Athlone Bird Count October 2015

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

October 2015 – by Dick Bos.

The mystery bird proved to be a Magpie Duck.

photograph by Dick Bos.

The weather was ideal for this count.We set off in good spirits as usual and the ladies started counting the southern ponds while the gents did the northern. It makes perfect sense to split up since there are quite a few ponds to cover at Athlone. Birds tend to fly around quite a bit so when the group joins up again it is necessary to immediately compare notes in order to avoid double counts.

Prior to this count Athlone’s Enver Manual sent us a picture of a mystery bird that was taken at the site. It showed a black & white duck-like bird, still unidentified. Obviously we were keen to find out if it was still around. And indeed it was so some pictures were taken quickly. After the count and with the help of Google it was identified as a Magpie Duck, a species of domesticated duck. It probably escaped from a farm or waterbody unknown to our group.

In total 44 species and 1584 birds were counted for MyBirdPatch and 23 species for CWAC. We were very pleased to record both the ‘resident’ Jackal Buzzard and Black Sparrowhawk. They are not seen each month, but regularly enough and then in the same general area to call these residents. Next to the tree where the Black Sparrowhawk usually sits is a huge raptor nest that we keenly monitor; who knows…
The biggest challenge today was counting the number of Hartlaub’s Gull. They were resting in the grass and huddling together. But after several attempts by a couple of observers we decided the flock was around 600 birds, then added the odd gull in other places and this species today totalled 653. Other large numbers were recorded for Greater Flamingo (162), Black-winged Stilt (100) and Yellow-billed Duck (99).

Noteworthy was the Great White Pelican, swimming in the northern-most pond. Walking in that same area we flushed a pair of Water Thick-knee, unseen by us in the tall vegitation. And again in that area both the Lesser Swamp Warbler and Little Rush Warbler were heard. The latter was also visually recorded and this fact produced another new species for this site.

Last month we were happy to see Cape Weavers re-colonizing their tree in the central area, building new nests and all. Alas today a Pied Crow was seen leaving that tree and when we were close enough we found numerous nests old and new lying on the ground, most of them torn apart.

Many thanks to Gerhard Bothma, Ian Cranna, Gillian Ford and Fay Linder for joining this count. 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 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