(This article originally appeared in the October 2014 edition of 'Batis', the quarterly magazine of the Somerset West Bird Club and is posted with the permission of the Editor. - Ed.)
THE HEARTLAND PROJECT
Paardevlei EIA Bird Counts for the past few months.
Between June and August the water level in the Vlei increased from an estimate of 50% full through 55% in July to a good 95% in mid-August. The species counted for those months were 18, 19 and finally only 9. No doubt the water level was the major determining factor for the change in species present with the most recent Count being devoid of waders.
In June, Tony Williams, who is conducting the EIA, accompanied us on the count. We noted some 363 Greater Flamingoes but no Lesser Flamingoes. However there were many duck species as well as Geese. Prominent were Red-billed Teals at 28 birds but only 3 Cape Teals, 21 Egyptian Geese; 44 Red-knobbed Coot, (an increase on the previous count), 20 Little Grebe and for the first time a Common Moorhen! A few (5) Black-winged Stilts and a Pied Kingfisher finished the list. By July we counted 111 Greater Flamingoes and 15 Lesser. The Egyptian Geese count had increased 67 and Yellow-billed Duck were36. The balance of Teals had changed to 25 Cape and only 5 Red-billed. The Coot numbers had increased dramatically to 152. We counted 19 Little Grebes, 4 Black-necked and we were pleased to see 2 Great-crested Grebe back on the Vlei.
Our last count in mid-August had no Flamingoes present, only Ducks, Geese, Coots and Little Grebes. Although the road conditions prevented us from going round to the north side of the Vlei, we were well able to ‘scope’ from the Southern side and count the few birds present that were Coot 70, Egyptian Geese 37 and 12 Maccao Ducks, ending up seeing only 9 species. What we found amazing was a comparison with the August 2013 Count when we had 17 species including 54 Greater and 100 Lesser Flamingoes. The water level we estimated to be 85%, a good bit lower than this year, and possibly the determining factor in the species distribution. Tony Williams is pleased with the monthly Counts as he says it gives a good reflection of the bird population shifts.
Inès and Duncan Cooke