Richter, Jody and I (Rowan) again decided to do a mad dash on the 11th and 12th of June 2016. This time we had our sights on Durban and its surrounding area. This trip was planned months ahead of time to be able to get in contact with people that could assist us in getting our target species. We also had to research all possible spots that would best provide us with the maximum hit rate for all the species in this short period of time.
The following species were targeted with specific reference to this time of year and we also listed it according to the sites in which it may be found:
We left Pretoria around mid-night (0:05) and arrived in Durban at about 6:15 am and was greeted by mist and light rain. The daylight was just about starting to arrive. We kicked-off our dash with Wilson's Wharf in the harbour at about 6:45 with plenty of bird not minding the weather. We were hoping to find Franklin's Gull that was reported here about 2 weeks ago, but it was high tide and none sand banks were visible.
The following birds of note were recorded: Witborsduiker, Swartrugmeeu, Gewone Sterretjie, Geelbeksterretjie
We then headed to Durban Bayheads to tackle the mangroves and mudflats. We arrived there around 7:15. We first headed for a patch of mangroves that Richter and Marcia targeted one of the holidays last year (2015).
It was not long before we spotted out first target specie of the day, the Mangrove Kingfisher. This specie only occurs here during the winter months. It kept hiding in thick patches of mangrove vegetation and was difficult to get proper photo opportunities, but Jody did get a record shot.
We then headed for the mudflats hoping to find wader, gulls and terns, but tide was still high and very little mudflat areas were exposed. The beach area was also very polluted. We then decided to come back later in the day hoping the situation will improve.
The following birds of note were recorded: Brilwewer, ParadysvlieŽvanger, Manglietvisvanger, Purperbandsuikerbekkie, Kleinbyvanger, Bosveldtinktinkie, DonkervlieŽvanger, Dikbekkanarie
We then headed to Pigeon Valley Park in search of the other target species. These were chiefly the Spotted Ground-Thrush (winter visitor to this region) and Olive Sunbird. Pigeon Valley is renowned for delivering Spotted Ground-Thrush in winter. Arriving there we apparently just missed about three of them foraging behind the notice board just inside the gate. We phoned Crispen Henson (stalwart to this little park) who is monitoring these little oukes almost every day. He told us that they could be hiding in the thicker undergrowth just further along from that spot.
After some diligent searching in that general area Richter spotted one exactly where Crispen explained. Crispen sooned arrived and in his unique way called to the thrush in an attempt to bring it to us for better photo opportunities. The thrush was sitting dead still in one spot until it heard Crispen's call and actually started to move. Needless to say it was a great experience. The Olive Sunbird was also seen here in numbers.
The following birds of note were recorded: Nataljanfrederik, Gewone Willie, Bandkeelkleinjantjie, GroenrugkwÍkwÍvoŽl, Kaapse Bosbontrokkie, Olyfsuikerbekkie, Swartblestinker, Bloukuifloerie, Swartpensglansspreeu, Swartsperwer, Witborsduifie, Kortbeksuikerbekkie, Natallyster, Boskrapper, Bosmusikant, Gryssysie, Gryssuikerbekkie
With a successful effort at Pigeon Valley we gunned for Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve. Just as we arrived at the entrance we spotted something yellow. Richter and I jumped out and nailed the next target species, Yellow Weaver. This is a small nature reserve that incorporates a wetland, costal forest and dune vegetation. We were also searching for the Green Malkoha, but to no avail.
The following birds of note were recorded: Gewone Spekvreter, Geelsanger, Olyfboslaksman, Kardinaalspeg, Geelborskleinjantjie, Kaapse Rietsanger, Gewone Swartmees, Rooiborsvleikuiken, Beloogbosbontrokkie
Oure next stop was at Sappi Stanger wetlands that have become quite renowned for specials/rarities for the region. The Umvoti River is the main vain for these wetlands. Our aim here was to get Brown-throated Weaver and Red-headed Quelea. Were on 73 species for the day when we entered these wetlands. We boosted our total to 105 within an hour and a half. This place was amazing. We unfortunately dipped on Red-headed Quelea even after James Rawdon (local ringer of this area) assisted us with great spots for this specie. We did however found one female Brown-throated Weaver and confirmed the ID with the remote assistance of James Rawdon and Joe Grosel.
The following birds of note were recorded: Grootlangtoon, SlanghalsvoŽl, Visarend, Gevlekte Eend, Grootkoningriethaan, Grootwaterhoender, Kaapse Slopeend, Bontkwikkie, Teeleend, Wildemakou, Rooibekeend, Kleindobbertjie, Waterdikkop, Afrikaanse Oewerswael, Bruineend, Geelbekeend, Reusereier, Afrikaanse Snip, Rooipootelsie, Bruinkeelwewer, Swartborsslangarend, Witkeelswael, Swartsaagvlerkswael, Kuifkophoutkapper, Rooikeelflap, Hamerkop,Gewone Bontrokkie, Goudwewer
The day ended with us doing a second lap at Wilson's Wharf and Bayheads. This time we found is at a lower tide with a bit more activity around the harbour and mudflats. The light was fading fast and photo opportunities along with it. The following birds of note were recorded: Gryskopmeeu, Reusesterretjie, Kleinwitreier, Grootsterretjie, Swartsuikerbekkie, Kleinpelikaan, Kuifkopsterretjie, Kleinwulp
The next morning (Sunday 12 June 2016) we had our sights on Umdoni Park with the target species of Green Malkoha and Red-fronted Tinkerbird in mind. This place consists of stunning coastal forest mixed with the local golf course.
Plenty of forest species to be found here and most resident species were also quite vocal. Our efforts here were fruitless in terms of our target species. The Tinkerbird that was found almost everywhere and also responded to the Red-fronted Tinkerbird call was the Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird. The White-eared Barbet was also found in great numbers here. The following birds of note were recorded: Bruinwipstert, Afrikaanse Sperwer, Swartkroontjagra, Geelborswillie, Kaneelduifie, Witoorhoutkapper, Natalse Fisant, Goudstertspeg, Gewone Boskraai, BlougrysvlieŽvanger
We called it quits from here and decided to head back home. The total for the trip end at 128 and I believe that it was a great result for the short amount of time. We will definitely be back in summer and try to get the missed target species and also focus more on possible waders then.