Bahati, Zululand

July 14th to 19th 2019

Report by Sally and Paul Bartho

After the Umlalazi weekend outing (some photos shown at the end of this report), Sally and I headed north to Bahati Game Farm. Here we camped for five nights. Bahati is very close to Bonamanzi – about half a kilometre on the opposite side to Bonamanzi heading to Hluhluwe town.

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Mahai, Ithala, Ndumo, Bonamanzi & Richards Bay.

Sally and I are back from our impromptu wanderings around Natal. We headed to Mahai for 5 days, Ithala and Ndumo for 4 days each then 2 days each in Bonamanzi and Richards Bay.

We had interesting sightings in most places.

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Mahai

At the Tower of Pizza restaurant (10kms before the entrance gate to the Royal Natal NP) at roosting time the tree behind the restaurant served as the roost for what appeared to be thousands of Amur Falcons. The sky turned black (much like the swallows used to do at Mount Moreland) and then they fell as rain into the tree making a loud racket as they did so.

Even more surprising at the same venue in the trees and cell phone tower beside the main road, we saw at least 70 (and likely more) Southern Bald Ibis taking up their roost positions for the night. Some were even on the wires across the road.

Southern Bald Ibis - Mahai
Southern Bald Ibis – Mahai

Southern Bald Ibis, Mahai
Southern Bald Ibis, Mahai


Nearby there is a Parks Board reserve called Poccolan-Robertson’s Bush NR. (GPS: S28.33.890; E29.05.053). There is an Eskom power plant pumping facility at Kilburn Lake immediately before the reserve. Venturing to the top we found an excellent mix of Bushveld and Highveld birds. The two habitats meeting in a transition zone. There were Chorister Robin-Chats mixing with Acacia Pied Barbets for example.

Chorister Robin-Chat, Mahai
Chorister Robin-Chat, Mahai

Bush Blackcap was heard and seen in the bush beside RN NP Reception. Other specials seen/heard in the area include: Ground Woodpecker, Cape Rock-Thrush, Bokmakierie, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Peregrine and Lanner Falcons, Fiscal Flycatcher, Malachite Sunbird, Mountain Wagtail, Barratt’s Warbler, Cape Vultures.

On the path between Tiger Falls and Gudu we were lucky to see a Grey Rhebok – a species of antelope neither of us had seen before. The way it fled over the steep and dense grass terrain was amazing.

Golden Gate

The new Vulture Hide is quite impressive. It has 2 rooms. One with windows totally glassed and the other with pull up flaps for photographers beside each look out window – as shown below.

Golden Gate Vulture Hide
Golden Gate Vulture Hide

Golden Gate Vulture Hide
Golden Gate Vulture Hide

However no-one could tells us who to contact to find out about new carcass placements. Several Black-backed Jackal were seen and a couple of Cape Vultures flew overhead. 30 or more White-necked Ravens hung onto the cliff face below the “Restaurant”.

Ithala

The camp site now has a HOT water outdoor shower with 2 shower heads side by side.

Ithala Shower
Ithala Shower

Two Blue Cranes at a water hole just after the Lookout Point on the Ngulumbeni Loop.

Blue Cranes, Ithala
Blue Cranes, Ithala


Shelly’s Francolin unperturbed by us – but a lifer for me! Often heard in the past but until now never seen.

Shelley's Francolin, Ithala
Shelley’s Francolin, Ithala

The following butterfly took us by surprise. We were looking down when suddenly what we thought was a leaf took off. Its camouflage was unbelievable – if we had not seen it move we would never have spotted it. Someone please ID it for us.

Ithala Butterfly - for ID Please
Ithala Butterfly – for ID Please

Some other sightings of interest include:

Ndumo

The water levels in the pans were so high that trying to find waders was impossible from any of the hides. However on a drive with Bongani to the back of the Nyamithi Pan we eventually saw many – some in breeding plumage like this Little Stint.

Little Stint in breeding plumage, Ndumo
Little Stint in breeding plumage alongside a Common Ringed Plover, Ndumo

Opposite Nyamithi Hide there must be over 500 Yellow-billed storks, 100 Pink-backed Pelicans, Great White Cormorants all nesting in the Fever trees. Numerous Spur-winged Geese are also present.

Nesting Site, Ndumo. Only a small portion shown.
Nesting Site, Ndumo. Only a small portion shown.

A number of other sightings can be seen in the following gallery:

Tembe

As always an excellent place to find impressive elephants and to get chased by the youngsters. Birding was quiet in most areas.

Black-crowned Tchagra, Tembe
Black-crowned Tchagra, Tembe

Elephants, Tembe
Elephants, Tembe

Bonamanzi

The birding was quiet so we spent part of our time at False Bay. Some birds seen include:

Richards Bay

A small collection of 5 different terns (Common, Lesser Crested, Swift, Sandwich and Little) and 2 gulls (Kelp and Grey-headed) were together on the sand banks along the end of the Casurina trail – see following gallery:

Altogether we saw 273 different species of birds.

Paul and Sally Bartho