BeKZN Walks…Vumbuka Nature Reserve

8 April 2023

At 7am, fifteen birders started the painstaking drive through the security check-in at the AECI gates. As we slowly drove through one car at a time we were excited for what possibilities the day could present. Not only would this be a time to see birds, but also to build friendships around a shared passion. The wait in the parking lot had already added birds to our list for the day – bird such as a Red-capped Robin-Chat doing its distinctive ‘see-saw’ call, Yellow-fronted Canary, African Pied Wagtail, Red-winged Starling, Southern Black Flycatcher, and a fly over by a Black Sparrowhawk. 

Red-capped Robin-Chat – Thomas Copley

We made our way through AECI, resisting the temptation of a quick stop at the Umbogavango Nature Reserve Hide (the other of three reserves at AECI), and as we approached Vumbuka we were met with a big green closed gate. This was definitely not part of the plans for the day, but after a quick call to the helpful security office, we decided that this was a good opportunity to do some birding. A Pin-tailed Whydah with no long tail allowed for some identification lessons in the field. These learning experiences for newer birders show the immense value of belonging to a bird club and participating in outings. We scanned through a flock of Bronze Mannikins trying our best to find a Magpie Mannikin. Little Bee-eaters flew in and out of the small shrubbery providing some enjoyment as we looked through the binoculars. 

Little Bee-eater – Thomas Copley

Our raptor identification skills were tested by a fly-over by a young Black Sparrowhawk, this allowed us to look at various bird apps whilst doing the list at the end of the day and once again learn more about how to identify the species in future. 

Black Sparrowhawk

We stopped at the grassland, but besides a pair of African Stonechats and some Little Bee-eaters, the area was a lot quieter than usual. Sadly, the small ‘pond’ near the grassland that used to add a few waders to the list is no longer there. We were surprised to see a small flock of Barn Swallows flying overhead, we all thought that they would have already migrated. 

For the walk we decided to split into two groups, with Chris Flannery’s group taking a short, easy walk, and my group taking a slightly longer and more challenging route. Before we started off on our walks, we were treated to a big flock of Black Saw-wing flying a few meters above our heads – for many of us this was one of the biggest flocks of Saw-wing that we had seen. 

As we started to walk onto the trail near the hide, in the distance there was a tree that was busy with lots of different species of birds. Some of us had a brief view of a Grey Cuckooshrike and a small flock of Speckled Mousebird. The Fork-tailed Drongo were noisily announcing their presence from far off, along with some White-eared Barbets, and a solitary Black-headed Oriole

The walk through the forests were a lot quieter than normal, despite the day offering fantastic conditions for birding. We did manage views of African Paradise Flycatcher, Olive Sunbird, Collared Sunbird, Cape White-eye, Amethyst Sunbird and African Dusky Flycatcher, along with the calls that one would expect such a Purple-crested Turaco, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Terrestrial Brownbul, and Sombre Greenbul

African Dusky Flycatcher – Thomas Copley

As Chris’ group took a slow walk along the road they were lucky to get to see a sighting of a Black Sparrowhawk perched in a tree, along with views of Black-backed Puffback. When they returned to the picnic site, they were treated with a view of a Red-backed Shrike

As my group took the same road as Chris’ group, a few in the group were treated with a view of Ashy Flycatcher. Mike Liptrot took the time to show us some of the butterfly species that were around at one of the trees next to the road. 

We finished the day at the picnic site, and while enjoying some refreshments, we went through the list for the day. We managed to see 57 species on the day, which is slightly lower than expected, but nevertheless, we all had a fantastic morning out!

Written by Adam Cruickshank.

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