BeKZN Citizen Scientist involvement with the BirdLife Zululand Southern Banded Snake Eagle Big Weekend.

3-5 March 2023

The Southern Banded Snake Eagle has a limited and patchy distribution, stretching from southern Somalia to north-eastern South Africa. A resident in South Africa and listed as Critically Endangered, with an estimated 50 mature individuals in South Africa. Fortunately for us lucky enough to live in KZN they are right on our doorstep in northern KZN with the iSimangaliso park and surrounding areas as its stronghold.

BirdLife South Africa had put out the following request: BirdLife South Africa has launched a new citizen science initiative in support of their Southern Banded Snake Eagle conservation project, the Zululand Snake Eagle Big Weekend. It is important for bird clubs in KZN to support this initiative. To more accurately gauge the population size and distribution of Southern-banded Snake-eagle in South Africa, we want to get as many people as possible into the field looking for them over the same weekend (3-5 March 2023).

Two of us myself, Ronnie Herr and Nols Turner members of BeKZN made the time and effort to participate and below is a short report of their day. Nols Turner teamed up with me and we set off on Saturday morning around 6am on our adventure to Umlalazi at Mtunzini. Our route was to head up the N3 and to take the Fairbreeze Mine turnoff and follow the sand road through plantations along the railway line up to Mtunzini and to follow the same return route.

Fortunately for us, the weather was great, and it was a bright sunny day, and all that was needed was to find the elusive SBSE. The outgoing drive towards Mtunzini was very quiet, not only for SBSE, but for all species. We did encounter another vehicle come from Mtunzini also seeking the SBSE, I never did get the guys name. We headed off to Umlalazi to look for African Finfoot, Black Coucal and Mangrove Kingfisher, all three remained hidden.

We did get a host of other species, between the two of us we recorded over 60 species for the day.  Our return trip was even less fruitful because we were hoping to see a few Palm Nut Vultures sitting on the Raffia Palms and Striped Pipit on the railway tracks, but unfortunately, they too remained hidden for the day. Great day out, but unfortunately, we did not get the target species. (Remembering always that no record of a species in an area is just as important as finding the species). Some birds seen during the trip are shown below.

Report and photos by Ronnie Herr

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