CWAC at Zandvlei Nature Reserve – 21 October 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.

A near gale force wind greeted us, blowing (13 -15 m/s) from the South East. Yesterday was ideal weather for birding at Zandvlei (cool and overcast) and tomorrow is forecast to be good weather too, sunny with little wind.
Most birds were hiding already by the time we arrived as the wind started during the night. The water level was high in the main waterbody indicating the estuary mouth was closed. A quick scan showed no birds on the open water or in the air. The small waves were building up in height. The north west shore is being seriously eroded by the waves we had to walk into the vegetation to get past a wash out due to the high water level. The pathway is washed away.
There were a few butterflies and dragonflies flitting about, and plenty of flies on the damp sand pathways (water table is still high) when we made our way along our normal route. A Cape Rain Spider (Sparassidae: Palystes castaneus) female was guarding her new bright white nest next to the pathway when we past rearing up in defensive mode as we peered and inspected it.

Zandvlei Lower.

By the time we arrived here the wind was howling, a lone foil boarder with his kite was really battling to get up on his foil board. We saw a Purple Heron fly out of the reeds in the yacht basin while we were there. Most of the birds we saw were down at the “cookie cutter” on the sand bar surrounded by high water level. A pair of Three banded Plovers were there with the terns and gulls. The gabion walls to protect the estuary banks have been finished and look very well done. The Norfolk Pine tree with all the herons nests we saw on the last count in July, was looking short of leaves. We heard there was a Black necked Heron nest amongst the Grey Heron nests. One wonders how and if the chicks survived the huge wind and rain storms we had last month. The Cape – were the only Cormorant species leaving and the odd one arriving while we were there.
The estuary mouth was closed when we got there, It is between New Moon and the next Full Moon when the mouth will be opened.
When we finished at the Royal Road bridge and turned around looking north we could not see any mountains as the clouds were low and grey covering the area. Thank you to Kyran for counting the north and south Marina canals by motorboat where many species were sheltering out of the wind.

Zandvlei Westlake Wetlands and Rutter Road Pond.

We were fortunate this morning with the trains passing in both directions before we arrived at the bridge to do the count from this vantage point. Today was the first time we could see the Rutter Road Pond from there, the reeds have not started to grow yet. Our persistence in the wind paid off, we saw 2 Little Bitterns fly across a canal between the reeds which was a highlight.

Thank you to the Zandvlei Nature Reserve staff and the CBC counters for enduring the challenging elements today.


photographs by Gavin Lawson, Gigi Laidler and Linda Hibbin.

Gavin Lawson.


Below are the count datas for 21 October 2023.

Zandvlei upper count.

Zandvlei lower count.

Zandvlei Westlake Wetlands and Rutter Road Pond.



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