MICHAEL GRAHAM – MARCH 2011

Trip Report – Wild Coast and Creighton

Day 1
After a good flight up from Cape Town, Malcolm Gemmell (Button Birding) picked us up at King Shaka Airport for the trip back to Creighton via Umhlanga where his lovely wife Gail had been doing some “serious food shopping� in preparation for the 5 nights at the Wild Coast. She left the serious business of alcohol purchase to Malcolm and I after we met up with her and had a quick snack.

We arrived at their Guest House around 5.00pm with time for a shower and a “snifter� before dinner. Their resident Long-crested Eagle, known as Fred, greeted us at entrance. Their resident Dusky Indigobird has been replaced by George and Georgina, Amethyst Sunbirds who love the Bottle-brush tree and who nested at the car-port.

Day 2
As usual there was no lie-in and Malcolm and I were up before dawn. We set off with their dog “Fub� in tow for the last known sighting of Black-rumped Buttonquail. Through the long grass and around the harvested Maize crops we arrive at the field. Doesn’t take long to flush the Buttonquail but as usual it flies away from you and photographs are impossible. You have to walk fast through the grass or the Buttonquail will run only and never fly and never be seen. We come across a pile of feathers and then a second pile and finally a third pile. Only 1 feather identifies the bird as a Yellow-billed Duck, probably taken out by a Lanner Falcon. Plenty of Cisticolas, Widowbirds and Weavers, plus a couple of Warblers. The rest of the day is at leisure preparing for the trip to the Wild Coast.

Day 3
The journey to Lupatana will take us via Kokstad, Flagstaff and Lusikisiki. Tim Wood (an expert birder by call and great SABAP2 Atlaser) and his wife Caroline join us and we set off in 2 vehicles loaded to excess with food, drink, bedding, cooking gas, etc. After a quick stop in Kokstad for brunch and fuel, we begin atlasing for the remainder of the journey. Tim followed us and it was interesting to note that although Tim was only around 1 km behind at most, we almost doubled our bird count when the 2 lists were made into 1 as our sightings differed from his. Apart from all the usual birds to be expected in rural habitats we did pick up on several Cape Vulture sightings and Denham’s Bustard plus Cape Longclaw, African Marsh Harrier and Yellow-fronted Canary.

Our cottage at Lupatana is at the mouth of the Lupatana River, only 200 metres from the ocean. Even around the cottage it is interesting birding. Bar-throated Apalis, Knysna Woodpecker, Spectacled Weaver, Greater Double-collared and Amethyst Sunbirds, Neddicky, Fish Eagle, Familiar Chat, Black-collared Barbet and at sea there are Cory’s Shearwater, Gannets, White-chinned Petrel, Caspian Tern, White-fronted and Cape Cormorants. We see only 1 lone Kelp Gull.

Day 4
Malcolm, Tim and I set off up the hillside at first light to check out the river gulley and rocky areas. Tim gets plenty of birds down in the riverine forest area including Tawny Flanked-Prinia, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Grey-winged Francolin and Sombre Greenbul, whilst up in the rocky areas we hear but cannot locate Short-tailed Pipit.

After breakfast we take an 8 km walk along the seashore to Waterfall Bluff. The ocean is busy with birds and dolphins feeding on shoals of fish. There are plenty of Longclaws, Cisticolas and Plain-backed Pipits plus Mountain Wagtail.

In the afternoon we visit the large Cape Vulture colony at Mkhambati where some 400 birds nest/roost. There are many juveniles on the ledges. Unfortunately the light fails as a storm comes in and photography is a non-event.
Nearing the cottage when it is almost dark we pick up on European, Freckled and what appears to be a Natal Nightjar sitting in the road. The facial features look absolutely correct. Natal Nightjar is listed in “Birdfinder� but SABAP2 classes the bird as an OFR. This needs to be checked out.

Day 5 to 7
We spend the time at Lupatana enjoying the tranquillity with a few more walks locally along the shore North-East and a further visit to the Cape Vulture Colony. Locally we find Red-capped Robin Chat, European Roller, Trumpeter Hornbill, Lanner Falcon, Golden-tailed Woodpecker.

Water Thick-knee calls at Dusk and Barn Owl calls at night.

It was nice to see Ground Hornbill there, a total of 11 and there were large numbers of Black-winged Lapwing feeding on the recently burnt grassland areas.

I was designated Braai Chef when Malcolm and Tim went in search of the Nightjars again. The second time was far more successful as Fiery-necked, European, Freckled and Swamp (Natal) Nightjars were all identified by calls in an area on probably less than half a hectare.

On our way back from the second visit to the Cape Vulture colony Malcolm and I came across a Peregrine Falcon seeing-off an African Marsh Harrier. The Peregrine is another OFR.

There is a Drifters Lodge at Lupatana but the cottages are privately owned.

Day 8
We make our way back to Creighton and continue our SABAP2 Pentad count. Some more Cape Vultures to note down south of Kokstad. So much of this area is he inaccessible for SABAP2 work. Who knows what it may hold.

Day 9 and 10
The Amur Falcons have left their summer roost in the centre of Creighton and are on their way back to Mongolia. We find only 2 stragglers from a group of 1500+. Malcolm takes me to his neighbours farm and their garden to see the Cape Parrots. Normally a very vocal bird they feed in absolute silence up in the 2 large Pecan Nut trees. You have to look for leaf movement to see where they are. Quite a big bird but well camouflaged. However, I do get some nice photos.

Day 11
We head up to Ntsikeni Nature Reserve and cover 3 Pentads for the trip. Ntsikeni is home to 4 Eurasian Bitterns, Black Harrier, Wattled Cranes, Grey-crowned Cranes, a nearby Cape Vulture Colony and a breeding pair of Bearded Vultures. The weather is dreadful, low cloud and mist all the way but at the wetlands itself the sun comes out. There is a great Vulture hide here but the recently placed calves are untouched. Only a solitary Bearded Vulture soars.

Day 12
Back home to-day but not before seeing 12 Cape Parrots in Malcolm’s garden before we head for the airport.
Whilst only picking up 1 lifer (Cory’s Shearwater) it was a very nice trip and the Wild Coast plus Ntsikeni has huge potential.