Monday, 16 March 2015

Trip Away report - Sand Forest Lodge 2-6 March 2015

Report and photos by Hazel van Rooyen

Participants: Stan & Val Culley, Barry Willis, Stanley & Asothie Gengan, Sandy Olver, Margaret Jones, Irma Smook, Doug and Angie Butcher, Bobby & Hazel van Rooyen.

On arrival the whole group  took a walk through the forest, in search of the African Broadbill and Narina Trogon  but it was very, very dry and barely a bird was spotted.  A lone Mocker Swallowtail butterfly danced through the undergrowth and a red duiker scampered off.

Mocker Swallowtail in Sand Forest Lodge forest

Guide Themba Mthembu met us at Hadeda-call on Tuesday morning and took us to several viewsites on the Nibela Peninsular, one where the Senegal Lapwings and Yellow Wagtails were  much in evidence.  Collared Pratincoles also strutted about and a flock of several hundred gave us a wonderful fly-over.  A long traipse over dried-out wetland did not produce any Rosy-throated Longclaws or pipits but other sightings included Kittlitz’s Plover, Curlew and Common Sandpipers and a Lemon-breasted Canary.  A lonely Blue-cheeked Bee-eater soared about.  On returning to our lodgings a pair of Scarlet-chested Sunbirds bounced in the wonderful tree canopy beside our chalets.

Yellow Wagtail - Nibela peninsular

Flock Collared Pratincoles fly-over - Nibela peninsular

After lunch and a break, some people sat by the pool where a honeysuckle attracted butterflies, including Green-banded, Citrus, Constantines and Forest Swallowtails which kept Sandy on the hop trying to get photos.  A Brimstone Canary came to see what all the fuss was about.  Walking back to our chalet White-eared Barbets flitted high in the trees.

Citrus Swallowtail - pool

In the afternoon, we embarked on another forest walk which produced similar results to the previous day, although a Black-chested Snake Eagle executed  a few circles in front of a lowering sun.  

At  sun-set, the local bush babies started up their eerie calling.  As with every evening, we all gathered on Stan, Val and Barry’s patio (Sue being overseas) for a lovely braai and drinks.  Barry and Stanley did us proud with the braai as usual.

Wednesday saw us heading off at dawn to Mkhuze – the road had not improved!  We spent quite some time at Muzi Pan just outside the reserve, looking at herons, pelicans, and various hirundines, (thankyou Val) mostly at a distance away.  A Malachite Kingfisher flitted in the reeds by the road.  A leisurely drive to the picnic site at Nsumo Pan produced a Brown Snake Eagle and a Wahlberg’s Eagle, but not much else.

Brown Snake Eagle - Mkhuze

It was also quiet at the picnic site, but a bird was singing so prettily which we eventually identified as a Pied Wagtail!  Breakfast over (we nearly left without Stanley and Barry who had gone walk-about much to Asothie’s chagrin and she sternly lectured them the notice-board sign saying “Do not venture out of the designated area!”).

Nsumo Pan picnic site Mkhuze

We climbed back into our vehicles, only to get out 2 minutes later at the next hide.  Pelicans congregated on the far bank but of more interest to the photographers was a Willow Warbler and Tawny-flanked Prinia in the brush behind the hide and Doug found an excellent spot where some Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters enjoyed perching between foraging flights.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater - Picnic site Nsumo pan

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater - Picnic site Nsumo pan

Willow Warbler- Picnic site Nsumo pan

The road to kuMasinga hide gave new meaning to Shake, Rattle & Roll and once there, out came the coffee and snacks again which calmed our nerves and was a relief as this hide was also now quiet, presumably the numerous game sighted on previous visits were now reluctant to hang around due to the introduction of lions (we didn’t see any, however).  Emerald-spotted Wood Doves, Blue Waxbills, Yellow-fronted Canaries came down to drink as did Common Waxbills.  A family of warthogs took some refreshment, while some terrapins performed a balancing act on a log and a few monkeys did a stress-test on a small branch.

Terrapins - kuMasinga Hide

Monkeys - kuMasinga Hide

Starlings and Dark-capped Bulbuls fed on an orange fruit in an unidentified tree.  Citrus Swallowtail butterflies were very interested in a sandy place at the water’s edge.  Suddenly the air became alive with European Bee-eaters dive-bombing insects flying over the water, some of them even splashing into the water and for the few minutes it lasted we watched enthralled.

European Bee-eater at kuMasinga Hide

European Bee-eater at kuMasinga Hide

Citrus Swallowtails at kuMasinga Hide

A family of Nyala came down to drink, then – all was once again quiet.
On the return, our exit via a better road, was blocked by a fallen tree so we ventured back on the stony road for a short distance before making our way home, some of us via the airfield where European Rollers took advantage of the flat terrain.  The Brown Snake Eagle also put in another appearance.

European Roller - flying at airfield Mkhuze

At our usual excellent evening braai, we discussed our action plan for the following day, being our last.  The options were, we could either stay around the lodge, visit False Bay or go to Hluhluwe Game Reserve and everyone was game for Hluhluwe.

First, however, Thursday morning found a few brave souls led by Stan, gathering at 05:30 for a final try at the Narina Trogon and African Broadbill in the forest.  It was still too dark for the forest so we strolled around the grassland while a herd of Nyala looked on curiously.  The birds had the good sense to stay asleep but the atmosphere and light from the rising sun coming up behind the grassland were wonderful.   We still didn’t find our birds but felt better for trying.

Sand Forest Lodge - 5.30am walk

Sand Forest Lodge - 5.30am walk - Nyala

At 8-ish we set off and entered at the top of Hluhluwe Game reserve – Memorial Gate.  Not far inside we encountered a massive herd of a few hundred elephant progressing determinedly along the valley.  This was more elephant than any of us had ever seen at one time and they had lots of babies too.  A huge herd of buffalo were also seen but we didn’t hang around them long!  Breakfast was at the picnic site on the Hluhluwe River.  Emerald Cuckoo and Scimitarbill were spotted.  From there we drove to Siwasamikhoskazi view point where a Rudd’s Apalis was seen.  Birds seen in Hluhluwe were, amongst others, European Roller and Croaking Cisticola.

European Roller - Hluhluwe Game Reserve

The return trip was quickly made via the main road and just before we got back Bobby, Barry and I decided to try our luck at False Bay and also check out the accommodation there for future outings.  At the lake a few flocks of water birds were gathered on the sand banks – Grey-headed Gulls, Pink-backed and Great White Pelicans, White-breasted Cormorants and Caspian Terns.  Further along, a Common Greenshank  investigated the rocky shoreline.

Grey-headed Gull at False Bay

Waterbirds at False Bay

Accommodation at False Bay proved unsuitable.  Although the campsites were OK – almost on the beach, the rustic huts were apparently situated back at the entrance, miles away from the tents and had no electricity and you had to take your own linen.  Entrance to the Bay, without Rhino card was R37.50.

On Friday, we were all keen to be on our way home.

Birds recorded:  Crested Barbet, Black-collared Barbet, Dark-capped Bulbul, White-eared Barbet, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Glossy Starling, Black-bellied Starling, Violet-backed Starling, White-rumped Swift, Palm Swift, Barn Swallow, Lesser Striped Swallow, White-throated Swallow, Yellow-fronted Canary, Southern Black Tit, Sombre Greenbul, Fork-tailed Drongo, Tambourine Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Square-tailed Drongo, Terrestrial Brownbul, Steppe Buzzard, Purple-crested Turaco, Crowned Hornbill, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Rudd’s Apalis, Green-backed Camaroptera, Yellow-billed Kite, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Cape White-eye, Red-backed Mannikin, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Willow Warbler, Puffback, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Bronze Mannikin, Blue Waxbill, Long-crested Eagle, Brimstone Canary, Black Cuckooshrike, Chinspot Batis, Collared Sunbird, Grey Sunbird, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Dusky Flycatcher, Black-chested Snake Eagle, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Paradise Flycatcher, Trumpeter Hornbill, Helmeted Guineafowl, Kittlitz’s Plover, Senegal Lapwing, Collared Pratincole, Hadeda Ibis, Black-winged Lapwing, Ruff, Pintailed Whydah, Yellow Wagtail, African Pipit, Crowned Plover, Cattle Egret, Sacred Ibis, Black Sparrowhawk, Red-billed Teal, Spur-winged Goose, Reed Cormorant, African Darter, Wood Sandpiper, Blue-cheeked Bee-Eater, White-faced Whistling Duck, Yellow-billed Egret, Malachite Kingfisher, African Spoonbill, Blacksmith’s Lapwing, African Jacana, Burchell’s Coucal, Yellow-billed Duck, Hottentot Teal, Arrow-marked Babbler, Goliath Heron, Little Egret, Three-banded Plover, Pied Kingfisher, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Common Fiscal, Southern Black Flycatcher, Purple-banded Sunbird, Rattling Cisticola, Indian Mynah, House Sparrow, Speckled Mousebird, Long-billed Crombec, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Wattled Lapwing, Sand Martin, Grey-rumped Swallow, Lemon-breasted Canary, Thick-billed Weaver, Hamerkop, Common Sandpiper, Red-breasted Swallow, Southern Red Bishop, Diderick Cuckoo, Purple Heron, Whiskered Tern, Grey Heron, Glossy Ibis, Tawny-flanked Prinia, White-winged Tern, Pied Wagtail, White-backed Vulture, Crested Francolin, Bataleur, Brown Snake Eagle, European Bee-Eater, Broad-billed Roller, Green-winged Pytilia, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Fish Eagle, Pink-backed Pelican, Black-winged Stilt, Open-billed Stork, Osprey, Great Egret, White-throated Robin-Chat, Cape Turtle Dove, European Roller, Common Waxbill, Red-billed Oxpecker, Dusky Indigobird, Red-faced Mousebird, Spotted Flycatcher, Red-billed Quelea, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Village Weaver, Rufous-naped Lark, Black-crowned Tchagra, Red-backed Shrike, Red-collared Widowbird, Little Bee-Eater, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Lappet-faced Vulture, Black-headed Oriole, Brubru, Croaking Cisticola, Common Scimitarbill, Emerald Cuckoo, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Golden-breasted Bunting, White-breasted Cormorant, Pied Crow, Tawny Eagle, Egyptian Goose, Common Greenshank, Grey-headed Bull, Black-headed Heron, Green-backed Heron, Great White Pelican, Black Sawwing, Little Stint, Caspian Tern, Spotted Thick-knee, Cape Wagtail, Fantailed Widowbird, Green Wood-Hoopoe (168 species)

Photos Copyright Hazel van Rooyen

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