Outing to Zandvlei Nature Reserve.
16 July 2023.
Leader Graham Pringle.
As in previous years, the manager of Zandvlei Nature Reserve, Kyran Wright, arranged for us to gain access to the Reserve on the Sunday as the Reserve is normally closed over the weekend. Rangers were also present, one of whom, Samson, opened the gates at 07h30 while two others accompanied us on the walk. Samson took care of the vehicles whilst we were on the walk.
The weather had rained for most of Saturday and until the early hours of Sunday morning, so there was no certainty as to how Sunday would turn out. By 07h45 members had started to arrive, despite having driven in rain to the Reserve. By 08h10 quite amazingly 41 birders had arrived which just proves that it takes more than a bit of cold and wet to keep birders at home!
There were a couple of visitors who hopefully will now join the Cape Bird Club and approximately fifteen birders who had not previously visited the Reserve. It was also great to have three young birders along.
By this time there was no rain or drizzle and so we got going with the welcoming address and thanking the Reserve staff for their attendance. The address was, however, interrupted by the arrival of three Black Sparrowhawks circling above the car park in perfect view of everyone. It was hoped that this was a really good omen for the morning!
Near the beginning of the trail, next to where the original car park was situated, there is a small pond surrounded by reeds but with a very nice new viewing platform at one end. On arrival there were a couple Yellow-billed Ducks which flew off but some time was spent checking out the Weavers who were all very busy. Surprisingly, no Bishop Birds were in evidence.
At the canal we stopped for a few minutes and everyone was able to get good views of a Lesser Swamp Warbler busy feeding just a few meters away. Usually heard but not always seen.
A number of the more common species were also seen here, mostly flying by, including Little Egret, Pied Kingfisher, Sacred Ibis and both Hartlaub’s and Kelp Gulls.
Along the path to the Lookout Tower on the Vlei we saw Levaillant’s Cisticola, Black-headed Heron and a Lesser Flamingo which had been on Central Pan. There was also a small flock of Cape Spurfowl.
At the Lookout some of the group elected to stay at ground level but most climbed the stairs to the top where the view is excellent. A number of water-birds were seen from here including Cape Teal, Kittlitz’s Plover, White-breasted Cormorant, Cape Shoveler, Greater Flamingo, Red-knobbed Coot, a flock of Pied Avocets and two impressive Caspian Terns.
Further on there was a close view of a Grey-headed Gull flying past and an African Darter. Next of interest was a beautiful Malachite Kingfisher, a Three-banded Plover, no less than eight Water Thick-knees and a flock of Cape Cormorants.
At this stage a number of the group took the short way back as they had other commitments and the rest of us continued to the Salt Marsh Hide. Throughout the morning, from time to time, a Burchell’s Coucal could be heard calling. The sound was coming from the thick bush to the East of the Salt Marsh Hide and so a little time was spent trying to pick it up but to no avail! In any event it is a special call to any birder’s ears. Next to the hide, however, we did get to see a Bokmakierie which had also been calling at times.
From the Salt Marsh we headed back around the Central Pan which was almost devoid of birds. There was a bit of excitement along the path, however, when we encountered a Cape Dune Mole-rat walking towards us. “Siv” Sivertsen was the first to see it and his two children, Benji and Kayleigh, were very interested in checking it out. These Moles are not often seen above ground in daylight but are certainly in numbers in the Reserve and one has to be careful where you tread or you end up in a foot-deep hole!
When we reached the vehicles some of the birders headed home and others headed to the picnic area for a cup of coffee and a chat.
Those who had attended the outing all seemed to enjoy it and the weather held good for the whole morning. The final count for the outing was 54 species which was good considering it is the middle of winter and there are no migrants.
While we were enjoying our coffee and chat the subject of the two specials, Striated Heron and Black Heron, came up. As they had been sighted in nearby Marina da Gama, Penny volunteered to take anyone interested to where they could possibly be seen. Six members responded and Penny has attached a short report on their visit.
Photographs by Daryl de Beer, Penny Dichmont, Siv Sivertsen
Report by Graham Pringle.
Extension to the Zandvlei Outing
I was delighted to hear the day before the outing that one of the elusive birds of this year’s BBY Challenge, a Striated Heron, had been re-sighted at Marina da Gama – not far from where the outing would take place.
I managed to get good views of it on Saturday morning and offered to take anyone who was interested to the site, after the outing had ended. Six people responded positively and as we drove up, we were heartened to see John Graham standing with a scope on the grassy slope opposite the bushes where it had been seen, across the canal.
He soon saw a fleeting view of it, but it was not long enough for Greta or any of us to see it. However, after some anxious minutes, it reappeared and flew across to the edge of the last tree, giving us all a great view in the direct sunshine, before disappearing from sight.
Or rather, almost all of us. One of the group had not managed to see it. There followed various unsuccessful attempts to see it from the other side of the canal, but eventually her determination paid off. Having returned to the grassy slope, she was invited into a resident’s garden and managed to get a view of it from a different angle.
Report and photographs by Penny Dichmont.