Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

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

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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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, Mac, and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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Springside Christmas Outing

Report By Elena Russell

2 December 2017

We had an excellent turnout for our Christmas outing to Springside. Could it be the famous toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches as prepared by our chefs, Marion and John. Most definitely, they and I mean the sarmies, get better and better each year! A big thank you to Marion and John for the catering – the sandwiches were delicious.

Also thanks to Mark and Cecily for their assistance.

Even Steve Woodall pitched up (much later) – he says he was looking for a butterfly, I think he had heard about the sarmies!!

We broke up into 3 groups and my thanks to David Swanepoel and Mike Roseblade for leading the other two groups. Springside has all sorts of different paths to meander up and down and although the weather was a bit dicey to begin with (spitting with rain) it improved during the morning and we had some jolly good birding.

Our total count at the end of the morning was 77 but as we gathered in the parking area there was the bird of the day – Broad-tailed Warbler.

The raptor count, due to the weather, was not too good, YBK’s and a single African Goshawk. Lots of Cuckoos were heard, Klaas’s, Diederik, Red-chested and some of us were lucky enough to see the Emerald. Sunbirds: Collared, Amethyst, Greater-doubled Collared, Olive and White-bellied.

The weaver count was very good. Holub’s Golden Weaver and a number of nests by the picnic site (vlei area) and further up by the stream. Some of the Thick-billed Weavers have made nests in the weeds on the hillside which looked a bit odd. Maybe they chose higher ground due to the heavy rains?  Also Village, Dark-backed and Spectacled.

Holub’s Golden Weaver – David Swanepoel

Here are some of the other birds, plants and dragonflies photographed:

Many thanks to Mike Stead (aka the photographer) and David Swanepoel for some great photos and of course Marion and John for their generosity and hard work!!

Here’s wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a great birding New Year.




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Sand Forest Lodge Weekend Outing

Report by Cheryl Bevan

24 to 26 November 2017

For our last weekend outing for the year we went to Sand Forest Lodge in Hluhluwe . We had a great turn out – eleven in total.

A few of us stopped at St Lucia on Thursday on our way to see if we could find the Gull-billed Tern, Sooty Tern and the Eurasian Oystercatcher who have been hanging around for a while and lucky for us we all saw the two Terns.

Sooty Tern – John Bevan

On Friday after we had all set up camp we gathered for a braai catching up and planning for Saturday.

Starting off at six in the morning in very rainy miserable weather we set off through the forest expecting to see nothing. After walking for about an hour we had only heard and seen a few birds. Narina Trogans were calling but although we got close we did not manage to get a view of them.

We perservered entering the open grassland area and it paid off.  Seeing European Bee-eater, White-eared Barbet, Neergaard’s, Purple-banded and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, Narina Trogon and more……………

Some other sightings of interest. A Baobab in the garden was flowering. An unknown caterpillar and a sunbird nest which we would like identified. It was thought by some as a Neergaard’s Sunbird nest. And a spotted-tailed Ant.

Spotted Thick-knees were nesting on the grass in front of the chalets.

Spotted Thick-knees – Paul Bartho

Here are some of the birds seen at Sand Forest Lodge.

After breakfast and tea time we set off to False Bay where we had great sightings of hundreds of Greater Flamingos and White-breasted Comorants as well as Whimbrel and other waders.

Common Whimbrel – Paul Bartho

We were excited to find a smallish dark wader which had us confused for a while until we realised it was still in breeding plumage. A Curlew Sandpiper [we always hope to find something rare] but this one was still in breeding plumage.

2 Curlew Sandpipers – Paul Bartho

After Lunch and a short rest we hit Muzi Pan – an hour away.

Black Heron on the other side of the pan, Ruff, a flock of Glossy Ibis, Burchell’s Coucal, Squacco Heron and other waders- Common and Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stint, Black-winged Stilts among them.

Sunday morning we birded on the property again picking up 102 birds for the weekend. This is Cheryl Bevan’s Bird List:

We all went home happy and tired.

Cheryl and John Bevan

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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, Mac, and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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BirdLife Port Natal Fun Evening

The final indoor meeting of the year took place on 8 November 2017, in the form of a fun evening organised by Steve Davis. Eighteen members came along for the mystery competitions, which required no expert knowledge of birds at all!

Firstly, there was a word search competition, in which each person had to find the names of 40 birds hidden in a 15×15 block. The winners of this were Chris, Rowena and Adam.

Secondly came a Bird Jigsaw game. Each person was handed an envelope with 1/6 of a picture of a bird stapled in and 5 miscellaneous loose pieces. The race was then on to find among the other members the missing five pieces of your picture. Much hilarity ensued as well as some long faces, as some people by chance got relatively easy pictures (e.g. Violet-backed Starling) while others were more difficult (e.g. Eastern Nicator). In the end, the winners, Rowena, Jenny and Jane, helped the others to complete their pictures in the end.

Thirdly was Bird Scrabble. This was similar to Bird Jigsaw, except this time each envelope contained the name of a bird and five random pieces of bird names. Again, much chaos ensued as everyone rushed around trying to find the component parts of their bird name, without dropping the small pieces of card. It wasn’t as easy as some people thought, as a bird starting with “Black-” could have a first piece with “BLA”, “BLAC”,  “BLACK” or “BLACK-” and only when you found the next piece would you know which was correct. In the end, the winners were David, Adam and Rowena.

After all the merriment and the prizegiving, tea, coffee, mince pies and biscuits were enjoyed by all. To those who were unable to come, you missed a great deal of fun but it is certain to be repeated by popular request.IMG_3072IMG_3077IMG_3079IMG_3082IMG_3083IMG_3086IMG_3087IMG_3088

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Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

22 to 24 November 2017

Prior to going on the BLPN Weekend Outing to Sand Forest Lodge, Sally and I decided to spend a couple of nights camping at Mkuze.

The campsite has a lovely layout with two ablution blocks. It’s main issue is lack of maintenance and site management. The other issue is that they charge for 3 people minimum, making the cost for two people prohibitive unless they are offering discounts.

Anyway we enjoyed our two night stay despite no water on the last morning.

Candy-striped Crinum Lilies

All the hides were open but there was little water  at the hides except those at Nsumo Pan and kuMasinga.

Anyone wishing to identify this tree? It’s fruit is the size of a Gooseberry and yellow/orange in colour.

KuMasinga was quiet both times we visited. However there was a pair of Egyptian Geese with 8 goslings wandering about near the water. What was interesting was to see all 8 goslings (at this stage no longer small chicks) snuggling together completely under mother goose. Not sure how she managed it.

Egyptian Goslings

Also seen at kuMasinga hide were:

Terrapins sunbathing

Nsumo Pan was overcast and windy, rain threatening. Despite that we had what we thought was an unusual sighting of 6 Comb Ducks on the opposite bank from one of the hides.

Also a Whiskered Tern was seen chasing a White-winged Tern for some reason.

As we left Nsumo Pan we heard a call – Woodland Kingfisher. We scoured for the source of the call without success then just as we started to turn away from the water we heard it again and I managed a photo from a distance.

Woodland Kingfisher

Driving around we came across a couple of juvenile raptors – an African Harrier Hawk and a Bateleur. Each was being bombed by angry birds. In the case of the Bateleur by a pair of Broad-billed Rollers.

The Crowned Eagle we saw on the previous visit made an appearance too.

Crowned Eagle

Here are some of the other species photographed while traversing the Game Reserve.

Little Bee-eaters

Over the past several visits to Mkuze we had not seen any of the big cats. My sister visited a few weeks earlier and said she had seen a Cheetah near a camera trap near the far end of the Beacon  Road. So as we passed by the camera we made an effort to see whether this cat frequented the spot. No luck. Then – having started car and driven about 200 metres there she was with 2 juveniles. Lovely sighting.

Cheetah with collar

Hope you enjoyed the read.

Paul and sally Bartho

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KwaXimba Conservancy Outing

KwaXimba Conservancy , Umgeni Valley

Sunday 12 November 2017

Report by Dave Rimmer

For the third year running numbers joining me on the BLPN outing to KwaXimba could be counted with less fingers on two hands.

I’m not sure whether it’s due to the early 06h00 start or a perception that it’s too remote a location to visit? Either way, by 6am the dawn chorus is already history and it’s really not that far nor remote – only half an hour from Pinetown!!

All the same, 9 birders joined me this year (thank you) and what a feast of birds we had.

There can’t be too many places on the outskirts of the city where one can view or hear a mix of bushveld birds (Long-billed Crombec, Blue Waxbill, Chinspot Batis, White-browed Scrub Robin and Violet-backed Starling), forest birds (Southern Boubou, Purple-crested Turaco and Tambourine Dove), and of course water birds (African Black Duck, Black Crake, Common Sandpiper, Hamerkop and Pygmy Geese) in the space of just a few hours.

Village Weaver (Photo credit – David Swanepoel)

The morning started off very misty which made for some interesting photo opportunities.

Morning mist scenery – Angels breathe (Dave Rimmer)

The mist soon lifted gradually giving way to the spectacular granite domes that surround the valley, and so too did it become hotter and hotter – hence the need for an early start.

Interesting geological rock formation (Dave Rimmer)

And it wasn’t just the birds that kept the group interested – there were some butterflies and dragonflies around, plus a large monitor lizard being watched closely by a goat (or was it the other way around?!) and a Roman spider or solifugid on the ground.

Roman spider or solifugid (Photo credit – David Swanepoel)

The first birds of the day were on the wing including African Palm Swifts, Lanner Falcon, Lesser Striped Swallows, Yellow-billed Kite, and Barn Swallows, along with some of the more common species usually encountered near human settlements such as Common Myna, Red-eyed Dove, Southern Fiscal, Red-winged Starling and Cape Sparrow. In the background, we had the chattering from the Village Weaver colony nesting in the trees behind the main building of the iSiThumba cultural centre.

Yellow-billed Kite with frog legs on the menu for breakfast (Photo credit – David Swanepoel)

Cheryl and Jeffery walk in the woods – splendid scenery (Photo credit – Steve Davis)

The trees seemed to be dripping with Diederik Cuckoo’s as they seemed to be everywhere – closely monitored by the ever-watchful weavers. Klaas’s Cuckoo could be heard calling and surprisingly no one heard the summer call of the normally ubiquitous Red-chested Cuckoo.

Kingfishers were aplenty with a total five species observed – Giant, African Pygmy, Malachite, Pied, and Brown-hooded Kingfishers.

We meandered along the river edge and watched a group of paddlers participating in a 50km two-day canoeing event and during which picking up on various water birds, some of which they kindly flushed for us.

Paddlers on the Umgeni River (Dave Rimmer)

Birds seen included African Jacana, Yellow-billed Ducks, a few Three-banded Plovers, Little Bee-eaters, Crested Barbet, Water Thick-knee, Brimstone Canary, White-bellied Sunbird, Orange-breasted Bushshrike, and a Cardinal Woodpecker.

Our bird of the day without doubt was a pair of African Pygmy Geese darting past us down the river – so quick there was just enough time to shout out an alert and point them out to those behind me. Sadly, no photo opportunity!

The final tally for the day was an impressive 98 species either seen or heard, with all records submitted to the SABAP2 database (one Full Protocol and one Ad hoc card) – viva atlassing! To see the list then click here.

Many thanks to Sandi du Preez, Ros Conrad, Steve Davis, Cay Hickson, Penny de Vries, Cheryl King, Mark Liptrot and David and Tania Swanepoel for venturing out for the day, as well as sharing with us some of your photos included herewith and of course to our host for the morning Jeffery Buthelezi who assists with various tours organized through Durban Green Corridor (DGC).

Yours in birding,

Dave Rimmer


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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, Mac, and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

This breeding season we have found the nesting sites of InkosiYeentaka and Lehlwa. These individuals were fitted with transmitters as first year birds in 2009, and we are very lucky to have been able to follow them for such a long time. Both territories are new sites for our records. Many thanks to the efforts of Mpiti Letsie, Spurgeon Flemington and Tash Avni.

Mac on the other hand is frequenting a known territory, which requires further investigation.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger


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Drak Gardens

Report by Sally and Paul Bartho

17 to 19 November 2017

The decision to go to the Drak Gardens was made the day before we left. I had never been there and Sally always wanted to go back. We chose a great weekend to go. It had just snowed – and the mountains were well capped. The weather was beautiful, sunny and clear for our whole stay – icy cold when windy and at night but T-shirt weather during the day.

The campsite is just before entering the Drak Gardens boom gate. It was wonderfully grassy and green with loads of shade if you wanted it. The ablutions were very good with really hot water.

There is another campsite in the Park itself – Hermit’s Campsite – near the Garden Castle Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park office – but it is not electrified. It’s advantage is that it is right at the start of all the walks in the park.

Our intention was to walk in the Berg and bird along the way. Birding was quiet but what we did see and hear was different from the usual birds we normally see. Some of the specials included Bokmakierie, Buff-streaked Chats, Cape Rock-Thrushes, Malachite Sunbirds, Yellow Bishops and Ground Woodpeckers. Sally kept her ears open for any chance of hearing Rockjumpers to no avail and we did not see nor hear any Gurney’s Sugarbirds. Our bird list can be seen by clicking here – some 50 species.

Map of walks: We wanted to head for Pillar Cave but started heading towards the Three Pools.

On our first morning we got lost trying to find where we wanted to go. A riverside walk. However we headed in the wrong direction towards the Three Pools – a steep climb. Very quickly we realised our mistake and trundled back down and followed the river until we found a path which we correctly assumed was the Mlambonia river walk.

On and on we climbed thinking that at some stage we would get near the river – but although that was the river walk it was some way higher than the river itself with steep slopes down towards it.

We got as far as the first river crossing after about 2 hours and decided not to go any further. The crossing looked quite interesting and mildly challenging but we had had enough and took a break there watching other parties of Germans trying to cross – ever hopeful of a photo of someone losing their footing.

River Crossing – almost in.

One group thought they new best and decided to take an alternative route but we did not stay to see their probable outcome – floating down the river.

We headed back.

View back to where we started

The Watsonias were out in full everywhere.

Before we left the next day we took a drive around the area and went back to the start of the walk we did the day before to explore an area by the river. Here we saw virtually all the specials we had seen the day before as well as about 6 Horus Swifts flying overhead and occasionally darting into one or other of the holes in the river bank.

This was a most enjoyable few days with fantastic weather.

Paul and Sally



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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Apologies for this email being sent late today, but I spent the day looking for Camo in Golden Gate Highlands National Park. After a number of days spent looking by the SANParks Field Rangers, we finally found a transmitter today. Luckily no dead bird, so we hope Camo is still well and just discarded his transmitter. Thank you to Dhiraj Nariandas and Tuba Sikhosana and their team for assisting with the search.

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

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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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, Mac, Camo and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.  The recently released is exploring quite a large area.

Camo was never an very active bird but has not moved for a few days, so we will investigate this.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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Rockjumper Family Birding Weekend

Rockjumper Birding Adventures is organising a birding weekend in February at Champagne Sports.  BirdLife South Africa will benefit from some of the proceeds of the registration fee, and clubs have been encouraged to publicise this great weekend.

Please see attached documents, (Click here for itinerary) or go to:


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St Lucia revisited.

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

4 to 7 November 2017.


On the spur of the moment Sally and I decided to revisit St Lucia – ever hopefully of finding the specials we missed 2 weeks previously. The specials being the Eurasian Oystercatcher and the Gull-billed Tern.

We stayed at Sugarloaf campsite – taking advantage of the discount available. We do enjoy this campsite as the birdlife within is amazing. It is also very handy being right beside the boardwalk to the beach. Birds are always about the campsite – we had a pair  of Brown-Scrub Robins and a Red-capped Robin-Chat entertain us this time.

Natal Robin

Arriving early we set up camp quickly and went for a stroll along the beach and also next to the estuary. It did not take us long to realise that there were no Oystercatchers about. Terns were present on the mud flats but mostly Swift Terns with the occasional Little and Caspian Terns among the Pied Avocets and Grey-headed Gulls.

Later on I went back without success. Bumped into several other birders on the search as I was heading back to the camp – suggested to them to sit and wait and perhaps get lucky – as Sally and I had done 2 weeks earlier with the Sooty Tern.

Later on Sally and I put up the scope at the start of the boardwalk – scouring the sides of the estuary. As we did so, one of the people I had chatted to earlier said he had taken my advice and waited with the Terns on the mud flats when out of nowhere the Gull-billed Tern appeared and he had a great photo of it too. Perhaps I should have taken my own advice!!! They had seen it at about 17h00.

The next morning we got up early – ever hopeful and headed for the same mud flat. On first inspection there were very few Terns there and a number more further away with someone watching with their camera handy.

Off we went and could not decide which set of Terns to check out first. So as we passed the first set we decided to check out the close ones first. It was 06h00.

Sally peruses with the scope and almost immediately spots the Gull-billed Tern – alone with about five or six Swift Terns.

Gull-billed and Swift Tern

Masses of other small waders were feeding nearby – Curlew Sandpipers, White-fronted and Kittlitz’s Plovers, Common Ringed Plovers, Sanderlings, the occasional Ruddy Turnstone, Marsh Sandpiper, Pied Avocets etc.

We crept down to get a closer look but far enough away to make sure we did not upset the birds and send them scattering. The mud flat was between two sets of reeds – those on our left were at least 2 metres tall – I say this because later we noticed a Hippo walking our path and into the reeds where it disappeared completely. As it was there was a not so small Crocodile basking on the shore close to where we were watching the Terns. Scary thoughts, more vigilance and alertness is required. Try not to be remembered as a Dead Birder.


While watching, all the birds took to the air for no apparent reason except that a Grey Heron had just landed amongst them. Of course all the Terns went too. We kept our eyes on the Gull-billed Tern and it looked as though it was on its way up the coast but it turned and came back – landing from where it left. We ended up spending 45 minutes with the bird  until it flew off heading inland.

While we were there, we had kept a look out for other birders to call them over but no-one showed – shame. As we walked away about 6 Collared Pratincoles appeared on the mud flats – they must have been there all the time – shows how fixated we were.

Collared Pratincole in flight

Now for the Eurasian Oystercatcher – such a good looking bird.

However it was not till our last afternoon that we spotted any – three, but all African Black Oystercatchers – no Eurasian.

On Saturday we walked almost 14 kms up and down the beach and over 16 kms on Sunday according to my FitBit!! Hard work on soft sand and sore leg muscles later.

Monday was overcast, wet and windy so we headed into Eastern Shores instead after a cursory look at the mudflats with the scope – virtually nothing around.

Changes have been taking place in the park and at long last the the broken bridge on the road beside Lake Bhangazi has been repaired. The bird hide at Mafazana Pan has a new entrance. There was water in the iMboma Pan and numerous hippos and a pair of visiting Rhinos. as well as birds.

A new entrance to Eastern Shores is being built where the old one was and it causes chaos when more than 6 cars are waiting to get in – up to a three quarters of an hour wait. We got lucky on our third day of attempting as we were not prepared to hang around. We chose a Monday morning at 07h00.

Birds were calling it seemed all day long – including Narina Trogons, Green Malkoha and Nicator.

On the way back along the Red Dunes loop we stopped for a cuppa at the Lookout point. While enjoying our tea a Black-chested Snake-Eagle glided about us and was soon being bombed by a bird we could not identify. Initially we thought it to be a Buzzard but its tail is all wrong. What is it?

Animals were plentiful – Nyala, Zebra, Wildebeest, Giraffe, Eland, Buffalo, Reedbuck, the occasional Warthog and Duikers, few Impala and a lone Tsetsebe.

The last night the drizzle arrived and we had a wet pack up in the morning – fortunately most of the pack up was done the previous evening.

Our highlight on this visit was the Gull-billed Tern.

Gull-billed Tern

Paul and Sally Bartho

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Shongweni Dam Outing

Report By Elena Russell

4 November 2017

David Swanepoel took some lovely photos. He is a very good birder (from the Cape) – one day he could take over Saturday outings!!! Also some great photos from John Bremner and Mike Stead.

I drove up in mist and had visions of Alverstone and the mist not lifting till nearly 8am but Shongweni was fine, a little overcast but the sun came out eventually and we got some good birding in.

We had a good turnout and broke up into two groups – thanks Oscar for leading the one group.

Both groups did a big circle around the office and the staff quarters.  Great views of a White-browed Scrub-Robin, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black-bellied Starlings, Tawny-flanked Prinias, masses of Village Weavers and coming back over the road the Rufous-naped Lark called from a tree top.

Butterfly – John Bremner


Little Bee-eaters everywhere, Bar-throated Apalis and a superb view of a Black-crowned Tchagra.

Black-crowned Tchagra – David Swanepoel

But of course Oscar’s group had the Narina Trogon! We did hear the Trogon but it was not seen!!

We all then headed down to the view site over-looking the dam. The Trumpeter Hornbills are still nesting in the rock crevice and we had good views of the Mocking Cliff-chat. There was a White-breasted Cormorant on the dam but it was rather quite.

After a short break (no coffee break allowed by order of your leader!) we went and parked down by the bottom for a walk to the dam wall and surroundings.  But what do we have perched in a tangle of vines on a tree but a baby!! Dusky Flycatcher – you cannot move the group, we are transfixed – it was pretty cute. Ha! Ha!  Some great photos.

Down at the dam wall there were Thick-billed and Yellow Weavers making nests in the reeds, African Pied Wagtails, Speckled Pigeons, White-Breasted and Reed Cormorants but we were really having to work hard for our birds.

Overhead we had Barn, Lesser Striped and White-throated Swallows and Swifts: Black, White-rumped, Palm and Little.

Down to the river where the big pipe comes out and we picked up Mountain Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, African Black Duck, Collared Sunbird and a few more.

Mountain Wagtail – John Bremner

Looking up at the cliff face we had Red-winged Starlings, Common Buzzard, White-necked Raven, African Harrier Hawk, Lanner Falcon and of course in Summer there are always Yellow-billed Kites everywhere.

We then walked down to the “Big Steps”, the path was not too bad but rather overgrown around the steps and not much to see. We did see another Common aka Steppe Buzzard – the first one was mainly brown and the second was a very pale morph.

Common Buzzard – John Bremner

We then went down to the picnic site for tea and a more pleasant spot you could not find – Yellow-billed Ducks, Egyptian Geese, Green-backed Herons, White Breasted Cormorants and Darters sitting on some rocks. Then we heard the Fish Eagle and Black Cuckoo calling. The Brown-hooded Kingfisher called, Glossy Starlings, Black Flycatchers and lots more.

At tea our bird count was 101 and John and Oscar went off for another walk, through the forest and up to the contour road, and added a further 10 birds – great stuff but I had to go home and walk the dog! Click here to see the bird list.

Thanks to Sandi for the bird list and John Bremner, Mike Stead and David Swanepoel for the great photos.


Elena Russell

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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, Mac, Camo and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

Bennie has luckily started moving again.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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Paarl Feedback

Report by John Fincham

We had a bright sunny day at Paarl for the monthly count this morning, and the birds put on an exceptional display.

Whiskered Terns were detected in <25% of 120 counts, up to 2004. They have not been detected in 150 counts since then. Today there were at least 8 in breeding plumage on pan B.

The Black-winged Stilts have got eggs, and a Glossy Ibis was spectacular. So were at least 8 Hottentot Teal on pan E2.

The pans are deeper than usual because of increased flow due to alterations being made to the new concrete section. Some of the birds, including flamingos, have moved away because of this.

Photos are attached.

John E Fincham

Phones: 021-9194069 & 082 370 8499

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Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

22 to 28 October 2017

On the spur of the moment Sally and I decided we needed a break and went to Mkuze  for 5 nights.

Loving Giraffes

As we arrived we noticed puddles on the road – it had obviously been raining – tho the reserve needs much more.

Renovations are being done on all the hides. They look quite smart but won’t be entirely finished until the loos are built in kwaMalibala, kuMahlahla and kuMasinga hides. Each hide now has an entrance into a fenced off open area before entering the tunnel to the hide. The first is a fenced off area with a concrete walkway to the tunnel entrance to the hide. Nice to be in the first area and being able to walk round and see what may be about outside.

kuMasinga and kwaMalibala hides were closed – however the office gave us permission to enter.

kuMasinga hide is as it always was – but now the area where the Pink-throated Twinspots usually are found is part of the fenced off area – which means one can explore in the bush without fear of bumping into an elephant or rhino.

We only saw a few Red-billed Oxpeckers as we drove arount the Reserve – where had they all gone? We soon found out at kuMasinga Hide. There they all seemed to be waiting for lunch. As the different animals arrived for a drink they all appeared to descend on their backs, legs, ears, noses, underneath with as many as 20 on one animal.

kwaMalibala hide has very little water – waiting for the rains but it always seems to have different birds which frequent it – Namaqua Doves come particularly to mind.

Namaqua Dove

kuMahlahla Hide had a bit of water and proved to be the best hide on this visit.  A Crowned Eagle (with a very full crop) came for water and kept the rest of the birds on their toes.

Crowned Eagle

An African Pygmy Kingfisher sat quietly in the tree right beside the right side of the hide for ages.

A young African Goshawk also came in for a bath and hung around for a while.

A Slender Mongoose had a playful time with a pair of Egyptian Geese – running up to the Geese and being chased back. It was hilarious to watch.

An old elephant with ragged ears, in musth, sauntered in and out for a drink disturbing the buck who were waiting to get a drink too. On his way out of the mud his back legs sank sharply and he was thrown off balance getting out somehow managing to stay upright.

Some of the other species seen at kuMahlahla Hide:

As my sister and her husband were using the trailer up in the Kruger, we stayed in one of the huts. At R240 each less 30% discount this was not much more than camping. We were in hut 4 – Mziki – and the Lesser Striped Swallows were in abundance tending their nests under the eaves.

Hut No 4 – Mziki

Our days were spent driving around the reserve atlassing as we went. We actually saw a pair of White-backed Vultures on a nest and another and another perched in a different location. Some were seen flying overhead but not many.

Nsumo Pan is full and although we saw quite a lot there including an African Openbill, we were hounded by strong winds and overcast weather which made it a little unpleasant in the hides.

At the picnic site on Nsumo Pan we bumped into Themba Mthembu. He used our scope and found African Pygmy Geese in the absolute distance. How he saw them we attributed to young eyes. It is the first time I have seen them in Mkuze.

On our first afternoon drive we came across a raptor which we are unsure as to its ID. We saw it at the end of the tar to the Loop road where there is an old Wahlberg’s Eagles’ nest. The unusual part of the bird is its pale crest/crown. We believe it is a Wahlberg’s Eagle but await your comments.

On the whole we saw a number of raptors – African Fish-Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Bateleur, African Marsh Harrier, African Crowned Eagle, Martial Eagle and African Goshawk.

Wahlberg’s Eagle

One of the things we noticed was that much of the big game was not to be seen. Of the Big 5 we only saw elephants – a heard of 20 on the opposite side of Nsumo Pan and a male in musth at kuMahlahla Hide. Not one Rhino perhaps because most were taken to St Lucia/Isimangaliso for safe keeping and because of the draught.

Herd of Elephants

Herd of Elephants

On one of the days we decided to head down to St Lucia to try our luck to see the Gull-billed and Sooty Terns as well as the Eurasian Oystercatcher. The Mkhuze gate only opened at 06h00 so we were unable to get to St Lucia before 07h45.

Perhaps that is why we lucked out except for the Sooty Tern. We spent over four hours on the beach and estuary. Unfortunately we had to get back to Mkuze before the gate closed at 18h00 so were were unable to check the birds coming in for the evening roost.

The mouth of the estuary has changed drastically. It now encompasses a huge lagoon. The hillside opposite the Ski Boat Club has gone – some 60 million tons of sand have been moved and the Umfolozi River is flowing into the lake at a pace – especially with all the rains further up-river. Here are some photos of what the estuary looks like now after the sand removal – in particular the hill opposite the ski boat club that has been removed.

From the car park looking to the entrance of the river into the estuary showing the remains of the hillock.

Looking up the estuary with the remains of the hillock on the left oposite

And the beach beyond the boardwalk has also seen some changes – all the Casuarina trees have gone as well as the beach loo and shower building.

As usual the estuary was full of interesting birds: a pair of Saddle-billed Storks at the mouth of the Umfolozi coming into the lagoon/estuary. Goliath Herons, Pink-backed Pelicans, Yellow-billed Storks, Western Osprey, Avocets, Bar-tailed Godwits, African Spoonbills to name a few. All easily seen.

Seen in the estuary – a rather upside down dead Basking Shark.

Demise of a Basking Shark in the St Lucia estuary

On Friday when we left Mkuze we headed back to St Lucia to try our luck again – ever hopeful of finding the Eurasian Oystercatcher as we had received a report to tell us it had been seen that morning. We arrived in the rain – more like heavy gusty squalls. Very unpleasant to wander around in.

Time was spent at the start of the boardwalk with the scope on the estuary – close enough to the car to retreat into, as each squall arrived. In the end we drove round to the St Lucia beaches and manage to get a quick look up and down the shore line – nothing.

As the rain got harder and the winds stronger, we returned to the chalet we were booked into in the hope that the weather in the morning would be kind to us. It was.

First we search the estuary mouth and coast line. Then we walked down the beach almost to Mapelane. Back again to the estuary to check the Terns again, getting mud stuck to our shoes so that we felt a few inches taller. No Oystercatchers, Gull-billed or Sooty Terns. Mid day we gave up and headed home as the rains persisted.

That is birding. Anyway we did have a bird count of 152 species in Mkuze  – click here to see our list. St Lucia birds were plentiful but we did not make a list as we were focused on finding the specials – however this is one of our favourite birding areas.

We usually stay in Sugarloaf campsite close to the boardwalk. Birding in the camp is excellent, then you have the waterbirds in the estuary, sea birds, the Gwalagwala trail, Eastern and Western Shores of Isimangaliso are next door and if you have time and the energy then the Umfolozi/Hluhluwe NR is an hour away.

Perhaps we shall venture there again soon to try our luck.

Paul and Sally Bartho.




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Latest Cape and Beared Vulture tracks

Dear All

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

Bennie has been stationery for a few days so we will investigate that.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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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, Mac, Camo and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

The rehabilitated Cape Vulture seems to be exploring his area quite a bit since his release.

I was lucky enough to see Jeremia over the weekend, flying along the ridges near Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge!

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger