Intaka Island – 16 November 2017

Purple Heron. Photograph by Priscilla Beeton
Purple Heron. Photograph by Priscilla Beeton

After braving what seemed exceptionally heavy traffic for 9:00 a.m. a good crowd of 17 people gathered on the veranda of the Intaka Island Education Centre. While people waited for the stragglers to arrive, as well as the ubiquitous Red-knobbed Coot, they saw an African Swamphen emerge briefly from the reeds.

As the group set off in an anti-clockwise direction, from the outer deck they had a very close view of a pale-looking Grey Heron sitting hunched up with its beak glistening brightly in the sun. Then in flew a Purple Heron and it settled close-by. It was good to see these herons so close to each other and to be able to compare them. We also saw a Black-headed Heron flying overhead.  We also had a Speckled Pigeon close to the building.

We then moved briefly onto the outer road to examine lots of weavers’ nests hanging in a tree over the canal. The weavers all seemed to be Southern Masked Weavers.  We also observed here an Olive Thrush scuttling into the undergrowth as well as a Red-Eyed Dove, a Laughing Dove and a Cape Sparrow.  As we moved in again to continue on the path around the pond’s edge, we saw a Yellow-billed Kite and also some Reed Cormorants flying overhead.  Red Bishops, some in full breeding plumage, but others still in transition were plentiful in the reeds.  Sadly the reeds are rather overgrown and need a lot of cutting back.  It is impossible at times to see any open water.  We took turns standing on a slightly higher viewing platform to enable us to look over the reeds to the relatively small patch of open water visible and observed Cape Shovelers and Yellow-billed Ducks swimming around with Common Moorhen going in and out of the reeds. A Southern Double-collared Sunbird flew past into a bush.

As we approached the ‘heron’ pond on our left we could hear warblers in the reeds just below the path but did not get any clear sighting. A Rock Kestrel flew overhead. The pond abounded with Red-knobbed Coots.  All were able to get a clear view over the water of a Black-crowned Night Heron sitting near a palm tree on the opposite back with the plumes on the back of his head blowing in the breeze. The bright red beaks with their yellow tips of the Common Moorhens on the opposite bank shone brightly in the sun casting glistening reflections in the water as they moved around at the bases of the reeds.  Hartlaub’s Gulls were plentiful. The artificial heronries were interesting as there were quite a few young Darters still looking quite brown sitting on nests – or rather overflowing them.  Behind the heronries where the water was more sheltered from the wind there was much nest-building activity on the part of the coots, with birds observed swimming backwards and forwards to their raft nests to add another frond or two.

The hide on the right overlooking the kingfisher bank did not deliver much – the water was disappointingly devoid of birds. Only an Egyptian Goose or two swam past and sadly no Pied Kingfishers or Black-winged Stilts were seen. The hide on the left always gives good views of the back of the heronries and also of the little rocky island where we could see White-breasted Cormorants and Darters sitting – producing great photographic opportunities.  On the little shallow spit just next to the hide many birds sat huddled together against the stiff breeze – more Red-knobbed Coots, Yellow-billed Ducks, Cormorants and Egyptian Geese.

Continuing, we were thrilled to see a tiny Angulate Tortoise crossing the path. As we rounded the next corner we came across a Cape Robin-chat and Cape White-eyes in the canopy of a large tree which hung over the path. A warbler flew across the path but was not positively identified (a Lesser-Swamp Warbler?)

When we returned to the Education Centre we visited the rooftop garden to see some of the sustainability elements that have been put in place at the centre – the fish tank and plant filtering system, the solar panels, and from there we could also see the wind turbine at the entrance which was turning at a great rate by the time we left in the increasingly strong wind. After a satisfying 2 hours we gathered once more on the deck for tea.  The grey heron was still there albeit in a different place.  We watched White-throated Swallows swooping in under the building and White-rumped Swifts reeling in the sky.  The outing ended with a fleeting flypast of a Malachite Kingfisher – so brief not everyone even saw it.

The list of birds seen was 36 of which 1 was only heard.

Report by Priscilla Beeton