Sand Forest Lodge Weekend Outing

Report by Cheryl Bevan

24 to 26 November 2017

For our last weekend outing for the year we went to Sand Forest Lodge in Hluhluwe . We had a great turn out – eleven in total.

A few of us stopped at St Lucia on Thursday on our way to see if we could find the Gull-billed Tern, Sooty Tern and the Eurasian Oystercatcher who have been hanging around for a while and lucky for us we all saw the two Terns.

Sooty Tern – John Bevan

On Friday after we had all set up camp we gathered for a braai catching up and planning for Saturday.

Starting off at six in the morning in very rainy miserable weather we set off through the forest expecting to see nothing. After walking for about an hour we had only heard and seen a few birds. Narina Trogans were calling but although we got close we did not manage to get a view of them.

We perservered entering the open grassland area and it paid off.  Seeing European Bee-eater, White-eared Barbet, Neergaard’s, Purple-banded and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, Narina Trogon and more……………

Some other sightings of interest. A Baobab in the garden was flowering. An unknown caterpillar and a sunbird nest which we would like identified. It was thought by some as a Neergaard’s Sunbird nest. And a spotted-tailed Ant.

Spotted Thick-knees were nesting on the grass in front of the chalets.

Spotted Thick-knees – Paul Bartho

Here are some of the birds seen at Sand Forest Lodge.

After breakfast and tea time we set off to False Bay where we had great sightings of hundreds of Greater Flamingos and White-breasted Comorants as well as Whimbrel and other waders.

Common Whimbrel – Paul Bartho

We were excited to find a smallish dark wader which had us confused for a while until we realised it was still in breeding plumage. A Curlew Sandpiper [we always hope to find something rare] but this one was still in breeding plumage.

2 Curlew Sandpipers – Paul Bartho

After Lunch and a short rest we hit Muzi Pan – an hour away.

Black Heron on the other side of the pan, Ruff, a flock of Glossy Ibis, Burchell’s Coucal, Squacco Heron and other waders- Common and Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stint, Black-winged Stilts among them.

Sunday morning we birded on the property again picking up 102 birds for the weekend. This is Cheryl Bevan’s Bird List:

We all went home happy and tired.

Cheryl and John Bevan

Sand Forest Lodge Weekend Away

Report by Cheryl Bevan

11 to 13 March 2016

Twenty birders headed out to Sand Forest Lodge near Hluhluwe for our first weekend outing of the year. Some had arrived a day earlier in pouring rain.

On Saturday we set out at 06H30 for False Bay for a 7 Km forest walk. Not all of us lasted the full 7 Km.

We heard a lot of birds but sightings were scarce as it was very dry. The trees and butterflies were amazing.

A distant Cuckoo caught our attention –  either an African or Common. We managed a photo for you to judge for yourself. Our conclusion was that it was a Common Cuckoo based on the bill being predominantly black. Unfortunately we could get no views of the underside of the tail.

Further along we came across this spoor. Half the size of a ladies size six boot. Any ideas?


There was also a rather smart Dark-backed Weaver’s nest hanging in the woods.

Dark-backed Weaver's nest.
Dark-backed Weaver’s nest.

After our walk we went to the picnic sight for tea. There was absolutely no water in the bay except in the far distance where we saw a group of flamingos.

Picnicing on the banks of the rather empty False Bay.
Picnicking on the banks of the rather empty False Bay.
False Bay looks like this.
False Bay looks like this.

Saturday afternoon John and Paul were chatting when they saw a flock of European Bee-eaters feasting on flying ants right in the campsite. And then the show began. Everyone eventually gathered with their chairs and we were entertained for a good hour and a half with a variety of interesting birds.

Birdwatching in comfort
Birdwatching in comfort

There were Barn and Lesser Striped Swallows, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Collared Sunbird, Neergaard’s Sunbird, Long-tailed Paradise Whydah, White-winged Widowbird, African Yellow White-eye, Willow Warbler, Ashy Flycatcher, African Palm, Little and White-rumped Swifts, Klaas’s Cuckoo and African Paradise Flycatcher.

Also observed were the numerous butterflies and trees full of looper-type caterpillars which crawled everywhere including on you. Large hornets carrying and burying Loopers which they had stung.

Sunday’s early morning walk through the sand forest and grasslands of Sand Forest Lodge brought us Woodward’s Batis, Rudd’s Apalis, African Cuckoo, Diderick’s Cuckoo, African Green Pigeon among many others. For Jane and Mike, they were attracted to the African Cuckoo by a dive-bombing Eurasian Golden Oriole. It transpired that there were two African Cuckoos in the same place – something considered unusual.

What a way to end a fabulous weekend.

Click here to read the bird list of 91 species identified.

Cheryl and John Bevan


Paul and Sally along with Dave and Jenny Rix took a late morning trip to Mkuze on Friday before the weekend started. Nsumo pan was by no means full but the bird life was very active with all sorts of waterbirds to be seen. Mike and Jane had even seen Greater Painted Snipe there earlier in the day.

St. Lucia

Paul and Sally also spent two nights at Sugarloaf campsite on the way home. Sunday night the rains came in force. The next morning we learned that Lake St. Lucia had gained 6.1 million tons of fresh water from the Umfolozi River. A godsend as they badly need it and more.

As usual the estuary mouth was full of interesting birds. Greater Flamingo; Pink-backed Pelicans; Goliath Herons; Saddle-billed Stork; hundreds of White-faced Ducks; Avocets; Grey-headed Gulls; Swift Terns; a few Little Terns and Lesser Crested Terns; numerous Curlew Sandpipers changing into breeding plumage; White-fronted Plovers; Common Ringed Plovers; Grey Herons.

Also seen was an adult Palm-Nut Vulture flying low over the dunes and also an Osprey circling above with a large fish for dinner.

A trip into Eastern Shores, Isimangaliso Wetland Park early morning after the rains  was very quiet. Birds were trying to warm up and dry off so not much activity.

Back in camp the Livingstone’s Turacos were often calling above our campsite.

Always a special place to visit at this time of the year (and any other time of course).

Paul and Sally Bartho