Sunday, 25 October 2015

Outing Report - 25 October 2015 - Culley Dam & Gaze Farm

Trogon bird outing – 25 October 2015 
Culley Dam & Gaze Farm, Port Edward
Attendees:   Eric Kok;  Stanley & Asothie Gengan;  Vic & Kay Neilson;  Margaret Jones; Doug & Angie Butcher;  Rob Eccles; Hazel Nevin;  Sandy Olver;  Keith & Maureen Roach;  Geoff Oliver; Ron & Elaine Whitham;  Stan & Val Culley; Bobby & Hazel van Rooyen (20)

Text & photos: Hazel van Rooyen

A bright and breezy morning greeted us at our meeting place of Banner’s Rest where a Pied Wagtail chirped from the roof of the buildings.  Other birds noted while we waited for the last people to arrive were Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Olive Sunbird, Olive Thrush, Glossy Starling, Golden-rumped Tinkerbird, Black-backed Puffback, and Tawny-flanked Prinia. 

From here we proceeded to Stan & Val’s house where Stan led us first to the edge of the forest.  Here a Lesser Honeyguide searched for insects in a fig tree and Trumpeter Hornbills sobbed higher up the hillside.  Proceeding towards the dam, gregarious Common Waxbills and Bronze Mannikins foraged in the tall grasses and male chocolate-brown Thick-billed Weavers perched atop the reeds surveying their distinctive nests, each securely attached to two reeds.  Apparently the exterior is mostly built by the male but the inside is strictly left up to the female for that finer touch. 

Thick-billed Weaver's nest

Thick-billed Weaver (M)

Spurwing and Egyptian Geese had made themselves at home on the dam, as had African Jacanas, Black Crakes, Little Grebes and Common Moorhens.  Walking around the dam, a Reed Cormorant took up its favourite position on a dead tree in the middle of the dam and the resident Hamerkop flew off disturbed by our presence.  Close to the hide Spectacled, Village, and Yellow Weavers were busy feeding and nesting and a flock of Red Bishops suddenly flew off, making a colourful sight.  Flitting in the reed-beds Fan-tailed Widows were a flash of black with a dab of red.  Lesser-striped and White-throated Swallows, White-rumped Swifts and Black Sawwings performed their speedy manoeuvres above our heads.  All around a Black Cuckoo was calling persistently “I’m so sad”.

African Jacana - what big feet you have

Back at the house, coffee was calling which we enjoyed whilst watching Collared and Amethyst Sunbirds, after which the party split up, some folk returning to the dam and a few trying their luck on the walk up the mountain.  It was quiet (and hot) through the woods but emerging at the top a Crowned Eagle made a fly-past.  A splash of purple nestled amongst the vegetation was Thunbergia Natalensis (the Natal Bluebell).  The top dam had very little water and had a couple of guys messing about.  The only bird was a lonely Blacksmith Lapwing “kllink, klink, klinking”.  On the way back down a Lazy Cisticola chirped crossly at us. 

Great Egret


On returning from our somewhat unproductive but energetic walk we were told excitedly of sightings of African Harrier-Hawk, Long-crested Eagle, Crowned Eagles, Knysna Turacos.  It was lovely to sit on Val’s patio with an ice-cold drink but refreshed once again we took another stroll down to the dam where Stan’s latest visitor, a Great Egret had re-appeared and was finding some tasty morsels to gulp down.  A sit in the new hide only revealed a cheeky Pin-tailed Whydah, being the wrong time of day for warblers.

After a lovely braai, these human birders spread their wings and made their way home.  Thanks go to Stan & Val for sharing their lovely home, garden and wetland with us.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Outing report- 11 October 2015 Ellingham Estate, Park Rynie

Photos and text by Hazel van Rooyen
Attendees: Val Culley, Stanley & Asothie Gengan, Doug & Angie Butcher, Alastair Warman, Bob & Hazel van Rooyen
Ellingham Estate is a huge, well-tended sugar cane farm, mingled with pockets of riverine forest, bush, dams and picturesque streams. Upon arrival at the entrance to the Estate, we encountered a padlocked gate but Val, in her usual efficient manner, contacted Sandy who found out about a different way of access, which we used instead.  Time was not wasted however and 10 species were identified even before we entered, plus an eagle was sighted but was too distant for identification.  A Klaas’s Cuckoo was calling continually and Alastair cleverly located it a short way down a dirt road.

Klaas’s Cuckoo

By this time the sun was up and we enjoyed the usual route down to the first dam, (very little water), along the forest edge of tall indigenous trees and through the end part of the forest, and as we made our way back, a flock of African Sacred Ibis flew overhead in their V-formation.

African Sacred Ibis flew overhead in V-formation

A pretty butterfly caught Val’s eye and Lepimap identified it for me as the Painted Lady, this is the most cosmopolitan butterfly in the world and common all over South Africa but this is the first time I had seen it close up.

 Painted Lady

Breakfast followed with Crowned Hornbills flying past to check out our fare.  After this we drove down to the two small dams on the right (again, very little water) but there was no activity on this occasion.  In the reeds of the larger dam opposite a pair of Grey-crowned Cranes were wading but sauntered casually away when they realised they were the object of our attention.

Grey-crowned Cranes

We also disturbed a Purple Heron which fancied this wetland area and kept flying away from us, eventually ending up in the short reeds, trying to imitate a dead reed.

Purple Heron

Several Trumpeter Hornbills flew into the canopy of tall trees in the distance.  Angie’s eye was attracted to a charming flower and this I identified from Elsa Pooley’s book as the Butterfly Gladiolus (Gladiolus pipilio).  This has been cultivated in the UK since 1866 and here it is growing wild in our neck of the woods the way it originally existed.

Butterfly Gladiolus (Gladiolus pipilio)

We climbed back in our vehicles and drove further into the estate, twisting our way through winding roads lined with sugar cane.  Eventually we alighted and took a circular route, on one side tall sugar cane and on the other gurgling streams skirted by riverine forest.  A Black-headed Oriole was calling and seemed – could it possibly be - following us? Eventually we located it in a tall fig.

Black-headed Oriole

In the meantime an African Hoopoe kept diving busily into the soil of a freshly turned cane field and took not the slightest notice of us.

African Hoopoe

In a gully filled with the delicate fragrance of flowering Forest Toad Trees (Tabernae montana) we could hear a lovely robin-like song and although the tune wasn’t exactly the same as the Roberts we were fairly sure it was a Brown Scrub-Robin.

Forest Toad Trees (Tabernae montana)

A very vocal family of Black-bellied Starlings were taking nesting material into an old woodpecker or barbet nesthole.  They would disappear inside and as I waited with camera glued on the hole to catch one flying out, after a while I realised they were exiting from another hole further along the branch.

Black-bellied Starling

After this it was time for lunch and aided by the strong wind, our braai-master Stanley had the fire ready in super quick time and we were able to tuck in.  Thanks to everyone for another delightful morning!

Full list of birds, in approximate order of sighting (45 species)
At entrance
Bulbul, Dark-capped
Canary, Yellow-fronted
Tinkerbird, Yellow-rumped
Turaco, Purple-crested
Cuckoo, Klaas’s
Goose, Egyptian
Sunbird, Amethyst
Ibis, Hadedah
Barbet, Black-collared
Heron, Grey

From parking, past dam, through forest and back
Cameroptera, Green-backed
Greenbul, Sombre
Flycatcher, Southern Black
Drongo, Fork-tailed
Kite, Yellow-billed
Spurfowl, Natal
Prinia, Tawny-flanked
Goose, Spurwing
Bee-eater, Little
Saw-wing, Black
Swallow, Barn
Barbet, White-eared
Widowbird, Fan-tailed
Weaver, Spectacled
King-fisher, Brown-hooded
Weaver, Thick-billed
Dove, Tambourine
Robin-Chat, Cape
Bulbul, Terrestrial
Ibis, African Sacred

White-eared Barbet

From parking to dams
Olive Sunbird
Hornbill, Crowned
Woodhoopoe, Green
Hornbill, Trumpeter
Heron, Purple
Crane, Grey-crowned
Weaver, Village
Jacana, African
Whydah, Pin-tailed
White-eye, Cape

Further into the estate
Hoopoe. African
Widowbird, Red-collared
Scrub-Robin, Brown?
Oriole, Black-headed
Robin-Chat, Red-capped
Starling, Black-bellied
Dove, Red-eyed
Harrier-Hawk, African