Sunday, 12 March 2017

Outing report - Durban Botanical Gardens & Bayhead, 12 March 2017

Attendees: Stan & Val Culley,  Graham & Sue Salthouse, Barrie Willis & Sue Hansbury, Stanley & Asothie Gengan, Clive & Margie Cowan and friends, Rob & Lyn Pengally, Jonathan Davidson, Bob & Hazel van Rooyen (15)
Bird count:  Durban Botanical Garden (34); Bayhead (15)( see end)

A lovely sunny date greeted us on our arrival at the botanical gardens but soon a strong wind came up which probably deterred the birds somewhat.  However, a reasonable 34 species were spotted at the botanical gardens and 15 at Bayhead. The next day we saw video footage of the waves breaking onto the car park on Durban beachfront so you can imagine just how strong the wind was and in Cape Town the poor cyclists couldn’t move, in fact were being blown backwards, so much so that the famous Cape Town Cycle Tour had to be cancelled. 

African Spoonbill (photo Sue Salthouse)

Common Moorhen Juvenile (photo Sue Salthouse)
 We started off at the small lake where African Spoonbills were making nests in some conifers.  Some palms sported messy nests of ferns which probably belonged to the large contingent of Egyptian Geese.  On the lake a pair of dull-coloured waterbirds foraging on a green aquatic carpet proved to be juvenile Common Moorhens, quite habituated to the presence of so many human beings.  Eventually their  parents arrived, also unconcerned by our close proximity.  Malachite Kingfishers chased each other back and forth over the water and Brown-hooded Kingfishers called out their presence.  A Black Sparrowhawk was glimpsed flying into a large tree.
Common Moorhen (photo Stan Culley)

A slow stroll further produced Spectacled Weaver, Southern Black and Paradise Flycatchers, Barn Swallow and Brown-throated Martin. 
Breakfast next to the lake

Feeling peckish we retrieved our breakfast from the cars and made ourselves comfortable under some shady trees next to the lake where the kingfishers and spoonbills entertained us.  After a while we got going again and covered most of the gardens, including the sunken garden and herb garden at the top.  Birds seen included Olive and Kurrichane Thrushes, Amethyst and White-bellied Sunbirds, Bronze and Red-backed Mannikins and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird.

The gardens are very well kept and laid out and are full of wonderful specimens of exotic species which exist side by side with our indigenous flora.  This lovely knarly ancient tree trunk caught my eye and is a Buffalo Thorn, the last surviving tree from the original Berea Forest, dating pre-1851.  The Zulu name “umLahlenkos” means “that which buries the chief” and is traditionally planted on a Zulu Chief’s grave.

Buffalo Thorn

Sunken Garden

At this point, most of us decided to go on to Bayhead, while some stayed behind for their picnic lunch at the gardens.  Arriving at Bayhead the tide was out but on the far side we first spotted a Goliath Heron, then Little Egret and Grey Heron.  Further around a flock of Pink-backed Pelicans were feeding in the waters of the harbour.  Our expert Stan explains the identification:  smaller, duller and greyer than Great White Pelican; the area of facial skin is smaller and paler and the small black blotch in front of the eye is diagnostic for this species.  Grey-headed and Kelp Gulls patrolled the water’s edge. 

Pink-backed Pelican in breeding plumage (photo Stan Culley)

Pink-backed Pelican (photo Stan Culley)


 In the shrubbery Brimstone and Yellow-fronted Canaries flitted and a Little Bee-eater swooped about catching juicy insects.  We were impressed to note that the excellent hide had recently received a new roof but bemused that the trees in front of it had grown so much they were completely hiding the view of the mud-flats which was the main purpose.

Little Bee-eater (photo Hazel van Rooyen)

Back at the parking, picnic tables had thoughtfully been provided beneath thatched gazebos, so our picnic lunch was partaken before embarking on the return trip.   As we were packing up some Woolly-necked Storks circled in the distance.
Brimstone Canary (photo Stan Culley)

DBG (34)
Moorhen, Common
Spoonbill, African
Kingfisher, Brown-hooded
Goose, Egyptian
Ibis, Hadedah
Bulbul, Dark-capped
Weaver, Spectacled
Starling, Red-wing
Heron, Grey
Kingfisher, Malachite
Sparrowhawk, Black
Dove, Red-eyed
Weaver, Thick-billed
Mannikin, Bronze
Egret, Cattle
Bishop, Southern Red
Thrush, Olive

Thrush, Kurrichane
Drongo, Fork-tailed
Flycatcher, Southern Black
Fly-catcher, Paradise
Tinkerbird, Yellow-rumped
Sparrow, House
Mousebird, Speckled
Sunbird, Amethyst
Wagtail, Cape
Swallow, Barn
Martin, Brown-throated
Weaver, Village
Sunbird, White-bellied
Prinia, Tawny-flanked
Mannikin, Red-backed
Sparrow, Grey-headed
Myna, Common

Bayhead (15)
Heron, Goliath
Egret, Little
Heron, Grey-headed
Egret, Great
Pelican, Pink-backed
Canary, Yellow-fronted
Bee-eater, Little
Gull, Grey-headed
Gull, Kelp
Greenshank, Common
Sandpiper, Terek
Canary, Brimstone
Ibis, Sacred
Fiscal, Common
Stork, Woolly-necked

All photos property of photographer

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