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Ken Borland

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


Purplecrested Lourie

Greyheaded Bush Shrike

Forktailed Drongo

Blackcollared Barbet

Red Duiker

Southern Black Flycatcher


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



Hartebeestpoort Dam 0

Posted on January 23, 2013 by Ken

A nocturnal Spotted Dikkop resting on the stony ground


What was once a beautiful pristine body of water is now over-run by toxic algae, but looking upwards is always rewarding when one is birding in the Hartebeestpoort Dam area.

That’s because the Magaliesberg Mountains surround the dam and, with diverse woodland and thornveld around its shores, Harties is always good for raptors.

The Oberon Resort, now known as Eagle Waters, is expensive for a day visit, but you can drive around the shore for some way as well as walk in the woodland.

It was while I was walking, away from the dam and towards the Magaliesberg that a buzzard came flying over and hovered kindly just about right above me. The barred tail and the chocolate-brown stripes on the belly were distinctive and I had my second Honey Buzzard sighting!

Straight afterwards, a Cape Vulture was soaring imperiously high above the hills, obviously a member of the nearby Skeerpoort colony.

Whitebrowed Sparrow Weavers, those denizens of the arid west, bouncing around at the entrance suggested it would be a good morning and there were certainly plenty of birds about, in between the Plains Zebra and Blesbok that serenely wander around, despite the disgusting efforts of some visitors to hunt them.

Young Plains Zebra

The water was busy too, with Reed and Whitebreasted Cormorants, Cattle Egret, Egyptian Goose, Redknobbed Coot, Sacred Ibis, Cape Wagtail, African Darter, Yellowbilled Duck, Greyheaded Gull and Whitewinged Tern all dashing about.

Spotted Dikkop were resting in the patches of longer grass on the stony ground, while a solitary Glossy Ibis was a surprise sighting flying over the dam.

After driving as far as I could go, I parked in one of the little fishing spots next to the water and set off on foot. A Blackcollared Barbet was trying to eat a large beetle, while a male Whitewinged Widow was making his presence known as well.

A Cinnamonbreasted Bunting flew up off the road on my way back to the car, where Yellowfronted Canary came to visit and feast on the many grass seeds that were available.

By then my second Honey Buzzard sighting was marked down, but clearly one of the local wasps decided he/she had to keep ahead of that landmark by inflicting only my third ever wasp sting!

I was stalking some birds in a little copse of trees near the campsite, where there is more thornveld as compared to the woodland on the eastern side of the resort, when I trod on a fallen branch, which rotated under my boot, obviously disturbing the wasp. I heard a buzzing, felt something on my neck and then was stung painfully!

I soldiered on, however, and was just thinking how the short grass with nearby trees was the perfect habitat for African Hoopoe when two flew up just ahead of me.

Even better, along the fence of the camping site, in some long grass, were a family of Blackthroated Canaries. Beyond the campsite is some even wilder grassy areas and these produced Fantailed Cisticola.

From Eagle Waters I drove to Magaliespark, where I was let in without any hassle after saying “I was told I can have lunch here.”

This beautiful resort is superbly set up and provides more lush vegetation as well as access to the Magalies River inlet to the dam.

A Common Moorhen was grooming itself contentedly in one of the water features, while I was surprised to see a group of Arrowmarked Babbler in thick, almost forest-like vegetation around the chalets.

The bird hide is really just an open lapa on the shore, but it provides a good view of one of the waterways and Whitethroated Swallow, Whitefaced Duck and Palm Swift were all zooming around.

A Rock Pigeon was my farewell bird as it chilled out on the stoep of one of the chalets, a foretaste of what was to come as I then went to the dam wall, where flocks of European Swallow and Rock Martin produce a swirling mass of birds just above the tunnel crossing, with the occasional Redwinged Starling flying about too.


Sightings list


Crowned Plover

Whitebrowed Sparrow Weaver

Greater Striped Swallow

Plains Zebra


Blackeyed Bulbul

Lesser Striped Swallow

Reed Cormorant

Whitebreasted Cormorant

Cattle Egret

Egyptian Goose

Redknobbed Coot

European Swallow

Sacred Ibis

Cape Wagtail

Common Myna

Blacksmith Plover

Crested Barbet

House Martin

African Darter

Spotted Dikkop

Southern Masked Weaver

Yellowbilled Duck

Glossy Ibis

Greyheaded Gull

Grey Heron

Whitewinged Tern

Fiscal Shrike

Laughing Dove

Southern Red Bishop

Whitewinged Widow

Blackcollared Barbet

Tawnyflanked Prinia

European Honey Buzzard

Cape Vulture

Cinnamonbreasted Rock Bunting

Hadeda Ibis

Black Sunbird

Yellowfronted Canary

Spotted Flycatcher

Southern Greyheaded Sparrow

African Hoopoe

Kurrichane Thrush

Blackthroated Canary

Cape White-Eye

Fantailed Cisticola

Forktailed Drongo

Blue Waxbill



Common Moorhen

Arrowmarked Babbler

Streakyheaded Canary

Whitethroated Swallow

Whitefaced Duck

Palm Swift

Grey Lourie

Rock Pigeon


Dam wall

Rock Martin

Redwinged Starling

Redeyed Dove



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