Cumberland Outing end January

Cumberland Weekend Outing end January 2014.

Cumberland Private Nature Reserve is run by John and Stella Behn. They have chalets dotted around in the reserve, a large campsite and rooms at the top of the hill. All very reasonably priced. Note: if you book the campsite then only your party may share the whole campsite – irrespective of whether there are 2 of you or 20 and you are charged R60 per person. There is a female and male shower/toilet on site with good hot water. There is no power but you can rent the use of a campsite fridge.

There were 14 people on the Weekend Outing  – joined by another 10 or so for the Sunday Outing.

Cumberland Nature Reserve
Cumberland Nature Reserve

The weather played its part in making the outing successful – from a birding point of view. Friday was hot, hot hot. So those who arrived early did not get a lot of birding done. In fact it was best sitting in the shade of the campsite and watching the birds in the surrounding bush and stream. A late afternoon swim up on the hill by the rooms was a great way to cool off.

Overnight we had rain and Saturday morning started overcast, misty and cool – which brought out the warblers – Broad-tailed Warbler in particular.

Broad-tailed Warbler
Broad-tailed Warbler

The Saturday walk started at 05h30 in the campsite, progressed through the extensive picnic area and up the hill to the alternative accommodation area. There we were treated by Stella and John to tea or coffee and home-made cheese scones.

On the circular route back to the campsite it started to drizzle. Mike and Jane (the weekend outing leaders) decided that a break was in order and that we would meet at 10h30 at the “hide” next to the dam immediately outside the entrance gate. At first the birding seemed quiet with little on the dam. Then it all started to change. African Black Duck appeared, Common Moorhen, White-throated Swallows, an African Purple Swamphen, Malachite Kingfisher to name a few.

Wandering upstream from the hide one bird in particular attracted us by its call. A Warbler. It was thought to be a Reed Warbler but we were unsure which one so we played the call to see if we could recognise it. It continued calling. Perhaps co-coincidently it stopped and remained quiet after we played the call of the Eurasian Reed Warbler. How we all would have liked to have had a positive ID on the bird. In the opinion of some the call was not as harsh or grating as the Great Reed Warbler nor as tuneful as the African Reed Warbler. Anyway we shall never know.

In the same area a Half-collared Kingfisher was spotted which seemed to be happy in the area with us about.

Half-collared Kingfisher
Half-collared Kingfisher

Further upstream, a Great Reed Warbler was spotted. Consequently many people felt that this must have been the bird which we had heard earlier, though as you might expect, there was disagreement amongst us.

Some photos of birds seen during the walk.

And some Butterflies and other creatures.

The rest of the afternoon we were left to our own devices, to recover from the previous evening braai in the campsite and to prepare for the one to come up the hill where a number of people were staying.

The rooms are in an excellent location right at the edge of the cliffs with fantastic views all round. We made good use of the facilities available to those staying in the rooms – a large kitchen and lounge plus outdoor covered patios with seating available for all. John and Stella joined us for the braai – again for some a late night!

Sunday started overcast but dry. Another 10 people or so joined us at 07h00 as part of the Sunday Outing. We split into 2 groups and both parties headed down to the Horseshoe Bend of the Umgeni River. One group checked the campsite gorge while the other went on ahead.. Two Mountain Wagtails were seen flying through the gorge.

The birding was good in both groups with Pygmy-Kingfishers seen by both groups and Little Sparrowhawk by one group. Further excitement was to follow as we approached the Umgeni River.

African Pygmy-Kingfisher
African Pygmy-Kingfisher

One group, aware that there was a Python mound checked to see if there was any activity. And there we saw a 4 metre 15 cm diametre (at least) python basking in the sun. Stella told us there were two that size there and someone had sent them photos of 7 little ones. Three of us got as close as we could to take the following photos.

Yet further down a Bearded Woodpecker was spotted and photographed. An incidental report will be sent to the Atlas Project.

On Horseshoe Bend is Horseshoe cottage where we relaxed. Some of us went to the river’s edge and saw a small crocodile.

Young Crocodile
Young Crocodile

That put paid to anyone’s intention to cool off in the river! Standing there on the edge, about 10 metres from us at the edge of the reeds, there was a sudden loud fluttering of a large bird scampering further downstream and darting back into the reeds. Those who saw the spectacle concluded that it was probably an African Finfoot – though none of us could be certain.

Some pictures of birds seen on the Sunday walk.

Then is was the long trudge back up the hill to the campsite. Lunch and preparation of the bird list for the weekend. Then for some of us packing up our camp as we all headed home. 

Altogether 127 species were recorded.

Gramarye Farm, Boston – Sunday Outing

Gramarye Farm, Boston

The 3rd Sunday outing for November took place in the Midlands, kindly hosted by Crystelle Wilson at her charming country home on the Dargle road just outside Boston.

A group of 15 keen birders assembled at 8am with a welcoming mug of coffee with rusks for those that made the journey on the morning. Others had made it a birding weekend and overnighted in the area. Gum boots of all sorts, shapes and colours were kindly on offer for those without, and off we set for a gentle walk to the river with paths running through the wetland and along the Elands River.

Boots 'n All, Boston
Boots ‘n All, Boston

A good number of birds were seen and heard including warblers (Little-rush, African Reed, and Dark-Capped Yellow Warbler), cisticolas (Levaillants), widows (Red-collared and Fan-tailed), weavers (Spectacled and Village), water birds (Yellow-billed Duck, Spur-winged Geese) and a few raptors (Steppe Buzzard, Black Sparrowhawk). Unfortunately the cranes were not on offer which will mean a return trip next year, but also seen were Cape Grassbird, Drakensberg Prinia, Southern Red Bishop, Common Waxbill and Giant Kingfisher.

Once out of the wetlands and back at the house, a few birds seen in the gardens surrounding the house included Cape Wagtail, Cape Canary, Amethyst Sunbird and a lovely pair of African Hoopoe.

Gum boots were soon discarded as next up on the agenda was a short drive to a farm further north for a spot of indigenous forest birding. Here we were treated to wonderful views of rolling farmlands, small dams and quaint cottages – the latter perfect for a week end away of quiet birding and fly-fishing away from the bustle of city life. A leisurely stroll through the indigenous forest yielded cracking views of Bush Blackcap, Bar-throated Apalis and Yellow-Throated Woodland-Warbler. A few other birds seen included Olive Thrush, Blue-Mantled Crested Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher, Forest Canary and Jackal Buzzard. Not to be outdone by the birds, a pair of Common Duiker also put in a brief appearance.

Once done with the forest walk, we proceeded down to a second fishing cottage overlooking a small dam – picnic time and time to discuss events of the day. En route a few picked up Plain-backed Pipit, Yellow Bishop and Cape Robin-Chat. The final tally for the week end was approximately 70 species seen, to be confirmed by Crystelle once her atlas card has been submitted to the SABAP2 database.

Some photos taken during the outing.

Yours in birding,
Dave Rimmer

Mbona Feedback

What a Day!

After a very misty and rainy Saturday, Sunday was almost perfect.

Twenty members made the 6am start at the Mbona entrance gate and they were not disappointed.

Before the group got away a Yellow-crowned Bishop was spotted. Almost the first of 94 species seen.

From the entrance gate to the estate the group headed first for Ben Vie. At the end of a  soggy walk a number of specials were seen including Orange Ground-Thrush, Chorister Robin-Chat, Knysna Turaco, and Red-backed Mannikin. Buff-spotted Flufftail was heard.

The group then headed for the Mbona estate through the back entrance and birded all the way to Mike’s cottage at the end. Again many specials were seen including African Crowned Eagle, Bush Blackcap, Forrest Canaries, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Red-necked Spurfowl, Dusky Indigobird, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Giant Kingfisher and Red-throated Wryneck. And then on the way out, a few of us were treated to a viewing of a Narina Trogon. Others an Olive Woodpecker and 3 Wattled Cranes at the Karkloof Conservancy.

The day before at Karkloof Conservancy 8 Grey Crowned Cranes and 30 White Storks were seen at one hide. And at the other hide a juvenile Red-knobbed Coot had us all confused for a while – see poor photo.

Attached are some photos of Mbona and its habitat as well as some of the birds we managed to snap!

Many thanks to Mike White for letting us use his cottage after the outing to have our refreshments. The views are superb.


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