Five of us met at the Westville Civic Centre at 07h00. We started off on the trail in the Civic Centre grounds and came across several bird parties before we had progresses far.
Once we had crossed the road we were into the forest which was quiet at first – except for the mozzies.
We headed for an area where the Magpie Mannikins have been regularly sighted. And of course we were not disappointed. There they were, among Bronze Mannikins. We later came across some more amongst both Bronze and Red-backed Mannikins.
It was pleasing to note that there were several juveniles amongst them so they are obviously breeding in the area.
We managed a bird list of about 50 birds. To see the list click here.
The morning started off with about 20 people but ended up with +27 and our bird count was +51.
As I had been to the bay on Friday and was aware that low tide was very very low and high tide not much better we decided to do the Boardwalk first and check out the Black Sparrowhawks nest. It was in amongst the mangroves that some of us were lucky enough to see the Black-throated Wattle-eye. We also went along to the grasslands – which seem to be fast disappearing under the ever encroaching Chrysanthemoides and Brachylaena. It was here that we saw a lot of Amethyst Sunbirds, mainly females and and juveniles. Little Bee-eaters and lots and lots of Bronze Mannikins and Cape White-eyes.
The Black Spars were flying overhead, Goliath Heron perched in a tree; Little Egrets, Sacred Ibis, Grey Herons, Grey-headed Gulls, Kelp Gulls, a pair of Caspian Terns plus Common and Swift Terns. A number of Greenshanks, Common Ringed Plovers but only one Common Sandpiper. Blacksmith Lapwings in abundance! A pair of Fish Eagles and at the end of our walk at last an Osprey!
The tide was really too low for us to catch the waders coming in with the tide – maybe we will get lucky next time. We seem to have a lack of bird pics but as the crabs were everywhere we have some nice pics of crabs!!
Part of the reason we go to Bayhead is for the waders but questionably the main reason is Bud’s. There is a new guy running Bud’s and I think he was a little overwhelmed to start with but he managed very well in the end. There were 20 of us so firstly we had to rearrange the tables, secondly we explained that individual bills were required and thirdly and most importantly we needed drinks, very cold drinks and as fast as possible!
Doing the bird list was a ‘hoot’ – I don’t think birders know the alphabet including me. Maybe the birding was not too great but lunch lived up to our expectations – the food was good, the drinks were cold and the company was great.
Sally and I set out several days early to scout the area around Dragon Peaks to see where we could lead the group birding for the weekend.
We set off in trepidation as the weather forecast was very unfavourable – rain every day all day and heavy at times. We arrived at lunchtime on Tuesday 24 February. Our campsite was quickly organised.
As we were undecided about the birding program for the weekend, we set off to check out the birding around Bell Park Dam with Maureen Geall – another early arrival.
We had been given an offer to take a motorised pontoon around the dam by one of our members who was joining the outing – Rex Aspeling. Birding around the area of Bell Park Dam seemed to have potential and we thought that this might be a relaxing way to enjoy Saturday afternoon.
That night the rains arrived during dinner – pouring heavily until past two o’clock the next morning. We awoke to a gloomy morning and went off to see what birding at Monk’s Cowl could offer us.
We took the walk through the forest and into the grassland down to the waterfall.
A long way down and it seemed a longer way back uphill. Birding through the forest was quiet, however the grassland area was more interesting. There were numerous Cisticolas, the odd Pipit, Widowbirds, Bishops, Stonechats and the like. We were not convinced that this would be an appropriate place to bring the group.
Norman did find a Swee Waxbill at Monk’s Cowl at the end of the weekend.
That afternoon the trails around Dragon Peaks including the forest walk were negotiated and proved relatively quiet as well.
The next day – Thursday – we took a recce of the Blue Grotto forest walk at the Drakensberg Sun. Lovely bright sunny day and the forest was alive with numerous interesting bird species. That settled where we would go on Saturday morning.
We then went to see if the White-fronted Bee-eater roost still existed at the Little Tugela (one km. off the Winterton road along the D57). Their roost was overgrown. However, Brown-throated Martins had established a roost in the sandbanks along both sides of the road as we approached the bridge. On the other side of the bridge we chased an Orange-breasted Waxbill and White-winged Widowbirds to get photos – no great success.
After another kilometre we came to a large cattle ranch – birds every which way – all 4 species of Ibis, Pied Starlings, Queleas, Black Crows, White-necked Ravens, Steppe and Jackal Buzzards, Amur Falcons, hundreds of White-faced Ducks in the dam, Red-billed Teals, Yellow-billed Ducks, Common Sandpiper, Three-banded Plovers, Blacksmith Lapwings, Rufous-naped and Red-capped Larks, Cape Longclaw, Black-headed heron, Cattle Egret, Egyptian and Spur-winged Geese, South African Cliff-Swallows, Barn and White-throated Swallows, Southern Grey-headed Sparrows, Cape and African Pied Wagtails. Wow.
That sealed another must visit place for the weekend.
A few more people arrived on Thursday with most coming at lunchtime on Friday. In all the group consisted of 20 persons at Dragon Peaks – 8 of us (Peter and Frankie, Maureen, Paddy and Helen, Sabrina, Sally and I) camping. Barry, Merle, Heather and Stanley, Jackie and Roland, Ismail, Hennie and Decklan, Mike and Jane, Norman in Dragon Peaks accommodation. Then there was Dave and Penny Rimmer at the Drakensberg Sun and Rex Aspeling at Bell Park Dam. We were 23 in all. A large group.
Friday night we braaied in the resort’s covered braai area. The program was set – quite a convivial evening despite the drizzle.
The next morning at 07h00 we all set off for Drakensberg Sun. It was overcast but not raining. We split into 2 groups – the tortoises and the hares. The hares set off first up the Blue Grotto trail and the tortoises followed 10 minutes behind.
Before we even set off a Forest Canary sat very obligingly out in the open and we all had good views of it.
Both groups had good views of most of the forest specials – Chorister Robin-Chat, White-starred Robin, Bush Blackcap, African Olive Pigeon and Lemon Dove to name a few. The Barratt’s Warbler was heard but not seen. On the way back drizzle set in but fortunately the rain got no heavier.
On the way back to Dragon Peaks, Norman spotted this Secretarybird among other bewildering birds.
Saturday afternoon we set off at 14h00 from Dragon Peaks to Bell Park Dam. There we met with Rex and James (the captain of the pontoon).
Off we set for a couple of hours circling the dam. Some birds seen along the Bell Park Dam:
African Black Duck were seen as well as a number of other ducks. However the highlight of the tour was definitely good sightings of a Half-collared Kingfisher. This was a lifer for a number of people on board. Even the persistent drizzle did not dampen our spirits.
On the way home we came accross an alate erruption and the raptors were buzzing low over the road – Lanner Falcon, African Harrier-Hawk, Yellow-billed Kites.
That evening we gathered at the Dragon Peaks braai boma – did our bird list – some 150 different species. Then as asked, each person presented an interesting or unusual fact about birds. The effort everyone went into to research something different was amazing. In the end a bottle of red wine went to Paddy for his info on the behaviour of Sooty Terns which scoop up a mouthful of sea water on their return to the roost. This they deposit on grass eventually killing it. The dried grass is then used in nest building.
Sunday morning was an early start – 06h30. We took a walk around Dragon Peaks checking out the bird life in and around the dams. Possibly the best sighting was that of an African Reed Warbler – identified by its call.
The idea was then to visit the Little Tugela and cattle ranch which most people did on their way home.
You can view the bird list by clicking here. Note a few additional birds were seen during the morning including Bronze Mannikin and Lesser Grey Shrike
The bird of the weekend was the Half-collared Kingfisher.