Here is a short report on Empisini – courtesy of Elena Russell.
There were 13 of us and the morning started off a little chilly and cloudy and although there was lots of bird song not much to see – a Lemon Dove gave its soft hoo from the forest’s ferny floor, maybe one or two of us caught a brief glimpse as it took off.
The Scaly-throated Honeyguide called incessantly as well as the Lesser Honeyguide, Natal Robins flitted across our path as well as Tambourine Doves. We had a couple of good bird parties – lots of Grey Cuckooshrikes & Black Cuckooshrikes – the one male had the most beautiful yellow epaulettes.
When we returned for tea the birding had not been the greatest and for Empisini we all agreed was rather disappointing.
After tea we took another walk on a different path and the birding really took off – Narina Trogon, Green Malkoha, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatchers and eventually we saw the Honeyguides including the Greater Honeyguide plus lots, lots more!! It was then decided this was one of the best outings!! – the bird count was 54.
Pics are courtesy of Dave Rimmer, Penny de Vries and Paul Bartho– does anybody know if it is a spider’s nest and which one and if not what is it? Also the ID of the Giant Woodlander Kingfisher is very suspect! As always!
Last year towards the end of April there was a weekend outing to Ilala Palm Park – the first time BLPN had visited the park. Everyone agreed it was not only a great venue but also a great base for good birding in the local reserves.
On the 15th May a number of us (4 couples) revisited Ilala Palm Park for 3 nights. The weather was cooler and the vegetation greener than last year. The accommodation was again excellent. We were the only visitors. Each campsite has its own ablutions with good hot water as well as a wash-up area.
We had 2 full days there plus the afternoon on arrival and the morning before departure. The plan – to spend the first day visiting Muzi Pan and Mkuze Game Reserve and the second day, Tembe Elephant Park. The rest of the time was spent birding in and around the campsite.
Muzi Pan – Friday:
Despite this being the wrong time for waders, we enjoyed a couple of hours early morning at Muzi Pan. As you can see from the photo the water level was far away from the road. Compare that to January last year when the water was raging under the road bridges and came right up to the road.
During the short stay there we recorded 34 species seen from the roadside. There were over 100 Great White Pelicans masterfully fishing together on left side of the causeway as you head towards Mkuze.
Then there was an obliging Malachite Kingfisher beside the road openly sunning on the bank. On return home later in the day he was still there.
And probably the other interesting species were Wire-tailed Swallows, the Lapwings – both African Wattled and Senegal. Several Caspian Terns also made an appearance on our return home.
Mkuze – Friday:
A late start in Mkuze rarely produces a large bird list and this was no exception – especially at this time of year. In total we managed 69 species in the 6 hours we were there.
We visited Nsumo Pan picnic site for tea and saw a number of Yellow-billed Storks with a few Openbills amongst them – in the trees opposite.
There were also a few Whiskered Terns over the water in the distance and a bank of hippos lying in the sun on the opposite shore – showing their pink bellies.
A couple of us went to the kwaMalibala Hide to be entertained by a lazy White Rhino and another missing one horn as well as Giraffe having a drink. It was here that we saw the Dark Chanting Goshawk preening in a bare tree opposite.
Lunch was at the kuMasinga Hide picnic area followed by an hour in the hide before returning to Ilala Palm Park. It is always good to sit in the hide around lunchtime when the birds come in to drink. There were very blue Blue Waxbills, Yellow-fronted Canaries, Dark-capped Bulbuls, Yellow-throated Petronias, Golden-breasted Buntings, Emerald-spotted Wood-Doves at the water’s edge nervously drinking. Numerous White-crested Helmetshrikes, Brubrus, Fork-tailed Drongos, Scimitarbills, Spectacled Weavers, Brown-hooded Kingfisher all flitting around in the trees around the hide. Overhead the odd Bateleur.
Several birds stood out as unusual – African Stonechat, Violet-backed Starling and Fiscal Flycatcher. More photos of some of the other birds seen.
The refurbished hides are all still in good order but the wooden walkways to the hides are in a very sorry state as well as the kwaMalibala hide itself.
Tembe Elephant Park.
Saturday was dedicated to a visit to Tembe Elephant Park. We arrived at 07h30 and set off looking for the elusive Plain-backed Sunbird on the Gowaninini Loop – a wasted effort and we somehow managed to turn round on the the sandy road and return to the entrance and proceeded to the hide at the Mahlasela Pan.
At the moment there is quite a large swamp area just beyond the Pan to its left. There were a number of species in that area – White-faced Duck and 8 ducklings, Woolly-necked Stork and little Grebe being the more interesting.
After a short uneventful stay we drove the East Swamp road to the Ponweni Hide for tea. The East Swamp road is very open and affords good views over the swamp all the way along the 10 kms. Along the way there were excellent sightings of a Little Bee-eater and Grey-rumped Swallows.
We returned to the hide at Mhlasela Pan via the West Swamp road – more wooded with few places to view the Swamp. A rather large bull elephant slowly ambled in front of us for a good 10 minutes before stepping off the road to let us past!
Noticeably along this stretch there were numerous sightings of White-crested Helmetshrikes.
Back at the hide the nearby trees yielded close-up sightings of Chinspot Batis, Yellow-breasted Apalis and Fiscal Flycatchers.
In total we saw/heard some 53 species – with perhaps the fly past of the African Marsh Harrier being the highlight of the day as the sun caught the bird showing its colour and markings extremely well.
Ilala Palm Park:
On Sunday we actively birded around the camp- taking a 2 hour walk up the road and into the bush around the camp. The rest of our records came from incidental sightings as and when we were in the camp.
The conditions were cool but sunny. A late start on Sunday – 07h00 – was decided to give the sun a chance to get some heat into and over the bush. Perhaps we should have started earlier as the birds were quite vociferous from first light. Two of us stayed on for an extra day, started earlier and noticed this the following morning.
We had a hard time trying to ID a bird which only showed its back – see if you get it right first time:
Although the number of species seen this time was less than last year, the quality of the sightings was excellent. In total we recorded 52 different species including Pink-throated Twinspots (camp bird calling everywhere); African Goshawk; African Yellow-White-eye; Bearded Scrub-Robin; White-throated Robin-Chat; Rudd’s Apalis; Olive Bushshrike; Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher; Fiscal Flycatcher; Grey, Olive and Collared Sunbirds as well as an unusual Klaas’s Cuckoo heard calling.
Fiery-necked Nightjar and Spotted Eagle-Owl were heard calling at night. And a Woodward’s Batis was thought to be calling on arrival.
But perhaps the highlight was the sight of a Little Sparrowhawk on the waterbath at campsite number 2.
In all it was a great long weekend of birding and a location we think should be really productive in the summer. In my opinion 5 nights would give one the opportunity to visit many of the other interesting areas nearby – like Kosi Bay, Lake Sabaya, Babibi and possibly Ndumo (although it is almost a 2 hour drive to get there).
For those interested click on the following link for a copy of our bird list in each area we visited.
Paul & Sally Bartho; Cecil & Jenny Fenwick; Dave & Jenny Rix; Ian & Lyn Graham.
This photograph of a bird seen in the Kruger has just been sent to me. Apparently it was taken on 17th April 2014. I am trying to get more details as to exactly where it was taken.
I am not confident that this is a Pied Babbler – way out of range according to SABAP 1 and 2 – so I thought I would share it with you. Once I have more details I intend to send it in to ADU as an incidental report if confirmed. Please correct me if I am wrong about its ID.
Four of us visited Eston Ponds on a cool and overcast day with the odd drizzle. Not a great day for birding nor photography unfortunately.
Following Barry Swaddle’s example we checked in at the mill and then went down to the top ponds to the right of the mill entrance. This is private property. We were not aware of this until we met the farm owner – Derek Bennet – luckily a very friendly farmer. BLPN birders are welcome to visit but he asked that we call him first (tel: 082 953 7911) so he can advise his security.
Our morning was therefore in two parts – the first at Derek Bennet’s farm and then a drive round the ponds below the Eston Mill.
It was easier to view waterbirds at the farm ponds because you can get closer to the mud banks and water’s edge.
The lowest Eston mill pond was virtually dry. The large pond above it had one stretch of water close by next to the dam wall but most of the pond is covered in vegetation with the odd open area to view waterbirds from afar.
Perhaps the highlight of the day were the 2 pairs of African Snipes together on the mudbanks at one of the farm ponds. And we heard an African Rail in the large Mill pond.
A Lanner Falcon was very obliging for a photo shoot too. Other raptors seen included an African Marsh Harrier being bombed by Blacksmith Lapwings (Lapsmiths for short) and an overhead flypast of a Black Sparrowhawk.
Unfortunately no Orange-breasted Waxbills were seen – probably due to the weather. This was one of the species we came to find.
In all we saw some 52 species – mostly waterbirds.
For the record we had a good turnout +25 members & visitors and the bird count was +53.
Crispin Hemson joined us a little later and at the end when we were having tea and only a couple of people had seen the Spotted Ground-thrush he went off and looked for it and eventually most of us had good views. Unfortunately no sign of the Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher.
Thanks to John Bremner and Dave Rimmer for the pics.