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Ken Borland


Archive for the ‘Birding/Wildlife’


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

 

Kruger National Park – Malelane & Berg-en-Dal 0

Posted on July 26, 2017 by Ken

African Buffalo, with Redbilled Oxpeckers, resting up in one of the puddles left by the first rains of summer

African Buffalo, with Redbilled Oxpeckers, resting up in one of the puddles left by the first rains of summer

The drought situation in Kruger National Park in 2016 reached such drastic proportions that it was one of the driest years in recorded history in some areas of the south, but blessed rains eventually fell in early December.

So when I nipped into the park for a morning’s birding on December 5, big puddles of water were still visible from the first rains of the summer. I figured the availability of this surface water would prove attractive to animals and so it proved.

The S114 is the first gravel road on the right after entering through Malelane Gate, and it runs along the Crocodile River before heading northwards towards Skukuza. Shortly before this, close to the S25 turnoff, there were large puddles of water formed next to the road in this area of mixed woodland and thorn thickets on granite, and next to them, half-a-dozen African Wild Dog were lounging around under some bushes.

I found two Buffalo lying in a mud-puddle on the side of the road as well and they were clearly not keen to leave, even though I was parked right next to them, clicking away happily on my camera.

Ahhh ... bliss. A Redbilled Oxpecker gives a Buffalo a spa treatment.

Ahhh … bliss. A Redbilled Oxpecker gives a Buffalo a spa treatment.

Sadly, the rains came too late for many animals and, also on the S114 close to the Crocodile River, a Hippopotamus carcass was lying under a tree, in which one of those rather confusing African Fish Eagle juveniles was perched.

A juvenile Fish Eagle, whose hunting skills have not been fully honed, is quite likely to eat carrion, especially in a dry spell when their preferred food is scarce, but whether or not this individual had been gnawing on some Hippo, I have no way of knowing.

A Whitebacked Vulture was nearby in a tree, another portent of death.

A Whitebacked Vulture with a hoof? in its mouth.

A Whitebacked Vulture with a hoof? in its mouth.

A Hamerkop flew over the H3 tar road as one approaches the bridge over the Crocodile River, in which there was still water, the river being classified as a perennial, with the usual array of birdlife along its course. A solitary African Openbill, a couple of Glossy Ibis, which are considered rare in Kruger Park, only erratic visitors, and Yellowbilled Stork were with all the other common waterbirds, along with Great White Egret and Water Dikkop.

The S110 road turns left from Malelane Gate and heads north-west towards the Berg-en-Dal camp, running between some of the highest hills in Kruger Park, the differences in altitude meaning a great diversity of plants, which attracts a host of birds.

Southern Whitecrowned Shrike were buzzing between the bushes and a few Monotonous Lark were calling in the valley below the slopes of Khandzalive Hill, which is the highest point in the park at 840 metres.

There were a couple of White Rhinoceros with calves, a very pleasing sight, and, close to Berg-en-Dal Dam, a Monotonous Lark was perched on some low branches and scrub and rather scratchily giving its for syrup is sweet call.

 

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Monotonous Lark

Even the reptiles were out and about, with the impressive Blacklined Plated Lizard crossing the road.

 

Sightings list

Egyptian Goose

African Openbill

Sacred Ibis

Grey Heron

Cattle Egret

Yellowbilled Stork

Glossy Ibis

Southern Whitecrowned Shrike

African Elephant

Blackeyed Bulbul

Southern Black Flycatcher

Impala

Greater Kudu

Whitewinged Widow

Glossy Starling

African Buffalo

African Buffalo

Wiretailed Swallow

Monotonous Lark

African Buffalo

Redbilled Oxpecker

Forktailed Drongo

Lilacbreasted Roller

Cape Turtle Dove

White Rhinoceros

Little Swift

Brown Snake Eagle

Laughing Dove

Plains Zebra

Sabota Lark

Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill

Spotted Flycatcher

European Bee-Eater

Woodland Kingfisher

Blacklined Plated Lizard

Yellowfronted Canary

Arrowmarked Babbler

Blackcollared Barbet

Plumcoloured Starling

Redbilled Hornbill

Jacobin Cuckoo

Helmeted Guineafowl

African Hoopoe

African Wild Dog

Redbilled Oxpecker on African Buffalo

Redbilled Oxpecker on African Buffalo

Grey Lourie

Longtailed Shrike

Whitebacked Vulture

Giraffe

Grey Hornbill

African Fish Eagle

Hamerkop

Slender Mongoose

Great White Egret

Hadeda Ibis

Blacksmith Plover

Pied Kingfisher

Whitebreasted Cormorant

Water Dikkop

 

Leopard Creek 0

Posted on July 05, 2017 by Ken

 

The elusive, mysterious and secretive African Finfoot

The elusive, mysterious and secretive African Finfoot

Leopard Creek has recently been rated amongst the top 100 golf courses in the world by the prestigious Golf Digest magazine and it is surely the wildest top-class golf course in the world, situated as it is alongside the Kruger National Park.

The Crocodile River forms the northern boundary between Leopard Creek and the Kruger National Park and the back nine runs along the river, offering tremendous sightings of all the animals and birds made famous by one of the largest game reserves in the world.

A channel runs off the Crocodile River and flows right in front of the clubhouse, making the verandah of this opulent building an ideal spot for bird and animal spotting. Unfortunately the clubhouse is also extremely hard to access for the rank and file visitor to Leopard Creek, but the good news is that there is a little service road that runs along this channel for a hundred metres or so, before turning up the hill to the 10th tee.

Shaded by luxuriant riverine trees, the road passes right by the water and I always make a point of taking a quiet stroll along this area. It has always seemed to me to be a perfect spot for African Finfoot – which Roberts describes as favouring “quiet, wooded streams and rivers flanked by thick riparian vegetation and overhanging trees” – the very description of my favourite part of Leopard Creek.

And so, on my eighth visit to this special place outside Malelane for the Alfred Dunhill Championship, I finally got my Finfoot.

There in this shady channel I saw the bright orange legs first as the bird stood on the bank and then went into the water, gliding stealthily to the other side of the river.

A hippopotamus was contentedly passing the day between this channel and the main Crocodile River, while a Brownhooded Kingfisher called from high up in the trees and a Malachite Kingfisher hunted from low down on fallen branches close to the water.

Heuglin’s Robin, one of my favourites, also hangs around this area.

Coming back up out on to the golf course, a series of dams is in front of you between the ninth, 18th and 10th holes, with Lesser Striped Swallow flying over and African Pied Wagtail patrolling the banks.

Heading backwards through the front nine, Blackbacked Puffback is calling away and Blue Waxbill are in a sapling on the side of the ninth fairway.

The seventh hole, a par-three, shares a dam with the fifth hole, fringed by Fever Trees, and Spottedbacked, Southern Masked and Thickbilled Weavers were all nesting in the same specimen of this archetypal tree of tropical wetlands, from which gin and tonics (no doubt consumed in large quantities on the verandah of the clubhouse) originated.

Along the stream feeding this dam, a Giant Kingfisher was eating a good-sized fish, while a Greenbacked Heron was flying upstream.

Anywhere on the course, you are likely to see Whitebacked Vultures soaring overhead and Purplecrested Louries flying between patches of thicker bush. Whitefaced Duck are also often flying over.

But the 13th is the signature hole of Leopard Creek, not just because of its great design but mostly because of the dazzling vista it provides over the Crocodile River just beneath the elevated green and Kruger Park just across the way.

Charl Schwartzel when the going was still good

Charl Schwartzel when the going was still good

While sitting there on the final day and watching Charl Schwartzel’s challenge implode in the face of young Brandon Stone’s brilliance, I was able to admire Great White Egret, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Black Crake, Egyptian Goose, Whitefronted Bee-Eater, African Elephant and Nile Crocodile along the river.

Away from the golf course, Leopard Creek is in an area of typical dense bushveld savanna with Forktailed Drongos, sometimes even perching on low aloes, ruling the day and Spotted Dikkops, marching around the parking lot, at night.

 

 

 

 

Where is Leopard Creek?

 

Sightings list

Forktailed Drongo

Spotted Dikkop

Impala

Bushbuck

Whitefaced Duck

Blackeyed Bulbul

Little Swift

Hippopotamus

Brownhooded Kingfisher

Malachite Kingfisher

African Finfoot

Heuglin’s Robin

Whitebacked Vulture

Lesser Striped Swallow

African Pied Wagtail

Blackbacked Puffback

Blue Waxbill

Spottedbacked Weaver

Southern Masked Weaver

Thickbilled Weaver

Giant Kingfisher

Grey Lourie

Greenbacked Heron

Yellowthroated Sparrow

Nile Monitor

Purplecrested Lourie

Great White Egret

Purple Heron

Grey Heron

Black Crake

Egyptian Goose

Whitefronted Bee-Eater

African Elephant

Nile Crocodile

Sombre Bulbul

Pintailed Whydah

 



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