Wednesday, January 4, 2017

South Africa 2016 - Trip Report Part 1

Because of the length of this tour, 3 weeks, there is so much to tell you and thus I have broken this blog, or more correctly Trip Report, into 5 parts! The final part will be a bird species list and a mammal list. I hope you can forgive the drawn out nature of these information packed day by day accounts of my tour.

South Africa and THE tour. Part One of the Trip Report and I really hope you will enjoy the read and of course the photographs. 

Tour Leaders: Peter Jones (Worldwide Birding Tours & Co-Author, Editor) and  Wian van Zyl (Birding Guide & Main Author)

This comprehensive tour of South Africa by Worldwide Birding Tours undertook a 3-week journey across eastern South Africa, and down into the Western Cape of South Africa. Starting in Durban on the scenic Kwazulu-Natal coast, we slowly worked our way northwards taking in the rolling hills and forests of Eshowe down to the coastal forest and bushveld of the greater Isimangaliso Wetland Park, before heading up to the high-altitudinal grasslands surrounding the endemic hotspot of Wakkerstroom. Kruger was next on the agenda, where a few days were spent enjoying this true natural side of Africa, before heading onto Cape Town and the Western Cape via Dullstroom. Some time was spent on the Cape Peninsula itself, before heading up the west coast to the sleepy village of Langebaan, thereby bring the tour to an end some three weeks later. Due to the length of the tour, and variety of habitats taken in, a mammoth total of nearly 420 species of bird were found on the tour!

Day 1, 22/11/2016: Durban Umhlanga to Eshowe
After some discussion the night before around the dinner table we decided to have a relaxed start to the day due to traveling fatigue. We ended up birding around the lodge and the lodge arranged access to their neighbor’s property. We started off with Olive Thrush, Tambourine Dove, Lesser Striped Swallow and had a calling Green-backed Camaroptera in the garden canopy constantly evading us. As soon as we entered the neighboring property we recorded Red-capped Robin-Chat as well as Southern Black Flycatcher. Walking around the property we further recorded Magpie Mannikin, Olive Sunbird, Crested- and White-eared Barbet and managed to get smashing views of African Paradise-Flycatcher. After breakfast we went for some birding at the Umhlanga Lagoon reserve whilst waiting for the rest of the client’s flight to arrive. Here we recorded Yellow-, Village-, Thick-billed-, Spectacled- and Southern Brown-throated Weaver. There was a misty rain that started to fall as we entered the forest vegetation and birding quiet down quite a bit with calls of Southern Boubou, Sombre Greenbul and Green-backed Camaroptera to entertain our ears. After covering some area in the reserve we continued on to “Blue Lagoon”, which is where the Umgeni river mouths into the Indian Ocean. Here there was a plethora of Grey-headed Gulls, Yellow- and Lesser Crested Terns as well as a Caspian Tern. We walked along the estuary and managed to come across Goliath Heron, Common Sandpiper, Sanderling, Common-ringed Plover and Pied Kingfisher. After the great birding at Blue Lagoon we went to pick up the remaining 3 clients from the airport only to find that they took a Taxi to the Lodge we were staying at. As soon as we picked them up at the lodge we made way to our next destination, Birds of Paradise B&B in Eshowe. We ended the day with a smashing 78 Species, which is great considering the difficult birding conditions thanks to the weather. Mammals for the day was just a single Red Duiker

Pied Crow

Day 2, 23/11/2016: Birding Ongoye Forest, Amatikulu and Mtuzini
Today we had an early start meeting Sakhamuzi( Local BirdLife Guide) at 05:00 at Birds of Paradise Guest House. The weather started off pretty misty and rainy so we decided on starting around the Mtunzini area before making our way to Amatikulu Game Reserve. Before arriving in Mtunzini we went to a private farm(access was organized by Saki) and we quickly got smashing views of Collared Pratincole, African Pipit, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Pin-tailed Whydah, Yellow-throated Longclaw and Woolly-necked Stork. Some movement in the distance caught our eyes and upon further inspection we realized this fairly large black and white bird was in fact a Palm-nut Vulture, a special we got pretty quick and easy. We continued on to Ongoye Forest, specifically for Green Barbet and saw it literally minutes after getting out of the vehicle. We also managed African-Emerald Cuckoo, Grey Cuckooshrike, White-eared Barbet and a quick glimpse of Narina Trogon. From here we continued on to Umlalazi and managed to come by an African Hoopoe feeding next to the road in town. As we entered the reserve we got Trumpeter Hornbill, Purple-banded Sunbird, Common Sandpiper and Blacksmith Lapwing. Other species recorded here were Common-ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Malachite-, Pied- and Giant Kingfishers and Afrian Fish-Eagle. We carried on to Amatikulu and en route stopped at a spot to get smashing views of Narina Trogon and a quick glimpse at Purple-crested Turaco. Once we arrived at Amatikulu our main focus was the Swamp Nightjar and managed to flush it to get e decent view and a record photograph of it. After a late lunch we ended off the day in the Dlinza Forest in Eshowe and mainly found the same species though some excitement was created in the form of our main target bird to end of the day a beautifully marked bird, Spotted Ground Thrush. After a long and busy day we ended back at the Guest House and had a Woolly-necked Stork sitting on the floodlight of the tennis court.

Woolly-necked Stork

Day 3, 24/11/2016: Birding Dlinza Forest transfer to St. Lucia
Having an early start on our last morning in Eshowe, we went to the Dlinza Forest Board Walk at 06:00 as the gates opened. Upon arrival we came upon Red-backed Shrike and White-necked Raven. We entered the Forest and tracked down Trumpeter Hornbill, Grey-, Olive- , Collard- and Greater Double-Collared Sunbird. We had a single African Green Pigeon from the tower as well as some views of Purple-crested Turaco. On our way back along the board walk we managed to get smashing views on a skulking Narina Trogon. Cape Batis and Chorister Robin-Chat entertained us lower down and we located a calling Red-Chested Cuckoo. After breakfast at the lodge we packed up and head to a dam north of Eshowe where we had great views of White-backed Duck, Hamerkop, Jackal Buzzard, African Fish-Eagle and finally a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird. After the dam we made our way to St. Lucia and managed Wooly-necked Stork, Pied Wagtail, Long-crested Eagle and several Yellow-billed Kites. After a hasty check in we went on an afternoon boat cruise on St. Lucia estuary and amongst the countless Hippo around we saw flocks of Common- and Little Terns following the boat wakes, allowing us to get amazing photos. As we were sipping on cup of coffee (which our skipper “Bonga” made) we were surprised to see a Common Sandpiper jumping from hippo to hippo walking around on their half exposed bodies. The day ended off with some Yellow Weavers and a Brown-hooded Kingfisher as we entered the bay where the jetty was. Mammals for the day included Hippopotamus, Slender Mongoose, Red Duiker and Vervet Monkey.

Smiley Hippo

Day 4, 25/11/2016: Birding St. Lucia

Starting the day at 05:00 we had great views of Black-bellied Starling as well as Trumpeter Hornbill whilst waiting for “Themba”, the local guide to arrive. After his arrival he arranged with us a recently BirdLife qualified guide, “Bongiwe”, to accompany us. We started the morning off with the iGwalagwala trail within the town boundaries and quickly got Yellow-bellied- and Sombre Greenbul, Black-backed Puffback, glimpses of Brown Scrub-Robin and a calling Buff-Spotted Flufftail. We continued along the trail and located Eastern Nicator, Livingstones Turaco and Dark-backed Weaver. Upon finishing the trail we managed smashing views of Green-backed Camaroptera(Everyone got to see it this time), Purple-banded Sunbird and close views of the Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird a mere couple of feet above us. From here we moved on to where the St. Lucia Estuary mouths into the Indian Ocean and immediately took off with Pink-backed Pelican, Yellow-billed Stork, Grey- and Goliath Heron and African Spoonbill. Scanning through the various waders we managed Sanderling, Common Sandpiper, Little Stint, White-fronted- , Common-ringed and Grey Plover and an African Fish-eagle. Whilst we were mesmerized by the stunning scenery and plethora of avifauna a European Honey-Buzzard decided to circle above us and provided us with smashing views of it. We decided to head to the sewage plant and were greeted with Wood Sandpiper, African Jacana, Black-headed Heron and a wonderful Crowned Hornbill. We also managed to call out Yellow-breasted Apalis, Burchell’s Coucal and a Grey-headed Sunbird. Just as we were about to leave a Golden-tailed Woodpecker decided to distract us and put us off course. We continued on to where the bridge crosses the estuary and got astonishing views on the Brown-throated Weaver. Ending the day in the Crocodile Sanctuary parking lot we got great views of a duetting pair of Black-Collared Barbets and a lone Brown-hooded Kingfisher across the road.

Brown-throated Weaver

Day 5, 26/11/2016: Birding Cape Vidal/iSimangaliso Wetland Park
With another early start to the day we met “Pindile” (our local guide) and made our way to Cape Vidal within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. We quickly came across Rufous-naped Lark, African Pipit, Yellow-throated Longclaw and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. The habitat was a bit different than the dominant forest vegetation we’ve been in the last couple of days and the open grassland proved to be a very productive area. We further recorded African-wattled Lapwing, White-faced Whistling-Ducks and African Jacana at a watering hole and a good view over the estuary from a vantage point provided us with White-breasted- and Reed Cormorant, Ruff, Eurasian Curlew, Great- and Little Egret and an African Darter flying across the water. After the view point and a much needed breakfast nibble in the parking lot we were discussing the possibility of Southern Banded Snake-Eagle and within a few hundred meters spotted one on a powerline post, posing for all to see. After great photos of this guy Brown Snake-Eagle also appeared as well as countless Steppe(Common) Buzzard. Once we were at Cape Vidal we managed Southern Grey-headed Sparrow and mere vocalization of Green Twinspot, unfortunately we couldn’t locate the Twinspots. On our way back to St. Lucia we had spectacular views of a Western Osprey perched in a tree overlooking a dam. After some much need coffee we went to the Estuary mouth and recorded most of the same species only adding Black Heron to the newly found list. And a walk in the afternoon provided us with Crested Guineafowl, African Goshawk, Livingstone Turaco and once again tantalizing vocalization of Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher. Mammals for the day included Red Duiker, Greater Kudu, Impala, Waterbuck, Cape Buffalo,et.

Brown Snake Eagle

Day 6, 27/11/2016: St. Lucia transfer to Mkhuze Game Reserve

Waking up at 05:00 we made our way to the iGwalgwala trail within the town vicinity. We managed to record some species we missed as well as get some optics on some birds we got to see previously but not too well. We started off with great views of Brown Scrub-Robin after a hard search. We managed to get the individual in the scope and have smashing views of him. As we continued we tried calling out Green Malkoha, there was an immediate answer but is was not too be. After long and hard calling we got glimpses of Blue Mantle-Crested Flycatcher and managed to find Trumpeter- as well as Crowned Hornbill lurking about. A walk around to the estuary provided us with wonderful views of Rudd’s Apalis and we got mostly the same waterbirds with only having a Lesser-masked Weaver recorded as new. After some grocery shopping we made our way to Mkhuze and immediately got Laughing Dove, Red-billed Oxpecker(perched on a donkey before the reserve) and Cape Glossy Starling. After settling in we went on the “Bushveld Loop” and got great views of African Pygmy Kingfisher, Green-winged Pytilia and Golden-tailed Woodpecker. Mammals for the day were Impala, Nyala, Giraffe, Bkue-Wildebeest, Red and Common Duiker, Chacma baboons and a Thick-tailed Bushbaby (Greater Galago)

Southern Fiscal

Well that about sums up the 1st installment and hope you might follow the blog and read about our remaining adventures on this spectacular tour. Why not consider joining me and Wian later this year on another of our South African adventure tours? 

Details of the tour and itinerary can be found on this link

To see other destinations we visit please visit our main site. Thank you.


Joyce Stefancic said...

What a great way to re-live this wonderful trip. If anyone is considering doing this trip in the future, I would heartilly recommend it. It was an honor to have Peter and Wian as our tour guides, and the whole adventure was great fun.

Joyce Stefancic said...

What a great way to re-live this wonderful experience! If anyone is considering doing this trip, you will be in for a treat. It was such an honor to have Peter and Wian as tour guides, and the whole adventure was memorable and such fun. I promise you will not be disappointed.