Athlone Bird Count December 2014

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

December 2014 – by Dick Bos.

Birds everywhere you look.

photograph by Dick Bos.

The weather was very good for today’s count, just some clouds and a moderate wind. It was the many birds that made it a bit of a challenge today, very high numbers for some species (Hartlaub’s Gull: 1455!) and because they were flying in fairly large flocks from one basin to another and back it was hard to keep track and recounts were required.
It took the three of us a bit longer than normal, but in the end we managed of course. This month we totalled 25 species and 2570 birds for the CWAC, which is more than double the number of birds compared to last month!
For MyPatch the totals are 38 species and 2719 birds.

The water meanders through the north and south settling ponds ‘guided’ by a number of arms ‘dikes’. In spring these ‘dikes’ are nice and green with lots of vegetation providing perfect shelter for many birds. These arms have recently been thoroughly worked for maintenance and are now bare and sandy, and also the grass was cut in November, giving the place a rather bare look. But most birds did not seem to mind.
The only species we did not see this month was the Water Thicknee. Hopefully they’ll come back later in the season.

Here are some ‘unusual’ numbers. The large count for Hartlaub’s Gull was more than double the October high of 676. We were also pleased to count 3 Black and 12 White-faced Ducks. Usually the score for Blacksmith Lapwing is around a dozen, this time there were 84! Other high’s were for Red-billed Teal (146), Greater Flamingo (244) and Black-winged Stilts (198). A remarkable ‘loner’ was an African Spoonbill.
Unfortunately and a bit worrying was the absence of weavers, the Cape Weaver – an Athlone regular – in particular. In September the count was 14 Weavers in and around a tree with 59 nests, today there were none and only a few nests were left.
According to the WWTW official accompanying us, Pied Crows had been seen ravaging that tree and we could tell ‘something’ did because a number of nest were now lying around on the ground. Also some of the possible Red Bishop nests we reported on last month were ripped apart.

Another worrying fact was the unusual high number of dead birds. According to the Athlone official Mr Fakier-Abdol the weekly water quality test had not given unusual results and no toxics had been detected to give an explanation for this sad observation. Mr Fakier-Abdol is going to keep a close watch and will have some sections cleared of water covering vegetation and the carcases.
Many thanks to Sybil Majo and Gillian Ford for taking part in this count. Many thanks to Mr Kevin van Rooyen, Manager of Athlone Sewage Works, for permission to conduct bird surveys and Mr Moegamat Fakier-Abdol for his assistance 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