27 August 2022
The Inaugural BEKZN Fledglings event had a group of enthusiastic birders gathered at Bridgevale Park in Durban North early on the 27 August 2022. This activity within the BeKZN Diary aims to host family focused birding walks, with the intent of getting children (6-16) interested and involved in nature and in particular, birds and their habitats.
Bridgevale Park was chosen as a first venue for the BEKZN Fledglings as it offers safe, relaxed birding with most of the common urban species present. Bridgevale Park is community-run and managed by EnviroFixers and Conservancies KZN. The park relies on support and donations from the local community to keep it maintained.
After group introductions, Jane Morris kindly gave the birding children a quick lesson on how to correctly use their binoculars without losing track of a bird, and each of the children were given an excellent checklist that had been put together for the event to help them identify the birds we were expecting to see.
When we set off, the conditions were overcast and with a threat of rain. Luckily conditions cleared up we got to enjoy a great morning’s birding.
First birds on the list were a flock of Little Swifts close to the bridge. As they gathered, they started their “circus flight” above our heads which is always great to see. Red-winged Starlings sat on the power lines, with a few Red-eyed Doves announcing themselves to us in the distance.
A Crested Barbet gave itself away calling in a dead tree which made for some great views. White-eared Barbet were also visible across the park. We were treated to the lovely call of the Olive Sunbird as we continued down the path. Spectacled Weavers, Southern Black Flycatchers, Collared Sunbird and Little Bee-eaters were soon added to the lists. The ever-present Hadeda Ibis made themselves known in the way they do best.
Next up was the highlight of the morning, a lifer for some and a new bird for me at Bridgevale. A pair of Black-throated Wattle-eye making their way through some tangles which made them tricky to lock on with the binoculars. The group spent a good few minutes grabbing a glimpse of the pair before we moved on.
Soon after that, a group of Red-backed Mannikin caused more excitement as they sat high up in a tree catching the first rays of sunlight for the morning. Bronze Mannikin were also gathered at the same sighting, feeding lower down amongst the grass which made for a great comparison to their Red-backed cousins.
Little Bee-eaters always put on a show at Bridgevale, and the group enjoyed excellent views of them hawking insects and allowing the group to be within meters of them. Later in the day, we also found a nest site up on the banks where flood damage had occurred earlier in the year. A Red-throated Wryneck was spotted being chased by a Fork-tailed Drongo but unfortunately, they flew off before the majority of the group had a chance to lock onto this sighting. The Wryneck is another good bird for Bridgevale.
After enjoying a few Southern Red Bishop looking rather drab, Carryn pointed out some interesting insects. Their blue and black colouring creating a striking contrast against the dry grass. These were later identified as Cuckoo Bees.
Climbing through the forested section on the northern end of the reserve, we heard a Klaas’s Cuckoo sounding like he had been out all night. After a few minutes of searching, we found the cuckoo, a difficult sighting against the sun and high up in a tree.
Once the group had connected with it, we moved on and soon had a Chinspot Batis, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird sharing a tree, and a single Red-headed Finch within the same sighting. The latter raising the popular topic of whether these are escapees or part of some range expansion of the species.
A few of the clearings on the trail gave us views of Black Saw-wing and Lesser-striped Swallow, whilst the odd Rattling Cisticolaannounced itself to the group. A Woolly-necked Stork fly over also caught the attention of some.
As we ended the walk through the forested section, a bird flew across the path very close to us. This gave us exceptional views of a single Bar-throated Apalis which looked to be carrying nest material. We gave it some space and enjoyed this sighting.
During the morning wrap-up, a pair of Black Sparrowhawk flew over, as did a Yellow-billed Kite, our two raptors for the morning. Some stayed on to enjoy a picnic, but we closed off the morning’s birding after almost 3 hours.
It was great to see kids and families enjoying their birding together, with most kids keeping a list, and scribbling notes in bird books. It is important to get kids involved and loving nature so look out for more BeKZN Fledgli
Nathan’s thoughts on the morning:
Report written by Marco Franchini