Trip report – KwaXimba Conservancy

Trip report – KwaXimba Conservancy, Umgeni Valley

(Sunday 11 October 2015)

The October Sunday outing was a new venue for BLPN birders, and one I was looking forward to sharing with many of the clubs birders. Unfortunately it was not until road signs went up in mid-September advertising the route of the Amashova cycle race that it dawned on me the cycle race and the bird outing shared the same date 18 October.

In order to get down into the Umgeni Valley one needs to cross the R103 near Inchanga. With the road being closed on race day, and not wanting to cancel the outing it was decided to bring it forward one week to 11 October. Despite notices going out on the net via KZN Birds and a few Facebook groups of the date change the turnout was low with only seven of us assembling at the iSiThumba Cultural Village.

The first birds of the day were mostly of the airborne brigade including African Palm Swifts, Lesser Striped Swallows, Yellow-billed Kite, Black Saw-wing and a pair of Lanner Falcons, accompanied with background sounds of a Crested Barbet vocalizing and a cacophony of chattering from the Village Weaver colony nesting in the trees behind the main building of the cultural centre.

Our accompanying hosts for the day were Jeffery and Shaks who assist with various tours organized through Durban Green Corridor and with support from Kloof Conservancy. Following a brief insight to some cultural facts about the area, we proceeded down to the river with Shaks as our escort for the morning.

The short walk down yielded Blue Waxbill, Rattling Cisticola and White-bellied Sunbird, and not far off came the sounds of a Southern Boubou. Hang on, could it not be an African Hoopoe? After much debate and comparing calls from the Roberts app we agreed to settle on Southern Boubou.

There is some great scenery along the Umgeni River, wild places through Eastern Bushveld Thicket where you are at one with nature, great views from various spots, interaction with the local community and just amazing natural beauty.

We meandered along the river edge picking up on various water birds including Black Crake, African Sacred Ibis, African Jacana, Yellow-billed, African Black and White-faced Ducks, a single Three-banded Plover, and a Purple Heron foraging along the far bank.

On the far bank we were treated by a pair of Malachite Kingfishers popping in and out of a hole in the river bank.

The river is fringed with Bushveld thicket which gave us good views of Chinspot Batis, Cape Glossy Starlings, African Paradise Flycatchers in abundant numbers, Little Bee-eaters, and Orange-breasted Bush-shrike.

And on the way back Sally heard and found an Olive Bushshrike. Then we saw a jaw-dropping Golden-breasted Bunting foraging on the ground.

As with all birding trips there are the inevitable birds heard but not seen, including the ever elusive Gorgeous Bush-shrike, as well as Diederik and Klaas’s Cuckoos, Emerald-spotted Wood-dove, Black-headed Oriole, and White-browed Scrub-Robin.

Views of the imposing isiThumba Mountain – an iconic spot in the area had us wondering if we’d see any special raptors as Verreaux’s Eagles have been recorded in the area before. Our luck was out but we continued to enjoy the sounds and sights of the valley.

The final tally for the day was 73 species either seen or heard, with all records submitted to SABAP2 on one Full Protocol card and one Ad hoc card.

Our bird of the day was a pair of Long-billed Crombecs entertaining us in the thorn trees whilst enjoying our post walk beverages and nibbles from the picnic hampers.

A worthy mention must be made for the Three-banded Plover due to its sighting being the first SABAP record for pentad 2940_3040!

A full species list for the day can be viewed by clicking here. Many thanks to Sandi, Elena, Ismail, Paul and Sally for venturing out to new territory, and of course to my special birding buddy (Penny) for accompanying me and sharing my passion for birds and the outdoors.

Yours in birding,
Dave Rimmer

 

Outing to Eston Ponds, KZN 10th November

Eston ponds

African Snipe, Eston Ponds
African Snipe, Eston Ponds

A small band of seven enthusiastic birders headed out to the ponds below the Eston Sugar Mill on Sunday 10 November. That said I have yet to come across an apathetic birder! All the same, the lure was great photo opportunities of African Snipe (Gallinago nigripennis) emanating from a shot I had taken on a visit there the previous week end on a personal recce. As Murphy would have it, they were elusive to our group all day, despite Barry Swaddle sighting up to 8 birds on his wanderings around the ponds. Bumping into Barry and his friends was a blessing in disguise as he provided invaluable tips on being able to do a full loop around the wetlands without having to back track, as well as other places to visit in the general area. We parked our cars and proceeded along the eastern side and headed towards the dam wall. En route we picked up Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Little Stint, Yellow-billed Duck and Hottentot Teal, along with the sounds of Burchell’s Coucal, Diderick Cuckoo and a plethora of Little-rush Warblers.

Little Rush Warbler, Eston Ponds
Little Rush Warbler, Eston Ponds

As we neared the dam wall we were treated to a fly past of a pair of Spotted Thick-knees who settled not far from us and gave good views – particularly rewarding as lifers for some. All the while we had distant views of three African Marsh-Harriers which we desperately tried to turn into Westerns, as well as trying to convince a few Wood Sandpipers to evolve to be of the Green variety! As we got to the end of the dam wall we observed a trio of Grey Crowned Cranes flyover close by and then settle in the shallow waters of the dam below among the Egyptian Geese. This was followed by a second trio of cranes, but this set included a single Wattled Crane (Bugeranus carunculatus). A truly privileged sighting for all of us, particularly so considering their listing as Critically Endangered in Southern Africa. Sadly, gloomy light hampered chances of getting decent photographs.

Wattled Crane & Grey Crowned Crane at Eston Ponds
Wattled Crane & Grey Crowned Crane at Eston Ponds

We proceeded along the western flanks of the ponds and were treated to brief views of a Common Cuckoo that flew out from cover of the reeds, landed briefly out in the open and then disappeared into the cane fields. Efforts to coax African Rail from within the reeds using playback only gave us a return call! Other good birds included Black-winged Stilt, Southern Pochard, Squacco Heron, African Purple Swamphen and Wahlberg’s Eagle. Nearing the upper ponds, we were treated to cracking views of six adult and two juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax).

A total of 61 species were recorded during the morning, with a full protocol card being submitted to the SABAP2 database – my first ever card!! We returned home with a detour to the Toyota Testing Centre as Barry had indicated prospects there were good for Penny to add Black-winged Lapwing to her life list –and right he was.

Yours in birding,
Dave Rimmer

White-backed Duck

White-backed Duck

On another note and aside from the above outing, I happened upon a White-backed Duck whilst golfing on Friday with my sons at the Cato Ridge Golf Club. It looked very happy and could well still be there if anyone wants to give it a twitch. It was seen at the small dam in front of the 12th tee at the bottom end of the course. Apparently it has been there for about a week. 

White-backed Duck
White-backed Duck

Dave Rimmer

 

Kenneth Stainbank report back.

Kenneth Stainbank Sat. 7th September.

Despite the smorgasbord of events scheduled for Saturday, a group of 17 keen birders turned out for the outing – many of the regular Saturday outing birders as well as three visitors. The day started off with a number of birds entertaining us in the car park, notably an obliging Black-headed Oriole that gave everyone good views and photo opportunities, followed by a Yellow-billed Kite that decided to perch quite close by, and a pair of African Goshawks flying overhead. The grassland path was the route taken leading towards the small dam. Birds seen along this section among others included a female Black Cuckooshrike, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Rattling Cisticola, African Harrier-Hawk, numerous Olive Sunbirds and a Lesser Honeyguide close to the dam. As usual, the weaver colony in the middle of the dam was alive with Village Weavers and Yellow Weavers busy nest building.

From the dam we proceeded towards the office complex as John and others had recently seen the Spotted Ground Thrush – one was seen but only briefly flitting across the road to a few at the front. Good birding was had along the road between the offices and the picnic site with the highlight being excellent views of a Scaly-throated Honeyguide. This was a lifer for at least 8 members of the group, myself included. Other good sightings in this section of the reserve included Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Terrestrial Brownbul, Ashy Flycatcher, Red-capped Robin-Chat and Black-backed Puffback. We returned to the car park via the vehicle track on the southern side seeing White-bellied Sunbird, African paradise Flycatcher, Purple Crested Turaco and Golden-tailed Woodpecker along the way.

A total of 51 birds were either seen or heard including:
White-eared Barbets, Dark-capped Bulbul, Southern Black Tit, Dusky Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Drongo, Hadeda Ibis, Southern Black Flycatcher, Green-backed Cameroptera, Amethyst Sunbird, Southern Boubou, Yellow-fronted canary, Tambourine Dove, Square-tailed Drongo, Common Fiscal, Black-bellied Starling, Amethyst Sunbird, Collared Sunbird, Lesser-striped Swallow, African palm Swift, Cardinal Woodpecker, Neddicky  – and not forgetting the Zebra and Impala.

Dave Rimmer.

Photos care of: Dave Rimmer & Penny de Vries