Please find attached (Click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh and Mollie and our Cape Vulture N207, for the past week.
past week has not been a good one for vulture; a dead Cape Vulture was picked
up in the Eastern Cape- quite close to where N207 is foraging. Cause of death
still needs to be established. In a second incident, 9 White-backed Vultures
and 3 Lappet-faced Vultures were found dead near a carcass laced with poison.
The carcasses were already a few days old, but hopefully we will still be able
to establish what type of poison was used.
a happier note, our nestcam birds (see attached) have been adding some
interesting items to their nest.
At the start of the outing we stopped at the lookout/picnic shelter and a huge flock of Thick-billed Weavers flew overhead. From this spot we also saw Black-bellied starlings, Greater double-collared Sunbird, Cape White-eyes, Yellow-fronted Canaries, a Little Sparrowhawk and Dark-capped Bulbuls.
Walking down the slope to the bottom we had a lovely Bark Spider on its web hanging over the path. A certain someone, who shall be nameless, did not seem to enjoy the sight of this creature!
There were masses of Halleria lucida trees all over the reserve, heavy with flowers and dripping with nectar for the sunbirds and other nectar-feeders.
Walking towards the dam we came across a bird party and we were enthralled by a Black-backed Puffback with a huge caterpillar in its beak. Then it dropped the caterpillar and we watched it searching on the ground for it’s lost snack. Fortunately the sharp-eyed bird found it again and flew up into the tree to enjoy it’s breakfast!
The terrain is looking very different after the heavy rains and flooding. It was amazing to see how destructive water can be. The stream is flowing quite strongly but there is a lot of debris and destroyed vegetation and we could see how high the water had risen. Parts of the old path were covered with broken branches and rocks which had been washed down from the top ends of the reserve. New paths had to be created to avoid these obstructions.
The dam has also been affected. There were only 3 birds on the water – one Egyptian Goose and two Common moorhens.
The path towards the boardwalk was quite muddy but the wonderful
Conservancy members have already been working hard to replace the missing and
broken planks over the wetter areas.
Birding was a little challenging as the birds were rather quiet,
and of course the migrants have departed. Empty skies – no Kites or
Swallows at this time of the year. We didn’t even hear a Kingfisher or a
Woodpecker! However five species of Sunbird were very welcome – Amethyst,
Collared, Greater double-collared, Grey and Olive.
The total count was 36 species. Click here to see the list.
Sorry – no decent photos of birds. I’m missing John Bremner and
Please find attached (click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh and Mollie and our Cape Vulture N207, for the past week. Seems our Cape Vulture may breed in the Eastern Cape afterall.
I have also attached a lovely photo of the adult pair from our nest camera.
A chance remark to my sister resulted in Sally and I being invited to join her in the TEBA Cottage at the very mouth of Kosi Bay Estuary for four nights. We had a couple of days to prepare for our trip.
A long way to go for four nights so Sally organised for us to have three nights in Mkuze on the way back – staying in the hutted camp accommodation.
We prolonged the forecast six hour journey by taking a longcut through Phinda on the district road. Instead of turning off the N3 at Hluhluwe we went on a further 20 kms and took the Phinda off ramp to the Phinda reserve entrance and because we were passing through there was no charge.
The 30 km dirt rode through the reserve enabled us to see aminals and birds. Towards the end of the road we encountered a pair of Cheetahs lying in the shade with their legs protruding onto the road. We stopped (although strictly speaking they suggest as we were passing through not to do so in case of trouble). The Cheetahs took little notice of us and stayed put. An pleasant and unexpected start to our trip.
My sister had organised our entry permits for us so we were able to pass quickly through the gate and proceed down to the TEBA Cottage at the river mouth.
The cottage is rustic. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms (one with shower the other with a bath), large kitchen, dining room and a deck with panoramic views across the bay. Yes hot water in the kitchen and for the bath as well as the basins in the bedrooms. No electricity, just a generator powering batteries for lights and the fridges and freezers. That said, it was a privilege to stay there. No neighbours and the bay in front of us.
Each morning, up early and into the coastal forest – following the sandy road to the cottage- listening and trying to spot the many birds present. Getting good sightings was very tricky and many of the birds we identified were by ear – Sally’s mostly.
There were Green Malkoha, Black-throated Wattle-eyes, White-starred Robins, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatchers, Grey and Olive Sunbirds, Dark-backed Weavers, Black-backed Puffbacks, Southern Boubou, Natal Robins, Crowned and Trumpeter Hornbills, Rudd’s Apalis, Sombre and Yellow-bellied Greenbuls, Terrestial Brownbuls, Brown Scrub-Robins all adding their sounds to the bush.
Of course there were many butterflies too – which we have been unable to identify.
The weather was kind to us – not too hot and cool at night. Mossies were few and far between. A lot of time was spent on the beach and wading up the estuary looking for birds.
A group of waders on one of the sand strips – the tide was out – caught our attention.
Through the scope we decided that we needed to get closer to confirm our ID. A long distance photo confirmed our ID. Then I decided to wade out to get closer. As it happened a group of people got too close to the group and they flew landing on the same sand strip that I was on. I took my photos and then they flew up the coast towards Mozambique.
Here are some photos of other water birds we sighted in and around the estuary.
Fish seemed to be plentiful for the locals – perhaps their methodology was unusual.
A walk the other side of the estuary southwards along the coast with my sister, Natasha and Sally also gave us an unexpected surprise. My sister spotted shoals of fish riding in the waves and then she spotted a Loggerhead Turtle doing the same. In the end we had three more sightings of others doing the same.
Right at the bottom of the stairs leading down to the beach from the cottage there were several large trees which had collapsed into the sea due to corrosion. A the base of one of these lived an eel. Very colourful – bright yellow with dark markings – seen several times.
And in the water at the base of a tree there was a Lion Fish. On one morning it swam around in the sunlight enabling me to get a few nice photos of it.
Our bird list was not prolific and many of the bush birds were identified by sound. In the end we identified a total of 48 different species. Click here to see the list.
After four relaxing days at Kosi, Sally and I headed for three nights at Mkhuze staying in the hutted accommodation. We had two full days to explore the Reserve and visit the hides.
As an aside, if you plan to visit, be careful at night as the hutted camp is not secure. We were told that the previous week a lion was seen around the nearby cottages
We did see an elephant as it walked past the Masinga Hide without popping in to disturb the other aminals there. Other than that we encountered only the usual zebra, giraffe, nyala, impala, warthogs, gnus, baboons and monkeys.
Of course Masinga Hide is always worthwhile to see aminals and birds.
And some of the birds seen there.
The campsite is a good place to see birds and we were not let down when we went there. Here a few of the specials we saw there.
Malibali Hide – near the campsite – was full and we enjoyed the new hide. This time however it was relatively quiet but again we had a few specials to see.
Driving around the bird life was patchy in places yet we did manage to see a wide variety of different species which we had not see at any of the hides.
The second hide to the right of the picnic site at Nsumo Pan is another of our favourite hides except when the wind is blowing. Fortunately the weather was kind to us when we visited. Here are some views from the hide.
On arrival we were treated to a sight we had not expected. Looking out to the left there were pairs of Little Grebes, African Pygmy Geese and White-backed Ducks. And as we scanned the pan there were at least another 20 African Pygmy Geese and about 8 White-backed Ducks. In the past we would have been lucky to see just one pair of African Pygmy Geese.
African Jacana were on the lily pads, a Malachite Kingfisher put on a show, Whiskered Terns were seen all across the pan. And on the far side many other water birds could be seen.
On the shore line heading towards the Picnic site we spotted several Water Thick-knees and what appeared to be a three legged Black-winged Stilt – 2 red legs and one straw coloured!! All close to the African Fish-Eagle which was occupied on a meal.
The picnic site at Nsumo Pan is also one of our favourite places to visit especially for a tea and pee break. Birding is also good normally. And the day we visited was our lucky day – very special.
On the way in an African Paradise Flycatcher welcomed us.
Hippos greeted us bobbing up and down among the lily pads close to shore.
Pink-backed Pelicans and Yellow-billed Storks flew overhead.
Western Cattle Egrets were fishing from Hippo perches. And even a Grey Heron took its chances.
Even the bush around the picnic site had some interesting birds.
It was only as we were leaving that Sally heard a Sunbird calling. When we found it we both were thrilled by what we saw.
On one afternoon drive we returned quite late and driving up from the kuMahlahla hide, we encountered several Spotted Thick-knees as well as Fiery-necked Nightjars.
The Thick-knees I managed to get a few reasonable photos. But I lost out big time with the Fiery-necked Nightjar. There was one sitting on a bare branch right beside the driver’s side of the car. Quickly I put my camera onto Auto and took a shot. Flash goes off bouncing off the inside of the car. Rats. The bird is still there so I try again. This time the flash works perfectly but the bird flew off as the camera took focus. Later I checked the photo and it was a perfect shot of the branch – if only the bird had stayed.
Zululand birding is always full of pleasant surprises. The variety is plentiful. We love going to visit the many different habitats.
In all we recorded 122 birds – identified for Bird Lasser. Click here to see the list.
report was not favourable, as light rain was predicted for the Kloof area.
met in overcast conditions with some experiencing light misty rain on their way
to Krantzkloof. We decided to continue as patches of blue sky were visible
among the clouds which is normally a good sign that it will not rain.
the start it was clearly obvious that Krantzkloof had experienced heavy rain
and there and the river had flowed extensively over the banks in places. Our
first observation was a pair of Mountain Wagtail, who were extremely tame, and
came to within five metres of the group, before they moved off, Uncharacteristically,
mimicking their Cape Wagtail cousins by walking around on the lawn in the
seen in the picnic area was an Olive Thrush, which as always created some
debate about Olive and Kurrichane.
the bridge on the road we could see more evidence of the wash away which had
been created by the heavy rain. The pathway to the Iphithi Waterfall was closed
and we had to take a diversion up the hill to make our way to the trail.
back on the trail, we came a across a few birds. Doves at first, and then a
small bird party, quite high up in the canopy. In the poor light, we did not
get good views of the birds but were able to identify most of them by their
little further up the pathway, our concern about crossing the river to the Iphithi
Falls was confirmed, when we came across the bridge which had been washed down
decided to continue on the Long Shadow Trail, rather than to wade through the
overcast conditions and the Forest habitat were however not conducive to
birding and after walking a fair distance along this path and not seeing
any birds, we decided to return to the picnic area.
misty conditions closed in, and by the time we reached the picnic area it was raining,
and we decided to call it a day.
A perfect sunny mornings’ birding was enjoyed by a group of 13 people. I had arrived 45 minutes before the scheduled start and was greeted with a Western Osprey flying directly overhead. As the other members arrived I told them about the Osprey sighting and they were all envious and wanted to see it too. Well luck was with them as later in the day the Osprey (photo EJ Bartlett) was seen once again flying in the distance with a fish in its talons.
As the members arrived to the car park overlooking the estuary (photo Tyron Dall) we had sightings of Water Thick-knee, Malachite Kingfisher (photo Ronnie Herr), Hamerkop and some Black-headed Herons (photo Ronnie Herr) on the roofs of the nearby buildings.
We started the walk just after 7am and everyone was pleasantly surprised to see how clean the Illovo Estuary was after the recent floods. It seems this catchment was largely spared the terrible litter that has plagued other rivers in the area. As we started the walk we walked past the canoe club building and we saw that they had marked a level on the building where the recent flood waters had risen to (a couple of meters up the building!)
Continuing on the first spectacle we were treated to was a couple of large flocks of Cattle Egrets flying up the river (photo Rob McLennan-Smith). As we continued walking the calls of a couple of Red-throated Wrynecks (photo Rob McLennan-Smith) announced themselves. The photographers in the group all jostled for position to take pictures of them. Then it was the turn of a couple of Yellow-throated Longclaws (photo Tyron Dall) to show themselves, calling from the tops of some bushes.
As we climbed a small vantage point overlooking the river a small flock of Common Waxbills flew from the tall grasses and upon surveying the river a couple of Black Ducks (photo Ronnie Herr) were seen on the water as well as a couple of Three-banded Plovers.
By this point we had already seen a few Little Bee-eaters, but we were then treated to one of the trails “special” birds, a few White-fronted Bee-eater (photo EJ Bartlett). Unfortunately the sun was making it difficult for the photographers to capture these beauties as it was directly behind the Bee-eaters.
Next we headed in to the more forested section of the trails where we managed to find African Dusky Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, White-eared Barbet (photo EJ Bartlett), Green-backed Camaroptera, Golden-tailed Woodpecker(heard), Sombre Greenbul(heard) and Bar-throated Apalis(heard).
On our way back we also managed to see some Black Saw-wings and Fan-tailed Widowbirds. While we were enjoying some food and drinks after the walk we were entertained by some Southern Black Flycatchers, and Southern Black Tits. Altogether we managed a total count of 64 species (55 seen and 9 heard)
Everyone was also pleased to hear that these trails are open to the public and no prior arrangement is necessary to visit them. Thanks to everyone who attended and to all the photographers who contributed their photos.
Mike, Terry Walls and I set off at midday on our driving up to the beautiful Bushman’s Neck region of the southern Drakensberg. A weekend of birding and relaxing was something I had looked forward to for some time. On route we were pleased to see a good number of green fields and farm dams that were brimming with water. Our route took us off the N3 at Howick and through Bulwer. We chose to go on the dirt road, it is not in the best state but did produce some good birds. A Denham’s Bustard was lovely to see, a Verreaux’s Eagle with his prominent white cross and rump was a great sighting as well, Ant-eating Chats whirred around and sat on fences for us to get a good view of them.
About 40 Cape Vulture circled above a valley gaining height before soaring off. Once we arrived at Silver Streams we settled into our riverside caravan and enjoyed the bubbling stream and the solitude of the mountains. The balance of our group, Rob and Paige McClennan-Smith and Jackie and Roland Suhr were already ensconced in their accommodation and as we had all arrived fairly late in the afternoon, we were in time to watch the sun set before congregated on the riverbank for the evening. Chilly mornings and evenings were balanced by gloriously sunny and warm days.
Saturday morning, we were up and away to see what we could find. It was a glorious day and we started off scanning the vlei area in the campsite for birds. Here the euplectes species were going about their business. Red-collared Widowbirds and Red Bishop where slowly losing their summer plumage and becoming dull and drab with only faint orange areas to show for once bright colours. The flock of Cape Weaver which was present when I had been about earlier had sadly completely disappeared. Heading up to the border control point one passes through a mix of indigenous and exotic bush. Cape Robin-chat, Olive Thrush, Speckled Mousebirds, Paradise Flycatcher and Southern Boubou were present here, on coming back to this area later in the day we got good views of Drakensberg Prinia which was the highlight of our trip and provide a good deal and debate.
Getting onto the grasslands was interesting as there were two streams to wade across. This caused some consternation, there were those who jumped from rock to rock with shoes on needless to say there were some wet shoes!! Others chose to takeoff their shoes and wade in the icy water!!
Once across it the stream we headed out into the grasslands. The birding here was sparse but Greater Striped Swallow, Banded Martin and Brown-throated Martin were seen and we got good views of Wryneck and Bokmakierie. The small wetland area produced Common Waxbill and Levaillant’s Cisticola but little else. Scanning the rocky outcrops produced absolutely no sightings of any kind and it was with great disappointment that we eventually retraced out steps and headed back to the resort area. A pair of Long-crested Eagle were very vocal and gave us a superb flyby.
Seen along the river were Yellow-billed Duck, Giant Kingfisher and White-throated Swallow. Cape Wagtail along with Cape Sparrow were abundant. I got a very brief glimpse of a Malachite Sunbird as it shot over the trees behind me and a Bush Blackcap popped out only to be chased away by Cape Robin-Chat, unfortunately no one else in the group saw these two species. A White-breasted Cormorant was seen flying back and forth following the course of the river, first towards the mountains and then back again repeatedly. It would appear it had a faulty GPS and was unable to decide which way to go!
It was distressing to see Common Starling looking quite at home here as I don’t recall seeing them on our previous trips here. We saw about 5 birds and they were constantly being harassed by the Red-winged Starlings.
It was a short but rewarding weekend with excellent company and as always, a lot of lively discussion and laughter around the braai fire each evening.
We got a total of 63 species including the birds seen on the trip to and from the venue. For berg birding this is not poor but we did miss some of the species that one would hope to get, but that is the joy of birding and the reason we go again and again in the hope of seeing just that one extra species we missed last time.
Dawned bright and clear and 21 members of BirdLife Port Natal gathered in the car park at the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve to see what the day would bring forth in the way of birds and other wildlife.
We headed down across the first walkway and had good views of a family of Tawny-flanked Prinia gleaning on the low branches of some undergrowth, Thick-billed and Spectacled Weaver were busy attending nests in the reed bed and of course the ubiquitous Dark-capped Bulbuls flitted around the area.
Heading into the forest we were assailed by bird calls but very few birds were seen so this was a good exercise in learning to be attuned to the calls. A Southern Boubou female was seen scurrying through the dark reaches of the forest, Sombre Greenbul, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Olive Sunbird and Terrestrial Brownbul were heard many times but failed to show, despite much searching for them.
When we emerged from the forest onto the walkway across the lagoon, we were treated to sightings of birds which was wonderful after the dearth of forest species seen. Little Bee-eaters hawked from a prominent perch, Black-bellied Starling were seen chattering away on the tops of the forest trees and there was a plethora of water birds to be seen.
A beautifully plumaged Goliath Heron stood like a sentinel on a rock and then proceeded to preen himself.
Photo: EJ Bartlett
Grey-headed Heron and a lonely African Spoonbill were in the company of Egyptian Geese and Hadeda Ibis. A team of small waders were represented by Common and Wood Sandpiper, Three-banded Plover, Pied and Cape Wagtail with Blacksmith Lapwing shouting abuse at us for disturbing the morning quiet.
Some interesting tracks seen under the walkway, maybe a mongoose and a large wader.
Photos: Sandy du Preez
Then we climbed up onto the dune ridge. Here, once again, birds were heard but not seen, Southern Tchagra was one of these elusive species which was lovely to hear but a view would have been appreciated.
Then to the steep descent onto the beach, rough steps are in place and with a gentleman on each level all managed to reach the beach with dignity before we proceeded along to the lagoon. Umhlanga Lagoon has long been known as a local nude bathing area and so we must have created quite a stir arriving with our binoculars.
Photo: EJ Bartlett
It was a glorious sunny day, as we wandered up the beach, we got a great view of Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird sitting on top of a bush, a Brown-hooded Kingfisher sat on a dead tree affording good views to all.
Photo: EJ Bartlett
A single White-fronted Plover was spotted on the crest of a small dune, and then one was seen sitting in the middle of an expanse of open beach, it was soon joined by a mate.
Sitting White-fronted Plover.
Photo: EJ Bartlett
When it stood great excitement ensued as it was seen to have two eggs in the shallow scrape under it.
Two eggs visible beneath Plover. Photo: EJ Bartlett
Eggs visible under plover. Photo Rob McLennon-Smith
These plovers had chosen to build their nest right in the open area where dogs and humans constantly walk. Before long a group of beach goers walked quite close to the birds and they of course quickly moved away. I am sure it won’t be long before this nest is either destroyed or vandalised by either a dog or a human.
White-fronted Plover are aware of a human or dog when they are about 50m away and will move away from the nest at an approach of 30m. When the eggs are exposed, they then quickly over heat in the sun and then are no longer viable and the nesting attempt will be in vain.
The exposed eggs once the brooding bird moved away.
Photo: EJ Bartlett
We met a young birder who advised us that Garden Warbler was calling from across the lagoon, the intrepid amongst us went over to attempt to see the bird but despite hearing it several times it did not show and eventually the search was abandoned.
Our morning ended with a tramp back up the beach and through the forest, by now it was extremely hot and humid, and we were very happy to sit in the shade for our morning repast and tally up the bird species.
Our total count for the day was 60 birds. Click here to see bird list.