Birdwatching in South Africa is always exciting. When we received a report that a Malagasy Pond Heron was seen in Mziki Dam, pandemonium once again erupted. Birders stopped what they were doing, cancelled all previous plans and headed for Zululand.

I decided to join the mayhem along with Ian Gordon, Dave and Penny Rimmer.

Our plan was to first drive through Hluhluwe Game Reserve and look for another celebrity, the Striped Crake seen at Thiyeni Bird Hide. By the time we arrived at the hide we had clocked up almost 100 birds (seen and heard), our tummy worms were calling and we needed another dose of caffeine fix.

Hamekop hunting
View from Thiyeni Hide over water expanse
A pair of terrapins sunning themselves at Thiyeni Hide
Looking over the water there was ….. nothing! “Where’s the crake?” I asked Ian, only to receive a “Humph” for a reply. So out came the coffee and muffins and we proceeded to comfort eat.

The crake didn’t make an appearance, it had not been seen for a few days so there was no surprise. We were however, treated to a number of other birds including White-backed Vultures and a Hamekop feeding.



The Malagasy Pond Heron – My First Serious Twitch

Finally we found ourselves outside the Mziki/Phinda Gate and who should we bump into? A group of crazy birders who had driven from Johannesburg throughout the night, ticked the Malagasy Pond Heron and were now driving back. Very tentatively I asked Niall Perrins if they had seen the bird to which he replied yes, “but you going to have to work hard for it”. My heart sunk.
Soon it was our turn and the gate guard opened up letting us in. Zandri Benade was our guide and soon, filled with eagerness mixed with loads of trepidation we bumped our way to Mziki Dam.

Across from us was a vehicle with some other well known twitchers including Trevor Hardaker, all staring at the dam. With that Trevor’s face lit up and he quickly signaled to us that the Malagasy Pond Heron had been found.

It didn’t take Zandri long to get us to the ‘spot’ and we connected with the heron probably all at the same time. Just picture two game vehicles pumped with adrenaline filled elation and twelve beaming faces. Cameras clicking sounding like machine guns, whispers and quite high fives were the norm.


Sign on Wall stating Mziki
View of Mziki Dam with game vehicle
Malagasy Pond Heron hunting in reeds
Malagasy Pond Heron flying over dam
A group of happy birdwatchers after connecting with the Malagasy Pond Heron
Phinda had given us three hours so we had plenty of time to follow this beautiful bird and enjoy watching his feeding habits. The highlight was seeing him take off, flying low over the reeds showing off his strikingly white wings.

There was even time to scour the large expanse of water for other more “normal” birds such as African Spoonbill, African Jacana, Blacksmith Lapwing and Fish Eagle and Goliath Heron.


This now famous Malagasy Pond Heron stole the show

Our three hours were nearly up so Zandri took us for a quick drive around the area and we then stopped for drinks to celebrate this fine day. All too soon, the sun began to set telling us it was time to head for home.

This was my first serious twitch and I can now relate to my throngs of friends who are addicted to this hobby. Very hard for my non-birding friends to understand, but hey, it’s fun, healthy and far better than being at home.

Group of biirdwatchers enjoying sundowners after a successful twitch


  1. Rory baker

    Hi Cheryl,
    Such an interesting read and insight to how birders take their past time seriouly…much like photographers.

    • Cheryl King

      Thanks Rory. I think photographers and birders are similar. Bet you have some dream photos you want to take and will eventually ‘nail’ it.