Palmiet Sightings & Discoveries

An exciting weekend in the valley; good sightings, plants to identify and maybe even a new species discovered!

The eggs – ?? – brought some guessing! I asked vegetable or animal? No-one knew. Fish eggs, with a water mongoose being the predator? Berries? Frog eggs? Crab eggs? Eel? Turns out Ingrid D’eathe had found them on the edge of her pond. Then Suncana posted a lovely flap-necked chameleon picture and she looked nice and chubby so I asked chameleon eggs?

Meanwhile on iNaturalist experts looked at them: Tony Rebelo thought regurgitated seeds? Wynand Uys thought eggs, reptilian or amphibian; Marion karoopixie said angazi; Johan Marais said not herp, maybe SNAIL; The mystery continues . . . So much we don’t know.

And the spider might be a new one provisionally dubbed The Red Widow; no ID yet; It (or one that looks very much like it) has recently been newly discovered on Table Mountain in Cape Town. Suncana has it on iNaturalist as a Cobweb Spiders Family Theridiidae. She’ll soon get comments and support, I’m sure.

What a special valley, our 110ha wood.


Aargh!! I Haydid !

I hate it! ***

For years before 1989 I wanted to see a Bufftail – a Buff-spotted Flufftail. I heard plenty, but saw none. First at Hella Hella; Then in 1989 we moved into our first home in Westville and there was one in our yard! We heard him all the time!

But still I didn’t see him. It grew into an obsession. Seeing this little day-old-chick-sized bird was a real desire. I stalked around the garden, lying still for ages as he stopped calling whenever he detected my presence. I lay at the nearest window with a searchlight, bufftail calling within metres. All in vain; the bird’s caution and patience far exceeding mine.

– Sarothrura elegans – thanks, –

I’ve written about my quest before. We stayed in River Drive for fifteen years and have been in Elston Place for thirteen. Here we also hear a flufftail but not as often nor as closeby.

And now a friend moves in to a new home and – less than two years after moving in – films this from his balcony:

Aargh! Rob Davey!

Here’s the Bufftail hoot again – from – sharing bird sounds from around the world:

. . and here’s one to show how small they are – thanks,


*** I haydid – is a Friderichs-ism. Bobby – from ‘Slunnin – used to say ‘I haydid!’ in mock displeasure when things went skew-wiff. Eg: ‘I haydid when my fridge gets carried out the back door!’ – another divorce . .


I haydid – I hate it

‘Slunnin – East London; not in London

skew-wiff – not straight; not according to plan

Bufftail Hoot

It’s been a long time since I last heard the plaintive, mournful-sounding hoot of the Buff-spotted Flufftail, Sarothrura elegans. But the last few nights he has been hooting gently outside my window in Westville above the Palmiet River:

– sound from – thank you –

Hope they stay awhile . . .

– crispin hemson pic from pigeon valley durban – thank you –

I heard it for years at 7 River Drive on the Mkombaan River in Westville, but although I searched and stalked and lay in wait at all hours, the only one I saw was one the bloody next door cat killed! Something like this:

– not my pic –


And then at last I saw one of Crispin Hemson’s tame*** flufftails at Pigeon Valley in Durban. One lone male. And just for a few seconds before he ducked into the undergrowth. I was pleased to see one of Crispin’s pictures has been used in wikipedia.

*** not really tame – just on his famous patch!


Friend Rob Davey is a security camera boffin. He aimed one at his birdbath out north of Durban:

List of Birds of 7 River Drive – my patch

Mkombaan River valley, Westville KZN – Jan 1989 – Dec 2003

Breeds – Y means we have seen an active nest or young being fed here

Spotted ThrushSeen three separate winter-times in 15 years
Kurrichane Thrush
Olive Thrush

Narina TrogonThree times in 15 years, once stayed a week
Pigmy KingfisherThree times
Brown-hooded KingfisherNests in a bank in Deon’s yard next door (no. 5)Y
Malachite KingfisherOnce
Olive Bush-shrike (ruddy formOnce – stayed about a week. Lovely song
Orange-breasted Bush-shrikeHeard quite often, seen about three times
Black SparrowhawkRaises a chick here most yearsY
GymnogeneRaises a chick here most yearsY
Crowned EagleFlying & calling overhead
Fish EagleFlying & calling overhead
African GoshawkResident King of the woodsY
Black-headed HeronFlying overhead
Pied CrowFlying overhead
Barn Swallow

Lesser Striped Swallow

Rock Martin

White-rumped Swift

Little Swift

Palm Swift

Reed CormorantOnce, flying overhead, then circled and landed in the Mkombaan River!
Woolly-necked StorkPerched on a garage roof at top of our valley!
Bush BlackcapOne winter, stayed ten days
Willow WarblerArrives every summer from frosty England
Red-backed Mannikin

Bronze Mannikin
Bar-throated Apalis

Yellow-breasted Apalis

Rudd’s Apalis !!?Unlikely, yet seen close-up by Trish and I on potplant on the driveway! Nov 2003; Needs verification!
Natal FrancolinHeard often, seen once
Buff-spotted FlufftailHeard very often, never seen
Red-chested CuckooJuvenile seen once in fig tree over pool
Emerald CuckooIncluding a juv being fed by Olive sunbirdy
Klaas’ Cuckoo

Black Cuckoo

Diederik Cuckoo

Longbilled Crombec

Tambourine DoveOften
Emerald-spotted DoveSeldom
Red-eyed DoveMost common dovey
Laughing Dove
Ring-necked parakeetOnce, flying past into no. 14
Fiery-necked nightjarHeard often, seen twice
Paradise flycatcherNests every yeary
Dusky FlycatcherNests every yeary
Blue-grey FlycatcherNests most yearsy
Spotted FlycatcherA few visits
Black Flycatcher
Purple-crested LourieNested in Umdoni tree on River Drivey
African HoopoeOnce at top of River Drive
Red-billed Wood HoopoeHave nested in our nestboxes about 3 timesy
Lesser HoneyguideOften
Greater HoneyguideSeldom
Scaly-throated HoneyguideSeldom
Sharp-billed HoneyguideTwice
Blackbellied Glossy StarlingsNest most yearsy
Green TwinspotSeen four times, heard more times
Long-tailed WagtailUp & down the river, occasionally next to pooly
Cape WagtailNests in Dracaena outside front door
Pied WagtailNext to pooly
Southern BoubouHeard all the time, seldom seeny
Golden-tailed WoodpeckerNests most yearsy
Cardinal Woodpecker

Olive SunbirdThe Boss; Once raised an Emerald Cuckoo chicky
White-bellied SunbirdUsually behind house, seldom in front garden!
Collared SunbirdNests most yearsy
Black SunbirdOccasional
Grey SunbirdOften
Black-collared BarbetAlwaysy
Crested BarbetOnce
Golden-rumped TinkerAlways
HamerkopOften – heard more than seen
Yellow-billed Kite

Burchell’s Coucal

Grey-headed SparrowSeen twice
Streaky-headed Canary

Yellow-eyed Canary

Bully Canary

Tawny-flanked PriniaNests every year in long grass above washliney
Natal RobinTrish’s friend – also spotted chicks most yearsy
White-browed Scrub-robin

Southern Black Tit

Terrestrial BulbulOutside bedroom window
Black-eyed Bulbul
Sombre Bulbul

Black-headed Oriole

Black Cuckoo-shrikeIn fig tree most years
Fork-tailed Drongo

White-faced Whistling DuckWhistling high overhead at night
Cape White-eye
Bleating Bush Warbler


Indian Mynah

Cape Glossy Starling

Plum-coloured Starling

Thick-billed Weaver

Spotted-backed Weaver
Spectacled WeaverNests every yeary
Forest WeaverSeldom
Blue-billed Firefinch

Common Waxbill

Grey WaxbillRegular in early years, scarce lately
Swee WaxbillTwice
Redwing Starling

Chin-spot Batis

Cape Batis

Hadeda Ibis
Sacred IbisFlying overhead
Speckled Mousebird


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.

– 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.

– 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?


Here’s a Sheryl Halstead Spotted Ground Thrush pic

Thrush, Spotted Ground (Sheryl Halstead)