The Birdclub’s outing to Oribi Gorge had 10 members attending. A few having some ‘target’ birds for the day.
We started off by birding in a different area from normal, but as it was along the road the latecomers were able to catch up before we’d gone very far. It seemed very quiet for Oribi and not much was seen early on, but this picked up after a while and we got great views of many Knysna Turacos and a couple of people got lifers with Mountain Wagtail.
Blue-mantled Flycatchers showed themselves a few times but many birds where hiding in the green foliage. Apalis’s (two species), White-eyes and Sunbirds were all around and the normally shy Southern Boubou came out of hiding along with Sombre Greenbuls. We then moved onto the farmlands just above the Gorge and had both species of Longclaw along with African Pipits and a pair of Rock Kestrel’s.
We then went down to the main picnic area for a well-deserved tea break before going along the Hoopoe Falls trail. While some where still drinking their coffee Dave Rimmer located a juvenile White-starred Robin which didn’t hang around for the others but compensation came in the form of a pair of Cape Batis.
While along the trail an adult Robin was spotted and seen by most (and a lifer for some). There were quite a few butterflies around including the unusual Dusky-veined Acraea.
Most people had lunch at the picnic spot before departing when the wind picked up.
Sadly although a few were heard calling and one tapped close to the road, the Knysna Woodpecker didn’t show itself on the day – leaving something to go back for.
Four of us stayed for the weekend in the reserve huts and had booked to go to the vulture breeding site on the Monday. What a treat to have the Cape Vultures flying so close above our heads and to see them on the cliffs. A Black Stork also joined them for a flyby.
Five months later Jenny Norman and I were back at Tala – last Sunday of the month BLPN get a special discount, although it has increased over the past 5 months it is still not expensive. We arrived around 06:45 and the day started off with a ‘bang’. In the fig tree just past the gates were a pair of Spotted Eagle Owls. Next an African Marsh Harrier quartering the hillside, then down to the dam for all the usual suspects and again we were pleasantly surprised. Lots of Southern Pochards, Cape Shovellers, Black Crake, Purple Heron, African Rail and all sorts of warblers in the reeds. On to the picnic site for coffee and muffins – the Erythrinas and Clivias in full flower. Amazingly we saw no sunbirds all day and only heard the White-bellied late in the afternoon. Red-throated Wrynecks all along the causeway, and then we spotted the Fiscal Flycatcher, the first of hundreds of Fiscal Flycatchers!! One lone stunning Scimitarbill – calling to the others but to no avail. We had some good raptors, African Fish Eagle, Long crested Eagle, Lanner Falcon, YBK, Black-shouldered Kite as well as the owls and harrier. Around 16:30 Jenny suggested a last drive up to Paperbark Lodge and around the back road which passes a number of small dams. What a great idea! As we came up to Paperbark, past the dam which is almost dry, there on the side of the road were a pair of Blue Cranes – absolute perfection. Then round to the small dams. Yellow-billed Egret, Spoonbills, South African Shelduck, herons and jacanas and just as we were making tracks for the gate 3 Red-billed Oxpeckers on the Zebra – what a great way to end the day. Our total bird count was 95!
Jenny Norman and I (Elena Russell) visited Tala Game Reserve on Easter Sunday (last Sunday of the month & BLPN members get the discounted entrance fee! but remember you must contact them first don’t just rock up). The hordes did descend but we got there early so had the dam and picnic site to ourselves for the first few hours and got a good list going – we then set off to explore the rest of the reserve. Lots of cisticolas; Zitting, Lazy, Croaking, Levaillant’s and Neddickys but no Rattlers. We dipped on some of the more common birds, not one Euplectes species was seen all day but we twitched on a few summer visitors which we thought might have already flown i.e. Willow Warbler, Red Backed Shrike and Spotted Flycatcher.
The game is plentiful and a baby giraffe had us oohing and aahing as well as young Eland, Kudu and Wildebeest and we did see the Rhino. I joked about no oxpeckers whereupon we came upon a superb Kudu bull with a pair of Red-Billed Oxpeckers + a juvenile on its back. Shortly afterwards we met up with one of the rangers (John) and had a brief chat (have you ever known Jenny not to have a chat) and he said that there used to be only about 5/6 oxpeckers in the reserve but over the past few months had increased to about 50 – due he thought to the fact that the Parks Board had had a breeding programme going and had released a number of Red-billed Oxpeckers in Umfolozi/Hluhluwe a few years ago and some of these birds must have migrated down to various reserves in KZN.
John also happened to mention that a few weeks ago a Flamingo flew in an stayed for a week and that the Pale Chanting Goshawk still appears about every 6/8 weeks and seems to hang around the entrance area and Acacia Lodge for those birders who would like a rarity on their KZN list.
We had good views of Martial and Fish eagles, Jackal Buzzard, Black shouldered Kite and an African Marsh Harrier quartering a grassy hillside in the late afternoon was special. At the end of a very good day’s birding a Long Crested Eagle brought our count up to 99 – we didn’t crack a 100!
Elena Russell & Jenny Norman – (Jenny’s photographs).