BirdLife South Africa’s Secretarybird Project

Hi SA Birders,

BirdLife South Africa’s Secretarybird Project would like to request your assistance in locating breeding Secretarybirds across Southern Africa. If you have any historical records of nest localities that you would be willing to share with us, or if you come across a nest while out birding please can I ask that you submit this information to Dr Melissa Whitecross (Raptors & Large Terrestrial Bird Project Manager) via email

The key information required is the date of the sighting and the GPS location of the nest to within 20m. Any additional information that can be obtained without causing unnecessary disturbance to the birds such as the number of eggs/chicks present will also be appreciated.

To stay up to date with the Secretarybird Project please like the Facebook page (

(Photo credits: Albert Froneman and Francois van der Merwe)

Kind regards,

Dr Melissa Whitecross        
Threatened Species Project Manager: Raptors & Large Terrestrial Birds
Terrestrial Bird Conservation Programme

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KZN Events Diary for 2018

Click here to read the KZN Events Diary for 2018.

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Kosi Bay

Report by Sally and Paul Bartho

21 to 22 July 2018

After our time at Tembe we had planned to visit St. Lucia for a couple of days on the way home. However we had a call from my sister to say they were in Kosi Bay and why don’t we visit instead.

We took the opportunity and as there was no room in the Kosi Mouth TEBA cottage we camped instead at the Kosi Bay and Coastal Forest Reserve. Our campsite was in a very shady spot right at the lake’s edge.

Giant and Pied Kingfishers were constantly going back and forth over the water from one clump of bush to another. Three African Pied Wagtails also entertained us flying about chasing each other at speed over the water and through the camp. But probably the highlight was seeing a couple of Green-backed Herons flying around us.

At night we were serenaded by an African Wood-Owl as well as the hippos.

Most of the Saturday was spent at the cottage right at the mouth of Kosi Bay catching up with family. Here, we were fortunate to see a Palmnut Vulture flying across the bay and a Lionfish in a pool nearby.


Sunday we spend the early morning birding on the trails at the camp then my sister and husband came round to visit us. They were very impressed with the large well sheltered campsites and proximity to the lake.

In the short time we spent birding we identified 32 different bird species. Click here to view the list.

Some photos:


Paul and Sally Bartho

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Tembe Lodge

Report by Sally and Paul Bartho

17 to 20 July 2018

Celebrating our anniversary we decided to splash out and stay three nights at Tembe Lodge.

The lodge is run by the local community and more friendly and helpful staff would be very hard to find elsewhere in Africa.

Dining area and bar


Seating area round fire

The stay includes 2 game drives a day, early breakfast, big breakfast, lunch and dinner. The accommodation was a spotless safari tent well furnished with its own ablutions including an outdoor shower. It is well private from other residents and surrounded by African bush.

The day we arrived we went on a game drive and had a number of close encounters with “friendly” elephants. The evening was exceptionally cold and we were happy to get back to camp.

After that experience we decided to give the game drives a miss until the weather warmed up a bit. And that was not such a bad idea as there was little the others on our vehicle actually saw on their other drives. However they did have one encounter with a not so “friendly” elephant. Loads of posturing, blowing its trumpet and shaking up the dust. Back off, forward again and eventually the elephant had had enough. It ripped the tracker seat right off the vehicle as if it were swatting a fly. Our birding was a lot more tranquil!!

Our time was spend travelling round the park in our own vehicle – stopping where we wanted to and spending time with bird parties – the game drives were more focused on the big 5.

During the time we were there we identified 82 species – which was a lot more than we expected. Among them were: Rudd’s Apalis, Woodward’s Batis, African Broadbill, Gorgeous, Grey-headed and Orange-breasted Bushshrikes, Brown Snake Eagle, Crowned Eagle, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk, Fiery-necked Nightjar, Spotted and Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl to name a few. Many were identified by their call. Click here to view our list.

Here are some of the photos taken.


Paul and Sally Bartho

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Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

13 to 17 July 2018

Leaving Umlalazi we headed for Mkuze to camp for 4 nights. Having booked ahead we arrived at the campsite to find a very agreeable chap looking after the campsite. However the first thing he told us was that there was no water except in the Jojo tanks. The pump had broken down and so had their water tanker and the one they borrowed from Sodwana!!

Not feeling very happy about this we went to the office to get them to provide us with alternate accommodation. Everything was full and the best they could offer us was a 50% refund – I wonder if we will ever get it!!

Anyway we made the most of it and stayed in the campsite. Jojo water to washup and flush the loo. Showers in the rest hut communal ablutions.

Game viewing was hindered by the long grass from the rains they had had. We saw none of the big game in the four days we were there – just the usual GWIZ brigade – Giraffe, Wildebeest, Impala and Zebra – plus Warthog and Nyala. All the roads were in good condition and the new hides were a pleasure despite the cold and biting wind.

Birding was good for the time of year and we managed to identify 132 different species – click here to see the list. Some of the specials seen included: African Pygmy Geese, White-backed Ducks, Green Malkoha, Striped Kingfishers, African Cuckoo Hawks, Pink-throated Twinspots.

Others heard included: African Broadbill, Rudd’s Apalis, Gorgeous and Grey-headed Bushshrikes, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Eastern Nicator.

Here are some photos.


Paul and Sally Bartho


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Paul and Sally Bartho

12 July 2018

Sally and I were on our way up the Zululand coast to do some birding when we decided to stop at Umlalazi for a night with friends who were already there.

The campsite was not crowded. The ablutions clean and working. The sites nice and level with power and water. And it was cheap R144 for the site for the two of us.

Nothing much was done in the way of birding but we had a few nice birds to photograph. We did try to find the Mangrove Kingfisher in the mangroves but only saw a Half-collared Kingfisher instead. No African Finfoots either.


Paul and Sally.

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New Germany Outing

Report by Elena Russell

7 July 2018

I understand Saturday morning did not start off too well in Durban and north of the Umgeni with drizzle and an overcast sky, which may have put off some of the regulars to the Saturday Outing, but it turned out to be a very good morning‘s birding.

Driving towards the reserve from the Highway side we were greeted by amazing rainbows, at one stage there were two over Pinetown, had to be a good sign even though it was a bit chilly with a cold breeze!

I seem to have lost the list of who was there, but there were about 12/14 of us and so we remained as one group.

To begin with the birding was a bit slow but as soon as we hit the grasslands the birding picked up very nicely.

Lots of Yellow-throated Longclaws displaying and calling from the tops of trees, a good view of a White-browed Scrub Robin which we could hear singing but did take us a bit of time to find.

A Grey-headed Bushshrike and the Tambourine Doves called incessantly and in desperation part of the group eventually called up the Bushshrike and got some really good photos.  I guess a dove is a dove and is not as photogenic as a bushshrike!!

Orange-breasted Bushshrike – Mike Stead

Going up towards the top grasslands but still in a quite wooded area we had about 3 or 4 female Black Cuckooshrikes gleaning in the trees but there seemed to be no males present.

Then down to Kingfisher pond, nothing much seems to happen here but Paul and Sherelle who visited the reserve in February said they saw a crocodile in the pond, they were most emphatic, definitely a crocodile!!  In the past there was a pygmy (?) alligator in the pond by the hide but I understand that had been taken out some time ago.  So take care next time you visit NGNR.

Our count at tea time was 52 but then White-eared Barbet, Woolly-necked Stork and Cape Wagtail were seen in the car park and Oscar and Mick who carried on birding in the eastern section of the reserve added African Fish-eagle, Crowned Eagle, Lesser Honeyguide and Grey Waxbill so the total count was 59 – not too shabby for NGNR. Click here to see the list.

Crowned Eagle – Mick Jackson

Thanks to Sandi for the bird list and Mick Jackson and Mike Stead for some great photos and to all of us for a super outing!!



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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

Mollie seems not to be breeding this year. He is either looking for a new partner or a new territory, with many movements quite far from his normal roost site.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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CWAC Count_Sunday 29th July 2018


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Latest BirdLife KZN Midlands newsletter.

Click here to read the latest BirdLife KZN Midlands newsletter.

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BLPN WhatsApp group – Members Broadcast Service

A WhatsApp group has been set up for club members of BLPN by Chris Flannery.  This will be a broadcast message service to notify members of events, activities and interesting sightings in the BLPN area.  Members of BLPN who would like to join the WhatsApp group need to do the following:

  1. Put the number into their list of contacts +27 67 008 6618
  2. Send a WhatsApp message asking to be added with your name.

It is important to understand this is a broadcast service and people can only reply directly to the admins.  Therefore the only messages you receive will be the ones that BLPN sends to the group.

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

See also attached a photo from our nest camera, showing an incubating bird.

Incubating Bird on nest

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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Pigeon Valley

Report by Sandi du Preez

20 June 2018

It was a very overcast and gloomy day which often made it difficult to see  a bird’s features. After scanning the area around the notice board to look for the Spotted Ground Thrush, we made our way to the little patch of grassland. Here we were treated to a whole lot of Purple-crested Turacos flying back and forth between the trees – such a magnificent sight! Unfortunately we couldn’t go into the reservoir area as Crispin was not with us.

Purple-crested Turaco – Dave Rimmer

Sunbirds were scarce in numbers but we did see five of the six species present in winter at Pigeon Valley: – Amethyst, Collared, Olive, Purple-banded and a Grey Sunbird showing off it’s red pectoral tufts.

Tambourine Doves were calling incessantly from all parts of the forest and Southern Boubous serenaded us the whole morning as well.

Along the central path we had an excellent sighting of a group of very co-operative Terrestrial Brownbuls right out in the open. A Black Sparrowhawk flew overhead.

Terrestrial Brownbul – Dave Rimmer

At one stage a little troop of Banded Mongooses crossed our path and later on a few of us were lucky to see a single Slender Mongoose on the path behind the notice board. Here we thought that we heard a little snippet of a Green Malkoha’s call more than once, but being unsure we had to leave it off the list.

A Crowned Eagle called as we sat down for our picnic. We were very disappointed not to see a Spotted Ground Thrush at all. Someone suggested that maybe Crispin takes them home with him for safe-keeping!!

The count after the walk was 42, but Dave stayed on after we all left and he added another 5 species – so 47 species altogether. Click here to see the list.

Thanks to Dave Rimmer for the photos.

Sandi du Preez

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BLPN-Indoor Meeting Talk by David Swanepoel


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Pigeon Valley Outing

Report by Terry Walls

2 June 2018


The morning greeted us with misty rain, which thankfully cleared up shortly before we arrived for the outing.

​Features of the reserve include:

A natural heritage site which has original coastal climax forest in which many of the forest giant, particularly the Natal Elm survive. Oxyanthus pyriformis, Natal Loquat, and Celtis mildbraedii, Natal White Stinkwood,occur almost exclusively in Pigeon Valley.

This is a good birding spot for rare and elusive forest birds e.g.: Spotted Groun-Thrush, Narina Trogon, Green Twinspot and the Buff-spotted Flufftail. The Natal Elm trail around the reserve, up one side of the valley and down the other, is approximately 400m.


The target species for some of us included the rare and endangered Spotted Ground-Thrush and the elusive Green twinspot.

We split into two groups to explore the reserve so not all species were experienced by all. Birding was quiet at first but improved as the day progressed, fruiting trees produced a number of richly diverse bird parties. The Pigeon Wood tree near the grassland was particularly productive.

Special treats were: Spotted Ground-Thrush well “spotted” by Kim Bartholomew in it’s favourite territory near the notice board;

Grey Waxbill with their delightful red rumps

and Black Sparrowhawk calling. Yellow-breasted Apails, and Purple-banded Sunbird were also enjoyed. The Twinspots remaind elusive.

Some of the other birds photographed:

On our Walk we came across Richard Boon who pointed out the new Black Sparrowhawk nest which the birds are currently building. They will hopefully start breeding soon. We also came across Crispin Hemson who deserves a mention for his work along with “Friends of Pigeon Valley ” in championing this little gem of a reserve. Visit:( to see the work they are doing.

To view the list of birds seen then click here.

Cisticola was also seen in the grassland, but could not be positively identified.

Helmeted Guineafowl, was heard calling….could be an intoduced domestic species in the neighbourhood?

Terry Walls

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Oribi Gorge weekend away

Report by Cheryl Bevan

23rd – 25th March.

We left for Oribi on Thursday in pouring rain and we looked like drowned rats once we had set up camp in the rain.

The rain never stopped until Saturday morning. John and I were the only ones camping.

On Saturday morning we were joined by the Bartlett family and the Risi family- we set off to meet Andy for the Vulture hide at 8:30am.

Hooray sunshine at last.

What an experience, as we approached the hide we had an amazing view of vultures flying overhead. There are about 250 roosting vultures that stay on the cliffs of the Gorge.

Cape Vulture – Elton Bartlett

We then walked down to the cliff edge where they were flying overhead and sitting on the cliff edges, this went on for about 45 minutes – we had spectacular close up views.

Cape Vulture – Elton Bartlett

The whole colony are Cape Vultures and there are a flock of Ravens that co exist with them. Andy had such a lot of information about the Vultures that we could have listened to him for the whole day.

There is a group of students from a German university that come to tag and observe them. One of the very interesting things he told us is that the Ravens open a carcass first, the Vultures sit and watch and then they all tuck in and finish it off.

Another fact that we found very interesting is that the vultures need to bath after eating as their feathers are caked with blood and because they don’t flap their wings (they only glide) they need water to clean themselves.

Andy and the farmer, whose land the hide is on, are doing the most amazing job with these birds. They have now erected a Vulture bath where they go to after eating. Once a week it has to be cleaned out as it is filthy.

We spent 2 hours and could have stayed longer but that is all the time we had.

After that we went down to the picnic site in the Gorge, had something to eat and drink and did a bit of birding for the rest of the afternoon.

It was a very hot day and birding was very quiet nevertheless we identified 36 species (click here to view our list) and among them was African Olive Pidgeon, Cape Rock Trush, Dark Backed Weaver, Tambourine Dove to name a few.

And guess what, Sunday it started raining again.

Thanks to Elton Bartlett for all the photos – you are a star!!

Cheryl Bevan

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BLPN event this Saturday 2nd June 2018

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Sunbird Sunday

The BLPN outing to Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve took place on Sunday 20 May, which started off cool but clear. A group of 12 arrived eagerly at the gate and we picked up several species by call even before we went in. Brown Scrub-robins were calling all over, but not seen, and a few birds were starting to sun themselves on the first trees to greet the sun while a couple of flocks of Thick-billed Weavers flew over. Once in, we drove slowly up the hill, stopping here and there to listen to the rather subdued dawn chorus, although we quickly got Knysna Turaco and the four bulbuls (Dark-capped, Sombre, Terrestrial and Yellow-bellied). An open patch of grassland gave us a few of the grassland specials (Yellow-throated Longclaw, Lazy and Croaking Cisticola) and a Black-headed Oriole in a distant tree. The small dam at the top of the hill was devoid of birds, so we moved on to the picnic site, passing lots of Leontis in flower that were full of sunbirds, mostly Amethyst. Near the office, a Long-crested Eagle posed briefly before heading over the hill. Trumpeter and Crowned Hornbills were on the move and well seen and we were a little surprised to see a small group of Greater Striped Swallows heading north with some intent.

After coffee at the picnic site, we walked around the main dam, which also was devoid of water birds. However, we were excited to hear a covey of Shelley’s Francolins calling near the head of dam close to the Blue Wildebeest. However, we were unable to see them, but it was still good to know that they are around as I haven’t heard them at Vernon Crookes for many years. Further on, we had a nice flypast by a pair of Lanner Falcons, and a single male Malachite Sunbird in eclipse plumage put in an appearance, as did several Greater Double-collared Sunbirds. Olive Sunbirds were also plentiful, both in the Strelitzias and the Leonotis.

After completing the dam loop, we drove across to the “Plains” to find some cisticolas. We did find a nice Jackal Buzzard perched in a tree and a displaying Crowned Eagle in the distance. There were no cisticolas at all, however, so we had to content ourselves with a flock of non-breeding Fan-tailed Widows. A number of Stonechats were quite obliging and more Yellow-throated Longclaws showed themselves. We stopped for a while at the cliffs and gazed down into the “Golden Valley” but it was very quiet and the breeze was starting to pick up.

Back at the picnic site, we enjoyed a quiet lunch and enjoyed the scenery. A cisticola nearby caused some interest, with several of the group creeping closer to try to photograph it, which we managed to do. Eventually it obliged by calling and revealing its identity as a Croaking Cisticola. After lunch, the party dispersed after a very pleasant morning, but with a wish to return in spring to try to find more. On my way out, I came across an obliging Hoopoe in a tree and a Collared sunbird in the forest, ending with a pentad total of 63 species, not bad for a near-winter list. There were also few butterflies, only one or two dragonflies, and apart from the Leonotis and a couple of Brunsvigias, very little in flower. Nevertheless, a good outing, as Vernon Crookes always is. A selection of pictures is included below.

Steve Davis

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Burman Bush – Saturday 5 May 2018

We had a good turn out and the weather was not too bad.   The birding was not that great, out total bird count was 43 and of that, at least 20 was only ID’d on call!  At least we are improving on our bird calls.

The best thing of all was that there were no ANTS!!!  Maybe because it’s the start of winter – will have to try a summer visit next year when the birding should be better.

We had visitors from Reno, Nevada in the USA join us: Ken Pulvino and his wife Teri who have been touring our beautiful country.   Hopefully they enjoyed the walk and the talk, the Saturday Chat Show was in fine voice!!   I understand that the first Saturday in May is Big Global Day, we will have to find out more and maybe we can participate next year.

I have set out below the birds seen/heard.   Not one raptor, somebody thought they saw something shoot by but no ID, could have been the Black Sparrowhawk, we did find the remains of a Red-eyed Dove below one of the big trees!   The photos of the two butterflies, at least I think so and am happy to be corrected, are a Blood-red Acraea and a Green-veined Emperor.

Bar-throated Apalis; Black-collared & White-eared Barbet; Southern Boubou; Terrestrial Brownbul;  Dark-capped Bulbul; Grey-headed Bush Shrike; Green-backed Camaroptera; Pied Crow; Darter (flying down to the river); Red-eyed, Rock & Tambourine Dove; Fork-tailed & Square-tailed Drongo; Ashy & Dusky Flycatcher; Sombre Greenbul; Hamerkop; Hadeda Ibis; Bronze Mannikin; Black-headed Oriole; Tawny-flanked Prinia; Black-backed Puffback; Red-capped Robin Chat (aka Natal Robin); Black-bellied & Red-winged Starling; Woolly-necked Stork; Amethyst, Collared, Grey & Olive Sunbird; Little Swift (absolutely masses in the sky);  Olive & Spotted-Ground Thrush; Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird; Purple-crested Turaco; Dark-backed, Spectacled, Thick-billed & Village Weaver; Cape White-eye; Golden-tailed Woodpecker.

Even though the birding was a little sparse, it was an enjoyable morning and as always excellent company.

Thanks to John & David for the photos and also John for collecting our Americans from their hotel and then taking them on for a bit more birding along the Umgeni.

Report by Elena Russell

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