Umgeni Valley NR and Greater Ambers, Howick. 15 Feb.

Report by Norman Freeman.

Sunday morning 06h30 saw 16 intrepid birders gather at the entrance to the Umgeni Valley NR in spite of the very overcast weather with an occasional light shower and general mist.

The intention was to park above Cascades Falls and to bird the grasslands above with possible sightings over the top of the canopy and across the krantze’s bordering the Nkongongo Stream, a tributary of the Umgeni River. Our plan was then to bird down through ravine forest to Shelter Falls and Bush Camp. Partially due to the wet conditions and steep gradient the last leg of this route was considered too ambitious and the group turned back.

In spite of this though 50 birds were recorded here before we took our leave of this area and headed to Amber Valley. Amongst the sightings were Diderick Cuckoo, Jackal Buzzard, Zitting Cisticola, Common House-Martin, Natal Spurfowl, Brimstone Canary, Cape Crow, Rufous-naped Lark and Lazy Cisticola.

The weather, although still overcast, lifted slightly and we headed along the game trail within the Ambers. This area is more open grassland parallel to streams and wetland, dropping down to Mimosa and Acacia thickets.

On arrival, all were greeted at the parking by a herd of Impala, Blesbok with calves a little way off, Warthog and Zebra. A male Grey Duiker broke cover, ran a while and turned to view us intruders.

The birding along this short trail added further to our list. Amongst the most exciting birds seen and heard were Neddicky, a melanistic Black Sparrowhawk, Cape Grassbird, Cape Canary, Steppe Buzzard, Dark-Capped Yellow Warbler, Willow Warbler, African Firefinch, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Long-crested Eagle and African Harrier-Hawk.

Time for tea found us under the trees alongside Falcon Dam while YBK’s posed for Dave Rimmer in a near-by Mimosa. Photography had been difficult due to the weather conditions.

Yellow-billed Kite
Yellow-billed Kite

Good fellowship was had with all the general chitter-chatter and leg-pulling. At this point the group split with a number heading for the Karkloof Conservancy area and hide.

The majority opted to bird the Amber lakes which turned out very productive. Good sightings included Sacred Ibis, another Black Sparrowhawk but with the white chest markings, Reed and White-Breasted Cormorant, Little Rush Warbler, African Darter, Cape Weaver, Familiar Chat, Purple Heron, Cape and Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Lanner Falcon, Lesser Swamp Warbler, African Rail and Malachite Kingfisher.

All in all 16 birders listed 81 birds for the mornings outing and a good time had been had by all. It was lunch time and each went their separate ways, most to amber further within the beautiful Natal Midlands.