I should have worn long pants. The mozzies in this patch of coastal bush are eating me alive! Good thing there are so many great birds to distract us! Let’s stroll along this forest path and see what we can find. We’ll walk quietly so we can hear leaves rustling. I hope we don’t get lost – do you have the map?

Read along:

Gotcha! Damn mozzies. I’m itching like crazy. Short pants were a bad choice. But I guess it’s too late now. Are you also suffering? Yeah, well, I’m afraid being eaten alive by mosquitos is pretty much inevitable in these coastal bush habitats. Good thing there are so many birds to distract us!

This forest patch is pumping! Just listen to everything calling – it’s incredible! What can you make out? Yes, Gorgeous Bushshrike. I also hear him there in the distance. And Livingstone’s Turaco – that gravelly, barking-type sound. Such a stunning bird but such a coarse voice! What else? Oh, how about that sound? Recognise that? Pretty! Geor-gie! Pretty! Geor-gie! I like the Afrikaans version though: Mooi! Meisie! Ha, yes, African Emerald Cuckoo. 

Let’s keep going. By the way, are you keeping the list for us? Did you remember to add that apalis that we had earlier? Cool. Hold up! Something tiny just shot across the path. No, I only saw a blur from the corner of my eye. Uhh, from right to left. I think it might have gone though. It seemed to be on a mission. No, wait! There! Hear that wispy sound? Pssss. That’s an African Pygmy Kingfisher. Of course! That’s what I saw! And hey! That low hooting call there – Tambourine Dove! Yeah, you’re right. Almost exactly like Emerald-spotted. But listen right at the end…Tambourine sounds more drawn-out with more quick notes at the end. Hear it? It sounds like he’s somewhere in those tangled vines there, just where that patch of sunlight comes through the canopy. Wait, you walk in front. I’m scared that he’ll fly off before we spot him. There! I just saw a flash of white when he banked. Man, it’s tough to get good views of these little doves.

Sounds like there’s some action up ahead. Maybe a bird party passing through. Let’s catch up with it! Something in those tangled plants at the base of that big tree, about halfway up, near that cluster of white flowers. Oh, it’s calling! Black-throated Wattle-eye. Hear that? Witchy, witchy, witchy… Such a cool little bird. No, that’s, that’s a male. The female is actually the one with the black throat. Something else just flew in a bit higher up. Where that vine loops like that. No, no, that twisty vine, with the spikes. Got it? Yellow bird. Looks like a Spectacled Weaver. Yes! Confirmed. I love that descending call! Oh, hear the guineafowl? Yes, Southern Crested Guineafowl. Loud hey? Sounds like a machine gun firing! It sounds like they might be coming closer. Let’s sit on this log here and wait.

Yeah, they’re really close now. I don’t think they’ve seen us. If I can. Just. Resist. Scratching. There they are! I saw a little curly mop of hair poking out of those low plants. Oh wait, there’s a bunch of them. Four, five, seven…looks like about ten of them. Remind me to check if they dropped any feathers later. Their feathers are really beautiful, with this subtle blue tinge. There’s something smaller scratching around by that guineafowl on the right there. I just saw some leaves flying. Probably a Terrestrial Brownbul flicking the leaves away with its bill. Yeah, I can hear them, ja – that low, gurgling type sound. They’re sometimes tricky to tell from Yellow-bellied Greenbul. We’ll probably bump into those a bit later. Hear the Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird? Yeah, they’re a constant background sound in these coastal forests. And that low boo! Did you hear that? Yes, very soft. That’s a Woodwards’ Batis. Let me see…there! A pair of them. And hey, they’ve got a nest! See that little lichen cup where that sapling splits? No way! I’ve never found their nests before. Lucky!

Excuse me? Oh yes, I can hear that. Uhm, far though. That’s a Brown Scrub Robin. I haven’t seen one of those in a long time. Let’s sneak a bit closer. Yeah, I think this is good. I think this is his territory; this patch where the forest understorey is a bit more open and there is thick layer of leaf litter. Something moving there, about five or six metres up. Ah, there it goes. But no, that was something else. It had completely white outer tail feathers. Where is this robin? He stopped singing now. But wait, I can hear some leaves rustling! Ja, there, there he is! Where that big root begins. Awesome. Look! He’s tapping the leaves with his foot! I guess he’s trying to scare insects and isopods and things out of their hiding places. So cool!

That was great! Leaves rustling is always a good…[slap!] Oh come on Mozzies! Gimme a break!…When you hear leaves rustling it’s always worth checking. I’ve even bumped into the odd Buff-spotted Flufftail like that. But obviously you have to walk super quietly. It’s best when you’re alone or in a small group. I always play this game where I try to walk without making any sound whatsover – not even a footstep or a twig breaking. It’s really tough to move silently like that! But that skill did come in handy once during a paintball match!

Behind us. Did you hear that strange, drawn-out trilling sound? That’s what I saw flying past earlier…with the white outer tail. That’s a Scaly-throated Honeyguide. Let’s try and spot him. He’s somewhere in this tree. No, I can’t see anything. Uhm, let’s triangulate him. You stay here, and I’ll stand on that side and then we both point to where we think the sound is coming from, okay? Yeah, I got him. Thanks! Well that worked well, didn’t it? 

Anyways, let’s head to the boardwalk; I think it’s just up ahead. Trumpeter Hornbill calling above us. Yeah, sounds like a baby! Ha! And a sunbird too – uhm, it’s either Grey or Olive. Let me listen for a moment…that’s Olive Sunbird. They can sound pretty similar; that series of notes that descends the scale. He’s flitting about around those flowers there. Oh, off he goes.

Let’s chill on this bench for a moment and listen. What can you hear? Yes, Square-tailed Drongos far off, that’s right. But be careful, because there are also some Black-bellied Starlings around. And some of their calls can sound quite similar to drongos’. There, you can hear them way up in that tree with the rounded leaves. There. And I can hear Sombre Greenbul of course – those are ever-present in any sort of forest or thicket. And this closer sound? It’s one of the dominant birds in coastal bush. Green-backed Camaroptera. It’s amazing how loud it is for such a small little bird. Their old name was Bleating Warbler: their alarm call sounds like a bleating lamb. Meeh, meeh! Literally like a tiny lamb in the undergrowth by your feet. How about that preep, poorr, preep, poorr…any ideas? It’s a Red-capped Robin-Chat. Nataljanfrederik. Breathtaking little birds with an amazing talent to boot…they can imitate all sorts of sounds that they hear in the forest. But they do this slow, repeated call from deep within the thickets, sometimes for a long time. 

Where do you think this boardwalk goes? Did we get a map at the entrance gate? We did? That’s a relief! I was starting to worry we would get lost in this forest and end up surviving on wild figs and stream water, ha! So we can circle around with this trail and then link up with the entrance road? Allright, sounds like a plan.

Hey, that clicking…hear that? Green Malkoha! It’s gonna start wailing just now…there! Such a cool sound! I can also hear another sunbird…but this time it’s Grey Sunbird. Remember earlier we were saying that it can sound like Olive, the other one that’s common in this habitat. But Grey sounds a bit more cheerful and chippy; sharper, with shorter phrases. You know, being able to identify birds by their calls is a tough skill to master. But it’s so worth it! Especially in dense habitats like this, where you hear far more birds than you actually see. And it’s cool, because it opens up a whole world. I mean, sure it’s nice to listen to random birds singing, but if you can actually pick out the different species, and even partly understand what they are saying…that’s next level.

In that dead tree up ahead…Crowned Hornbills! And there’s something smaller there among them…let’s see…uhm…White-eared Barbet. Hear that kree-kree call? That’s him. Here we are; this road will take us back to the car. It’s nice to feel the sun on your face again. And I think we’ll luck onto some new stuff along the forest edge here. What? Where? Yes, I see the mushrooms. How far left of them? Oh, okay, got it! Got it. Nicely spotted! African Firefinch. Awesome. And something else working through that Lantana above the firefinches. Ja, I lost it now. Oh, you got it? And? Yellow below, glossy green above, short curved bill? That sounds like a Collared Sunbird. Yes, it’s calling. Collared Sunbird. And listen there – a bit further along – Yellow-bellied Greenbul, that angry-sounding moaning and chattering. Yip, just flashed across the road. Nice. What’s our list on, by the way? Twenty-seven species? That’s excellent! There’s the car. Now, what did I do with the keys?

Birds featured:

Gorgeous Bushshrike | Konkoit (p. 359) | 00:43

Livingstone’s Turaco | Mosambiekloerie (p. 221) | 00:48

African Emerald Cuckoo | Mooimeisie (p. 230) | 01:02

African Pygmy Kingfisher | Dwergvisvanger (p. 237) | 01:49

Tambourine Dove | Witborsduifie (p. 217) | 02:04

Black-throated Wattle-eye | Beloogbosbontrokkie (p. 352) | 03:16

Spectacled Weaver | Brilwewer (p. 439) | 03:44

Southern Crested Guineafowl | Kuifkoptarentaal (p. 132) | 03:56

Terrestrial Brownbul | Boskrapper (p. 378) | 04:55

Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird | Swartblestinker (p. 345) | 05:22

Woodwards’ Batis | Woodwardbosbontrokkie (p. 350) | 05:35

Brown Scrub Robin | Bruinwipstert (p. 291) | 06:15

Scaly-throated Honeyguide | Gevlekte Heuningwyser (p. 347) | 07:48

Trumpeter Hornbill | Gewone Boskraai (p. 248) | 08:53

Olive Sunbird | Olyfsuikerbekkie (p. 416) | 09:16

Common Square-tailed Drongo | Kleinbyvanger (p. 365) | 09:34

Black-bellied Starling | Swartpensglansspreeu (p. 274) | 09:46

Sombre Greenbul | Gewone Willie (p. 380) | 10:06

Green-backed Camaroptera | Groenrugkwêkwêvoël (p. 408) | 10:20

Red-capped Robin-Chat | Nataljanfrederik (p. 293) | 10:48

Green Malkoha | Groenvleiloerie (p. 225) | 11:40

Grey Sunbird | Gryssuikerbekkie (p. 416) | 11:53

Crowned Hornbill | Gekroonde Neushoringvoël (p. 246) | 12:40

White-eared Barbet | Witoorhoutkapper (p. 344) | 12:56

African Firefinch | Kaapse Vuurvinkie (p. 460) | 13:15

Collared Sunbird | Kortbeksuikerbekkie (p. 420) | 13:45

Yellow-bellied Greenbul | Geelborswillie (p. 380) | 13:50



ABOVE: A male Black-throated Wattle-eye. Photo by Anton Kruger/Firefinch App.