Umgeni Valley NR and Greater Ambers, Howick. 15 Feb.

Report by Norman Freeman.

Sunday morning 06h30 saw 16 intrepid birders gather at the entrance to the Umgeni Valley NR in spite of the very overcast weather with an occasional light shower and general mist.

The intention was to park above Cascades Falls and to bird the grasslands above with possible sightings over the top of the canopy and across the krantze’s bordering the Nkongongo Stream, a tributary of the Umgeni River. Our plan was then to bird down through ravine forest to Shelter Falls and Bush Camp. Partially due to the wet conditions and steep gradient the last leg of this route was considered too ambitious and the group turned back.

In spite of this though 50 birds were recorded here before we took our leave of this area and headed to Amber Valley. Amongst the sightings were Diderick Cuckoo, Jackal Buzzard, Zitting Cisticola, Common House-Martin, Natal Spurfowl, Brimstone Canary, Cape Crow, Rufous-naped Lark and Lazy Cisticola.

The weather, although still overcast, lifted slightly and we headed along the game trail within the Ambers. This area is more open grassland parallel to streams and wetland, dropping down to Mimosa and Acacia thickets.

On arrival, all were greeted at the parking by a herd of Impala, Blesbok with calves a little way off, Warthog and Zebra. A male Grey Duiker broke cover, ran a while and turned to view us intruders.

The birding along this short trail added further to our list. Amongst the most exciting birds seen and heard were Neddicky, a melanistic Black Sparrowhawk, Cape Grassbird, Cape Canary, Steppe Buzzard, Dark-Capped Yellow Warbler, Willow Warbler, African Firefinch, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Long-crested Eagle and African Harrier-Hawk.

Time for tea found us under the trees alongside Falcon Dam while YBK’s posed for Dave Rimmer in a near-by Mimosa. Photography had been difficult due to the weather conditions.

Yellow-billed Kite
Yellow-billed Kite

Good fellowship was had with all the general chitter-chatter and leg-pulling. At this point the group split with a number heading for the Karkloof Conservancy area and hide.

The majority opted to bird the Amber lakes which turned out very productive. Good sightings included Sacred Ibis, another Black Sparrowhawk but with the white chest markings, Reed and White-Breasted Cormorant, Little Rush Warbler, African Darter, Cape Weaver, Familiar Chat, Purple Heron, Cape and Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Lanner Falcon, Lesser Swamp Warbler, African Rail and Malachite Kingfisher.

All in all 16 birders listed 81 birds for the mornings outing and a good time had been had by all. It was lunch time and each went their separate ways, most to amber further within the beautiful Natal Midlands.

Saturday 7th Feb. Outing to iPhiti

During the night we had a very long and heavy downpour – which did not bode well for the Saturday outing. It was overcast and there was a slight drizzle in the morning – only 7 brave/keen birders joined me at iPhiti. It was very wet underfoot and the mozzies were biting but it wasn’t raining and we had an enjoyable walk. Not as wet underfoot as we expected.

Our bird count was in the region of +43 – the bird of the day had to be the Olive Thrush.

Olive Thrush
Olive Thrush

Naturally we had to have a mystery bird – was it a raptor? Some said it was a dove!! It turned out to be a Jackal Buzzard (to be fair it was a long way off and partially hidden in a tall Norfolk pine).

There were a few Golden Weavers nests at the dam but no birds were seen.

The Red-hot pokers are starting to flower in the vlei and should be worth a visit on a sunny day  for sunbirds.

The pics are courtesy of Paul Bartho (under some very difficult lighting conditions he says!).


Elena Russell

Little Little Grebes

A Report by Paul Bartho

Over the past month a pair of Little Grebes have been nesting at Le Domaine, Hillcrest. After numerous attempts in trying to establish a nest they eventually found their perfect spot – a floating nest loosely attached to an overhanging reed.

Patiently nesting
Patiently nesting

They sat on this floating nest for about 3 weeks and we tried hard to see if they were on eggs.

Our first sighting of an egg.
Our first sighting of an egg.

Then viola, three tiny Little Grebes emerged.

The first three emerge
The first three emerge

At this point the nest broke loose and floated away. A fourth egg was seen in it and thought abandoned

Abandoned Nest and Egg - we thought
Abandoned Nest and Egg – we thought

but surprisingly after a full day unattended it too hatched.

At first it was hard to see the young as they hid under one parent or the other’s wings. Now they are no longer little Little Grebes as they get bigger and more visible every day.

We had a surprise in one of the photos that Frank Kihn took. He took a shot of one of the Little Little Grebes taking its first swim. When he got home he was hugely surprised with what he saw – see for yourself.

Surprise. And surprisingly only came to welcome the new arrival.
Surprise. And surprisingly only came to welcome the new arrival.

That was several days ago and still all four are seen regularly attempting to stay under cover of the wings!.

Photos courtesy of Frank Kihn and Paul Bartho.