Athlone Bird Count August 2016

A working partnership with the City of Cape Town and the Cape Bird Club.

August 2016 – by Dick Bos.

Black Sparrowhawk

Black Sparrowhawk.

photograph by Dick Bos.

The count on this nice Cape spring day started with sunny and hot conditions. Later on though, cold mist rolled in from the south.
Birds were not in their usual high numbers today. Only Red-knobbed Coot (118) and Hartlaub’s Gull (172) ‘scored’ triple digits, while even the 172 gulls are a relatively low number compared with other observations. Other species with unusually low numbers were Yellow-billed Duck, Cattle Egret, Greater Flamingo and Black-winged Stilt, to name a few.
We were a bit puzzled as to the reason for this. One explanation may be that duck-like waterbirds may have been hiding in the tall grass or may have been nesting, since a number of nests with chicks and eggs were recorded of Coots and Cape Shoveller. It should be noted that the management of Athlone allows grass to grow tall for nesting birds to hide in! Mowing grass at this time would definitely ruin their breeding.

There were some noteworthy observations that demonstrate the diversity of species at Athlone WWTW. Today two Fork-tailed Drongo were recorded, a species we used to see regularly a long while back, but which then just disappeared. We were happy to see it today, even singing and calling. The Common Fiscal seems to become a resident now; we’ve seen up to three in recent counts, but today just a single one. Another regular, the African Pipit, was again recorded. Lastly, another observation that produced happy smiles was the increasing number of nests in our ‘Weaver tree’, and also many birds. One may remember the devastation caused by Pied Crows that appeared to have ruined the colony about a year ago. The crows were not seen today. Let’s hope they stay away so that this new colony can be productive!

Last month I reported as highlight #1 that two chicks were seen on the Black Sparrowhawk nest. Today I can report the count actually is three chicks! Fantastic to see see a successful hatching like that! This was not only creating excitement among the counters, but also in the Black Sparrow Hawk research unit.
All in all 40 species were reported for MyBirdPatch and 701 birds from 26 species for CWAC. These numbers are a bit deflated since not all parts of the works were accessible. Many thanks to Jessie Blackshaw, Gerhard Bothma and Gillian Ford for doing this count. Many thanks also to Mr Fred Cupido, Manager of Athlone WWTW, for permission to conduct these valuable bird surveys, and to Enver Manual for his support during the count.

This data is submitted to the Animal Demography Unit’s CWAC and MyBirdpatch, projects.

Counts take place on the third Thursday of every month and start at 13:00.
Anyone wanting to assist should contact;
Dick Bos on 021 423 2546 or alternative