Athlone Bird Count January 2015

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

January 2015 – by Dick Bos.

A Great White Pelican inspecting the site today.

photograph by Dick Bos.

Thanks to a gentle breeze the heat of today was quite bearable. The skies were almost clear and conditions ideal for the count. The variation in numbers of species and numbers of birds of any species makes Athlone a very interesting site to count.

We did not get close to last months 2500+ birds, but a grand total of almost 1800 is still very respectable. And with 37 species we were one shy of last month, but we recorded 6 species that our group had not seen here before: Pied Kingfisher, Little Swift, Common Sandpiper (see picture by Delene), Little Egret and a Great White Pelican. The Pelican flew over Athlone in a majestic way, circled for a while, but in the end did not land. Last but not least a Black Sparrowhawk. From the northern end Fay had seen ‘a’ raptor at the trees in the central section, and a bit later a worker at the site told us about, what he thought, an ‘Eagle’ with white chest and black spots. Luckily when Fay left (early), she saw it again and identified it positively as the Black Sparrowhawk.

Being birds, they tend to fly around a lot, presenting us with numerous counting challenges both in and between the different sections. So quite a few recounts were in order, but we managed to get them all. The number of Hartlaub’s Gulls was down to a ‘normal’ 598 birds, not even half of December’s all-time high. But this gull was the winner again by a large margin. Worth mentioning too were the 232 Cape Shovellers and high numbers of Blacksmith Lapwing (135), Black-winged Stilts (179) and Yellow-billed Duck (107). Of this last species Mr Enver Manuel pointed the group to a nest with about 5 or 6 small chicks. Interestingly some of them were sticking there heads into the side of the nest (Ostrich??). Although we could not tell the species by just the chicks, Mr Manuel explained that he had seen a Yellow-billed Duck ‘limping’ away from the nest, convincing us into a positive ID.
We were happy to note that both Black Duck and White-faced Duck were present again.

On the negative side of bird counting there was still no sign of Water Thick-knee nor Weavers. Also again no sighting of the Black-shouldered Kite and the Fork-tailed Drongo. And along the northern fence there was heavy ground work in progress in between the river and the northern ponds. Working people, operating machines and the likes most likely are the explanation for not seeing nor hearing regulars in that area like Karoo Prinia, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Yellow Bishop and Lesser Swamp Warbler.
All in all it was an interesting and pleasant count again. Many thanks to Sybil Majo, Delene van Dyke, Fay Linder and Ian Cranna for taking part in this. Many thanks to Mr Kevin van Rooyen, Manager of Athlone Sewage Works, for permission to conduct bird surveys and Mr Enver Manuel 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