Two Rivers Urban Park – 18 August 2015
Fifteen members gathered at the parking area below the Wild Fig Restaurant in Observatory, well-wrapped against the cold, overcast weather. Shortly after 9am we headed out along the embankment between the Liesbeek River and the temporary wetland, full after the recent rains.
Initially there seemed to be little about, but once the first bird was spotted in the wetland, new birds were added rapidly and the total climbed to 17 species in a matter of minutes. These included Cattle, Little and Yellow-billed Egret, Red-knobbed Coot, Common Moorhen and Little Grebe, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveler and Red-billed Teal and a confiding (and cold) Malachite Kingfisher. A little later we had excellent views of a single African Black Duck swimming together with some Yellow-billed Ducks.
We continued to the end of the wetland and checked the gulls in the water and on the sandbank in the river. Amongst the many Kelp and Hartlaub’s gulls was a single bird with a fully grey head – a Grey-headed Gull. The bird however seemed to have a dark eye, not the pale cream eye characteristic of Grey-headed, so perhaps this was a hybrid.
A light misty drizzle coupled with the chilly breeze had us turning back to the cars, a pair of Blacksmith Lapwings with three chicks in the grounds of the Valkenberg Hospital adding a further species to our list. At this point a couple of the group had to leave, the rest of us headed across to the bird hide in the grounds of the SA Astronomical Observatory. The hide is a spacious and solid construction, with the openings facing the wetland in a northerly direction, so protected from the chilly south-easter. It was a pleasure to settle in here after the cold outside. Additional species such as Greater Flamingo, African Spoonbill, Southern Pochard, Purple Swamphen, Southern Masked Weaver and Pied Kingfisher were soon added, and Little Rush Warbler and Lesser Swamp warblers were heard calling in the reed-beds. The highlight sighting of the outing however was a single White-backed Duck in the wetland. This was a lifer for some in the group and an excellent bird on which to end a successful outing to a new venue, one situated very conveniently for most of our members, safe and easily accessible.
On departure, a second check of the small cluster of Cape Weaver nests on an island in the Liesbeek River revealed a male weaver in full breeding plumage. This brought the total for the morning to a respectable 40 species.