On the 2nd of July 2010 we visited the Pigeon Valley Park in Durban (it is just a belt of bush/forest just below the University of Natal with an entrance in Princess Alice Avenue). It was without doubt the toughest birding experience we have had as the bush was thick but patience and careful listening and looking for birds was rewarded. I realised again how tough it is to take pics in forests with the low and variable lighting. Trying to hand-hold a zoom lens on a camera without anti-shake is tough and the gaininess that results from high ISO is not nice!!!
The park is really small - with a walk way straight up the middle and a walk on the left and the right sides - with interleading paths. Here are a few scenery pics:
We began by walking right up the middle pathway towards the top of the park - and found this to be the least rewarding part of the outing. It was already 7:30 (it only opens at 7:30) so there should have been light around, but it is a valley so little sunlight was getting down into the pathway. We very soon opted to bird the left hand slope as it was catching some sunlight. We did see a Red-capped Robin-Chat that we chased around in the low light and all my efforts at getting a decent pic of this Lifer were unsuccessful in the valley.
We were delighted to hear the harsh sound of Turaco in the park and soon spotted the Purple-Crested Turacos - they never did come within close range for the perfect shot:
Careful and patient scanning and quick snapping resulted in the following shots including the lifer of the Terrestrial Brownbul (the Olive Bush-Shrike at least gave me a few seconds to get a decent pic - the best I have gotten so far of this shy little bird):
The next Lifer to be captured was the Dark-backed Weaver (actually I had no idea there was such a bird and took what seemed like hours pouring through my birding books to id it later - and fortunately I would got a better pic of the bird at Vernon Crooke Nature Reserve as this one never came out of the thicket):
The only Woodpecker we saw in KwaZulu Natal on this trip suddenly appeared and I was hoping against all odds that it would be Knsyna, but it turned out to be Cardinal Woodpecker:
I was starting to think that I was going to miss out on seeing the Spotted Ground-Thrush when along the perimeter fence I spotted what looked like a Groundscraper Thrush and I was delighted to see spots and not streaks on its chest. But it still proved to be a mission to get a clear pic:
I then snapped some Sunbirds and the little Grey job turned out to be not just a female but a Lifer - the Grey Sunbird! The tiny Collared Sunbird was also around in the park:
A couple other birds were snapped on our walk back up to the top of the valley (Bronze Mannikin, Sombre Greenbul, Village Weaver, Southern Boubou, Spectacled Weaver, Thick-billed Weaver and African Dusky Flycatcher):
A bird that we had captured the day before for the first time appeared - the White-eared Barbet:
Finally we looked for the Black Sparrowhawk nest reported to be on the right path (we actually saw it flying from a tree at the top of the valley to a tall tree outside the park but were not able to capture it on camera - in fact I must have gotten to within 2 metres of the bird before it took flight! I must have my eyes tested again!!!) and were disappointed to see that the nest was empty:
A great outing! 26 bird species spotted and 5 Lifers added to my LifeList!