This past weekend I attended Mtunzini Conservancy’s 14th Annual Birding Weekend.   Below are five good reasons why you should attend.

1.  It’s all about the Birds

Mtunzini and surrounding forests is the home to spectacular birds. The Majestic Palmnut Vulture, Mangrove Kingfisher, African Finfoot, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Green Barbet and Green Malkhoha to name a few.

Group of birdwatchers in Ongoye Forest near Mtunzini

On Saturday morning we visited Ongoye Forest home to the Green Barbet.

Despite our guides’ persistence, and the Barbet constantly responding, he failed to make an appearance. My highlight was amazing views of three Yellow-Streaked Greenbuls. These birds clamber through the creepers and flick their one wing. Was wonderful watching them actually doing this, more fun than reading about it in a book.

View of Yellow-Streaked Greenbul seen in Ongoye Forest, Mtunzini
Male African Finfoot seen in Umlalazi Nature Reserve, Mtunzini

Sunday morning started in Umlalazi Nature Reserve where we immediately began searching for the Mangrove Kingfisher. Daff suddenly yelled ‘stop’ and there he was, sitting elegantly on a log right next to the road. What a sighting. I think all our excitement scared him off much to the indignation of our fellow birders. However, after a short while our patience was rewarded with more stunning views of this uncommon winter visitor and all was forgiven. Later, some in the group enjoyed more good sightings, including the African Finfoot and a family of African Jacanas.

Mtunzini Conservancy’s Annual Birding Weekend

 

We spent each afternoon exploring trails winding through the dune forests. Mtunzini Conservancy’s guiding hosts (Frank, Doggy and Theo) were on hand to assist us. For many it was sheer delight to connect with the Palmnut Vulture and Southern Banded Snake Eagle. I dipped on both.

2.  MEET LOCAL BIRD GUIDES

The Conversancy arranges local experienced birding guides to assist. This year we met Sakhamuzi, Jotham and Abednigo.

Sakhamuzi is a huge man with a heart for birds. He was everyone’s hero when he heard a Black-throated Wattle-eye from the car. Quite a sight seeing people loaded with binoculars and cameras fall out of cars running for the bushes.

Jotham, with his wide friendly smile is another experienced guide. I birded with him when I first ‘ticked’ the Green Barbet.

This was the first time I met Abednigo, a small quiet man. He alerted us to the Crowned Eagle and we were treated to a fine sighting of this stately bird.

Birdguide Jotham calling the Green Malkoha
Jotham, Theo and Abednego
Birding guide Sakhamuzi searching Ongoye Forest for Green Barbet

3. Meet Hugh Chittenden, co-author of Roberts Field Guide

On both evenings we were spoilt with presentations filled with stunning photographs and fascinating facts about birds. Hugh spoke about the colouring of birds and how they differ (some from sun bleach, I never knew that) migration of birds and mouth spots in fledglings. I learned things about birds that I don’t think are found in books. Both presentations were riveting.

Thank you Hugh for your magnificent photos of the Palmnut Vulture, African Finfoot and Yellow-Streaked Greenbul for my Blog.  I could spend hours browsing your photos, all stunning.

4.  MEET FELLOW BIRDERS

Each evening after Hugh’s presentation, tables are were set for dinner. No formality, it was a case of dishing up and sitting wherever there was space. I loved it, gave me an opportunity to meet new folk.

Next to the lecture patio is Mick’s Park. Since the early 1950’s nature lovers have met here and it’s no different today. On Saturday evening a large bonfire roared and to which most of us gravitated.

Benches in Mick's Park where memories are made

With relaxed conversation flowing we started wishing for toasted marshmallows, to dreaming of Amarula but had no option but to settle for red wine. Fortunately all of us found the adult in ourselves and made our way home early enough to meet fellow birders at the crack of dawn the next day.

5.  IT’S A FUND RAISER

The Conservancy is financed entirely by private individuals and this weekend is their biggest fund raiser.   The cost for the weekend is extremely reasonable and the fun and birding huge.

For more information visit Twinstreams and Mtunzini Conservancy.