My first birding outing for 2017 started off very quietly as we walked through the forest of the Umhlanga Nature Reserve.
On our last visit there we had seen Tambourine Dove and Black-throated Wattle-eye all within 10 minutes of being in the reserve. This time, nothing, but some nest building Yellow Weavers and a Tawny-flanked Prinia as we crossed over the wetlands. There were no birds to be seen and they were equally quiet.
Eventually I heard something interesting, something that I knew! Well, sort of know. It sounded to me like an Emerald Spotted Wood Dove, but knowing you don’t find them in the forest I then went to the forest doves and realised it was a Tambourine Dove. After a bit of searching we found it high up in the canopy. I saw a bum view of it and then a glimpse of the white and brown, before it disappeared again.
We continued our walk and were planning on heading out, when my Sister and her family also arrived and so we went back into the reserve for some more walking and birding. I think they brought the good luck that morning because instantly the forest woke up and in one tree I had 4 species flitting around, including the Golden-tailed Woodpecker which has eluded me since last year, only ever hearing it screeching.
Walking back across the wetland we saw a Thick-billed Weaver busily building its oval nest. It is such an amazing structure, they use very thin strands of whatever material it is and weave it perfectly, producing one of the neatest looking nests around.
Spectacled Weaver, Tawny Flanked Prinia, Burchells Coucal, and a Yellow-billed Kite entertained us as we crossed the river.
The one trail in the reserve comes out on the beach, and we were greeted with a grey panorama of a calm sea, big clouds building on the horizon and grey clouds overhead.
I was hurriedly called over to see a bird posing nicely on the dune vegetation. I was rather surprised to find a Tchagra sitting there. Tchagra’s don’t seem like coastal birds to me, let alone birds inhabiting dune vegetation a few metres away from the ocean. I figured it was Black or Brown Crowned Tchagra, but on closer inspection and a look at the distribution maps it turned out to be a Southern Tchagra, which in fact does enjoy coastal habitats. Yet another thing I have learn’t!
There were also many smaller creatures around that morning. Plenty of the intensely annoying mozzies, some stunning and delicate dragonflies, a frog or two, a few crabs, some freaky ass spiders and one kiff kite spider.
So in the end, what started as a very slow morning turned out to be fairly productive and very enjoyable.