Despite the Ellingham Estates management recommending we cancel the outing, a few of us who live nearby went to the meeting point anyway, in case some people had not read the email advising of the cancellation. The weather was not too bad, if a bit windy, the roads were muddy in spots but had clearly drained quite well so we decided to take a walk to one of the dams. The rain did come down after a while but before that the four of us had a few good sightings.
As well as the usual suspects (toppies, fiscals, starlings, doves), there were lots of White-eared Barbets though we did also hear one Black Collared Barbet. The Yellow-throated Longclaws were also out in abundance as well as some beautiful Grey Crowned Cranes perching on the top of the trees in full view. The sighting of the day was a bird that we battled to identify until later when Sandy Olver dived into the bird book and let us know that it was a Jacobin Cuckoo. I only realised that I had a picture of it this morning – see what comes of pointing your camera at a tree and hoping for the best when battling to see the bird through the viewfinder. It may be a juvenile still hanging around the surrogate parent. According to Roberts, some Jacobins do stay all year.
The other exciting sighting was a pair of White-backed Ducks in between the lilies. Sandy insisted they were there and eventually we all saw them. The light was not good so it took us a while.
The most hilarious moment of the day was when Sandy and Tina determined to brave the barbed wire fence and harvest some guavas – more of those pictures later.
Led by Lesley Frescura and about a dozen members visited CROW (Centre for Rehabilitation of Wildlife) in Yellowwood Park, which is a registered non-profit organisation established in 1980. It aims to rescue, rehabilitate and release wildlife which has either been injured, orphaned or displaced.
We were met by the director, Claire Hodgkinson who gave us a slide show presentation informing us of CROW’s mission and how they achieve their objectives.
After the presentation we were taken around the holding pens. Claire and Sue informed us how each of the creatures was cared for and their procedures for release back into the wild.
Sue then took us into the wild bird hospital which is normally off-limits (for fear of causing additional stress).
This was followed by tea and cakes and Lesley presented Claire with a cheque for R2000 as a donation from BirdLife Port Natal. See attached picture.
They need as much help as we can afford so if you would like to help in any small way please contact Claire.
Old blankets, newspaper, ice-cream tubs are a few of the things they need. Cash donations are of course also welcome. Visit their website for more information.
A clear beautiful morning – so although the birding was not quite what we hoped for, the weather was perfect and the harbour, the city and the Queen Mary 2 all looked stunning.
There were lots of Grey headed gulls in and out of breeding plumage, Common Ringed Plovers also going into breeding plumage. Egyptian and Spur-winged Geese, a couple of Greenshank, Curlew Sandpipers, Goliath & Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Kelp Gulls, Blacksmiths, Caspian & Swift Terns and lots of Pink-backed Pelicans. Superb displays by the Fish Eagles and a Black Sparrowhawk went by at speed. Later on we walked down to the boardwalk and found the Black Spar’s nest. Some of us were lucky enough to see the Mangrove Kingfisher and Purple-banded Sunbird – total count for the morning 53.
After an update by Roy on BMCG – 9 of us retired to Buds for lunch and little liquid refreshment whereupon another great time was had by all!
(PS: the butterfly is a White-barred Acraea – John Bremmer’s photos of the Fish Eagle the rest of the photos are Dave Rimmer’s)
Jenny Norman and I (Elena Russell) visited Tala Game Reserve on Easter Sunday (last Sunday of the month & BLPN members get the discounted entrance fee! but remember you must contact them first don’t just rock up). The hordes did descend but we got there early so had the dam and picnic site to ourselves for the first few hours and got a good list going – we then set off to explore the rest of the reserve. Lots of cisticolas; Zitting, Lazy, Croaking, Levaillant’s and Neddickys but no Rattlers. We dipped on some of the more common birds, not one Euplectes species was seen all day but we twitched on a few summer visitors which we thought might have already flown i.e. Willow Warbler, Red Backed Shrike and Spotted Flycatcher.
The game is plentiful and a baby giraffe had us oohing and aahing as well as young Eland, Kudu and Wildebeest and we did see the Rhino. I joked about no oxpeckers whereupon we came upon a superb Kudu bull with a pair of Red-Billed Oxpeckers + a juvenile on its back. Shortly afterwards we met up with one of the rangers (John) and had a brief chat (have you ever known Jenny not to have a chat) and he said that there used to be only about 5/6 oxpeckers in the reserve but over the past few months had increased to about 50 – due he thought to the fact that the Parks Board had had a breeding programme going and had released a number of Red-billed Oxpeckers in Umfolozi/Hluhluwe a few years ago and some of these birds must have migrated down to various reserves in KZN.
John also happened to mention that a few weeks ago a Flamingo flew in an stayed for a week and that the Pale Chanting Goshawk still appears about every 6/8 weeks and seems to hang around the entrance area and Acacia Lodge for those birders who would like a rarity on their KZN list.
We had good views of Martial and Fish eagles, Jackal Buzzard, Black shouldered Kite and an African Marsh Harrier quartering a grassy hillside in the late afternoon was special. At the end of a very good day’s birding a Long Crested Eagle brought our count up to 99 – we didn’t crack a 100!
Elena Russell & Jenny Norman – (Jenny’s photographs).