Tanglewood Farm Nature Reserve

Saturday Outing to Tanglewood Farm NR

3 September 2016

We had an excellent turnout – the weather could have been a bit better but the cool/slightly overcast sky made walking very pleasant.

Our bird count was in the region of 84 – we had a few mysterious raptors and there was much debate whether the one was an early returning cuckoo or a sparrowhawk.  Unfortunately no photos to help with ID. Click here to see a list of the birds recorded as identified.

The walk through the forested Kloof area yielded up a good number of birds, Purple-crested and Knysna Turacos, Dusky Flycatchers on every second tree and the one group were lucky enough to hear (and see?) Green Twinspots also Narina Trogon  were heard.

Also heard was the Crowned Eagle but then the consensus was possibly a Red-capped Robin Chat!!

Our Weaver count was excellent; Dark-backed, Spectacled, Yellow and Cape building nests by the boathouse dam, Thick-billed and of course the ubiquitous Village.

Sunbirds were not too shabby either; Amethyst, Collared, Olive and Greater-double collared.

Some of the birds seen and heard included: Black-headed Oriole, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Forest Canary, Black-collared, Crested and White-eared Barbets, Southern Boubou, lots of doves – Red-eyed, Emerald Spotted, Tambourine, Rock and Lemon, African Olive Pigeon (Caryl said they roost on top of the house) Common Fiscal, Black-backed Puffback, African Firefinch, Olive Thrush, Southern Black Tit, Olive Bushshrike, a couple of specials – Buff-spotted Flufftail (calling) and Grey Waxbill.

The walk through the grasslands yielded Cape Grassbirds, Croaking Cisticolas, Neddickys, Yellow-throated Longclaws, with Lesser Striped Swallows, Palm Swifts and Black Saw-wings swooping over the dams.

Plenty of wild flowers and butterflies produced some really great photos.

We finished off the morning having our picnic tea at the boathouse – watching the weavers building nests.

Relaxed Birders
Relaxed Birders

The Shetland pony came down to munch the fresh green grass around the dam, the Hadedas delving into the soft earth for tasty morsels, Woolly-necked Storks flying overhead, Reed Cormorants sitting in the dead tree, altogether a very pleasant place to be!

At one point someone on the deck saw this Reed Snake floating at the water’s edge below. “Look at the eyes” was the call, “But not much of a wiggle” said another.

Reed Snake - PB
Reed Snake – PB

At one stage we stopped off at the house to see the Trumpeter Hornbill chick that Caryl and her son rescued. At the moment it lives in a make-shift enclosure and is making a wonderful recovery. It shares the enclosure with an Angora rabbit (also found in the nature reserve) and they seem to be the best of friends.

We had a ‘silver’ collection and R300 was collected! which will go to the Hillcrest conservancy. Many thanks to Caryl for allowing us to visit and have such a great ‘birding’ day.


Elena Russell

Oribi Gorge Outing

Report by Elena Russell.

16th and 17th July 2016

Jenny Norman and I drove down early on Saturday morning to Oribi Gorge.  We met up with Sally, Paul and Mike White at the cane loading zone where we had arranged to meet Andy Ruffle to go on and view the vultures.

Although the morning was cold and a little overcast, the sun kept appearing and on those occasions we had 70 to 80 vultures soaring overhead and wheeling back to land on the cliff face.

Cape Vulture
Cape Vulture


There are nests with chicks and the whole experience is fantastic.

Outside the hide there are a number of carcasses in various stages of decomposition and the smell can be rather powerful!! It was mainly White-necked Ravens feasting on the carcasses.

Carcass at the vulture restaurant
Carcass at the vulture restaurant

The hide has been rebuilt after a fire destroyed the old one. It is very well made with brick and concrete roof. Inside is Andy’s abode. He even has cooking and bedding facilities.

There was a pair of Lanner Falcons, Rock Martins, Alpine Swifts etc flying around and by the hide we had Plain-backed and African Pipits.

Lanner Falcon
Lanner Falcon

Andy mentioned that on one occasion when visiting the hide a Black-rumped Buttonquail popped out of the head of a Zebra carcass presumably eating maggots inside the skull.

We then went on to Leopard Rock for coffee – the birding can be very good whilst sitting and drinking a good cup of coffee – and to name a few of the birds we saw there: Crowned Hornbill, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Pintailed Whydah (non-breeding plumage), Red-backed and Bronze Mannikin, Greater Double-collared Sunbirds.

If you want a viewing you need to book with Andy Ruffle as the site is on private property. Here are Andy’s contact details 072 893 3794 or andy_ruffle@yahoo.co.uk.

We then drove leisurely back to camp birding along the way: Grey Crowned Crane, Cape and Yellow-throated Longclaw, Grey Cuckooshrike and Jackal Buzzard. Red-backed Mannikin and African Firefinch became the trash birds of the weekend.

Back at camp Mike proceeded to cook us each a perfect mushroom omelette – how good can the weekend get?

Enjoying Mike's omelets - delicious
Enjoying Mike’s omelets – delicious

But then it started to rain on Saturday night (I am seriously considering offering my services as a ‘rain maker’) and it was still raining early on Sunday morning.

We went down to the picnic area just in case any crazy birders pitched up for the Sunday Outing and along came Sandi, Roz and Prem.  Along the road we had good views of Lemon and Tambourine Doves.

Tambourine Dove
Tambourine Dove

We then took a slow drive up to the bridge where we had heard Knysna Woodpecker a number of times on Saturday. As it was still raining and the birding was abysmal we headed back to camp for coffee.  On the way down we met up with Sally, Paul and Mike and it was decided to go on to Leopard Rock for breakfast.

Sally and Paul had to leave but the rest of us had a superb English Breakfast – we sat inside as there was a thick mist in the gorge but every now and again the mist would partially lift and strange and fantastic views of the gorge would appear.

Some views of Oribi Camp and the Gorge itself:

By 9h00 the rain stopped and we took a slow drive back to Oribi Gorge and on the way the flying ants were coming out and the birding took off!! Fan-tailed Widowbirds, Village, Cape and Yellow weavers, Croaking Cisticola and masses of Rock Martins all hawking from the edge of a cane field.

An obliging Knysna Turaco made an appearance near the bridge at the bottom of the Gorge.

Knysna Turaco
Knysna Turaco

We stopped a number of times and one spot near the farm dam was exceptionally good – Lesser Honeyguide, Dusky Flycatcher, Black-collared Barbet, Fork-tailed and Square-tailed Drongos, Little Bee-eaters and much much more.

There is a rather nice dam at the entrance to the camp and we saw a pair of African Black Ducks, Egyptian and Spurwing Geese, Common Moorhen, Yellow-billed Duck and Reed Cormorant.

A Chorister Robin was fossicking around by the swimming pool on our return to camp. We had a good bird party going through the camp with Grey and Black Cuckooshrikes, Cardinal Woodpecker, Black, Dusky and Paradise Flycatchers as well as the Drongos!

On Monday morning we took another drive through the gorge and had gorgeous views of the Olive Woodpecker! And added a few more birds to the list so our total bird count for the weekend was 120.

A new one for the Oribi list was African Hoopoe which we saw twice.

African Hoopoe with wild hair-do
African Hoopoe with wild hair-do

One bird which maybe we were not so pleased to see was the Common Starling!

Elena Russell

Tanglewood Farm Nature Reserve

Report by: Elena Russell

Saturday 3 October 2015

Last year it took us 3 attempts to bird Tanglewood Farm Nature Rerserve before we had decent weather. This year we had a perfect sunny day, the hillside had been burnt with wild flowers everywhere. We had an excellent turnout – must have been over 30 people: members, visitors and a few latecomers. Our bird count wasn’t too shabby either in the region of 88 – things are hotting up for summer.

We split up into 2 groups and on entering the forest the one group had wonderful views of a pair of Narina Trogon unfortunately the second group dipped but we got to see the photos!!

Natal Robins (Red-capped Robin Chats) called from hidden depths within the forest and very occasionally seen. Olive Thrush fossicked around in the fallen leaves, African Paradise-Flycatchers in abundance, not too many Black and a few Dusky Flycatchers.

A pair of Dark-backed Weavers had made their nest overhanging the forest path, much time was spent watching the pair bringing in nesting material and listening to the lovely call (the Afrikaans name is so evocative ‘bosmusikant’).

On the forest walk Cape Batis, Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Boubou, Klaas’s & African Emerald Cuckoos, Tambourine Doves, Dark-capped Bulbuls, Cameropteras, Sombre Greenbuls, Purple-crested and Knysna Turacos, Black-collared Barbets, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds – sunbirds: Amethyst, Olive, Collared and Greater Double-collared – plus lots of bird calls.

Walking up to the Cabin (aka the Boathouse) for morning tea, a pair of Crowned Eagles put on a magnificent display.

Afrcan Crowned Eagle
Afrcan Crowned Eagle

Earlier on we had African Goshawk, Yellow-billed Kites all day long, plus White-necked Raven, a Black Sparrowhawk and a Long-crested Eagle also put in an appearance.

Around the dams we had Grey and Black-headed Herons, Hamerkops and Hadeda Ibis everywhere. In the skies there were White-rumped, African Palm, African Black and Little Swifts, as well as Lesser-striped Swallows and Black Saw-wings.


After tea we walked the grassland area and down to another dam where the Yellow Weavers are nesting.

Yellow Weaver nest building
Yellow Weaver nest building

We also had Cape, Village, Spectacled and Thick-billed Weavers. The grassland yielded some good birding, Yellow-throated Longclaws, Streaky headed Seedeaters, Croaking Cisticolas, Grassbirds, Red-backed and Bronze Mannikins, Pin-tailed Whydah, Fantailed Widowbirds, Rufous-naped Larks and again lots lots more!!

Lots of butterflies and other critters:

and some really wonderful wild flowers. Just before entering the forest we came across a ground orchid Disa Woodii (looks like a glowing candle – Elsa Pooley) – birding can be such fun!!.

We returned to the cabin for a braai-brunch and the bird list – much hilarity and mirth- especially when we got all excited over a Black Stork that actually was a Woolly-necked Stork (can you believe it was going to be ‘Bird of the Day’).

Thanks to the guys who got the braai going, thanks to Sandi, John and Paul for the pics and a mega thank you to Caryl for allowing us to visit Tanglewood Farm.

Jenny lost a lens cap (if anybody picked it up) and I have a very nice bright blue camping chair in my boot – any takers? The striped pink hat has been claimed!!



Vumbuka Saturday 1 August.

Report on our Saturday outing- Elena Russell

15 hardy souls braved the very early morning start – we gathered by the light of a full moon and it was very very cold!!

Full Moon Greeted us on Arrival
Full Moon Greeted us on Arrival

As we headed off for Vumbuka the ‘quick’ of an African Goshawk could be heard high above us in the sky – intoxicating stuff!

Vumbuka is fabulous – walking through the forest we were accompanied by the dawn chorus. Our tiny hands may have been frozen but we were having fun. The birds were hunting for the sunniest spots. The White-eared Barbets had found an excellent dead tree in which to perch and catch the sun and an African Hoopoe was calling high up in an adjacent tree. We could hear a Black Sparrowhawk calling in the distance but it was only later in the day that we had great views of the Spars. Red-fronted & Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds, Yellow-fronted Canaries and Cape White-eyes were everywhere feasting on the figs. Plenty of Sombre Greenbuls, Dark-capped Bulbuls, Dusky, Paradise and Black Flycatchers. Brief glimpses of Tambourine Doves and Yellow-bellied Greenbuls.

Excellent sightings of Grey Cuckooshrike, Sunbirds; Amethyst, Olive, Grey & Collared, Weavers; Thickbilled, Spectacled, Village and Dark-Backed. Yellowbreasted Apalis were calling and a Bar-throated Apalis was seen later at the gazebo. Natal Robins (Red-capped Robin-Chat), Southern Black Tit, Fork-tailed Drongos. Black-collared Barbets and the calls of Purple Crested Turacos and Southern Boubou kept the list ticking up nicely.

Walking back through the grasslands we had masses of Palm Swifts, Black Sawwings and quite a few Lesser Striped Swallows (presumably they over-wintered on the balmy South Coast). Tawny-flanked Prinias, Speckled Mousebirds, Bronze Mannikins and a Black-headed Heron.

We had our tea at the gazebo and our count at that stage was 54. After tea we went on down to Umbogavango and at that stage we had decided the bird of the day was the Grey Cuckooshrike but driving into Umbogavango we good views of a female Narina Trogon. We quickly parked and hurried back up the road with the rest of the group and managed to get some good photos of the beautiful bird.

We then went on another walk – and added some really nice birds to our list. An African Fish Eagle was being harassed by the Black Sparrowhawks, White-bellied Sunbird, Little Bee-eaters, Giant and Malachite Kingfishers, Red-backed Mannikins, Hamerkop, Cape Wagtail, Olive and Kurrichane Thrush, Sacred Ibis and Woolly-necked Storks flew overhead, Little Rush and Lesser Swamp Warblers in the reeds and we thought we had done pretty well but of course Jenny, Rowena and Vauneen who had stayed behind in the hide picked up Lesser Honeyguide and Green Twinspots (drat) – in total our bird count was 80!!.

The photo of the tree with the pretty white flowers – Tabernaemontana Ventricosa or in plain English a Toad Tree.

The Erythrinas – Lysistemon and Caffra were in full bloom and plenty have been planted all over this pretty reserve.

Thanks to John, Dave, Paul and Hennie for the pics.



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.



Paradise Valley with Elena Russell

IMG_3644Saturday 4th April 2015

We had a good turnout of members and visitors about 20 in all.

Unfortunately the weather was not too good, rather dull and overcast. Paradise Valley is mainly forest birding plus a rather nice walk alongside the river.

At least two or three pairs of Mountain Wagtails were seen, a couple of bird parties were encountered but a lot of birding was done on call!

Our total bird count was 41.

Some members were a little restless at times and mention was made of reaching the sea via the Umbilo Ponds and hopefully there would be a shebeen or two along the way (how the shebeen got into the mix I am not too sure) but the walk was very pleasant and the waterfall too beautiful.

By the time we returned to the picnic area for tea the weather had improved and “The Saturday Chat Show” was in fine form over tea. Mark was toasting Hot Cross Buns (superb) and the bird list was completed with only a few alphabetical faux pas!!

Moths, Butterflies, Spiders and Crabs were also seen and photgraphed for ID. As well as a few other birds we were lucky enough to snap.

Thanks to Paul and John for the pics.



Saturday 7th March Outing to Bayhead


The morning started off with about 20 people but ended up with +27 and our bird count was +51.

As I had been to the bay on Friday and was aware that low tide was very very low and high tide not much better we decided to do the Boardwalk first and check out the Black Sparrowhawks nest. It was in amongst the mangroves that some of us were lucky enough to see the Black-throated Wattle-eye. We also went along to the grasslands – which seem to be fast disappearing under the ever encroaching Chrysanthemoides and Brachylaena. It was here that we saw a lot of Amethyst Sunbirds, mainly females and and juveniles. Little Bee-eaters and lots and lots of Bronze Mannikins and Cape White-eyes.

The Black Spars were flying overhead, Goliath Heron perched in a tree; Little Egrets, Sacred Ibis, Grey Herons, Grey-headed Gulls, Kelp Gulls, a pair of Caspian Terns plus Common and Swift Terns. A number of Greenshanks, Common Ringed Plovers but only one Common Sandpiper. Blacksmith Lapwings in abundance! A pair of Fish Eagles and at the end of our walk at last an Osprey!

The tide was really too low for us to catch the waders coming in with the tide – maybe we will get lucky next time. We seem to have a lack of bird pics but as the crabs were everywhere we have some nice pics of crabs!!

Part of the reason we go to Bayhead is for the waders but questionably the main reason is Bud’s. There is a new guy running Bud’s and I think he was a little overwhelmed to start with but he managed very well in the end. There were 20 of us so firstly we had to rearrange the tables, secondly we explained that individual bills were required and thirdly and most importantly we needed drinks, very cold drinks and as fast as possible!

Doing the bird list was a ‘hoot’ – I don’t think birders know the alphabet including me. Maybe the birding was not too great but lunch lived up to our expectations – the food was good, the drinks were cold and the company was great.

Pics are courtesy of Penny.



Saturday 7th Feb. Outing to iPhiti

During the night we had a very long and heavy downpour – which did not bode well for the Saturday outing. It was overcast and there was a slight drizzle in the morning – only 7 brave/keen birders joined me at iPhiti. It was very wet underfoot and the mozzies were biting but it wasn’t raining and we had an enjoyable walk. Not as wet underfoot as we expected.

Our bird count was in the region of +43 – the bird of the day had to be the Olive Thrush.

Olive Thrush
Olive Thrush

Naturally we had to have a mystery bird – was it a raptor? Some said it was a dove!! It turned out to be a Jackal Buzzard (to be fair it was a long way off and partially hidden in a tall Norfolk pine).

There were a few Golden Weavers nests at the dam but no birds were seen.

The Red-hot pokers are starting to flower in the vlei and should be worth a visit on a sunny day  for sunbirds.

The pics are courtesy of Paul Bartho (under some very difficult lighting conditions he says!).


Elena Russell

Saturday 3 January Outing to Umbogavango

New Year’s outing to Umbogavango

Although we started early it was still very hot and humid and by 09:00 the birds were seeking shade as well as the birders!!

There were 25 of us and our bird count was 83 plus – not too shabby for such a hot day. Maybe nothing spectacular although we did hunt high and low for the Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and Fulvous Duck to no avail.

Various nests were found, Fork tailed Drongo high up in a Eucalyptus and in the same tree the White-eared Barbets were nesting and feeding chicks. Of course the weavers were busy; Village, Thick-billed, Yellow, Spectacled and Dark-backed.

Penny has taken some super pics of a Yellow Weaver starting out on his nest – let’s hope they meets with approval. Sunbirds were conspicuous by their absence – the one group heard was an Olive Sunbird and that was it.

Raptors: Long crested and African Fish Eagle – lots of YBK’s and a Common Buzzard.   A number of Egyptian Geese with chicks and a lone Spur-wing perched in a dead tree.

Otherwise the water birds were mainly Little Grebe, Yellow-billed Duck and Common Moorhen. Lesser Swamp and Little Rush Warblers were mainly heard but we did manage to see a few as well.

We also found the most beautiful tree(?) frog – bright yellow (Sandi tells me that if the eyes are horizontal it is a painted reed frog but if the eyes are vertical then it is a tree frog).

Another unusual sighting was that of a pair of Red-billed Quelea.

Umbogavango is a lovely place, easy walking with various hides and masses of yellow and white arums in amongst the reeds. Waking back over the weir to the picnic site we surprised a Mountain Wagtail to end off a good morning’s birding. Here are some of the other photos taken:

Thanks to Sally for leading a group and thanks to all the photographers Rex, Mike, Paul & Penny and anybody else I might have left out for the superb pics!

Cheers & a Happy New Year


Tanglewood Saturday 13 December

At last we made it to Tanglewood; the weather was not too good but at least it was not raining and it did improve as the morning wore on.  There were 18/20 of us and our bird count was 69 (at tea) + we added a couple more on leaving.

Tanglewood – as you can see above – is a magical place. On arriving we drove past the dams and the temptation to stop was great but we carried on and parked under the trees near Caryl’s house.

We first went into the forest and a lot of the birding to begin with was based on call: Knysna & Purple-crested Turacos, Tambourine Doves, Red-chested & Klaas’s Cuckoos, brief glimpses of the Natal Robin, Cape Batis, Dark-backed & Spectacled Weavers (plus nests) & the Square-tailed and Fork-tailed Drongos were everywhere.

Southern Black Flycatchers - Parent and juvenile
Southern Black Flycatchers – Parent and juvenile

Also Spotted, Dusky, Black & Paradise Flycatchers; Olive, Collared & Amethyst Sunbirds; Olive Thrush, Southern Boubou.

We walked the waterfall trail but gave up after awhile as we were spotting few birds and we were anxious to go to the dams and grassland area. On the way back we had a brief glimpse of the Crowned Eagle flying overhead.

Crowned Eagle
Crowned Eagle

On leaving the more forested areas and walking down the hill towards the house we were met by a belligerent Peacock (called Charles). Do not cross the lawn in front of the house – the Peacock rules supreme and you will be chased off!!

The horses wanted to befriend us which had Tina running for cover. Anyway we made it down to the road and set off for the dams and the grassland.

There are several dams on the property.  Just before the entrance there is a dam on each side of the road. Here we observed lots of Grey Herons (including juveniles) plus one Black-headed Heron.

There were Yellow Weavers plus at least one pair of Golden Weavers nesting at the first dam. Bronze & Red-backed Mannikins – plus a very odd looking Bronzie which had white feathers on the nape of its neck.

As we walked up the hill into the grasslands the Blesbok & Impala gave us a wide berth – some could only have been born the day or two before. The birding was good – Croaking Cisticolas were calling and displaying and then we had the ‘Bird of the Day’ Broad-tailed Warbler – which was a lifer for one or two of us.

Lesser Striped & Barn Swallows, Palm, White-rumped and Little Swifts plus a few Black Saw-wings.  Good views of a Rufous-naped Lark, Fan-tailed Widows, Burchell’s Coucal by the dam, Brown-hooded Kingfishers and lovely views of Yellow-throated Longclaws. And a contentious Cuckoo on the horizon. For some a Red-chested, others a Klaas’s but wethinks otherwise – see what you think from the picture below.

On the way up and down the grassland several photos were taken of the local game to be found on the estate as well as some flora and other critters.

Even a Ball Python was seen:

Ball Python
Ball Python

There were lots of YBK’s and lots, lots more!! But it was time for tea & what a tea Caryl had prepared for us on the patio of her house with Christmas mince pies and a cake with cherries (very nice too).  We left a copy of next year’s BLPN calendar with her to enjoy.

A new bird hide is in the process of being built by the first dam and the suggestion was made that later on in the year we have an afternoon walk/birding & have a sundowner braai at the hide – watch the activities page!!

Caryl & her son Jan are excellent guardians of a most wonderful place and their hospitality and generosity in allowing us to visit Tanglewood is very much appreciated.

Photos are by courtesy of Decklan and Paul – thanks guys. We collected R335 which will be donated to BLPN thanks to us all!