In May 2012 I travelled to KZN to visit my parents and managed to add a few birding outings into the time away.
Marutswa Forest near Bulwer was my first stop off - there is always something on offer at this amazing spot. The highlight was a lifer in the Orange Ground Thrush and multiple sightings of Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher and Bush Blackcap. Here are some highlights:
Here is a full list of sightings: Knysna Turaco, Orange Ground-thrush, Olive Thrush, Chorister Robin-chat, Blue-mantled Crested-flycatcher, Black-backed Puffback, African Olive-pigeon, Southern Black Tit, Dark-backed Weaver, Collared Sunbird, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Black-headed Oriole, Bush Blackcap, Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Rattling Cisticola, Olive Bush-Shrike, Forest Canary and Cape White-eye.
Krantzkloof (or what I grew up calling Kloof Falls) was a most rewarding outing! The African Crowned Eagle was on her nest just below the ridge, the Trumpeter Hornbills were everywhere, and right down at the bottom of the falls (quite a climb back up to the top) a Mountain Wagtail let me get really close:
Here are a few scenery shots of the spot:
Here is a full list of sightings: Egyptian Goose, Trumpeter Hornbill, Sombre Greenbul, Knysna Turaco, Red-winged Starling, Mountain Wagtail, Cape White-eye, Terrestrial Brownbul, Fork-tailed Drongo, Olive Sunbird, Dark-backed Weaver, Cape Batis, African Crowned Eagle, Rock Martin, Black-collared Barbet, Green-backed Camaroptera, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Hadeda Ibis, Cape Turtle-Dove, Blue-mantled Crested-flycatcher and Dark-capped Bulbul.
Pigeon Valley Park is a spot that I simply cannot resits whenever I am in Durban with a hour or two or three to spare. I looked in vain for the Spotted Ground Thrush (and would have to wait for a few days later to see one for the first time this year) which I first saw at this spot some time back. It was not a spectacular outing birding-wise, but many of the Natal birds were willing to pose for some shots (although I am still waiting to get the perfect shot of Red-capped Robin-Chat - I get so many chances but their mobility and low lighting always conspires against me!) - OH, I think I went a bit overboard with the Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird shots, but it is just such a beauty!!!) - and of course, the Turacos always stayed just out of range!):
Here is a full list of sightings: Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape Batis, Terrestrial Brownbul, Olive Sunbird, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Purple-crested Turaco, Thick-billed Weaver, Cardinal Woodpecker and Sombre Greenbul.
Umgeni River estuary is always worth a closer look - and it took a lot of walk wading through mud at low tide to get out to the middle of the sandbanks in the river to take shots of what I initially thought were Sandwich Tern (which would have been a lifer for me) that turned out to be Swift Tern - not sure I would have sloshed around in the mud if I had known that, but I did manage to improve on previous photos of the species:
Beechwood Mangroves was my next stop - hoping to see Mangrove Kingfisher - but every other conceivable kingfisher was out and about except the Mangrove! I had a strange experience trying to get close to a bird that flew from one tree to another - and it turned out to be a bad in broad day light. A close up experience with Woolly-necked Stork was unexpected and had be guessing for a while!
Here are a few scenery shots that I took:
Here is a full list of sightings: Hamerkop, Black-headed Heron, Grey Heron, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, Cape Wagtail, Spectacled Weaver, Amethyst Sunbird, Purple-banded Sunbird, Levaillant's Cisticola, Brimstone Canary, Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Woolly-necked Stork, Three-banded Plover, Cape Wagtail, Yellow-fronted Canary, Speckled Mousebird, Olive Sunbird, Tambourine Dove, Little Bee-eater, Southern Boubou, Reed Cormorant, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Yellow Weaver, Spotted Flycatcher, Black-collared Barbet, Cardinal Woodpecker, Bronze Mannikin, Grey Sunbird, Fiscal Flycatcher, Red-capped Robin-chat, Green-backed Camaroptera, Red-eyed Dove and African Pied Wagtail.
Japanese Gardens in Durban North was a quick stop on my way back to Pinetown - I had some childhood memories of this spot and wanted to see if it was still the same. Here are some scenery shots followed by some close up shots of an African Spoonbill and his buddy, Reed Cormorant, on one of the ponds:
Palmiet Nature Reserve in Westville was a little disappointing, although it is a stunning spot and if I had more time and maybe a visit in Summer - it certainly is a spot worth visiting:
Here is a full list of sightings: Lemon Dove, Sombre Greenbul, Yellow-fronted Canary, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Pied Crow, Mountain Wagtail, Olive Sunbird, Collared Sunbird and Tambourine Dove.
Umdoni Park is my favourite little spot in KZN! It is always worth the drive down the coast to spend time around the environmental centre and along the river in the gorge. Sadly I wasted a lot of time waiting for the Green Twinspot - that never materialised. I have begun to think they may be extinct! It was a consolation prize to see Spotted Ground Thrush up close and also Narina Trogon (sadly this was a stuff specimen that was found on the property). Oh, and an unexpected lifer in an African Emerald Cuckoo (while taking shots of the Ground-Thrush, I spotted a Cuckoo fly into a tree and only on closer inspection did I realise it was African Emerald! It's a horrendous record pic so hopefully when they return from Europe later in the year I will get a better sighting!
Here is a full list of sightings: Red-capped Robin-chat, White-eared Barbet, Black-backed Puffback, Bar-throated Apalis, Black-bellied Starling, African Emerald Cuckoo, Green-backed Camaroptera, Olive Sunbird, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Ashy Flycatcher, Square-tailed Drongo, Trumpeter Hornbill, Tambourine Dove, Grey Sunbird, African Black Duck, Southern Boubou, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Spotted Ground-thrush, Dark-backed Weaver, Sombre Greenbul, Terrestrial Brownbul, Copper Sunbird, African Paradise-flycatcher, Knysna Turaco, Red-eyed Dove, Brown Scrub-robin, Olive Woodpecker and Fork-tailed Drongo.
On my way back to Johannesburg I headed off to the Natal Midlands in search of Crested Guineafowl and one last look for my elusive bogey-bird, Green Twinspot. Sadly I would find neither, but Scaly-throated Honeyguide sitting calling from a branch about 100 story's in the worlds largest tree was some consolation. Sadly, I am also yet to see Wattled Crane which were nowhere to be found at the Karkloof Conservation Center or in the midlands generally.
Benvie B&B was a fabulous morning outing. I called and asked if I could spend the morning there (even though I did not sleep over) and amazingly I was given permission to spend the morning birding on their property. What an amazing spot! The gardens are simply breathtaking and the bird life prolific - including super tame Lemon Dove and Orange Ground Thrush. The owners of the property must spend an absolute fortune feeding birds on their property! This is one spot you HAVE to visit in KZN! I have to start with some scenery pics:
The birding was exceptional! Close up to Lemon Dove, Orange Ground Thrush and two lifers in Scaly-throated Honeyguide and Red-backed Mannikin.
Oh, and on my way to the property around 6:30 I rounded a corner and standing in the middle of the road was a Buff-spotted Flufftail (lifer for me) and I fiddled with my binocs/camera in a flat spin and watched it disappear into the forest! Rats! Not a single shot! Next time!!!
Here is a full list of sightings: Verreaux's Eagle-owl, Lemon Dove, Olive Thrush, Orange Ground-thrush, Southern Boubou, Black-headed Oriole, Knysna Turaco, Cape Turtle-Dove, Speckled Mousebird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Southern Masked-weaver, Cape White-eye, Grey Cuckooshrike, African Olive-pigeon, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Swee Waxbill, Forest Canary, Speckled Pigeon, Mountain Wagtail, Dark-capped Bulbul, Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler, Cape Batis, Red-eyed Dove, Lanner Falcon, Red-backed Mannikin, Collared Sunbird, Olive Woodpecker, Dark-backed Weaver, Green-backed Camaroptera, Yellow-fronted Canary and Buff-spotted Flufftail.
Karkloof Conservation Center was my last stop on this trip - some of the finest bird hides that I have ever seen and great quantities of birds but sadly no Wattled Cranes on the day!
Here is a full list of sightings: Spur-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose, Red-knobbed Coot, Reed Cormorant, Southern Bald Ibis, Blacksmith Lapwing, Black-headed Heron, Grey Heron and South African Shelduck.
A super trip - where birding was definitely not my main focus - still resulted in 102 unique bird species sighted and 4 lifers bringing my lifelist to 584 species.