Monday, 10 October 2016

Away-trip report - Umlalazi, Mtunzini: 10-14 October 2016

(Text: Hazel van Rooyen)

Attendees:    Doug & Angie Butcher, Stan & Val Culley, Stanley & Asothie Gengan, Margaret Jones, Hazel Nevin, Vic & Kay Nielson, Sandy Olver, Irma Schmook, Bob & Hazel van Rooyen, Robin Eccles. Brief visit by Richard Johnstone
Total bird count: Umlalazi and environs: 85 species; Sappi Ponds: 44 species (see end)

Mangrove Kingfisher (photo:Doug Butcher)
Log cabins at Umlalazi (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
Angie, Doug, Irma, Margaret relaxing on their verandah (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
Arriving at Umlalazi a little too early to check in, we were allowed through the gates to go and have a look at the lagoon which was quiet and peaceful but not much bird activity.  Having checked in and unpacked, a decision was made to use our cabin for our evening braai and get-together as it had the most spacious verandah.  This decision served us well for the whole week and our evenings were filled with lively camaraderie and chat.  Before braaiing a couple of people fitted in a walk down to the mangroves where we were told a Mangrove Kingfisher had been seen earlier in the day and they were delighted and amazed to find it there.  We weren’t expecting it to still be in the area as they usually leave the mangroves in September to return to their breeding habitat in the estuarine forests of the Eastern Cape.  Little did we know then that it would be seen several times during the week by all members of our group and in different places, leading us to believe that there was definitely more than one.  How exciting!
Mangrove Kingfisher (Stan Culley)

The boardwalk walk itself through the mangroves is a delight with crabs and thousands of long white whelky-things living in the mud and becoming active when the tide begins to rise.  Also seen were a Scaley-throated Honeyguide, Black-eared Barbet and a Black-throated Wattle-eye.
Race for the top (photo: Hazel Nevin)
White-eared Barbet (photo: Doug Butcher)

Scaley-throated Honeyguide (photo: Stan Culley)

Early on Tuesday morning the group walked down to the lagoon.   On the way a Dark-backed Weaver flitted hither and thither in the acacias and an African Goshawk soared the skies

Dark-backed Weaver (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Half the party took the walk leading through forest vegetation towards the beach while a few took the mangrove walk along the edge of the lagoon where a lone Common Sandpiper perched on a small rock to get a better view of potential foodie items.  
Common Sandpiper (photo: Doug Butcher)

Returning to the cabins we had some breakfast, then everyone drove to the boat slip-way.  We were accompanied by Richard Johnstone from BirdLife Zululand in Richards Bay who knows the area well and acted as a guide.  He is also a butterfly expert and he presented Sandy with a wonderful poster he had created of his butterfly photographs.  An African Fish Eagle soared through the skies and a Pied Kingfisher hovered and dived, hovered and dived.  
A family of zebras sauntered casually up, pretending that the grass was much tastier where we were.  They seemed to enjoy our company but Don’t get too close – when they started play-fighting those legs looked powerful enough to break a few bones –  and they weren’t going to be ours!
Ah! (photo: Doug Butcher)

The zebras were very friendly (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Driving further along, we disturbed several Yellow-throated Longclaws foraging for insects and seeds in the pathway of the vehicles, which then perched a-top the bushes, chirping loudly as if shouting at us!  
Yellow-throated Longclaw (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Other birds seen on this drive were a Goliath Heron, Burchell’s Coucal, Common Waxbill, Black-collared Barbet, Common Ringed Plover and Common Greenshank  which shows the different habitats there are in this area.  In the afternoon we took a walk (again) along the mangrove boardwalk and the Mangrove Kingfisher was at his favourite pond once more.  What good luck.
Mangrove Kingfisher (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Common Greenshank (photo: Stan Culley)

Goliath Heron (photo: Hazel van Rooyen

Looking for the Green Barbet on a misty morning (photo: Hazel Nevin)

Photographers: Hazel Nevin & Doug Butcher (photo: Sandy Olver)
Wednesday found us driving up to the 3200 hectare Ongoye Forest which is the only place in South Africa where the Green Barbet survives (listed as vulnerable).  Although the number of 200-300 breeding pairs has not decreased recently, improved management of the forest is essential.  The weather just about held for us although the mist made visibility very poor.  However, we did get brief views of them flying across the road several times.  Other birds seen in the area were Forked & Square-tailed Drongos, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Dusky Indigobird and Speckled Mousebird.

When Richard was visiting he had spotted a Striped Kingfisher alongside the golf course in Mtunzini.  Bob and I were keen to see this little kingfisher so in the afternoon we drove there and did get sight of it and even noticed it flying into a hole in a tree.  Ah, maybe a nest?  Standing beneath it we could hear a lot of indignant squeeks and squawks coming from within, so we decided to leave mommy to get on with her job.   

Striped Kingfisher (photo: Stan Culley)

Striped Kingfisher (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Other birds on and around the golf course were Black-headed Heron, Cape Wagtail, Bronze Mannikins, Cape White-eye, Southern Black Flycatcher and Yellow Weaver and a Hamerkop.  
Moving along to the whale deck, the beach seemed clear but Stan managed to spot a Sanderling, White-fronted Plover and a Whimbrel.
Cricket fans - there's room here for one more (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

As the day drew on, the weather deteriorated – luckily for the cricket fans who sat glued to the TV!

Thursday started off with photographing a beautiful tree outside Sandy's cabin – Craibia zimmermannii, a sand forest special not usually found south of Richards Bay.  The common name is Sand Peawood.  It was covered in lovely white blossoms, which brightened the gloomy morning.
Crabia zimmermannia (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Val Culley (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

We had had some rain during the night which brought out Val’s inner child!

This morning’s walk took us up through the back of the camp site through woodland to the beach road.  Birds chirped out of sight in the tree canopy but we only identified a Chinspot Batis darting about in the thorny shrubs.  The ladies decided to take the road left, whilst the gents walked the other way – typical!  We enjoyed strolling along with Sandy identifying many of the delightful flowering  shrubs. 
Sandy Olver - how far is the estuary? (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Eventually a pathway took us over the dunes to the beach and we sauntered down to the breaking waves where White-fronted Plovers were scampering about at the tide-line. 

White-fronted Plover (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Discovering more trails leading in different directions it was tempting to take them but as we didn’t know the distance we took a pathway which we presumed would lead us back to the lagoon.  Fortunately we were correct because we got a call to say the Mangrove Kingfisher was back at its favourite spot so we rushed along and got there in time to take some more shots before it once again melted into the mangroves.

In the afternoon we drove by  the lagoon again.  A troop of vervet monkeys were having a snack from a wild cotton tree. And along the edge of the mangroves we saw the Mangrove Kingfisher several more times.

Vervet Monkeys (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Later on we tried the beach again as some of our group had seen the Palm-nut Vulture there, catching crabs.  This time we were lucky.  A Yellow-billed Kite was trying to steal its meal which we guessed, on close inspection, had once been a domestic chicken.
Hazel (photo: Doug Butcher)

Palm-nut Vulture looking for crabs (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
The meal (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Yellow-billed Kite trying to steal the Palm-nut Vulture's meal (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Looking for waders (photo: Doug Butcher)

Watching the Palm-nut Vulture from the whale deck (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Sadly the following day was time for us to pack up and go home – but not before we had paid our usual visit when in this area to the Sappi Bird Hide at Stanger.  We said goodbye to the Red Duiker family that had foraged around our cabins all week, the baby delighting us with its joyous scamperings.

Red Duiker (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

The weather was a bit doubtful but these intrepid birders thought we would take a chance anyway.  Arriving in convoy, Val and Stan went through a deep puddle, Sandy thought better of it, but Bobby and I went through followed by Vic & Kay who I thought were going to disappear forever.  Even a massive truck in front of us was doing a u-turn as there was an even deeper puddle further on, so we decided to follow suit and all turned around, with Vic & Kay braving it once again.  Luckily Bobby knew another approach on a tar road and at reception we doubled up in the high clearance vehicles which was a good decision as the dirt road to the hide was deep in churned up mud.  Once there we were thrilled with the abundance of waders – White-faced Ducks, Cape, Hottentot, and Red-billed Teals, Wood and Marsh Sandpipers, Lesser-striped Swallow, Cape Shoveler, Ruff.  
Red-billed Teal (photo: Stan Culley)

Ruff (photo: Stan Culley)

Hottentot Teal & Little Stint (photo: Stan Culley)

Lesser-striped Swallow bearing food for chicks (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Cape Shovellers head-pumping in courtship ritual (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
Little Stint (photo: Stan Culley)

Thankyou to everyone for a lovely time and our experts for sharing their extensive knowledge.  What a lovely crowd!

(All photographs property of photographer)

Umlalazi, Mtunzini

Barbet Black-collared
Barbet Green
Barbet White-eared
Batis Chinspot
Bishop Southern Red
Bulbul Dark-capped
Bush-Shrike Gorgeous
Cameroptera Green-backed
Canary Yellow-fronted
Cormorant White-breasted
Coucal Burchell’s
Crow Black
Cuckoo Emerald
Cuckoo Klaas’s
Cuckoo Red-chested
Dove Red-eyed
Drongo Fork-tailed
Drongo Square-tailed
Eagle African Fish
Eagle Long-crested
Egret Cattle
Egret Little
Finfoot African
Fiscal Common
Flycatcher Paradise
Flycatcher Southern Black
Goose Egyptian
Goshawk African
Greenbul Sombre
Greenbul Yellow-bellied
Greenshank Common
Gull Grey-headed
Heron Black-headed
Heron Goliath
Honeyguide Scaley-throated
Hornbill Trumpeter
Ibis Hadedah
Ibis Sacred
Indigobird Dusky
Kingfisher Brown-hooded
Kingfisher Mangrove
Kingfisher Pied
Kingfisher Striped
Kite Yellow-billed

Lapwing Blacksmith
Longclaw Yellow-throated
Mannikin Bronze
Martin Brown-throated
Martin House
Mousebird Speckled
Oriole Black-headed
Plover 3-banded
Plover Common Ringed
Plover White-fronted
Prinia Tawny-flanked
Puffback Black-backed
Sandpiper Common
Sandpiper Terek
Sparrow House
Starling Black-bellied
Stint Little
Stork Woolly-necked
Sunbird Amethyst
Sunbird Collared
Sunbird Olive
Swallow Barn
Swift White-rumped
Teal Red-billed
Tern Caspian
Tinkerbird Yellow-rumped
Turaco Purple Crested
Wagtail Cape
Wattle-eye Black-throated
Waxbill Common
Weaver Dark-backed
Weaver Southern Masked
Weaver Yellow
Whimbrel Common
White-eye Cape
Widowbird Red-collared
Woodpecker Golden-tailed  

Sappi Hide

Bishop Southern Red
Bulbul Dark-capped
Cameroptera Green-backed
Cormorant White-breasted
Coucal Burchell’s
Dove Red-eyed
Duck White-faced
Duck Yellow-billed
Goose Egyptian
Grebe Little
Heron Grey
Heron Squacco
Ibis Glossy
Ibis Hadedah
Jacana African
Kingfisher Pied
Lapwing Blacksmith
Martin Brown-throated
Moorhen Common
Mousebird Speckled
Myna Common
Plover Common Ringed
Pochard Southern
Prinia Tawny-flanked
Sandpiper Marsh
Sandpiper Wood
Shoveller Cape
Stilt Black-winged
Stint Little
Swallow Barn
Swallow Lesser-striped
Swamphen Purple
Teal Cape
Teal Hottentot
Teal Red-billed
Tern Whiskered
Wagtail Pied
Warbler Lesser Swamp
Warbler Little Rush
Weaver Spectacled
Weaver Thick-billed

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