This past weekend we went down to Umhlanga to visit my sister and her family. As soon as I heard we were going down I got researching the various birding spots in the area. There were so many great spots I could have gone to but time was limited and some places had safety concerns as well. I decided that Mount Moreland and Stanger would be the spots to check out.
Mount Moreland is the location of the Barn Swallow roost where they say 3 million swallows can be seen coming in to roost in the evenings. The weather hadn’t exactly been great the past few days, with lots of rain around and the barn swallow numbers at the roost had been low, so I wasn’t sure what our experience would be like.
My Dad and I were happily surprised as the barn swallows began to arrive, and just kept on coming! It was overcast and the birds weren’t flying very close to the viewing spot but you could see them flying everywhere. The sky was a mess of speckles, some birds came flying in over our heads every now and then and we even had some raptors hunting down some birds. Apparently it was not the full on mass displays that have been seen before, but I was very happy and absolutely amazed by what I was seeing.
I think the raptor we saw was a Black Sparrowhawk, which means a Lifer if the ID is correct. I wish I could get better shots of these raptors I keep seeing, not these blurry, grainy things!
The next morning we went up the coast to Stanger, to the Sappi Mill actually where there is an awesome bird hide. I first heard about this hide when a couple of Spotted Crakes were seen there and it was big news on the South African Rare Bird News reports.
As we entered the gate to this very popular hide, we came across a group of birders and heard that there was a Greater Painted Snipe quite far from the path, coming in and out of the reeds. I managed to locate it and get a pic of it, my first Lifer of the morning. What a beautiful bird, with such bold markings.
We then heard that a leucistic Crake had been spotted briefly, but had now gone into hiding in the reeds. We checked up and down the pathway looking in all the reed beds, not really expecting to see it. Eventually we moved on down the path and I got another lifer, African Pygmy Goose. What cute little things, love the colours and patterns on its plumage.
There was so much birdlife to see just walking along the path to the hide, that it actually took us a while to get into the hide. This hide was very busy with most of the seats already taken by some rather chatty/noisy birders already in there. It was a great view point though, even if most of the birds were quite far off. There were little grey waders everywhere, like hundreds of them, they were actually so camouflaged that I didn’t notice them until I was looking through my binocs. I struggle with identifying these birds, so all just look so similar, even in my bird books.
From the hide we also saw: Great White Pelican, Hottentot Teal, Redbilled Teal, Grey and Goliath Heron, Squacco Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Spur-winged Goose, Intermediate Egret, Thre
banded plover and a bunch more.
You couldn’t miss it, a pure white bird. It came out the long reeds, walked along the edge a bit and then ducked back in. It did this twice in less than a minute, such a brief glimpse but wow, how amazing to see!
It was definitely a Crake, we knew that much, but not which specific one. Later that day I posted the pic on Birdlife South Africa’s Facebook page, where it got such a huge response. From all the discussions and comments on the photo, it was eventually decided that this was a Baillon’s Crake. Another lifer for me, and an extra special one indeed!
We continued our walk around the wetlands hoping to see the Spotted Crakes of Sappi Stanger, but it was not to be. We saw: Black collared Barbet, Glossy Ibis, African Purple Swamphen, Hamerkop and more little grey waders.
By this time we were all pretty hungry, so we went back to the car for some breakfast snacks before heading for home. As we were eating I heard a bird call that sounded quite common and like something I should know, some sort of Tinkerbird maybe. I said I have to find that bird before we leave, not thinking we actually would find it. As we were slowly driving out, what did we see hoping around in a tree right next to the road, but a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird! Another lifer, one I have been wanting to see for ages.
A few metres down the road, and we also got a Brown-hooded Kingfisher and Little Bee-eater, a productive stretch of road.
All in all it was a great morning, very productive with lots of great new birds! I would definitely like to go back to this hide sometime.