My previous post Fall in Love with Weenen told you why I fell in love with Weenen. There was not enough space to tell you Weenen is also a top birding spot. So here’s my second post about the wonderful birds we found.
Heavy traffic along the N2 as we left the city resulted in us arriving later than planned. The gates close at 7 p.m. and we arrived 6.30 – by the skin of our teeth as it were. At the reception we found two birds that looked strikingly like Bearded Woodpeckers. Between the two of us we did not have our binoculars handy so couldn’t be sure.
On route to Ukhombe Cottage we were treated to a spectacular sunset. Colours ranged from bright orange, deep red and soft pink and purples all in a matter of minutes.
Gin & Tonic to the chilling call of a Fiery-necked Nightjar
The evening was warm and balmy so we sat outside enjoying a gin and tonic before supper and tried our best to identify the various birds calling. Guinea Fowl were the most vocal, as they came to roost on a nearby tree. We also heard a pair of spotted thick-knees and of course the Hadeda Ibis. Finally, we were treated to the distinctive call ‘good lord deliver us’, belonging to a Fiery-necked Nightjar. My favourite ‘nocturnal call’. I might add the next evening after watching another spectacular sunset we saw a nightjar, which we presume was the Fiery-necked).
Early the next morning (about 5 am) we followed the Nyandu Valley Drive. Unfortunately, due to the terrible drought, we are suffering it was very dry and there was only a small puddle in the dam. A Black-crowned Tchagra teased us the entire drive but stayed out of sight despite our determined efforts to entice him out.
The excitement, however, was finding a pair of Chestnut-vented Babblers one of the special birds for the area.
Back at the cottage, we were greeted by a pair of Spotted Thick-knees, probably the same ones we heard the night before. It’s always a treat seeing these birds as they are nocturnal so normally stay hidden during the day. While it was still early, before it got too hot, wevisited the dam near our cottage. This time there was no water, so very disappointing. On the way, we found the African Hoopoe, Greyheaded Sparrow, Southern Fiscal, Neddicky and Guinea Fowls.
Dung Beetles may not be birds, but they are fascinating little creatures, worth a mention
We also came across a Dung Beetle clumsily rolling his chosen piece of dung. I learned from a fascinating article Sabi Sabi Wild Facts : Dung Beetles that not only do they lay their eggs in the dung balls, but also rely completely on the dung for food.
I really think they must be on the lowest level of the food chain. Poor creatures, I’ve always loved them, but think I love them even more now.
Although the dam was empty we found some exciting birds, including a Cape Wagtail, Bru Bru and flock of weavers frantically building nests. What was interesting was a pair of Diederik Cuckoos hanging around. I am sure they were waiting for an opportunity to lay their eggs in one of the nests. One way to avoid parental responsibilities
uMthombe Picnic site
Throughout our lunch at uMthombe Picnic site under the shade of a huge fig tree, we were serenaded and visited by a variety of birds including Orange Breasted Bush-Shrikes.
Just when I was feeling sleepy from the early morning assisted by a full tummy and Savannah Cider a bird flew into the tree right above us. And then disappeared.
No matter, I had clocked up a good number of birds for the morning, why try to muster up some energy for one more?
Thank goodness for my birding pal Penny. She refused to give up until she found it. Only the butt was in sight! No bird book, no matter how good will assist you in identifying a bird on the characteristics of it’s butt.
When Penny became frantic, demanding that I rouse myself and get off my butt, I reluctantly tried to find another butt somewhere 90 degrees above my head. Suddenly, the butt turned around flashing bright yellow and then the face of a female Black Cuckooshrike appeared.
Wow, am I glad for Penny’s determination to get me off my butt.
uMtunzini picnic site
At uMtunzini picnic site we were treated to a fine sighting of the Black Cuckoo. The entire day we had heard him complaining “I’m so saaaaad”, so it was good to finally connect with another one of our migrant visitors.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time to visit The Sanctuary which is also a good spot to find birds such as Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, Yellow-throated Petronia and Common Scimitarbills.
Like the other hides we visited, uFudu Hide was quiet with the exception of a few Zebras. I blame the heat, drought and time of day. Next time I’ll visit the hide early morning or late afternoon to catch more birds.
We did however come across a pair of Red-throated Wryneks. At first we were stopped in our tracks with the call and not being able to identify it. Oh, so frustrating. We both knew the call, but just could not put a finger on it. Fortunately, after scanning every tree and bush we found it and put our frustrations to rest.
The grasslands in Weenen are beautiful and full of life. Here we came across a Black-Bellied Bustard, ostriches, Tawny-flanked Prinia aswell as cisiticolas which constantly challenge our birding abilities, aswell as a Common Buzzard.
The highlight was a pair of Korhaans. I just saw blue and immediately jumped to the conclusion (which was wrong) and called Blue Korhaan. I should have known it wasn’t, but by then excitement and adrenalin had overtaken my brain so I was not thinking correctly.
On studying the photos we established we had seen a pair of White-bellied Korhaans. It was only the second time I had ever seen this bird and having a close-up view of the birds, I was thrilled to put another big tick on my list.
Birding around the Cottage
Birding from our cottage was just as productive. Our constant visitors was two pairs or Lesser Stripped Swallows nesting on the patio. They entertained us with their graceful swooping in and out their nests and resting on a branch nearby. An Amethyst Sunbird also visited along with a flock of Red-billed Oxpeckers, Cardinal Woodpeckers, House Sparrows and a Common Fiscal to name a few.
A Wahlberg’s Eagle had also made a brief appearance on the first morning much to our absolute delight.
Birding in Weenen Nature Reserve is sheer pleasure
With its variety of habitat, from lush grasslands, bushveld, woodlands and thickets, birding in Weenen is sheer pleasure. All too soon it was time to force our way home, promising to return as soon as possible.
Weenen Nature Reserve is not well known, perhaps it’s worth keeping the secret so that those in the know can have it to themselves.