CWAC at Zandvlei Nature Reserve – 15 July 2023.

This is a working relationship with the City of Cape Town and the Cape Bird Club.

Alan Morris started the co-ordinated bird counts in December 1974 and they still continue at Zandvlei.

Zandvlei Upper.

This morning it was not cold before the start, the weather was forecast to become cooler with wind and clouds from the north west. The Reserve has a new fence and entrance gate. On the west shore the first bird seen on the overhead railway lines was a Jackal Buzzard and then an imm. African Harrier-Hawk came low over us and then a Black shouldered Kite landed on the railway overhead wires. Probably to warm up in the sun coming through the clouds just after sun rise. At the railway bridge there was a Giant Kingfisher perched on the wires above the canal flowing into the main waterbody. What an interesting start for us on the west shore. In the main reserve area there were Greater and Lesser Flamingos present which is always exciting to see.
We observed a fast moving feeding frenzy with Hartlaubs Gulls, Cape and Reed Cormorants chasing fish in the upper main waterbody too distant for us to count. By 08h45 a cold wind had started to blow which was the beginning of the cold front approaching with rain forecast for the afternoon.
Thank you to the staff and Manager of the Reserve for assisting today, Kyran had a large footprint to count in the rubber duck as there was no one to help with the Marina canals. The Night Heron roost was patrolled by student Jarrad who came back very excited having seen a Malachite Kingfisher fly across very near his canoe. so Felicity reported. Kyran noted a Green backed Heron which is unusual and has been in the Marina canals for a month. He and Caitlin counted the southern Marina canals and the caravan park and park island in the rubber duck.

Zandvlei Lower.

To carry on the raptor sightings a Peregrin Falcon came over the yacht club basin and the Harrier Hawk was seen twice more patrolling around trees in the suburb nearby. The Water Thick knees have moved to the Caravan Park as there is too much activity at the Scout Base at this time of the year. The rehabilitated seasonal wetland opposite The Outlook offices and next to the railway line, is in its 3 winter and is looking established and very good habitat for waterbirds and other associated creatures. African Sacred Ibis were feeding in it today. There are major gabion walls being installed below the Thesens bridge and above the Royal Road bridge to protect the sand banks eroding from the in and out flows of the estuary near the mouth. Then an unusual activity in a Norfolk Pine tree on the corner of Axminster and Royal Roads. We counted 6 nests being built by 12 Grey Herons and there could have been more, as sticks were being carried into the tree by circling birds using the air up draft off the flats next door. This must be desperate measures and are the birds trying to tell us something about the impact the burgeoning numbers of humans choosing the suitable diminishing Cape Town habitats to make their homes in. The Night Heron roost in the Nature Reserve was decimated by fire wood cutters in January 2023 and they had to disperse after 23 years at their roost. See the photos of the exposed sand banks and the interesting path the water has chosen to flow through the “cookie cutter” as it was dredged deeper last year.

Zandvlei Westlake Wetlands and Rutter Road Pond.

It was good to see the Giant Kingfisher at the railway bridge. We did also see a Spurwinged Goose. The largish group seem to have gone to Strandfontein. They were always present in the wetter months near the large berm in the Westlake Wetlands. We did not see a Marsh Harrier or a Purple Heron today which are usually present over the wetlands. Thank you to the students who did the count for the wetlands.


photographs by Gavin Lawson, Gigi Laidler and Linda Hibbin.

Gavin Lawson.


Below are the count datas for 15 July 2023.

Zandvlei upper count.

Zandvlei lower count.

Zandvlei Westlake Wetlands and Rutter Road Pond.


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