Kosi Bay

May 25th to 29th 2015

Paul and Sally Bartho

Having received an invitation to stay at the TEBA Lodge right at the mouth of Kosi Bay, we accepted with alacrity. We had four nights at the lodge and spent our time birding early morning and in the evenings as well as sunning on the beach during the day. Early to bed and early to rise.

The habitat is pristine coastal dune forest teeming with bird life. as well as inland lake fish traps.

The first morning bird walk got off to a fantastic start with birds flying back and forth around the entrance gate to the lodge. Black-throated Wattle-eyes, Ashy and Grey Tit-Flycatchers, Sombre Greenbuls, Square-tailed Drongos and a Green Malkoha amongst them. Further along we saw African Yellow White-eyes, Woodward’s Batis, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatchers and an Olive Bushshrike which tested our skills to ID it – see photos. On the way back we encountered a shy White-starred Robin and several others were heard during the course of our stay.

On the beach we relaxed while the others were fishing. An African Fish-Eagle and an Osprey flew overhead. Three Grey-headed gulls passed over us hoping for some titbits no doubt. Other than that there were about 60 White-breasted Cormorants which came fishing each morning. A Giant Kingfisher was vociferous as it flew by each day and a sole White-fronted Plover was seen. Cattle took to the sand when the tide was out accompanied by Cattle Egrets.

Further inland from the mouth there is a large shallow area with numerous fish traps. In this area we found Pied, Malachite and Giant Kingfishers, Purple and Goliath Herons, African Fish-Eagle and White-breasted cormorants and a lone African Pied Wagtail. We also saw Sombre Greenbuls in numbers on several trees – probably the most numerous species that we encountered.

Altogether we identified 53 different bird species – many of which were special for us. Click here to see the bird list.

Paul and Sally Bartho


Rocky Wonder Aloe Nursery.

Rocky Wonder Aloe Nursery.
Weekend and Sunday Outing 22 – 24 May 2015

Rocky Wonder is near Ashburton. It is an aloe nursery. The property is 22 acres of virgin Bushveld. Peter and Heather, the owners, have opened it up to nature lovers and birders. They have built 7 camp sites and a few self catering suites.

Our party of 7 were the first ever to camp at Rocky Wonder and we were not disappointed.


On Saturday we set off at 7:30am, the morning turned out to be perfect weather. We saw roughly 55 birds – Red Billed Quelea, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Amethyst Sunbird, Collared Sunbird, Lazy Cisticola to name a few.

We went to Darvill Park on Saturday afternoon and saw another 50 great birds. Mike spotted a Purple Heron flying away which miraculously become an African Marsh Harrier!! After that the excitement died down and there were no more unbelievable transformations.

At first we came across a field full of Blacksmith Lapwings _ or Lapsmiths as Paul likes to call them. Among them were four Grey-crowned Cranes – two adults and two immature.

The African Snipes were a lifer for me so I was over the moon!

Also seen were Southern Pochard, Cape Shoveler, African Spoonbill, Hottentot Teal, Red-Billed Teal, Squacco Heron, South African Shelduck and a Yellow Billed Duck.

There was even action in the sky as an African Fish-Eagle was bombed by a Pied Crow. And an African Marsh Harrier made an appearance.

For our Sunday outing we were joined by 9 other members totalling 16 for the outing. The weather was very good to us once again.

Click here to see he bird lists for both Rocky Wonder and Darvill.

The morning was spent exploring other well pathed areas of Rocky Wonder. It was enjoyed by all ending with a picnic / tea at the camp site. Much the same species were seen as we saw on Saturday.

A number of people also took advantage of the nursery and bought Aloes to take home for their gardens.

Cheryl Bevan


White-backed Duck at Cotswold Downs, Hillcrest

BirdLife Port Natal ran a stand at the Kloof Conservancy Open Indigenous Gardens weekend held at The Cotswold Golfing Estate in Hillcrest. While the cold overcast weather made birding difficult, a bird list of the weekend sightings by Derek Spencer exceeded 50 species. Of particular interest to the experts was a White-Backed Duck swimming among White-faced Ducks, African Jacanas, Common Moorhens and Black Crakes. Our stand over looking a small pond, raised much interest and many inquiries from visitors.

Peter Farrington

St. Lucia and Mkhuze – May 2015 Part Four


Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

The Mkhuze campsite is expensive compared to Sugarloaf in St. Lucia. It is also out on a limb at the main entrance to the park with major water issues. That said we never experienced any problems with hot water. Power is supplied by generator from 05h00 to 08h00 in the morning and from 17h00 to 22h00 in the evening.

The kwaMalibala and  kuMahlahla hides are both being re-built. When they are complete kwaMalibala will not have well water provided but the new hide is built over the pan. Work is ongoing to secure the kuMasinga hide picnic area from the roaming lions and other Big Five animals. An electric fence will enclose the picnic site, car park and down the tunnel to the hide. Sorely needed as Lions were seen round the hide the morning after we arrived.

The only satisfying birding we experienced was to be found either in the campsite, around the main office, the kuMasinga Hide and at the hides and picnic area at Nsumo Pan. Again the area is very dry and consequently birds were scarce.

Nsumo Pan was fairly full. Most of the bird life was banked on the far side. There were hundreds of Spur-winged Geese, Egyptian Geese, Black-winged Stilts, Pink-backed Pelicans, African Spoonbills, Water Thick-knee, Grey and Goliath Heron, Reed and White-breasted Cormorants, Pied Kingfisher, Whiskered Terns, White-faced Ducks, Blacksmith Lapwings, African Darter, Great Cattle and Little Egrets, Hadeda and Glossy Ibis, Purple Swamphen, and African Pied Wagtails.

However what was really interesting was the sight of about 60 Vultures suddenly taking flight. They were mainly White-backed but there were one or two White-headed amongst them. Why they took off all together so suddenly remains a mystery.

Some photos of birds seen around the park:

We spent quite a few hours at the kuMasinga Hide each day. The birding was best here and there was a constant stream of Nyala, Zebra, Wildebeest, Warthogs, Impala, Baboons and an occasional Kudu. Playful Baboons came for water and then played all round the hide. A few even ventured onto the roof of the hide and ran back and forth slip sliding as they went.

Nearby to the campsite we had views of an African harrier-Hawk being mobbed and at the Nhlonhlela Bush Lodge we saw Marabou Storks beside one of the pans with a modicum of water.

There were several interesting Campsite birds. The White-throated Robin-Chat serenaded us from the nearby bushes.

White-throated Robin-Chat
White-throated Robin-Chat

Unlike Sugarloaf the nights were very quiet – no Owls nor Nightjars calling.

Nice to get away into the bush but our time could have been better spent relaxing in the Sugarloaf campsite and beach.

Having said that we did identify several specials: Gorgeous and Orange-breasted Bushshrikes, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Fiscal Flycatcher, Grey Go-away-bird, Pink-throated Twinspots, Rudd’s Apalis, Brubru, White-backed and White-headed Vultures, Acacia Pied barbet, Black-crowned Tchagra, Black Sparrowhawk, Red-billed Oxpecker, Golden-breasted Bunting, Marabou Storks, Green-winged Pytilia, Striped Kingfisher, Whiskered Tern, Openbill and Glossy Ibis.

St Lucia and Mkhuze – May 2015 – Part Three


Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

Umfolozi, like Isimangaliso Wetland Park, is exceptionally dry. There was some standing water in the Black Umfolozi River, however the best birding we found was at the Bhejane Hide where well water is pumped in.

From the entrance to the main river causeway took us about 45 minutes. In that time we saw no animals until we were just short of the river! A herd of Impala with the odd Zebra. Apart from Rhino there was a paucity of other animal wildlife visible throughout our visit – despite a reliable witness having seen all of the Big Five a few days earlier.

As we crossed the bridge at the lookout point immediately past it there were five White Rhino snuggled together. And quite a few were seen on the Sontuli Loop.

On the way to Sontuli we saw a Long-tailed Paradise Whydah.

Long-tailed Paradise-Whydah
Long-tailed Paradise-Whydah

Then circling above we had a few vultures – White-backed and White-headed.

Red-billed Oxpeckers were seen on the backs of Rhinos.

At the Bhejane Hide we had our best birding although nothing unusual turned up.

Bhejane visitors
Bhejane visitors

Some other species photographed were:

And finally at Mpafa Hide the male Mocking Cliff Chat made an appearance.

Mocking Cliff Chat
Mocking Cliff Chat

This was our most disappointing visit to Umfolozi. Despite that we did identify some specials: Gorgeous Bushshrike, Black-crowned Tchagra, Golden-breasted Bunting, Fiscal Flycatcher, Red-billed Oxpecker, Long-tailed Paradise Whydah, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Acacia Pied Barbet, Wattled Starling, White-crested Helmetshrike.

Next we headed for four nights in Mkhuze. See Part Four of this series.



St Lucia and Mkhuze – May 2015 – Part Two

Eastern and Western Shores, Isimangaliso Wetland Park

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

Eastern Shores.


On entering the Park very early on a chilly morning, we were greeted by the sun rising on our right. Not to be outdone the moon was setting on our left.

The sunrise had a glowing golden affect on some of the early birds we saw and photographed.

The park is in drought – none of the pans has any water  – not in the Pan Loop, Vlei Loop nor at the Bird Hides. As a result the birding and views of animals was fairly disappointing. The water level of Lake St. Lucia appeared to be similar to the level when we visited last November.

Some of the specials we identified included: Fiscal Flycatcher, Brown Scrub-Robin, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Livingstone’s Turaco, Rudd’s Apalis, Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Saddle-billed Stork, Goliath Heron and Olive Bushshrike.

Western Shores.

Again we entered Western Shores as the gate opened and stayed for the full morning – driving all the roads in the park.

Like the Eastern Shores there was no water in any of the pans so waterbirds were only seen at the Lookout point over Lake St. Lucia. And those that we saw were limited to a few residents.

Driving along the Loop Road we came across Lemon-breasted Canaries at the Lookout point. This was close to where we had seen them on our previous visit. And further along at the edge of one of the thickets we saw four or five Tambourine Doves eating together on the ground.

We did flush a Buttonquail along the road which we suspect was a Common Buttonquail based on its size and pale appearance as it flew away from us – but we cannot be certain.

A number of Fiscal Flycatchers were seen and we also identified a few other specials: Livingstone’s Turaco, Striped Kingfishers, Black-chested Snake-Eagles were seen flying overhead and Orange-breasted and Gorgeous Bushshrikes were heard.

On the eastern loop to the Lake St. Lucia boardwalk and viewing platform we circled an almost dry pan. In it were three Saddle-billed Storks – one a juvenile. Also present were Pied Crows and a juvenile African Fish-Eagle in its deceptive plumage. And in the trees close-by was a good looking Martial Eagle.

At the Platform at the top of the boardwalk a pair of Rudd’s Apalises were calling and showing themselves. Always very nice to see well.

Again like Eastern Shores birding in the park was uninspiring.

Our next day’s birding was at Umfolozi. See Part Three of this series.

St Lucia and Mkhuze – May 2015 – Part One

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

Having been closeted away in Hillcrest for four months it was time to get away – St. Lucia and Mkhuze were the destinations – for four or five nights in each.

Sugarloaf campsite in St. Lucia is ideally located. It is close to the beach and the mouth of the St. Lucia estuary as well as to access to Eastern and Western Shores of Isimangaliso Wetland Park. Furthermore it is only an hours drive to Umfolozi.

The Franklin’s Gull had been seen in the St. Lucia estuary the week before we arrived so it was a target bird for me. Unfortunately I was not to be lucky. It was still around apparently. We met Themba of Themba’s Birding & Eco Tours on the beach and he said he had seen it while we were there. We were in one of the Parks at the time.

However we did see a number of different Terns among the Grey-headed Gulls. These included Swift, Sandwich, Caspian, Lesser Crested and Common Terns.

Unexpectedly among the Terns were a dozen Curlew Sandpipers closely knit.


And then we spotted a lone Lesser Sand Plover running among the many Three-banded and White-fronted Plovers and the odd Kittlitz’s Plover.

Some other birds seen at the beach:

Sugarloaf campsite proved almost as good a birding spot as any of the Parks we visited. There were Woodward’s Batises, Green Twinspots, Black-throated Wattle-eyes (five or six chasing each other), African Goshawks, Livingstone’s Turacos, Rudd’s Apalis, Brown Scrub-Robins, Green Malkoha, Wood Owls to name a few of the specials. Campsite regulars included Grey Duiker, Bushbuck (playing with the monkeys), Banded Mongooses and Crested Guineafowl.

Look at the photos of the African Goshawk above. The first impression was the two spots on the tail and we called it “Little Sparrowhawk”. Sally’s second opinion was that it was much larger than a Dove and questioned our first impression. So we checked the books and they told us to check the cere – what colour – yellow or grey. If yellow then Little Sparrowhawk, if grey then African Goshawk. Looking more closely at the spots on the tail you can see that they are in fact bands which are brightest in the middle fading towards the sides. Don’t always go with first impressions – too easy to make a mistake!

Eastern and Western Shores in Isimangaliso Wetland Park – see Part Two of Four.

North Old Durban Airport follow up.

Sunday 3 May 2015

Sally and I revisited the Umlaas Canal – just north of the Old Durban Airport – as a follow up to our visit on 22 March 2015.

Inside the Umlaas canal – north of the old Durban Airport. If the river is running low then it is possible to drive into the canal and explore both sides.

We took Roy Cowgill and Steve Davis with us.

Roy Cowgill exploring the canal.
Roy Cowgill exploring the canal.

Although the variety of species seen was much less than on our previous visit (expected as many would have migrated in the interim) surprisingly the number of birds observed was no less. What surprised us was the huge numbers of Cape Wagtails and Three-banded Plovers all the way down the canal.

Our goal was to show Roy and Steve the canal and its abundant waterbird life as well as to find the Greater Painted Snipes which we had seen on our previous visit.

The canal was not running deep so we were able to drive through the water and explore both sides of the canal.

As we drove slowly down the canal, Steve suddenly quietly yelled for us to stop. Right beside us were a male and a female Greater Painted Snipe – not one metre from the car. Of course as we stopped so the birds flew. We managed to locate them again but they flew across to the other side of the water.

Male Greater Painted Snipe flying across to the other side of the canal.
Male Greater Painted Snipe flying across to the other side of the canal.

We followed and found them again – posing round the edge of some tall reeds. They were not too concerned about us so we kept our distance and watched them for some time.

While we were watching the Snipes went into mating mode and just as they reached their climax (no pun intended) they were rudely interrupted by several loud Hadedas flying overhead and the male ran for cover! What were they thinking. Mating at the very end of mating season?

I do have some reasonable video footage of the Snipes which I seem unable to put on the site. However click on this link to the video on YouTube.

Several species were present with their young – Black-winged Stilts, Blacksmith Lapwings and White-faced Ducks.

Here are some photos of some of the other species seen.

This is a new area which Roy and Steve plan to include in future CWAC counts because of the large variety and numbers of waterbirds seen here.

Paul and Sally Bartho

St Kitts follow up

Here are some additional photos taken on 11 April at St Kitts  by Steve Davis.

The earlier article on St Kitts was posted on 29th April.

The first is a photo of a Yellow-billed Duck nest. It had 3 eggs inside.

Yellow-billed Duck nest
Yellow-billed Duck nest


Some birds

And some photos of Dragonflies and Butterflies