and Collared Sunbirds all feasting on the nectar.
Bush-shrikes were all around – we heard Gorgeous (which Dave’s group managed to see and photograph – wow!), Olive (which came out briefly, but didn’t give very good views, typically) and Orange-breasted, which we saw fleetingly later.
Many questions were asked about the other loud calls, which were inevitably variations of Southern Boubou calls. We continued to rack up the species, with the ubiquitous Rattling Cisticolas and White-browed Scrub-Robins tantalising with their multiple calls, mostly found in the more open habitat at the northern end of the trails by the second picnic site.
By this time, it had warmed up a bit, and the Yellow-billed Kites were out in numbers, with a threesome chasing each other overhead, apparently trying to establish a pair. Along the trail back, we had a couple of nice sightings – a small flock of Red-faced Mousebirds that sat obligingly, and an African Yellow Warbler that showed itself well. We also got a show of displaying White-bellied Sunbirds; a small group of males trying to establish dominance by singing their lungs out and flashing their yellow pectoral tufts.
Further along we came across two pairs of Water Thick-knees and heard, but totally failed to see, a Buff-spotted Flufftail calling from a dry thicket. After watching for a good 15 minutes and trying all angles to peer into the bush to see it, we gave up and moved on.
Walking back along the road, we stopped at a thicket-filled gully, where we managed to get brief glimpses of both African Paradise and Blue-mantled Crested Flycatchers. After about 4 hours of good birding, we arrived back at the picnic site for well-earned brunch and refreshments.
Birding continued even then, with Village Weavers, Cape Glossy Starlings and Southern Black Tits all in the trees, and for those still willing to walk, Long-billed Crombecs in the thorn trees. Further along in the parking area, there was an African Spoonbill that bizarrely sat in the grass all day, a pair of African Hoopoes foraging in the grass and a pair of Spotted Thick-knees obligingly out in the open, while Blacksmith Lapwings foraged close by.
After refreshments were finished, some people left, while a few others chose to do another short walk. We had a nice view of a Purple Heron and more Jacanas, with Sombre Greenbuls calling overhead.
Finally, the others turned back and Anneli and Steve continued for a while and were fortunate to come across the Fiery-necked Nightjars in the same place we had found them earlier, and this time, one hung around long enough for Anneli to get a reasonable picture.
Some other interesting sightings photographed during the morning were as follows:
We finally left and headed for home at 13h30, well satisfied with the morning’s outing. Our bird list was a combined total of 95 species. Inanda Dam is a really good birding spot with its diversity of habitats and easy trails – well worth a visit if you haven’t been. Oh, there were also a good number of butterflies and trees in flower for the lepidopterists and dendrologists.
Report by Steve Davis