Sunday, 3 April 2011

Outing Report- Umzimkulu Valley 3rd April 2011

by Andy Ruffle

Attendees- Mike Fagan, Stan & Val Culley, Eric Kok, Cathy Lee, John Marchant, Andy Ruffle, Ian Upfold, Ron Whitham.

Nine members of Birdlife Trogons braved the elements for today's outing to the stunning Umzimkulu Valley, located behind Lake Eland, Oribi.
The low cloud and mist that greeted our arrival, at the Lake Eland gates, did not bode well for our journey into the Valley. Southern Crowned Crane could be heard calling, but remained out of sight. The group, having made it this far, was determined to continue with the excursion as planned and set off in a small convoy.

The slow meander downwards revealed much bird movement and calls rang from the bush and valleys below.
An unfamiliar francolin call was confirmed as Red-necked, by Sipho the resident bird guide at the hunting lodge, who Ian had conveniently picked up on the way.

With our descent complete, we put on our walking boots and commenced some serious birding.
Yellow-fronted Canary was everywhere, with each little movement seeming to be yet another. Other species soon started to make an appearance though, with the likes of Golden-breasted Bunting, Red-fronted Tinkerbird and Bar-throated Apalis showing well.
A flash of russet, in a nearby bush, soon had the hearts racing. 'Southern Tchagra' Andy called, much to Stan's delight. With a good view of this skulker, Stan had finally put his 'bogey bird' to bed.
A scan of the distant cliff faces confirmed previous speculation that Cape Vulture may be present, with about seven birds seen perched on a dropping stained ledge. Further scanning, however, proved difficult due to low cloud and rapidly deteriorating visibility. Unfortunately, a photograph was out of the question this time. Breakfast was not though, with this being the ideal moment to head for our picnic site and put the kettle on.

Suitably refreshed and with the cloudbase rising a metre or two, we ventured off on our second walk.
The weather being cool meant the birds were still active, offering us opportunities for more interesting revelations. We weren't disappointed, with a Red-backed Shrike making an unexpected appearance. This sighting was probably the last we'll see for this season as they usually start their migration during the first ten days of April.
White-browed Scrub-robin, African Firefinch, African Hoopoe, Purple-crested Turaco and Black Saw-wing were all seen on this walk, but sadly no Blue Waxbill.

With our braai consumed and precarious ascent out of the valley overcome, our pleasant and rewarding day was complete.

Birds recorded (60 species):- Grey Crowned Crane, Dark-capped Bulbul, Natal Spurfowl, Olive Thrush, Hadeda Ibis, Common Fiscal, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Black-headed Oriole, Southern Boubou, Brown Scrub-robin, Fork-tailed Drongo, Southern Black Flycatcher, Cape Batis, Bar-throated Apalis, Yellow-fronted Canary, Grey-headed Bush-shrike, Red-eyed Dove, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Red-necked Spurfowl, White-browed Scrub-robin, Neddicky, Black-bellied Starling, Southern Black Tit, African Hoopoe, Tambourine Dove, Cardinal Woodpecker, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Black Cuckooshrike, Spectacled Weaver, Speckled Mousebird, Brown-throated Martin, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, African Firefinch, Southern Tchagra, Purple-crested Turaco, Golden-breasted Bunting, Black Saw-wing, African Olive Pigeon, Cape Vulture, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-capped Robin-chat, African Fish Eagle, Yellow Weaver, Sombre Greenbul, Olive Sunbird, Terrestrial Brownbul, African Pied Wagtail, Cape Glossy Starling, Green-backed Camaroptera, Chinspot Batis, Red-backed Shrike, Tawny-Flanked Prinia, Burchell's Coucal, Hamerkop, White-bellied Sunbird, Green Wood-hoopoe, Orange-breasted Bush-shrike, Red-winged Starling, African Stonechat, Lesser-striped Swallow.

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