Darvill Report

Darvill Sewerage Works, Pietermaritzburg

Sunday 28 February 2016

Paul and Sally Bartho

Twelve of us ventured to Darvill for the Sunday outing. It was an overcast day on arrival and brightened later.

Darvill was very overgrown but still worth a visit. Many of the waterbirds were absent. Despite that we still  identified 92 species. Click here to see our bird list.

On arrival we were greeted with a lot of activity on the open grass above the ponds. White Storks were everywhere along with Blacksmith Lapwings, African Sacred Ibis and Hadedah Ibis.

Pied Crows chased Steppe Buzzards and Yellow-billed Kites.

Pied Crow chasing a Steppe Buzzard
Pied Crow chasing a Steppe Buzzard

We started our walk along the top of the ponds then went down to the river. It was difficult to see into the ponds and impossible to walk between them – too overgrown. Along the way we had views of Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Common Waxbill and both Diderick’s and Klaas’s Cuckoos were calling.


At one section we had views over one of the middle ponds. Here we heard African Rail and had views of Cormorants, Yellow-billed, African Black and White-faced Ducks, Yellow-billed Egrets, Little Grebes, Three-banded Plover, Red-billed Teal and several other common waterbirds.

Red-billed Teal
Red-billed Teal

The highlight though was hearing and seeing a (European) Sedge Warbler in the reeds in front of us.

During the course of the morning we saw or heard a number of Warblers – Sedge, Willow, Little Rush-, Lesser Swamp- and an African Reed Warbler.

Paul - Hennie and Decklan Jordaan
Paul – Hennie and Decklan Jordaan

Eventually we reached the river. As we approached we had excellent views of Red-backed Shrikes – male and female along with more Fan-tailed widowbirds.

Looking up the canals we had views of a number of African Black Ducks in each canal – which we considered to be quite unusual.

Also in the canals we saw Common and Wood Sandpipers and Brown-throated Martins. Hennie patiently managed to get a reasonable shot of one of the Martins.

Further down in the river there were White-breasted Cormorant and a Grey Heron basking in the river. Alongside was a Brown-hooded Kingfisher and the calls of Terrestrial Brownbuls.

Then walking back along the road by the canals we had further excitement. Among the Red-billed Teals and other waterbirds, Decklan spotted a bird which he found difficult to identify.

Because of its unusual markings it is probably a hybrid Mallard.

Further along we noticed a rather long Spectacled Weaver’s nest and also saw a Lesser Masked-Weaver, Willow Warblers, Cape Grassbird (singing) Barn Swallows perched, White-faced Ducks.

Butterflies were spotted but perhaps the one which got Sandi excited was a Painted Lady.

Seen while doing a bit of car birdwatching.

Car Birding - Hennie and Decklan Jordaan
Car Birding – Hennie and Decklan Jordaan

Although the Grey Crowned Cranes were not present in the open grassland when we arrived, one did appear on our return from our walk. Always lovely to see.

Grey-crowned Crane
Grey-crowned Crane

Passing the rubbish tip next to the sewerage works a different Stork was spotted flying over by Hennie and Decklan. Into the rubbish tip we drove and there on top of one of the distant electricity pylons was a Marabou Stork.

Maribou Stork
Maribou Stork

Credits are shown on each photo unless taken by Paul Bartho.

Hope you enjoyed the read.

Paul and Sally Bartho


Darvill Outing Sunday 5 October 2014

A group of about 12 of us met for the Midlands Bird Club outing to Darvill, just outside Pietermaritzburg – led by Gordon Bennett.

The morning started with a stroll along the road beside the sewerage canals. A Grey Duiker took us all completely by surprise. Not something you see here with all the poaching.

Grey Duiker
Grey Duiker

We ambled along a-ways when I decided to have a closer look to see if anything was hiding in the canals. And that is when it all happened – the biggest excitement for the day.

The scope came out when I noticed a wader in one of the canals – sleeping on a log. At first I thought it was a Common Sandpiper but it lacked the white patch up the shoulder. Then I noticed barring on the tail and a prominent white eyering (no eyebrow supercillium nor speckled back so not a Wood Sandpiper either, I thought). Then I got excited and called the rest of the group to come have a look. Meanwhile I went to get closer which meant crossing the fast flowing nearer canal. Fortunately there was a crossing further down and I managed to get up to about 30 metres from the bird – all the while stopping and taking photos. When it eventually flew we were able to see its rump which was white but not extending up its back and the end of the tail was barred.

Much discussion and book searching followed. There was mention of it possibly being a Solitary Sandpiper which a number of us had never heard of. The features are similar. (At home I looked it up and found that Solitary Sandpipers breed in woodlands across Alaska and Canada. It is a migratory bird, wintering in Central and South America, especially in the Amazon River basin, and the Caribbean).

That aside, it was felt at the time that this could be a Green Sandpiper – all the pointers seemed right but we were nervous about making a bad call and decided to wait and see the photos. Once home, the call for confirmation of ID went out on Facebook etc and Green Sandpiper it was.

The amble continued along the side of the canals to the river then up to the ponds. Along the way a swarm of Swifts and Swallows passed overhead. There were many different species of Swift seen amongst them – African Black, African Palm-, Alpine (special), Little, and White-rumped.

The paths are clear so the view of the ponds was good. Numerous water birds were on the ponds. Some of the highlights included a group of 6 African Snipes, a Squacco Heron, Little Stints, all 3 Teals etc.

Both Klaas’s and Dideric Cuckoos were heard and the Klaas’s seen. African Marsh Harrier was seen quartering one area and Kites and a Jackal Buzzard flew above us. Altogether Sally and I recorded 81 different species. Click here to see our list. This excludes a number of other birds seen by other members of the group. To conclude we had the pleasure of seeing a pair of Grey-crowned Cranes in the fields above the ponds.

Excitedly we returned home to check our photos of the Sandpiper.

Great morning.

Paul & Sally Bartho

Green Sandpiper?

Need confirmation but we think that this is a Green sandpiper – seen this morning at the Darvill Sewerage Works outside Pietermaritzburg. Note the prominent eye-ring with no supercillium behind the eye (not a Wood Sandpiper); the barring on its tail; the lack of a white shoulder patch (thus not a Common Sandpiper); the dark back with white speckling faintly visible. When it took off the rump only was white (not up the back) and there was distinct barring on the end of its tail.

Green Sandpiper
Green Sandpiper