BeKZN walks Woodside Conservancy 

2 September 2023

Woodside Conservancy is a small conservancy nestled in the suburbs of Cowie’s Hill and Woodside. Despite its size, it consists of a patchwork of grassland area, forest mosaic and a section of wetland that’s an absolute hit with the weavers. It’s proved itself to be a very rewarding place to spend a few hours, with a fairly impressive bird list for an area so small. Unfortunately, in the last few months, invasive plants have been allowed to take over, and it’s been a while since the paths have been properly maintained. 

The morning dawned surprisingly warm, with an impressive sunrise. From the top corner of the conservancy, you could see the deep pink sun as it rose in the sky. Early gatherers sighted a black morph Black Sparrowhawk. The sixteen of us opted to split into two – the first group to the grassland led by myself, the second led by Terry Walls to the forest. A Black-headed Oriole made himself known in the trees as we walked down the road. 

Photo 1 Black-headed Oriole – Ronnie Herr

The trees at the base of the grassland yielded a call cacophony from Black-bellied StarlingsBlack-collared Barbets, a pair of Sombre Greenbuls, and a single Streaky-headed Seedeater. A Natal Spurfowl deigned to allow a select few a brief sighting – the rest of us had to make do with its typical kak-keek kak-keek call echoing from the tall grass. Further on the grassland turned up a brief sighting of a Brown-backed Honeybird as it flew overhead from its treetop perch. An African Harrier-Hawk swooped down and made as if to land before changing its mind last minute and soaring off into the forest.  Tawny-flanked Prinias fluttered in amongst the thickets while a Green-backed Camaroptera loudly made its presence known. In the sky, there was an assortment of Egyptian GeeseAfrican Black SwiftsAfrican Palm Swifts and Lesser Striped Swallows. A Yellow-billed Kite kept coming back to perch at the tip of a tall dead tree. 

Photo 2 Yellow-billed Kite – Ronnie Herr

A male Amethyst Sunbird took delight in the offerings of a flowering Strelitzia nicolai, while a flock of Bronze Mannikin sped through the thickets. A pair of White-eared Barbets poked about in a dead tree while from the road, a Burchell’s Coucal hopped up onto the fence of the lucky people who live adjacent to the wetland, and allowed us a prolonged, if distant, sighting. A suspected group of Cane Rats could be heard rummaging through the reedbeds. 

Photo 3 Amethyst Sunbird – Cara Christensen

Moving over to the forest, a single Rose-ringed Parakeet perched at the tip of an alien Eucalyptus, which turned out to be a lifer for a member of our group! A Black-headed Heron cruised overhead, while a Southern Fiscal poked about in the grass on the corner for its prey. From the thickets a Cape Batis called, but didn’t reveal himself. A Scadoxus puniceus was in full bloom, a bright splash of orange against the green of the undergrowth. A Crested Barbet hid itself in the branches of a tree and allowed some strained glimpses, though we’d been hearing him calling away all morning. In a stand of flowering Strelitzia nicolai was a furtive Spectacled Weaver, who only allowed us a brief glimpse. 

Photo 4 Southern Fiscal – Ronnie Herr

In the forest, a Collared SunbirdGreen-backed Camaroptera and African Dusky Flycatcher kept us entertained. Further along the path that follows alongside the wetland allowed us sightings of an African Paradise FlycatcherOlive Thrush, a male Greater Double-collared Sunbird, as well as Village and Thick-billed Weavers. A pair of Southern Grey-headed Sparrows poked about a dead tree with interest. Meeting up with the other group turned up a Kurrichane Thrush calling from across the tennis courts and a handful of Green Woodhoopoe letting out the occasional cackle before flying off overhead.

Photo 5 Kurrichane Thrush – Ronnie Herr

Photo 6 The view overlooking the wetland from the road – Cara Christensen

The bird of the day might just go to the brief glimpse of a Fiery-necked Nightjar that had been flushed out in the forest area by the other group. 

Photo 7 Fiery-necked Nightjar – Terry Walls [This photograph was taken at an earlier date in the same location]

Overall, we tallied up 64 species of birds, including both visual sightings and calls heard. Quite impressive for three hours spent in a small area in the suburbs!

I’d like to extend special thanks to Terry Walls for agreeing to lead the second group.

Photo 8: Red-capped Robin-Chat by Ronnie Herr

By Cara Christensen

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