MICHAEL BUCKHAM – 08 May 2003

(EXCERPTS FROM THE CAPE TO KWAZULU-NATAL BIRD TRIP)

We took a leisurely drive from Underberg to the beautiful Creighton Valley with a stop at the Nxumeni Forest in Donnybrook. This is a stunning afro-montane forest just outside the town of Donnybrook and despite our short time there it was easy to tell that is would be well worthwhile. We were there at mid-day which was not ideal but there were still so many calls emanating from the forest canopy including Tambourine Dove, Barrat’s Warbler, Yellowthroated Warbler, Chorister Robin, Sombre Bulbul and African Goshawk. A little time spent here would yield plenty.

We arrived in the late afternoon at Malcolm and Gail Gemmell’s awesome guest-house and it was really a fantastic stop-over. It really felt as if we were spending the evening with close family and I would recommend anyone in the area should stop there and spoil themselves. In addition, it appears as if Creighton is destined for a birding boom as there is so much to see there. We were there at the wrong time of year with most of the birds quiet at this time but it was still well worth the detour. A truly remarkable excursion was undertaken with Malcolm at first light the next morning when he took me up to a ridge that overlooks a beautiful section of unspoilt forest. We spent an hour looking over the forest appreciating the dawn chorus as the mist lifted over the valley below. Probably one of my all-time birding highlights was first hearing the screeching of the Cape Parrots and then seeing a flock of 28 birds wheel at one end of the forest, fly directly in front of me and then wheel again and fly overhead as though they were paid to do so. I don’t think there are many sights in the birding world that could top that and what is so sad is that the plight of these magnificent birds is so desperate. In addition to the large flock there were a few straggling birds that came over throughout that hour.

After spending some time at the forest we then embarked on a Striped Flufftail hunt. Malcolm had had some success a few weeks previously and after a reasonable amount of time sitting in the middle of a bush on wet ground hearing the flufftail’s response every 15 minutes or so Malcolm had a brief but very good view of a male whilst I was left staring at his left boot which was where it had appeared for a brief moment in time. It must be said that flufftail hunting is frustrating at best but it was still a wonderful experience hearing all the forest calls around us whilst we sat and waited.

The second frustration of the morning was the Black-rumped Buttonquail.
Malcolm has had great success in a fallow field flushing this most unusual and unknown bird but after a good while stomping the field it had still not obliged and we had to pack it in due to a shortage of time. Despite these near misses our time spent at Creighton was superb. I predict that it will become a real South African birding mecca due to the close proximity of at least six different birding habitats as well as the sheer beauty of the area. If anyone reading this would like to get details in respect of Malcolm and Gail’s contact details please send me a mail – a highly recommended stopover and well worth the detour.