BeKZN Walks! Again Umbogavango Nature Reserve – the sequel…

29 October 2022

When I arrived at the venue, there was already a line of cars eagerly waiting to go through the gates and get the walk started. uMbogavango Nature Reserve has become a popular local venue, offering a wide variety of species that can be enjoyed in a safe environment. The Rufous-bellied Heron that has stuck around since the beginning of the year, has become a big drawcard for those who wish to see this special species.

As soon as everyone had arrived, we started the slow process of getting all the cars through the gates, it was great once we were in to see a nice full car park of eager birders. We split the group into two, with Tyron Dall leading the one group and myself leading the second group. I took my group around the loop behind the resource centre and Tyron took his group on the trails leading to the two far hides.

As my group navigated the trail, wet from the overnight rain, there was the challenge of identifying the calls that were being heard all around us, while taking the time to slowly look through the trees around us to see what we could find. All the normal ‘suspects’ for the reserve were calling – including Chinspot Batis, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Spectacle Weaver, and the mournful call of the Tambourine Dove. We managed to see a few bird parties as we walked through the trails, including flocks of Cape-white Eye, Yellow-fronted Canaries, and Black-bellied Starlings. I was lucky enough to see a flock of three Green Twinspot, but sadly they flew away before the rest of the group was able to see them. The highlight of the morning, after much debating about its identification, was a juvenile Dark-backed Weaver. As we took some time to observe it, we had the opportunity to watch it being fed by one of its parents. As we ended off the loop, Olive Sunbirds were noisily calling in the trees above us, as well as the more distant call of a Deidrick Cuckoo.

While we had been on the loop, Tyron’s group was making their way to the hides. As they slowly walked along river, they managed to see the resident Mountain Wagtails as they crossed the small bridge near the resource centre, and then saw the birds that often populate the river and the reeds along its banks – including Little Rush Warbler, Southern Red Bishop, Bronze Mannikin, Burchell’s Coucal, Common Moorhen, and Thick-billed Weavers

Southern Red Bishop – Poobalan Naidoo
Thick-billed Weaver – Ronnie Herr

The morning was good for woodpeckers, with three species being seen: Cardinal, Golden-tailed, and later Olive Woodpecker

Cardinal Woodpecker – Ronnie Herr
Olive Woodpecker – Tyron Dall

A big highlight for the group was also seeing a Green Mamba atop one of the trees, giving good views to the group to photograph it from a safe distance.

Green Mamba – Tyron Dall

By the time the groups arrived at the hides, firstly Tyron’s group and later mine, a good number of species had been seen. The first hide (Albert’s Folly) was quiet for both groups, with mainly Egyptian Geese floating in the distance in front of the hide. 

Egyptian Goose family – Poobalan Naidoo

The far hide (Tioxide Hide) however, was one of the most productive spots for both groups. The famous Rufous-bellied Heron showed nicely on the island in front of the hide, and with patience it allowed for some great photographic opportunities. 

Rufous bellied Heron – Poobalan Naidoo
Rufous-bellied Heron – Ronnie Herr

There was also a small flock of White-breasted Cormorants and a Reed Cormorant, 

White-breasted Cormorant– Ronnie Herr
White-breasted Cormorant coming into land – Ronnie Herr

Photo 10

Reed Cormorant with fish – Ronnie Herr

Little Grebe, Fan-tailed Widowbird and a Malachite Kingfisher were present and a solo African Black Duckemerging later.

Fan-tailed Widowbird – Poobalan Naidoo
Malachite Kingfisher – Poobalan Naidoo
Malachite Kingfisher – Ronnie Herr
African Black Duck – Ronnie Herr

The walk back produced some special moments, with Tyron’s group managing to see a massive flock of Red-backed Mannikins.

Photo 15 Red backed Mannikin – Tyron Dall

Red-backed Mannikin – Poobalan Naidoo

His group also had, which was one of the best sightings of the day, a female African Emerald Cuckoo – which is a very special bird for the reserve.  Other species recorded on the way back include Little Bee-eater, Lesser Honeyguide, Collared Sunbird, and Grey Waxbill.

African Emerald Cuckoo (female)– Tyron Dall
African Emerald Cuckoo (female) – Poobalan Naidoo
Little Bee-eater – Poobalan Naidoo

We got back to the parking lot and were amazed that once we consolidated the two lists that we had seen 91 species of birds – this despite the wind that picked up throughout the morning. We all agreed that it was a good morning of birding, with an eager group of birders.  

Other birds seen during the walk:

Yellow Weaver – Poobalan Naidoo
Kurrichane Thrush (juvenile) – Ronnie Herr

Written by Adam Cruickshank

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