Zandvlei Nature Reserve 15th January 2017

Alongside the canal at Zandvlei 15th January 2017 - by Hayley McIntosh
Alongside the canal at Zandvlei 15th January 2017 - by Hayley McIntosh

We met in the Public car park just before 08h00, having been let in by the Ranger on duty.

We were 14 in number, which is considerably less than the attendance for the past two years but I’m sure that a good number of birders were taking the opportunity to visit Strandfontein to look for the five “Rarities” which have been on show for a while and also to Rondevlei where a second Spotted Crake has made an appearance.

After weeks of intense heat and gale force winds we were really fortunate to have an overcast and windless morning and the birds, especially the Swallows and Swifts made the most of the conditions with mixed flocks of Barn Swallows (many hundreds) , Greater Striped and White-throated Swallows as well as African Black, Little and White-rumped Swifts all hawking the clouds of “miggies”.

An interesting sighting was of a pair of Black-shouldered Kites building a nest at the top of one of the Pine Trees near the entrance and it is probably the same pair who nested in an adjacent Pine some months back and raised at least three fledglings which I photographed at the end of November last year.

The canal adjacent to Marina da Gama did not really produce many birds but a couple of Caspian Terns were flying up and down and occasionally diving into the canal – without any obvious success !

Moving down the path to the Lookout Deck we saw or heard Southern Boubou, Bokmakirie, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Lesser Swamp and Little Rush Warbler and Karoo Prinia.

Because of the high water level in Zandvlei there was little or no beach in front of the Deck and so, other than Hartlaubs and Kelp Gulls and hundreds of Red-knobbed Coot, there was little else on show.

Between there and the Skirpus Hide there were a number of Reed and White-breasted Cormorants on the dead trees in the Vlei and quite a few African Darters flying overhead as well as four Greater Flamingos.

As opposed to last year, when the Centre Pan and Salt Marsh Pan were dry, this year both had quite a lot of water as were the various streams and channels which provided an additional habitat for some of the water birds. Of note is that we saw Purple Herons on a number of occasions, at times two at once, and whilst some of the sightings may have been of the same birds there were definitely quite a few.

Further on from the Skirpus Hide we had good views of a pair of African Fish Eagles which initially had been sitting next to the structure which had been built for them some while ago.

Next was the Salt Marsh Pan where there were two Purple Herons, Black-winged Stilts, a Common Greenshank (which on cue called when it flew), a Three-banded Plover and two Blacksmith Lapwings.

On the Centre Pan there were a number of Cape Teal (one duckling) a Cape Shoveler, Little Egret and a number of Pied Avocets. Also worth mentioning is the number of Pied Kingfishers we saw all over but on Centre Pan there were four sitting in the same dead tree.

Once back at the car park we collected our refreshments and moved to the nearby shady picnic area. At the end of the day it was a most enjoyable morning with great company and a creditable tally of 69 species.

My thanks to John Magner for his help and input on the walk, to Zandvlei Nature Reserve for arranging access and most importantly, to the Club Members who supported the outing.

Graham Pringle