3 June 2023
The day started out with a beautiful sunrise, promising clear skies and sunshine, a great help with forest birding in winter. Unfortunately, the sunshine was not long lived and clouds covered the sun for most of the morning. The Pigeon Valley gate normally only opens at 7h30, but those of us who arrived early were able to gain access a little earlier. Some of the earlier arrivers went to check the bird baths scattered around the entrance in hope of finding something special, but without luck.
The morning chorus yielded calls from Sombre Greenbul, Purple-crested Turaco, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Olive Sunbird and White-eared Barbets while everyone gathered. We headed south from the main gate towards the open grass areas, hoping to catch some birds warming themselves in the early morning sun. At the first open area, with a few rays of sunlight shining through the clouds, we spotted Cape White-eyes, Speckled Mousebirds, a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, and two species of Weaver, Spectacled and Village.
As we moved through the forest, there were calls from Tambourine Dove, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, and Natal Spurfowl (as well as some Hadeda that were disturbed by our passage). A few of us got glimpses of the Tambourine Doves dashing through the forest undergrowth. We stumbled upon a few bird parties where we found Square-tailed Drongos, Terrestrial Brownbuls, Bar-throated Apalis, Dark-backed Weavers, Brown-hooded Kingfishers and Chinspot Batis.
Along the central drainage line, which was completely devastated by the floods last year and continues to be eroded with every heavy rain, we came across a bird party where consensus could not be reached as to whether a particular bird was an Olive Bush-Shrike or a very buff Southern Boubou. As the bird in question disappeared after a few glimpses, we ended up leaving this off the list, as no one was certain.
After following the contour path back to the main entrance, several people with other plans headed back to their cars, while a few of us decided to continue exploring a bit longer in hope of finding the elusive Spotted Ground Thrush (SGT). Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful with the SGT, but we did manage to track down a small group of Green Twinspots by following their high frequency calls. We also found one more bird party nearby which yielded Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Thick-billed Weaver, Black-backed Puffback, African Paradise Flycatcher and Black -headed Oriole.
In all, we managed to identify (by sight or sound) 39 different species of birds during the 2 1/2 hour walk around Pigeon Valley.
Walk led and reported by Mark Williams-Wynn.