Athlone Bird Count February 2016

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

February 2016 – by Dick Bos


African Fish Eagle.

photograph by Dick Bos.

Todays weather was ideal for a bird count, if anything it was a bit warm, but that was compensated for by a pleasant wind. And today was going to be another exciting count for the seven of us, where three new species were to be recorded!
There were lots of birds again in both the southern and northern ponds and high numbers for the usual species like 468 Hartlaub’s Gulls, 272 Greater Flamingo, 191 Black-winged Stilts and 182 Yellow-billed Ducks. Comparing these numbers to some of the previous months these numbers vary, sometimes by quite a bit. But since there are other good birding sites nearby like the Black River, that is to be expected, since birds do fly…
Noteworthy numbers recorded for some of the species: 6 White-breasted Cormorant compared to 4 individuals for all of 2015, and 13 Black-headed Heron as well as 4 Grey. Also a single Purple Heron and a Yellow-billed Egret were recorded, both species being very irregular visitors. And then also the number of Cattle Egret (47) was quite a bit higher than normal.

The settling ponds at Athlone in general have steep shores for obvious reasons, so the place is not very suitable for waders and these birds are rarely seen. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to see a (single) Common Greenshank in one of the northern ponds, a new species for this site.
The second new species of (water)bird for Athlone caused some excitement, an African Fish-Eagle was recorded over the works. Add to that the Steppe Buzzard, the third new species, and that increased the number of raptors for today to 4. Unfortunately we were not 100% sure about number 5, the (resident) Black Sparrowhawk, so even though it was a likely sighting, it was not recorded today.
Unfortunately for some birds at Athlone, water vegetation was cleared from all ponds in recent months to improve the clearing of the water, and let’s be realistic, that IS the core-business of the WWTW. But this means that the section where we normally record birds like bishops, weavers and warblers was still without birds. Only some cisticolas and canaries were seen and heard there.

Some other noteworthy observations: an African Darter and two White-breasted Cormorants -both species not common in Athlone and an unusually ‘high’ number of twelve Reed Cormorants. Also six Little Egrets compared to the normal one or two.

All in all todays count was pleasant again and quite succesfull: 49 species were reported for MyBirdPatch and 1651 birds from 30 species for CWAC. Many thanks to Gerhard Bothma, Gillian Ford, Fay Linder, Linda McIntosh, Beth Reitz and Ian Rijsdijk for joining today. Many thanks also to Mr Fred Cupido, Manager of Athlone WWTW, for permission to conduct these valuable bird surveys and to Mr Enver Manual for his support.

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