Birds n Ballies

. . and a lower quota of Booze.

Lang Dawid came to visit after decades in the hinterland. Always very organised, he sent bearers ahead of his arrival bearing two lists: Ten new birds he wanted to see; and Three old bullets he wanted to see.

We delivered thirty percent of his bird list: A Red-capped Robin-Chat, A White-eared Barbet and a Terrestrial Brownbul; Forty percent if you count the bonus male Tambourine Dove landed in a patch of sunlight, a lifer for Dave. All this thanks to Crispin Hemson showing us his special patch, Pigeon Valley in urban Durban. Talk about Guru Guiding! With local knowledge, depth, anecdotes, asides and wandering all over, on the ground and in our minds. Including climbing through a hole in the fence like naughty truant schoolboys. Whatta lovely man.

– Crispin scans, Dave holds his bazooka at the ready – turn a blind eye to the bottom left corner –

Then Dave and I retreated home to my patch, the Palmiet valley, where Tommy had cleaned up, readied the cottage for Dave’s stay and started a braai fire. Spot on, Tom!

One hundred percent of Dave’s list of old paddling mates arrived. Like homing pigeons, Allie, Charlie and Rip zoomed in. So I had four high-speed paddlers in their day on my stoep, race winners and provincial and national colours galore. We scared off any birds that might have been in the vicinity (feathered or human), but had a wonderful afternoon nevertheless, with lots of laughs.

After they left Dave and I had braai meat for supper; This morning we had braai meat for breakfast and he was off after a fun-filled 24 hours. I sat down to polish the breakfast remains and another cup of coffee and as a bonus, a female Tambourine Dove landed on my birdbath:

– not Dave’s camera –

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Dave’s camera equipment is impressive: a Canon EOS 7D Mk2 body;
https://www.techradar.com/reviews/canon-eos-7d-mark-ii-review
and a 500mm telephoto lens and his go-to, a 70-200mm lens. His main aim is getting a pic of every bird he sees. He shot his 530th yesterday here in Pigeon Valley. So he chases all over Southern Africa ticking off his ‘desired list.’ A magic, never-ending quest: there’ll always be another bird to find; there’ll always be a better picture to try for.

Here’s an adventure Dave and I shared back when we were bachelors, not ballies. It was beer n boobs, not birds n ballies.

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Pigeon Valley, Durban

Pigeon Valley is a Natural Heritage Park in Durban, South Africa. It is a magnificent example of a small urban reserve with very high levels of biodiversity. It was established to provide protection for our vanishing coastal climax forest. Only about 11ha in extent, it overlooks Durban Bay. Its south-facing slope is covered in canopy forest, while the north-facing slope has thorny thickets. An adjoining reservoir provides a tiny rectangular patch of coastal grassland – also a vanishing habitat. It’s a special place and is well worth a visit. see wikipedia.

Plants

– natal elm – Celtis mildbraedii

There are over 110 species of trees occurring in Pigeon Valley, almost all of which are locally indigenous, including the rare Natal Elm, and the Natal Forest Loquat. Large stands of Buckweed (Isoglossa woodii) grow in forest glades.

Animals

– red duiker –

The park is home to red duiker, blue duiker, large-spotted genet, a troop of banded mongoose, slender and water mongooses, vervet monkeys and the local mamba No.5 Dendroaspis polylepis subsp. hemsonii.

– large-spotted genet – in PV? – Sheryl Halstead’s pic –

Beautiful forest birds found here include:

– Buff-spotted Flufftail –
– Green Twinspots –
– Spotted Ground Thrushes –
– Black Sparrowhawks – Sheryl Halstead –

Rarer sightings include European Nightjar, Knysna Warbler, Lemon Dove, Mountain Wagtail, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Common Scimitarbill, Palm-nut Vulture, Nerina Trogon, Village Indigobird and Knysna Turaco. The current bird list for Pigeon Valley stands around 161 species. Summer migrants can include Black Cuckoo, Red-chested Cuckoo and Red-backed Shrike – find the full list at wikipedia

– Clouded Mother of Pearl – whattaphoto! – Crispin Hemson –

Community

Friends of Pigeon Valley, led by tireless stalwart and asp whisperer Crispin, ensure that the park is largely free of unwanted plant species – in fact, way better than most people’s gardens! They (that’s Crispin) also liaise with the municipal managers of the reserve to address relevant issues, and guide a monthly walk open to the public at 07h30 on the second Saturday of each month. For some spectacular photos find Friends of Pigeon Valley on facebook.

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Pics by Crispin Hemson, Sheryl Halstead, Jonathan Hemson, Roger Hogg; and when my point-and-shoot grows up it’s going to take pictures like these . .

Meantime I point at and shoot things that will stand still for me:

– Pigeon Valley collage –

It’s a lovely place for a picnic. But you must watch out who you picnic with. There sometimes be weirdos and champagne-guzzlers. And people who adulterate champagne with fruit juice.

– occasionally there’s a slight vagrant problem – and some shebeen’ing –
– Natal Forest Loquat – Oxyanthus pyriformishand-fertilised – looking chuffed –

We really should try and preserve more areas in a natural state. Don’t you think?

– pigeon valley in red and burman bush left-centre – that’s about all we’ve preserved –

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Assorted pics – mostly of Pigeon Valley, but some by Friends of PV taken elsewhere:

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Labour of Love – nudge wink

Crispin was concerned. The locquat wasn’t getting any action. It happened since the streetlights murdered the hawk moths. He himself is a man of action, so he sprung or sprang into same.

Every fetish has its paraphenalia. This case it was stepladders and camel hair brushes. Handlangers were rustled up and we went a-fertilising. I was a keen volunteer as I hadn’t had much to do with sexual parts and sperm and ova myself for some time; and even if this was actually pollen and stamens, hey, you take what you can get.

Crispin knew where our targets lived. We crept up to and up them, tickled their upright stigma and style delicately with the soft camel hair brush and bang! pregnant! one shot! The candle flower, Oxyanthus pyriformis, natal locquat didn’t know what hit it. For all it knew it may even have been a hawk moth fondling it with its moustache.

– other new life elsewhere in Pigeon Valley –

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handlangers – nogschleppers; hangers-on;

flower parts – check if I got them right;

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Update from Crispin Hemson xmas 2019. It would appear no pregnancies happened! My thought of bang! pregnant! one shot! was over-optimistic – but he’s bok to try again . .

bok – game; up for it

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?

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Here’s a Sheryl Halstead Spotted Ground Thrush pic

Thrush, Spotted Ground (Sheryl Halstead)

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