Mhlopeni Weekend

Report by Paul Bartho

23 to 27 September 2015

Mhlopeni Nature Reserve is located between Greytown and Muden in KZN. Mhlopeni (Place of white stones) is located in a rain shadow area of the Tugela river basin. Part of the dry valley bush veld, considered to be the most degraded veld type in KZN.  It is a Natural Heritage site.

Ancient and modern history provides a glimpse into archaeological sites, from early stone to iron age, findings, dating back to 250 000 years ago.  Holding artifacts of these eras is a truly unique experience.

The weekend outing was organised by Cheryl and John Bevan. Five people took the cottage and six of us the campsite (an additional 2 joined the campsite group later).

Once you leave the tar road the route takes you through some challenging tracks – driving over rocky outcrops, and rough ground where high clearance is preferred. Having said that there were several regular cars which made it.

The cottage is well located overlooking bush veld to the dry river bed. It is well equipped despite the lack of electricity. It can sleep 8 though the curtained partitions may be off-putting for some. One loo and shower.

The campsite was being completed as we arrived. There is a boma and one loo with shower. Here also there is no power but there was plenty of sun to keep the solar panels busy. Although there was just enough space for all of us it meant those at the far end would have had a challenge on departure – trying to get past the other campers. Fortunately we all left together.

As a Bird Sanctuary, Mhlopeni is abundant with many birds of prey, and being on the confluence of the north, south, coastal and inland species distribution limits over 230 species are recorded on their bird list.

Some of the birds photographed:

Of course other critters were seen including a gang of what I thought to be hyenas being chased by the camp dog. Butterflies need id.

Rustic walking paths provided us with vistas and sounds of the diversity of healthy dry valley bush veld.

Most mornings we followed the road and paths along the dry river bed.  with its intriguing geology.

One afternoon we visited the Mooi River which was flowing and forms part of the northern boundary of the property. This is a dead end track which several people mistakenly took on the way to the camp. It has dreadful dongas and is very narrow with steep sides to the river. Once on this track it is only possibly to turn around at the end – fortunately for those towing a trailer!

The weather was extremely hot after about 9 or 10 in the morning. By then birding was over till later in the afternoon. Most sat around a shady spot enjoying what cool breeze there was.

Much of the birding was done round the cottage and campsite. In the river bed next to the campsite there was a Schotia brachypetala in full bloom.

We took chairs and sat in the shade and watched the comings and goings of a wide variety of birds – mostly Sunbirds Amethyst (male and females) Greater Double-collared (male and females) White-bellied (male and female) but there were also Olive Bushshrike, Cape White-eyes, Green Woodhoopoes, Barbets, Weavers, Woodpeckers nearby. Birds were constantly coming and going.

One Sunbird in particular came regularly and called every time it arrived staying at the top of the tree, taking its nectar and flying off. We guess that it was possibly feeding young. The problem with this bird – if it is what we believe – it is out of range. An out of range form with photos has been submitted following our atlas card being sent in. The call of the bird was recognised as that of a Grey Sunbird and you can make your own judgement from the photos below. This was not the only place we had seen and heard the Grey Sunbird while we were there.

Altogether we compiled a bird list of 110 different species. Click here to see our list.


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