Zandvlei Nature Reserve

17 January 2016 – by Graham Pringle

A juvenile Caspian Tern.
A juvenile Caspian Tern.

This is a new venue for the CBC outings.

We met in the City Council car park just before 08h00 where our vehicles would be safely locked up whilst we were on the walk.

As was the case last year, there was an excellent turnout of 37 birders which included many longstanding members as well as a number of new club members and at least one guest. After the past weeks of gale force winds the “weather gods” smiled on us and there was hardly any wind until later in the morning. The temperature also didn’t reach the forecast figure and was quite bearable.

Because of the size of the group and the fact that most of the route necessitates walking one or two abreast, Simon Fogarty and John Magner positioned themselves strategically and assisted by pointing out the birds and sharing their knowledge with the members, particularly those who were new. My grateful thanks to them for their help.

With 37 pairs of eyes scanning the countryside the birds didn’t stand a chance and before we even reached the old car park we had about 12 species including Barn, White-throated and Greater-striped Swallow, Malachite Sunbird, Grey Heron, Spur-winged Goose and many Cape Bulbuls.

We then stood next to the canal adjacent to Marina Da Gama and had good sightings of a number of birds. These included Yellow-billed Duck, Common Moorhen, Southern Masked Weaver, Grey Heron, Red-faced Mousebird, Pin-tailed Whydah, White-breasted Cormorant, Red-knobbed Coot, Common Tern and flying up and down the canal was a Caspian Tern ( a really impressive bird ). We later saw at least three Caspian terns.

Moving on down the path we heard or saw Bokmakierie, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Little Rush Warbler, Southern Boubou, Common Waxbills, Levaillant’s Cisticola and Karoo Prinia.

The tall look-out deck which overlooks the Island and towards the Southern end of Zandvlei was not as productive as previously, as the water level in the Vlei is quite high and there is not a lot of sand-spit or beach for the birds to settle on. We did however see more Caspian and Common Terns on the sand as well as both Kelp and Hartlaub’s Gulls and of course Blacksmith Lapwings making their presence known !

Between the look-out and Skirpus hide there were a number of African Darters and Reed Cormorants drying their wings on the dead trees in the water and a Three-banded Plover flew past at a rate of knots, later to be seen on the water’s edge. Skirpus Hide produced nothing except that the African Fish eagle could be seen in the distance. We eventually got fairly close to it and it appeared to be feeding on something it had caught.

Further down the track we came across three Pied Kingfishers and had a wonderful sighting of a Purple Heron flying past. Also in the Vlei were a pair of Great-crested Grebes which caused some excitement.

Next was the Salt Pan which was completely dry. There were, however, two Grey Herons and a Black-headed Heron on the baked mud and five White-backed Mousebirds on the bushes opposite the hide.

We then made our way home, where we collected our refreshments from the vehicles and got together in the shady picnic site near the entrance. All in all it was a very enjoyable outing and taking into account the fact that the Pans were dry, a very creditable tally of 59 species was achieved ( of these four were identified by their call ).

My thanks to the management of Zandvlei for arranging the access and security and the Club Members for supporting the outing.

Graham Pringle.