Zululand Adventure

Went on a magic trip this weekend. Sheila put a trip together led by a friend of hers Don Leitch, ex-Melmoth farmer and great birder. The first part was to Melmoth itself – or more accurately nearby Ntonjoneni to friends and fellow farmers Gavon and Sandy Calverley. We traveled with another of Skiboat’s many friends, Simon Dunning, ex-SADF helicopter pilot, then a commercial airline pilot.

Gavon & Sandy farm black wattle for its tannin and Nguni cattle for their marbled meat with its yellow fat (“It’s good for you! It’s grass-fed. White fat means it’s grain-fed”) and have game-fenced 1000ha of their land in the Emakhosini valley – The Valley of the Kings – together with their neighbours into a beautiful reserve where they run giraffe, buff, wildebeasts, nyala, impala etc with their multi-coloured Ngunis (which I was surprised to hear they round up daily to count, and weekly to dip). Next door, Amafa (the official KZN heritage outfit) have bought farms – 12 at last count – and fenced them off to preserve them. We saw lots of game on that land. Also nearby is the 24 000ha Opathe reserve.

What a beautiful valley! Seven Zulu kings and one queen are buried in the valley and you can see – with the whole of Natal to choose from – why they chose it! There are monuments and museums all over. Dingaan’s kraal and the site where Piet Retief was killed are preserved and oft-visited by both Die Volk and aBantu. We heard tales of the large gatherings of Die Volk where I guess a whole lot of ‘stuff’ was spoken!! The valley looking unbelievably lush and green and alive with birds. I’m hoping to get some pics from the others. All I have is lunch and some Ngunis. Sheila’s friend Moogs (Marguerite Poland) who wrote the book on the isiZulu names of the ngunis – The Abundant Herds – tells us these three are:

Nguni eMakhosini
– L-R: Intulo – lizard pattern; Amas’ezimpukane – flies in the buttermilk; Isomi – redwinged starling; – isiZulu names for nguni coat patterns by Sheila’s pal Mogs Oosthuizen (Dr Marguerite Poland) who wrote the book – see at end of post –

Gavon, Sandy, Don and Sally (Melmoth local) have been doing a twice-yearly bird-count in their area for the last 17yrs for UCT’s bird fellas, the ADU of the Fitztitute. This one’s called CAR for “co-ordinated avifaunal roadcount” – you drive your CAR and check for birds, stopping every 2km to scan. Same route on the same days every year: the last weekend in January and the last weekend in July.
We joined them for this one. Gavon had a new toy: An old white Landcruiser bakkie he has rigged out as an open game-viewing ‘shooting brake’. The seven of us set out early morning with enough food and drink to have supplied the whole impi that moved through here en route to bliksem-ing the redcoat Poms at Isandlwana in 1879.

What a lovely day. Birding at its best, crisp weather, cool at first on the high hills till the mist burned off as we descended the valley. The count has been dropping over the 17 years. They told us how they used to see plenty storks (we saw none), herons (none), cranes (we saw four blue cranes), secretary birds (one) and raptors (jackal & steppe buzzards, tawny, longcrested, martial & wahlberg’s eagles, vultures, lanner & amur falcons).

Gavon (60) and Don (70) are old Melmoth farming buddies so the quips and insults flew fast and thick. Plenty of puns and lots of unhelpful advice, criticism and suggestions. (eg: – When Don was earnestly pointing out a willow warbler in a fever tree, Sandy leaned over and tried to straighten the crooked end of his finger; – Don’s croc-like sandals squeaked every step he walked, bringing the quip “Hark! What’s that sound! I think it’s a step buzzard”!).

Sunday we went to Dlinza and Ngoye forests. That’s another story.

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Author: Poland, Marguerite and Hammond-Tooke, David

Illustrator: Leigh Voigt

Publisher: Fernwood Press

Edition: First

Year Published: 2003

Spiders, Meadows and Dog Poo

While out on dog poo patrol in the early morning, I came across this spider web in my beautiful meadow (*click on the pic* to see how beautiful!).
 
10 Elston Meadow (1)
 
The meadow is coming on very nicely since the head executive gardener Tobias Gumede went on leave. A wonderful chap, he struggles with the concept of wu wei – or “Masterful Inactivity” . He feels he ought to be DOING something and I often have to sit him down and ‘splain how I want, very often, to just ‘let it be’.
 
He does understand (its been over ten years now, after all) but he likes to make sure. He got back this week and we set out a new, even more laid-back protocol for 2015.
 
Tobias just shakes his head.
 
10 Elston Meadow (4)
 
Here’s the admonition: If you’re tending your garden closely, and mowing your lawn edge-to-edge, if you only have one type of plant in your lawn (monoculture!) and if you (you don’t!?) use any pesticide, you are not – by any stretch of the imagination – planet-friendly.
 
Go on: Find an area of your garden you seldom visit (or create such a space) and let it run wild. Save time, save money AND the lil creatures will love ya. Wu Wei!!
 

~~~oo0oo~~~

Rita wrote: Maybe Tobias is actually back but you can’t find him!

Pierre wrote: Nothing wrong.You have to rest and rotate your pastures.

Me: Exactly. And when you do mow, mow around those tall little grass islands where missed dog poo has caused fertile growth. Masterful inactivity rules!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Wilderness Walk Mfolosi: The Big Six

Lunchtime high on the Momfo cliffs overlooking a great bend in the Mfolosi river. Our guides lit a fire and began to prepare our lunch. We shucked off our light daypacks and settled down for another ‘well-deserved’ break after our gentle amble up the hill.

The mighty Mfolosi River

From our high vantage point we had already seen a buffalo in the sandy river bed, a rhino on the far bank and a lioness hiding behind the reeds on the opposite bank. As we watched she stalked across the wide river bed towards some zebra. She lay down and waited once she was on the near bank. A few more lionesses and a lion walked across the sand to our left, crouching and flanking the zebra, who panicked and dashed off straight towards the first lioness. She pounced in a cloud of dust and she and her target disappeared behind the thorn bush. We strained to see what happened. Did they get their lunch?

After a while they all walked out looking a bit disgusted with themselves. So no, probably not.

While scanning with my telescope I took a good look at the rhino and called out excitedly to the rest. Hey, come and look! It’s uBhejane, not another white rhino like the many we’ve seen. We all had a good look and confirmed the jizz and the hooked lip of the rarely-seen ‘black’ rhino. What a sighting!

Scoping well left of the river up an adjacent valley I noticed baboons in two sycamore figs, the mfolosi tree that give the river and the park its name. Suddenly they started barking and swearing in fluent baboon-vloek, and a magnificent leopard appeared in view, staring up into the tree above him. I got the scope on him and called the others. He was most obliging and waited till all nine of us, including the two rangers had a good look before flicking his long tail and bounding up the tree, to increased pandemonium from the residents. We heard loud shrieks, even ruder words and then much barking and squealing. I watched for a long while to see if I could spot the leopard again. But we didn’t find out if he got his lunch either.

So as far as lunches go, we can only confirm that we definitely ate ours, and that it was the delicious traditional huge white bread sarmies with butter, tomato and raw onion with salt and black pepper, washed down with freshly-brewed Five Roses tea. Mmm mmmm!

Four of the Big Five for lunch. On foot! Actually, sitting on our bums at lunchtime. What a day! And the rhino was the real Big Five member, not the more placid white rhino. The big five idea originated in the days when they were considered the five most dangerous animals to hunt. The days when the way you “got” the big five was to kill them, not just to see them. We joked as we packed up to walk back to base camp that we now needed to see an ele on the way home to round off our lunch. Well, we did. It was almost ridiculous. But thrilling.

And that was not all . . .

The next day our walk took us on a different route. As we crossed the low Mfolosi in the blazing sun we asked our guides if we could swim. ‘Well, you can wallow,’ they said, ‘It’s not deep enough to swim.’ So wallow we did, King Fogg and I; and that’s how we came to spot the Big Six, adding the rare Pink-faced Ceramic-white Freshwater Mfolosi Beluga Whale to our tally of wondrous things spotted in that very special place, the wonderful Mfolosi Wilderness Area.

The sixth of the BIG SIX: Two whales emerge from a dip in the Mfolosi
– thankfully dressed again after our underpants wallow – the skin would have over-exposed the picture! –

~~~oo0oo~~~

The next day we walked upon this sleeping pride, loafing on the riverbed. They scattered when they saw us, the male on the right leading the flee-ing, tail tucked ‘tween his legs! They’ve learnt not to trust those dangerous upright primates.

~~~oo0oo~~~

baboon-vloek – impolite baboon dialect used when worried

A Week in Mkhuze

We saw lots of bewilderbeast droppings and lots of bewilderbeasts – many with tiny calves, meals on wobbly hooves to the lions and cheetahs. The big male lion had helped himself to a giraffe calf, so fat pickings this summer. The lions were recently introduced to shake things up in Mkhuze, (four in Nov 2013 and four in 2014) so the edible animals are on high alert, muttering to each other ‘there goes the neighbourhood.’

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– wobbly hooves –
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– hmmm, I’ll have one of those! –
– impala nursery on the banks of Nsumu pan –
– ugh, I ate too much giraffe –

We watched two cheetah stalk the wildebeasts and then charge off out of sight. Friends saw the lionesses bring down a wildebeast calf right in front of them at the waterhole. Lots of square-lipped rhino and a beautiful hunting wasp, all yellow and black rugby jersey colours. Wonderful Mkhuze birdlife as always, 106 species, with cuckoo hawk, nicator, grey-headed bush shrike, wattled lapwing and pygmy kingfisher being my highlights.

Then at last: A hook-lipped rhino! He stood obligingly while we took pictures.

He just stood there as placid as anything. I had told Jess if we were lucky enough to see one we’d probly just get a glimpse, so she should be ready with her camera! So there’s another reason to take everything your parents say with a great big sack of cerebos.

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We had lovely weather, including rain, wind and too hot, but mostly perfect, as all the others were short duration and actually pleasant. It’s dry again, so the waterholes were busy. Three of the lady lions launched a run on a wildebees calf at the waterhole as I watched and the other voyeurs (among whom friend Geoff Kay) told of watching them kill and eat one the day before. Geoff had it on his camera. Old Geoff just the same: ‘You saw what? I saw better. You got what telescope? Mine’s longer. You saw an elephant? Last year I was here with Jurgen and we got charged by one.’ etc.
Actually we dipped on eles. Not one; and not a single turd neither. Not one. We drove 450km over the six days and the reward I offered of an ice cream to she who spotted an ele turd (not a whole ele, just a turd!) went unclaimed!
Reminded me of a Free State Reed-ism: “Not a leaf stirred. Not an elephant’s turd.”

~~~oo0oo~~~

– giraffe stereo –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Mkhuze’s Great

Some things I love about Mkhuze:
Those dirt roads between the fever trees (there’s lotsa tar too, these days).
Few people.
Polite people even at a lion kill (‘After you! No, after YOU!’).
Lots of birds.

– Fever tree dirt track Mkhuze –

African time; African efficiency. We had electricity – at times, but not at our site, which I found out after I’d set up camp fully. Couldn’t test, as the generator only runs from 5pm to 10am – which is plenty, but you can’t find out if your site is working if you arrive when it’s not running. No problem, I set up a field kitchen 60m away from my site. We had water – at times. Even hot water at times. The bins had monkey- and baboon-proof lids – some of them.

FRIENDLY inefficient staff: Got any charcoal? Yes. Where? There. So you go and look again: fokol. Go back. Doesn’t seem to be any. Yes, it is there. Where? I show you. None. HAU!! It was here! Screech of laughter: Hau! So she goes and fetches extra from the stores, hosing herself at the fact that ‘Strue’s Bob, there wasn’t any when she thought there was!

At the waterhole a sexy young thing with a 400mm lens got chatting away to this 59yr old. She musta been 19 in the shade. Burbling away about look at that and watch here for the pygmy kingfisher and have you seen the lions behind that bush and the poor wildebees calf lost its mother and the lions nearly ate it and etc. Fairly unusual for a Seffrican she was. My 17yr old can seldom string two words together to a stranger!

Very little ranger or staff presence so the ous were up and out on game drives well before the meant-to-be time of 5am.

Patrick the ranger on a game drive in his open top Landie stopped me – he recognised us from two previous visits when we went on drives and walks with him – and asked ‘Where’s the boy?’ Remarkable really, as the one visit was in May and the other in 2009! I spose we do stand out a bit. I told him Tom thought he’d rather be eaten by a lion than endure two teenage girls for six days.
~~~~~ooo000ooo~~~~~
Note to self: There’s LOTS that needs fixing with your camping equipment!
I forgot the braai grid and couldn’t find one in six shops in Mkhuze village 18km away. I took the wrong gas bottle, didn’t fit. No problem, the girls got cold food* and hot tea – I had grabbed the electric kettle from the kitchen as I left home.

As always, the fridge worked a treat, so in the heat they got plenty of ice-cold drinks and water.

Next time I’m gonna be SO organised . . .
~~~~~ooo000ooo~~~~~
*Don’t feel sorry for them! They got some toasted sarmies from the Rhino Dino once or twice – and Phindile also made us one lekker breakfast.

Bliss

I heard a cry on high as I parked on the roof at work. Glancing up I saw two crows cartwheeling, freewheeling, locking claws and spiralling like a propellor high above me. What a magnificent display of flying excellence!

Buzzing around above and below them was a drongo, divebombing and harrassing them, cheeky little blighter. They ignored him and carried on exuberantly showing off. Wow!

Isn’t that amazing!? I said to my 74yr old carguard as she shuffled up asking “And now?“.

I pointed out the birds.

“Yes”, she says off-handedly, “Those two parents are teaching the young one to fly”.

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The evening sky from my rooftop parking spot

Mkhuze Mantuma Camp

Jess and her two mates giggled away the weekend looking for big beasts. Elephants was what they were after, but they stayed in hiding. Eventually we were placing bets on seeing elephant poo! not even the whole animal! Still no luck. We saw lots of rhino and a a few buffalo instead. Plenty antelope and lots & lots of birds. Beautiful.

Evenings they watched movies while I read Bill Bryson’s Short History of Nearly Everything (again!) and listened to the nightjar.

Mkhuze is very dry, so all the animals from miles around crowd the waterhole. Mudhole, really – very little water. Amazing that just a few miles away at Nsumo Pan there is miles of shoreline and clear blue water, but we saw very few animals there. Just hippos.

Dunno if it was this visit or another, but in walking around the camp I saw the bluest bird I’d ever seen – and it was a Black Cuckooshrike! I would have confidently asserted to you that Black Cuckooshrikes are black. Well, usually, but have a good look in bright sunlight:

– the blue of the Black Cuckooshrike – from ethiobirds.smugmug.com – thanks –

Tom back in civilization had a ball too. His weekend was very different to ours: beach, shopping mall, KFC, two movies, a home in Durban North with dogs and pet pythons. Plus he was given three shad his host had caught. He brought them home, scaled them, filleted them and fried them with fresh-cut potato chips. Delicious! Quite the chef, my Tom!

~~~oo0oo~~~

My Namesakes in Mkhuze

A few of my namesakes at Mkhuze this weekend.

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Spot the two old rhinos in the shade under the tree? ** Click on the pic **

Then you’ll also see how dry it was – the “water” is pure mud with a rich dose of dung mixed in.

– the pan had good water –

I saw Joan Rivers Live . .

. . in Las Vegas in 1973! Yikes! Can that be?

She was 40yrs old. She was delightfully rude.

Pet Clark Joan RiversHollywood Reporter
August 1, 1973

Bravo Sid Gathrid of Caesar’s Palace for giving the summer crowds one of the freshest, brightest and most entertaining bookings of the year in the lady stars Petula Clark and Joan Rivers. Destroying the old hand-me-down Strip myth that two females are artistically incompatible and or have ineffectual drawing power, Pet and Joan’s opening string of standingroom-only crowds found the duo irresistible.

There’s a delightful mix-up of interplay of the stars’ talents; Petula does comedy bits and Joan sings!
The “raid” on the other’s forte only adds to the evening’s abundance of style, polish and charm.

Songs Performed:

Color My World/You Are the Sunshine of My Life
Don’t Sleep in the Subway – – – – – LISTEN: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2obt60_petula-clark-don-t-sleep-in-the-subway-w-lyrics_music
Beatles medley: Something/Penny Lane/All You Need is Love
You and I (from Goodbye Mr. Chips)
I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love
(How about them grits)
Your Cheatin’ Heart
You’ve Got a Friend
Band introductions
I Don’t Know How to Love Him (from Jesus Christ Superstar)
What the World Needs Now
Downtown

—————————————-
I went with Jim & Katie Patterson, wonderful host family, and Dottie Moffett, kind friend (who had been an exchange student to Cape Town the year before).

Now she’s gone:
Dottie’s also gone – way too early at 50.

Hluhluwe with a Seibert

Greg Seibert was an exchange student to Harrismith back in 1972. He mailed me in 2014 to say his brother Jeff was coming to SA for work in Port Elizabeth. He’s with General Motors. I said get him up to KZN and we can go to a game reserve. Short notice, so I booked Hluhluwe.

Hluhluwe JeffSeibert (88).JPG
Hluhluwe with Jeff-collage-1
– eles in the mist –

Greg thought he may join us but it didn’t happen. Very sadly.

~~~~~ooo000ooo~~~~~

I wrote to friends after: Hared off at short notice to Hluhluwe-Mfolosi park.
Harrismith’s 1972 Rotary exchange student contacted me to say his brother was in SA. He works for General Motors and I spose he was checking to see if they still sell Chevs in this neck of the woods. He’s from just outside Detroit, Michigan.

Mfolosi was dry and Hluhluwe was burnt, the logs still smouldering from a fire that burnt about half the park. Lots to see in the line of big grey animals plus antelope and painted dogs. Lots of birds, too.

Must get a kombi next time . .

Photographing Giraffe

Photogiraffing? It’s hard to photograph giraffe in Ithala Game Reserve when you have a Jack-in-the-Box popping up in the jeep right in front of your lens every time you’re ready to depress the shutter. And then the laughter gives camera shake.

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Ithala with Kids-001

Palmiet Rangers

Field Marshal Geoffrey Carruthers OBE VC ESO with bar, decided we needed to jack up the patrolling of the Palmiet Nature Reserve.

So he issued a decree and press-ganged a bunch of people into becoming rangers – Palmiet Rangers! and promised us suitable uniforms for the job.

We thought YAY! something like this:

Palmiet Ranger Issue

but all he gave us was this:

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We feel very vulnerable on patrol . . .

——-ooo000ooo——-

OBE – Old Bullet with Empire delusions

VC – Very Conservation-minded

ESO with bar – Extinguished Service Order with drinking experience

New Lease On (wild) Life

Geoffrey Caruth is a doer. He gets going. He has run an indigenous nursery in an industrial area for decades, he ran an Olde Heritage Shoppe for years, he built a pond in a park – as a donation to the people of Westville; he has a lovely young (much younger!) wife and two ugly old dogs. He lives on the bank of the Palmiet river, on the boundary of the Palmiet Nature Reserve. Sure, he thinks that to be an Englishman is to have won the lottery in life, but hey, even he’s not perfect.

Recently he decided to re-introduce bushbuck into the 100ha Palmiet Nature Reserve in Westville, KwaZulu Natal and – typically – got off his butt. I would have talked about it, he rallied the troops. The bushbuck or imbabala (Tragelaphus sylvaticus) should be eminently suited to our valley and we hope they’ll thrive here.

So this week, 18 months after he decided to launch “Operation Nkonka”, we were in the Palmiet watching five beautiful bushbuck, three females and two males, jump out of the back of the truck and explore their new home.

Geoff and Warren Friedman watch with pride and angst:

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Nkonka release

A = Release site

B = Where I last saw a bushbuck

C = Our home

Later four more were released. Soon we’ll be fawning over their offspring, we hope!

~~~~~ooo000ooo~~~~~

nkonka is isiZulu for male bushbuck;

bushbuck in general are imbabala; the Cape bushbuck is our species; the other is the Harnessed bushbuck or kéwel, a different species in west and central Africa. Convergent evolution has them looking very similar but ours is closely related to the Bongo and the Sitatunga while the Harnessed is closer to the Nyala. The Nyala has the wonderful Latin name Tragelaphus angasi – you can imagine how that came about! (angazi in isiZulu can mean ‘I don’t know’).

~~~oo0oo~~~

Bufftail Bogey Bird . .

. . nailed at last!

On 2014/06/23 Crispin Hemson – Pigeon Valley Patriarch and Monarch – wrote:
Conditions in Pigeon Valley are very dry, giving great visibility into the undergrowth. We are suddenly seeing Buff-spotted Flufftails on the main track, or just next to it. Yesterday I saw two adults and a sub-adult. These are very unobtrusive birds, so do not expect rustling. I suspect that while in summer the undergrowth is dim and the main track bright, the Flufftails stay under cover. In winter the undergrowth is as bright as the area just outside it, so the pressure to stay there is less. Spotted Ground-Thrushes are also very visible, often just on the edge of the main track, digging into leaf litter that accumulates there. There are more than I originally thought – I saw them in four places up the track yesterday.

I wrote:

I have heard a thousand bufftails – particularly at Hella Hella where we weekend-ed monthly for ten to fifteen years, and on the Mkombaan river in Westville where we lived for fifteen years; and although I searched and stalked and lay in wait, and saw two dead ones – next-door-cat-got-it in River Drive, and flew-into-plate-glass at Hella Hella – a sighting has evaded me till now. One would hoot right outside my bedroom window, metres away, but I never caught a glimpse.

bufftail-dead
– I forget whose pic this is! –

Thanks to Pigeon Valley’s tireless champion, Crispin Hemson reporting on his birding regularly, I went on Sunday to Pigeon Valley and saw a spotted thrush at the entrance, and then that flufftail up at the fence line along King George V avenue. At last! Two seconds after forty years!

A male bird, who ducked into low dense thicket just outside the fence.

bufftail-pigeon-valley
– another of Crispin’s pics –

This was a big bogey bird as far as a sighting goes! Must be close to forty years of thinking “soon I’ll see one”.

Can a pitta in my garden be far behind?

~~~oo0oo~~~

Here’s a Sheryl Halstead Spotted Ground Thrush pic

Thrush, Spotted Ground (Sheryl Halstead)

~~~oo0oo~~~

Underground and Underwater in Kenya

In Tsavo East we walked down a long underground tunnel from Elephant Hills Lodge on the hilltop in the first pic below, to the waterhole below the hill, where the tunnel ends in an iron-barred underground hide looking out at elephant feet and buffalo legs as they drink within pebble-tossing distance.

Elephant Hills - East Tsavo
KenyaTsavo (12)
Bottom left is where the tunnel emerged
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In Tsavo West we climbed down into an old metal tank with glass portholes looking out into the crystal clear waters of Mzima Spring, where fish swim past and hippos can be seen looking like graceful ballerinas who have ‘let themselves go’ as they move daintily by, holding their breath. We watched and waited but not a one of them farted while we were there.

The spring bubbles out of the hillside volcanic rock, crystal clear and forming a sizeable stream.

Mzima Springs
– bubbling out of the volcanic rock: The start of a river –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Five Forests

Just back from a Five Days, Five Forests birding trip to Zululand: Nkandla, Entumeni, Dlinza, Ngoye mistbelt or scarp or afromontane forests; and St Lucia coastal forest. (note: this was in 2013)

My highlight was Ngoye, about which I’ve heard so much over the years. Especially after Aitch went without me: “Have you been to Ngoye Koos? Oh, no, I remember, you haven’t. So you haven’t seen the Woodwards Barbet then? I HAVE!” Only about a hundred times, she rubbed it in!

I hadn’t planned anything but once we had walked in Nkandla, I said to my Zululand birding guide Sakhamuzi Mhlongo, “Forget the coast and the vleis and farms – we’re sticking to forests,” and so the Five Forests © & ™ idea came about. I think it’s a winner! Stay in the forests so dawn finds you right there with nowhere to drive.

COMFORT
This trip was just me and my guide. Sakhamuzi was lovely quiet company. Nights at the B&Bs and the Birders’ Cottage we cooked up a red meat storm, washed it all down with frosties and early to bed. On walks I took my binocs, telescope, rucksack and deckchairs. Mostly we simply found great spots like forest edges and parked. My guide Sakhamuzi was great and said (well, he would, wouldn’t he?) that he enjoyed sitting still. Said mostly birders want to rush from one spot to the next, talking all the time! I said he should get deckchairs and specialise in khehlas and gogos. ‘Charge a premium, carry a hebcooler and you’ll make your fortune, young man,’ was my advice to him! Find a fruiting tree, and let the birds come to your doddery customers.

Call it Gugile Ancient Avian Gadabouts (GAGA) © & ™

I took plenty snacks and drinks in my rucksack, so the waiting was comfy, luxurious and munchy. Next time I’ll take some poncho or dark sheet to break the human outline – see if that fools the voëls.

We stayed two nights in the Birders Cottage in Ngoye. Perfect for getting up before five every morning and getting straight into the forest at first light. Saw and heard lots of birds which I’d seen before but had written BVD next to them (“better view desired”) and one great lifer. Yes, Aitch-In-The-Clouds, I did the see the barbet, so I laid that bogey-bird to rest!

Barbet green
– thanks ebird.org –

The Green Barbet Stactolaema olivacea used to be called Woodward’s Barbet – our sub-species is Stactolaema olivacea woodwardi. Here’s a beautiful 1897 illustration of a pair of Woodward’s barbets, by J.G. Keulemans

Also a special in the forest is the oNgoye red squirrel, Paraxerus palliatus ornatus and I cant remember if we saw him! I’ll have to go back! Illustration by Joseph Wolf, Zoological Society of London 1864.

..

WHEELS
Craig Naude’s magic silver and blue Mitsubishi Colt 4X4 V6 3000 was superb. That’s it above left in the grasslands above the forest. I needed first gear low ratio in places in the forest where the rutted tracks changed to slippery clay, and steep drops into stream beds meant equally steep climbs out of them, starting at snail’s pace. Boy heaven.

..

COASTAL FOREST
At St Lucia we got into the forest at dawn, too, then walked on to the mouth of the estuary by 6.30am and low tide. Waders and terns remain confusing to me, and the sooty tern Sakhamuzi hoped to spot had trekked back to Mozambique. Pity, as it’s one of the easier ones to ID. Oh, well, as the baby tern said to the mother tern: Can I have a baby brother? Certainly, said the mother tern: ‘One good tern deserves another.’

Five Forests Heron
– St Lucia estuary with a grey heron in the surf – my poor pic! –

On the way back we spotted a dwarf chameleon, which I now know was probably the endangered Setaro’s Dwarf Chameleon. No picture! Then we sat in the forest in comfort again and a Green Malkoha (old green coucal) obligingly flew into a tree and leisurely displayed his banana beak in full sunlight. No picture!

Green Malkoha
– thanks Johann vd Berg on stellenboschbirds.org – beaut pic!! –

Driving back to the B&B a Lemon Dove (old cinnamon dove) sat on a track at the side of the road for so long we eventually drove off! First time I’ve ever done that. Usually you just glimpse them flying off at speed. Another early night after red meat and beer was enjoyed.

What a great break – the first real birding since before Aitch and I became child-infested. I’d forgotten what early mornings without scarecrows was like! We spent 32 days on our trip up to Malawi when the kids were 5 and 1 and only saw one bird, and that was a Zambian nkuku whose cousin was deliciously on our plates at a shisanyama at the roadside in Livingstone. I exaggerate. Slightly.

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Bruce Soutar wrote: Pete – eye think this is a compliment – from Rooooth Garland: Please tell Piet I LOVE his stories and want to see more . . . He makes me smile, even though he’s a drunkard and no good at flying. Does he have a blogspot I can sign up for? Xx PS: Sakumuzi is a huge Twinstreams fan . . . Lovely man. Ruth Garland – Sydney Australia

Ruth’s Dad was the legendary Ian Garland, whose exploits at Twinstreams in Zululand did heaps to save, propagate and teach about indigenous plants. Ruth’s exploits at Mbona in a low-flying kombi were a different chapter, which also did heaps to save and teach, but not propagate.

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khehlas and gogos – Old men and Old ladies

gugile – ancient, as in buggered; decrepit; you know; don’t pretend you don’t know

voëls – birds

nkuku – chicken

shisanyama – red meat on red hot coals restaurant; not teetotal joints; licenced to sell alcohol, ‘Which’ – as famous birder Ian Sinclair said with a grin – ‘I’m licenced to drink’

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My Bird List in Nkandla Forest: Lemon Dove; Dusky Flycatcher; Blue-Mantled Flycatcher; Knysna Turaco; Red-eyed Dove; Redbilled Wood-Hoopoe; Greater Double-collared Sunbird; Grey Cuckoo Shrike; Rameron Pigeon; Black-headed Oriole; Cape Batis; Black Saw-wing; HEARD: Dark-backed Weaver; Emerald Cuckoo; Chinspot Batis;

My Bird List in Entumeni Forest: Narina Trogon; Cape Batis; Olive Sunbird; Terrestrial Brownbul

My Bird list in Dlinza Forest: Woolly-necked Stork; Grey Cuckoo Shrike; Spotted Ground Thrush; Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon (peach view calling in full sunlight on dead tree) – Delegorgue’s; Puffback Shrike; Cape White-eye; Green-backed Cameroptera; Sombre Greenbul; White-eared Barbet; Paradise Flycatcher; Olive Woodpecker; Black-bellied Starling; Black&White Mannikin; Collared Sunbird; Lesser-striped Swallow; Trumpeter Hornbill; Red-fronted Tinker; Yellow-rumped Tinker; Crowned Eagle juv; Yellow-bellied Greenbul; Redcapped Robin-chat; Scaly-throated Honeyguide; Purple-crested Turaco; Square-tailed Drongo; Terrestrial Brownbul; HEARD: Yellow-breasted Apalis; GT Woodpecker; Olive Bush Shrike; Southern Boubou; Black-headed Oriole;

My Bird list St Lucia and in St Lucia coastal forest: Woodwards Batis; Rudd’s Apalis; Yellow-bellied Greenbul; Green Malkoha – LIFER in South Africa for me – full sunlight saturation view; Grey Sunbird; Livingstone’s Turaco; Burchell’s Coucal; Whimbrel; Osprey; Grey Heron; Fish Eagle; Spoonbill; Yellow Weaver; Green Pigeon; Speckled Mousebird; Swift Tern; Black-winged Stilt; Avocet; YB Stork; Pink-backed Pelican; Little Tern; Three-banded Plover; Blue-cheeked Bee-eater; Lemon Dove – saturation close-up; Crested Guineafowl; Pied Wagtail; Cape Wagtail; Goliath Heron; Great White Egret; Little Egret; Thickbilled Weaver; White-breasted Cormorant; Palm Swift; Brown-throated Martin; Black or Common Swift; Chorister Robin-chat; Crowned Hornbill;

My Bird list in Ngoye Forest: Green Barbet – LIFER for me (yes, I know, Aitch); Yellow-streaked Greenbul; Tambourine Dove; Delegorgue’s Pigeon; Crowned Hornbill; Olive Woodpecker; GT Woodpecker; Orange-breasted Bush Shrike; Mountain Wagtail; Red-eyed Dove; Hadeda Ibis; Narina Trogon; HEARD: Wood Owl; Diederik Cuckoo;

Other creatures on the trip: Samango monkey; Red Squirrel; Thick-tailed Bushbaby (heard at night); Rainbow Skink; Banded Forester Butterfly;

Seen on the roads and roadside stops: Jackal Buzzard; Pied Crow; White-naped Raven; Red-collared Widow; Fantailed Widow; Stonechat; Barn Swallow; YBK; Dusky Indigobird; Fiscal Shrike; Dark-capped Bulbul; Palm Swift; Long-crested Eagle; Black-headed Heron; Hamerkop; Pintailed Whydah; Black-chested Snake Eagle; Common Quail; Rufous-naped Lark; Croaking Cisticola; Wing-snap Cisticola; Mocking Cliff-chat; White-bellied Sunbird; Amethyst Sunbird; Brown-backed Honeybird; Black-collared Barbet; Black-crowned Tchagra; Neddicky; Yellow-throated Longclaw;

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Find Sakhamuzi here: sakhamuzimhlongo@yahoo.com

bird pics from hbw.com, wikipedia and Johann vd Berg stellenboschbirds.com – thank you

More forests in Zululand by strayalongtheway.com where I got the pics above which have their name on them – Thank you! Go and check out their fascinating site.