Pigeon Valley Park is a small forested reserve of about 10 hectares in the middle of Durban’s older suburbs on the Berea Ridge and one of my favourite spots when visiting Durban area.
I entered the gate and within a couple of minutes had an Olive Sunbird (Olyfsuikerbekkie / Cyanomitra olivacea) fluttering about in the branches above my head and heard the drawn out, repetitive call of a Tambourine Dove (Witborsduifie / Turtur tympanistria) from deep in the forest.
This reserve is famous amongst birders for the reliability of seeing Spotted Ground Thrush (Natallyster / Zoothera guttata) during the winter months and I can attest to that, having seen it on two out of three of my previous visits. I was on the lookout for it as soon as I entered, scanning the ground between the trees and just 50 metres from the gate I found it in deep shadow, scratching amongst the brown leaf litter.
I approached quietly and the Thrush obliged, briefly moving into a patch of sunlight as I crouched to get closer to the bird’s level, then got in a few shots when it looked up and directly at me for a second.
Buoyed by this wonderful start I made my way slowly up the main path, where I briefly met two other birders who were on their way out – as it turned out they were the only other visitors that I came across in the two and a half hours I was there, so effectively I had the reserve to myself for that time – apart from those tending to the park.
I had the constant accompaniment of birds calling as I walked, most of which I could ID and many of which I saw during the walk. Those heard only included the ubiquitous Sombre Greenbul (Gewone Willie / Andropadus importunus ), Black-backed Puffback (Sneeubal / Dryoscopus cubla), Tambourine Dove, Bar-throated Apalis (Bandkeelkleinjantjie / Apalis thoracica), African Fish-Eagle (Visarend / Haliaeetus vocifer)- probably from a nearby dam – and Black Sparrowhawk (Swartsperwer / Accipiter melanoleucus ), which are known to breed in the reserve.
I spent some time at a tiny pool near the top of the main path, fed by a little stream trickling down from a source outside the reserve. As I sat quietly to one side, there was a constant movement of small birds coming and going, sipping the clear water, some bathing as well – lots of Cape White-eyes (Kaapse glasogie / Zosterops capensis), a pair of Cape Batises (Kaapse bosbontrokkie / Batis capensis), Red-capped Robin-Chat (Nataljanfrederik / Cossypha natalensis), Tawny-flanked Prinia (Bruinsylangstertjie / Prinia subflava)and an unexpected but very welcome surprise in the form of a Grey Waxbill (Gryssysie / Estrilda perreini).
All of this activity was observed by an African Dusky Flycatcher (Donkervlieëvanger / Muscicapa adusta) hawking insects from a nearby branch, then popping down to the water for a drink.
Spectacled Weavers (Brilwewer / Ploceus ocularis), which I had heard earlier, also came to the stream for a bathe.
The bird I was hoping for, Green Twinspot, did not appear so I continued my walk along the perimeter of the reserve, then back to the entrance gate with regular sightings to keep it interesting –
- Terrestial Brownbul (Boskrapper / Phyllastrephus terrestris) skulking in the lower stratum of the dense bushes, as they like to do
- Southern Black Flycatchers (Swart vlieëvanger / Melaenornis pammelaina) and Fork-tailed Drongos (Mikstertbyvanger / Dicurus adsimilis) trying their best to confuse my ID abilities by appearing in the same trees, but a check of the tail tip and eye colour was enough to sort them out
- Surprisingly, for me anyway, numbers of Thick-billed Weavers (Dikbekwewer / Ambliospiza albifrons) in the lower and upper stratum – I am used to finding them near water in reeds, but later reference to the Roberts app showed that they inhabit forests in the non-breeding season, a new discovery for me
- Grey Sunbird (Gryssuikerbekkie / Cyanomitra veroxii) showing briefly
- Several White-eared Barbets (Witoorhoutkapper / Stactolaema leucotis) high up in the trees
- Golden-tailed Woodpecker (Goudstertspeg / Campethera abingoni)
And, just before leaving, a bevy of Bronze Mannikins (Gewone fret / Lonchura cucullata) huddled together on a branch made a charming sight
Without fanfare or wild expectations, the morning had turned into something memorable, to be savoured for days after.