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Ken Borland


Archive for the ‘Birding/Wildlife’


Nahoon Estuary Nature Reserve 0

Posted on January 19, 2018 by Ken

 

Blue Duiker

Blue Duiker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amidst the suburban bustle of East London, the Nahoon Estuary Nature Reserve is a small oasis in which majestic Crowned Eagles can be spotted side-by-side with the more prosaic Hadeda Ibis.

In fact, when I visited the reserve in Beacon Bay, I was fortunate enough to see a Crowned Eagle, flying majestically low over the coastal forest, although it was seemingly being chased by a Hadeda, which was following right behind it!

Considering that Hadedas are actually amongst the Crowned Eagle’s favourite avian prey, it is way more likely that it was just an illusion of perspective and the Ibis would have been keeping its distance from the powerful raptor.

The favourite prey of the Crowned Eagle is Dassies and Blue Duiker, and there were lots of the little antelope around, easily spotted on the various paths through the forest.

The 77km long Nahoon River is the centrepiece of the reserve and an excellent boardwalk allows one to explore the tidal flats as well as Africa’s southern-most mangrove forest.

The river bank no doubt provides breeding sites for Black Saw-Wing Swallow, and a pair of these summer visitors were sailing above a clearing in the coastal forest, along with Lesser Striped Swallows. Forktailed Drongos stand guard on prominent perches, one of them having a weird double tail moult.

Forktailed Drongo with double tail-moult

Forktailed Drongo with double tail-moult

Whitebreasted Cormorant fly over along the estuary, with Tawnyflanked Prinia in bushes on the flats, Spottedbacked Weavers in the reeds and Goliath Heron and Little Egret patrolling the water’s edge.

There are rocky areas as well, while pristine forest is tightly packed on the dunes bordering the river and the Indian Ocean. Trails criss-cross this enticing habitat and a pair of Greenbacked Camaropteras were jumping around next to the path, while Terrestrial Bulbul kept to themselves in the thicker stuff.

Where is the Nahoon Estuary Nature Reserve?

 

Sightings list

Blue Duiker

Sombre Bulbul

Bronze Mannikin

Whitebreasted Cormorant

Forktailed Drongo

Laughing Dove

Redeyed Dove

Tawnyflanked Prinia

Black Saw-Wing Swallow

Crowned Eagle

Hadeda Ibis

Goliath Heron

Little Egret

Greenbacked Camaroptera

Terrestrial Bulbul

Lesser Striped Swallow

Spottedbacked Weaver

Cape White-Eye

Cape White-Eyes having a bath

Cape White-Eyes having a bath

 

Zimbali 0

Posted on December 07, 2017 by Ken

 

Zimbali is unlike most other coastal resort developments in that the estate is a richly-rewarding birding spot and large enough – at 456 hectares – for many hours of twitching.

Amongst the more spectacular gems that can be spotted is a pair of breeding Crowned Eagle; and their mere presence is indicative of a natural environment comprising ecological richness and biological diversity.

Because these magnificent raptors are apex predators, it means all other links in the food chain must be intact, or else the Crowned Eagle would relocate elsewhere and certainly wouldn’t be breeding – as they have since 2001 at the luxury North Coast eco-estate.

Studies of their prey items reveal the rich biodiversity in terms of both birds and mammals found at Zimbali, which conserves patches of coastal lowland forest fringing the golf course, which is an interesting challenge when the wind is blowing.

Other specials which one can certainly expect to see at Zimbali include the endearing Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet and the attractive Redbacked Mannikin, which is restricted to the eastern borders of South Africa.

A pair of African Fish Eagle are the other prominent raptors to be spotted at Zimbali, lording it over the open waters, while there are also a few Yellowbilled Kite around in summer and Longcrested Eagle is becoming more regular at the conservancy.

The Eastern Olive Sunbird is a typical forest bird present at Zimbali, along with Collared Sunbird, White-Eared and Blackcollared Barbet, Natal Robin, Greenbacked Camaroptera, Thickbilled Weaver and Yellowbellied Bulbul.

The secluded nature of some of the walks around Zimbali lend themselves to sightings of the shyer Horus Swift, while the riparian vegetation along the Zimbali River is just to the liking of the Yellow Weaver.

Yellow Weaver in the Zimbali reedbeds

Yellow Weaver in the Zimbali reedbeds

Pied Kingfisher hover-hunt over the ponds on the course, where Goliath Heron also go fishing, while African Jacana strut around the water grasses.

In the woodlands, one may see Plumcoloured Starling, Natal Francolin and Whitebrowed Scrub Robin.

 

Where is Zimbali?

 

Sightings list

Yellowbilled Kite

African Fish Eagle

Southern Greyheaded Sparrow

Vervet Monkey

European Swallow

Lesser Striped Swallow

Blackeyed Bulbul

Eastern Olive Sunbird

Blackheaded Oriole

Redeyed Dove

Bronze Mannikin

Forktailed Drongo

Redwinged Starling

Whitebreasted Cormorant

Pied Crow

Feral Pigeon

Palm Swift

Common Myna

Hadeda Ibis

Collared Sunbird

Burchell’s Coucal

Cape Wagtail

Horus Swift

White-Eared Barbet

Blacksmith Plover

Longcrested Eagle

Bushbuck

African Pied Wagtail

Fiscal Shrike

Yellow Weaver

Plumcoloured Starling

Redbacked Mannikin

Egyptian Goose

Natal Robin

Little Swift

Goliath Heron

Blackheaded Heron

Greenbacked Cameroptera

Natal Francolin

Pied Kingfisher

Southern Red Bishop

African Jacana

Crowned Eagle

Blackcollared Barbet

Spottedbacked Weaver

Hamerkop

Speckled Mousebird

Thickbilled Weaver

Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet

Tawnyflanked Prinia

Whitebrowed Scrub Robin

Yellowbellied Bulbul

 

Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve 0

Posted on October 24, 2017 by Ken

 

Nestled between the rampant development of Umhlanga Rocks is a little 26 ha sanctuary of coastal bush, a refuge for birds and small mammals amidst all the hotels and holiday homes that are mushrooming along the coast north of Durban.

The Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve, with its coastal dune forest, reed beds, ponds and the Ohlange River’s lagoon and mouth, provides an ideal getaway for the public to spend a few hours reconnecting with nature, and there are plenty of interesting birds waiting to be discovered.

The Eastern Olive Sunbird is largely restricted to these coastal forests and it disappears readily into the thick foliage, it’s dark olive plumage lacking any of the metallic shininess of the other sunbirds.

But it makes up for this unobtrusive behaviour by being amongst the most vocal of all sunbirds, and, in a couple of hours spent in the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve, I managed to find four different individuals singing little “whit-peep” songs from inside the trees.

As charming as the reserve is though, one cannot help but be dismayed by the pace of development squeezing it from all sides; the difference between my January 2014 visit and my previous foray to Umhlanga in 2003 was stark.

A Purplecrested Lourie flew into a bare tree above the forest and seemed to look around anxiously, seemingly perplexed by all the development going on around the oasis of green.

Nevertheless, three species of Weaver can be found in the reserve, including nesting Yellow Weavers, and there were fleeting glimpses of Tawnyflanked Prinia, as well as a Slender Mongoose scampering away into the reedbeds, just proving the wide range of habitats these carnivores can inhabit.

Common Sandpiper and Pied Kingfisher are prominent along the lagoon, while there always seems to be a Goliath Heron around.

Thickbilled Weaver can either be found nesting in the reeds or foraging on the way back through the forest.

Sightings list

Cape Wagtail

Spottedbacked Weaver

Blackeyed Bulbul

Yellow Weaver

Tawnyflanked Prinia

Purplecrested Lourie

Eastern Olive Sunbird

Cape White-Eye

Sombre Bulbul

Southern Red Bishop

Slender Mongoose

Common Sandpiper

Pied Kingfisher

Blackheaded Heron

Goliath Heron

Hadeda Ibis

Bronze Mannikin

Thickbilled Weaver

 

Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve 0

Posted on August 12, 2017 by Ken

 

The Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve, in the southern Durban suburb of Yellowwood Park, is a five-star birding venue which provides a fine selection of more than 200 KwaZulu-Natal species.

Visiting on a partly cloudy, warm spring morning in October 2016, the place was alive with bird song and I knew I was in for a treat.

Because the 253 hectare reserve is mostly coastal evergreen forest and grassland, a Greyheaded Bush Shrike was not what I was expecting to see, especially since the Birds in Reserves atlasing project had it recorded on just five of 404 cards submitted through the year at Stainbank Nature Reserve.

But there the handsome Greyheaded, the largest bush shrike in Southern Africa, was, calling loudly as the morning warmed up, its trademark mournful hoot coming from a tree along a stream.

Nearby, Purplecrested Lourie, by contrast a typical bird of this area, was also calling loudly, along with Blackheaded Orioles from the tops of trees.

Searching the tops of the trees, which included many impressive Yellowwoods, proved to be fruitful in general, as well as throwing up one or two surprises. A Bronze Mannikin was all on its own on top of one tree and, deep in the forest, there was even a Kurrichane Thrush, which usually favours drier woodland, on top of a tree!

Even a dead tree was a good place for birds, with three White-eared Barbet, inevitably, on top of one. These subtropical lowlands specials are often seen perched prominently on bare branches.

There are various trails to walk along in Stainbank Nature Reserve, as well as bush tracks one can drive along, and Tambourine Dove went whizzing along one of these, while Gymnogene was also spotted soaring over the forest.

The forest is best explored on foot and a quiet stroll can lead to some lucky glimpses. I surprised a pair of Hadeda Ibis along a shady path so the hiking boots were obviously in good stealth mode!

A Southern Black Flycatcher swooped away with a caterpillar and a couple of Olive Sunbird were quite confiding as they flew out from below the leaves of the Large-Leaved Dragon Tree, a typical denizen of coastal dunes.

A Forest Weaver was moving down a tree trunk and a pair of Southern Black Tit were also quite low down in the foliage.

Sometimes just sitting quietly and waiting for the birds to come to you is also effective and a Natal Robin came to investigate while I was eating an orange.

Never mind the birds and trees, there is also a nice sprinkling of game in the Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve and a young Bushbuck was close to a herd of zebra, all feeding contentedly, to sum up a decidedly refreshing, tranquil morning.

 

Where is Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve?

 

Sightings list

Vervet Monkey

Yellowbilled Kite

Tambourine Dove

Plains Zebra

Blackheaded Oriole

Yellowbellied Bulbul

Bronze Mannikin

Hadeda Ibis

Gymnogene

Purplecrested Lourie

Greyheaded Bush Shrike

Forktailed Drongo

Blackcollared Barbet

Red Duiker

Southern Black Flycatcher

Impala

Olive Sunbird

Forest Weaver

Kurrichane Thrush

Little Swift

Speckled Mousebird

Cape White-Eye

Yellow Weaver

Tawnyflanked Prinia

Southern Black Tit

White-Eared Barbet

Natal Robin

Blackheaded Heron

Bushbuck

 



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