July 21, 2015: Howick, South Africa — Our group spent the morning at the Dlinza Forest outside of Eshowe, where the main attraction is an “aerial boardwalk” which leads to the top of the forest canopy. Wayne had us chasing after several target birds here, among them a skulky bird called the Spotted Ground-Thrush. We spent close to an hour quietly stalking ground-thrushes in the understory before getting a good look at one in the leaf litter. Then we climbed the canopy tower and realized that a Spotted Ground-Thrush was on the ground directly underneath us! I suppose not many people ever look straight down on one of these birds—an interesting perspective.
For lunch we stopped into Mtunzini, a small town on South Africa’s eastern coast famous for its palm trees—specifically Raffia Palms, which were planted here in the early 1900s in a failed broom-making enterprise. The trees thrived and were declared a national monument in 1942, one of just a few such monuments in South Africa. Raffia Palms have the longest leaves in the plant kingdom, growing up to 20 meters (65 feet) long, but they also produce thousands of seeds which are particularly attractive to a bird called the Palm-nut Vulture. These vultures, a rare breeding bird in South Africa, colonized the area when the trees were planted, and birders now go to Mtunzini’s Raffia Palm Monument to see them. Today we found a vulture before even getting out of the car, which left us enough free time to get some banana-bacon pizza for lunch…definitely a unique taste!
New birds today: 12
Year list: 3666