BeKZN Walks! at Umbogavango Nature Reserve

23 October 2022

Listening and looking 

A good crowd assembled outside the gates at 6-30 with bright but overcast weather, thankfully not raining. We already started adding birds onto the list while we were waiting, with Egyptian Geese shouting loudly from the lampposts. We were soon inside and split into two groups, one led by Steve Davis and one led by Rob MacLennan-Smith. The parking area was full of Barbets and Kurrichane Thrushes, with lots of other birds calling around, especially Burchell’s Coucals and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds. Steve’s group circulated anti-clockwise, with the first good sighting being of a Mountain Wagtail on the spillway, while Rob’s group went the other way around. 

Kurrichane Thrush
Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird
Mountain Wagtail

There were plenty of Thick-billed and Yellow Weaver were building nests in the trees and bulrushes around the dams, and we were able to get quite close to some. 

On the larger side, the plantation of Norfolk pines was home to a family of African Fish Eagle, with two adults and two subadults perched and flying around while we were there.

Yellow-billed Kites were also numerous, with at least one perched quite close to us. 

Yellow-billed Kite

Over the water we saw plenty of White-rumped Swifts and Lesser Striped Swallows drinking, although mostly too quick to photograph.

White-rumped Swift in flight

Diderick Cuckoo, Orange-breasted Bush-shrike and Purple-crested Turacos were all heard, but the dense forest made them difficult to see. Arriving at the hide by the road across the dams, we scanned the reeds for waterbirds, but alas, no Rufous-bellied Heron. We did see Common Moorhen, Little Grebe and Yellow-billed Ducks, and heard Black Crakes, but the waterbird numbers were generally very poor. At the top hide, from where in the good old days you could see several species of ducks and many waders, there was very little when we arrived – a couple more Yellow-billed Ducks and a Reed Cormorant – no herons or egrets.

Photo 12 Yellow-billed Ducks

Photo 13 Green speculum showing well on wing of Yellow-billed Duck

We sat here a while, before moving on, and soon encounter a small troop of Banded Mongooses foraging along the path. Further down the road we encountered both African Pied and Cape Wagtails, bringing our wagtail species count to three. 

Photo 14 African Pied Wagtail

We stopped for a while at the Mehlemamba hide, again without seeing much. We then headed back to the picnic site for some refreshments. We met up with Rob’s group, who said that they had seen the Rufous-bellied Heron from the top hide, but it was very concealed in the reeds. A couple of our group then decided to go back to the top hide to look for it. 

Photo 15 Where is that heron

It wasn’t long after that we got a call to say that they had found it and it was right out in the open. A small rush ensued, and sure enough, the heron was hunting from one of the small islands not far from the hide, although sometimes it went around the far side and out of sight. Having ticked their lifer, most people then went home satisfied, while others stayed a little longer and had excellent views of the heron and also some good views of a Malachite Kingfisher right next to the hide. 

Photo 16 & 17 Rufous-bellied Heron

Photo 18 Malachite Kingfisher

Some other species seen during the morning:

African Fish Eagle (juvenile)

In the end, we accumulated a bird list of 90 species, and by all accounts, the outing was greatly enjoyed by all.

Written by Steve Davis and all photos by Anneli Mynhardt

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