Beachwook Golf Course

Led by Cecil Fenwick

Saturday 27 June 2015

Sally and I took a stroll around Beachwood Golf Course with Cecil Fenwick. Although this is not a club outing Cecil and  friends usually have a stroll around either Beachwood or Royal Durban golf courses on the last Saturday of each month.

Here are some of the photos of birds seen on our visit.

Paul and Sally Bartho

Umbogavango and Vumbuka

Led by Barry Swaddle

Sunday 28 June 2015

Eleven birders gathered at the entrance to AECI in Amanzimtoti. The plan was to bird in Vumbuka. However Barry suggested we visit Umbogavango first as his reconnaissance the previous week had revealed that Vumbuka was quiet by comparison.

Barry took us into the grassland area behind the ablutions and then around the site visiting the bird hides and through its many various habitats.

Altogether 77 bird species were recorded including a number of raptors – African Crowned Eagle, African Fish-Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Lanner Falcon and Black Sparrowhawk. To view the list click here.

Here are photos of some of the birds seen.

The most interesting sighting was not that of a bird. Sally searched for why birds were going crazy in a distant tree when she spotted a rather large Green Mamba in the tree next to all the action.

After several hours at Umbogavango we headed for tea at the newly refurbished Lapa in Vumbuka. The Lapa has been extended and can seat many more people under shelter. There are also braai facilities available.

Several of us took a stroll around a section of Vumbuka after tea. Birds were calling but were few and far between – probably as it was already midday. However a number of butterflies were photographed and are included here to challenge your skills at IDing them.

Paul and Sally Bartho


Sally and Paul Bartho

First it was Black River and the Snowy Egret then Stranfontein and finally Kirstenbosch – the third and final part of our quick visit to Cape Town.

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is one of those special treasures any country would be proud of. Recently they added an aerial boardwalk.

We had a number of pleasant surprises with birds that we saw.

The first was a Common Chaffinch. Stopping for a sit-down Sally noticed a bird in a distant bare tree. Unable to see exactly what it was, she took a  photo and zoomed in. It became obvious that it was a Common Chaffinch. So we went to see if we could get a closer look and it obliged.

Towards the end of our visit and still quite high up, we heard a call which Sally did not recognise. On investigation it turned out to be a pair of Cape Sugarbirds. Another pleasant surprise.

Then as we started to head down we were surprised by a Klaas’s Cuckoo.

As if that was not enough we turned round to watch another bird settle in a bare tree beside us – a Malachite Sunbird.

As we reached the Protea garden we kept our eyes open for an Orange-breasted Sunbird – a species we rather hope to find. Very elusive. We had seen dozens of Southern Double-collared Sunbirds so were optimistic. Then playing its call we realised why they are so elusive. The Southern Double-collared Sunbirds made it clear that they did not want to hear that species on their turf. We weren’t exactly dive bombed but their calls in response to the call and their closeness made it obvious.

Some photos of other birds seen at Kirstenbosch:

Eventually it was time to return home but we left with a strong desire to return. Lets hope for another Mega and a lot more Avios points!


Sally and Paul Bartho

Following on from our viewing of the Snowy Egret, we took time to visit Strandfontein and Kirstenbosch.

After a wet and overcast previous day it was a pleasant surprise to have a bright sunny day for birding – albeit a wee bit cool.

Strandfontein wetlands are massive. Ponds and ponds of birds and a good road infrastructure to get around.

Greater Flamingos were everywhere.

It was satisfying to be able to review a number of species which we don’t often find in Natal and some other “Cape” birds.

Here are some photos of other birds seen as we drove around Strandfontein.

Of course there is always one bird that perplexes. In this case it was a group of about 3 or 4 birds together in a low shrub – head height. It appeared to be perhaps a tad smaller than a Bulbul with a plain dark back. Have a look and see if you can Id it.

And then we were on to Kirstenbosch – see next instalment.

Snowy Egret

Trip to Black River, CT to see the Snowy Egret.

Sally and Paul Bartho

Saved Avios points enabled us to go to Cape Town to see the Snowy Egret. Unexpectedly there were flights available for departure the following day. And we were able to use the Avios points to book a hotel in the centre of town for 2 nights. So off we went Tuesday 16 June. Very early departure.

Arriving in Cape Town we hired a car and headed straight for the Black River where we were told it had been seen regularly.

On arrival at Black River there was only one car there. Not a good sign. We scoured the river bank and saw nothing. Then we spotted an egret further down on the grass so we headed down by car. And as we drove down so did another vehicle – straight at the egret. Of course it flew. Rats.

Back we went towards the railway bridge. Perhaps the bird was there. And sure enough it was – on the river bank between the two railway bridges. Here we met another couple who had arrived earlier.

The Snowy Egret waded along the bank – constantly on the move. Occasionally flying to a new area one side of the bridges or the other. Sometimes directly beneath us and sometimes down the inlet towards the golf course and away from us. However it seemed happiest around the bridge.

We spent almost three hours on the bridge and before we left an additional 15 to 20 other people had come and gone. Here are some of the many photos taken.

Key features are the yellow lores (top of the upper bill near the face) and bright yellow feet (like the Little Egret). Interestingly the legs appear to be bi-colour – black on the front and a pale yellow on the backs. Compare these two photos below.

Some more of the Snowy Egret photos.

Little Egrets and Yellow-billed Egrets were also present – great for comparison with the Snowy.

There were many other birds about as you might expect – including African Darter, numerous White-breasted Cormorants fishing, Hartlaub’s Gulls, herons, and other water birds. A Malachite Kingfisher also made an appearance directly below us. However the bonus was undoubtedly a Little Bittern also directly below us.

The following day we checked in here again and Snowy was still present. Then we spent the rest of the day visiting Strandfontein and Kirstenbosch. See the next instalment.

A trip to remember.

Pigeon Valley

Saturday 6 June 2015 with Elena Russell.

A good Winter’s morning birding at Pigeon Valley on Saturday 6 June – there were 20 members and non-members plus a few late-comers and our bird count was 59.

Birders Pigeon Valley - John
Birders Pigeon Valley – John

We started off by looking for the Spotted Ground-Thrush and were not disappointed in our search – in fact SGT’s were seen on a number of occasions. Our hunt for the Buff-spotted Flufftail was unfortunately not successful, we must wait for Crispin to keep us updated on any sightings. We then broke up into 2 groups; my thanks to Dave Rimmer for leading one group.

The Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatchers were seen near the ‘broken dam’ wall. We dipped on Honeyguides/birds which we normally do see at Pigeon Valley but our Sunbird tally was excellent; Amethyst, Collared, Grey, Olive and Purple banded. Raptors were rather scarce, mainly heard with a few brief glimpses of Crowned Eagle, Black Sparrowhawk and African Goshawk.

We had some excellent birding up by the reservoir, where the veldt grasses have been allowed to grow and various fig trees and the Apodytes are fruiting in abundance!! Fiscal Flycatchers, Black-headed Orioles, White-eared Barbets, Village & Spectacled Weavers, Speckled Mousebirds, Dark-capped Bulbuls, and then the piece de resistance a Zitting Cisticola (due no doubt to the grasses being allowed to grow tall and thick).

Grey Waxbills, African Firefinch, Bronze and Red-backed Mannikins, Yellow-fronted Canaries, Cape White Eyes, Tambourine, Red-eyed and Laughing Doves, Southern Black and Dusky Flycatchers, Fork-tailed and Square-tailed Drongos, Purple-crested Turacos, Terrestrial Brownbuls, Olive Thrush kept the list ticking up very nicely.

The last bird of the morning was the Palm swift which came swooping overhead as we had our picnic tea.

Thanks to Decklan, Paul, Dave and John for their pics.