The April outing actually took place in March and started off with the question: “Is the Sooty Falcon still at Emily Moon?” The answer to this question was ‘yes’ and I for one had my first sighting of this beautiful little raptor and took the following pictures that show the main features. The wingtips at rest are clearly longer than the tail and there is no barring in the tail. In the grey kestrel both features are the other way around.
Birders from elsewhere were also present including Mike Buckham who is the SABAP2 man for the Western Cape and whose 8 year old son has a most impressive life list of over 500 birds. Maybe he is the embodiment of the saying: “The early bird catches the worm.”
From Emily Moon we moved down to the Bitou estuary where we met up with the ever calling Sombre Greenbul and Cape Robin-Chat as well as some Purple Heron moving in ankle deep water. On the sandbanks we saw White-breasted, Reed and a (not so common) Cape Cormorant. The incoming tide had positive results as well as it brought an early morning breakfast to the Grey Heron that was also moving around in the shallows lifting its legs right out of the water like a child testing whether the water was actually warm enough to take a swim. It took quite a big fish as can be seen in the photo and dropped and re-caught the fish at least twice.
The following waders and terns were also in evidence - Cape Wagtail, Cattle Egret , Common Whimbrel, Common Greenshank, African Darter, African Black Oystercatcher, Swift Tern, Sandwich Tern. There were some other good sightings like the African Marsh-Harrier, Common Starling, Levaillant's Cisticola, and Cape Longclaw.
If birds could be criminals then the Southern Boubou would have qualified to be a master criminal due to its furtively skulking movement through the bush. On the other hand the Karoo Prinia and the Bar-throated Apalis are just too loudmouthed to be good criminals and the Fork-tailed Drongo just too obvious flitting in and out of the bushes.
From here we moved to the sewage works and even before we entered the gate we stopped at the bridge where according to a reliable source we would be able to see a Lazy Cisticola and indeed it showed itself quite magnificently as the photo proves as well as adding to the life lists of a few members. The same spot also netted us a Neddicky. When we reached the dams we saw many of the usual water-birds, and the reed beds at the edges of the dams had both Little Rush-Warbler, Lesser Swamp-Warbler, Black Crake and the African Paradise-Flycatcher with its darting movements, long tail and striking rufous colouring. A Knysna Woodpecker kept everyone guessing as to its exact whereabouts by calling from the centre of the bushes.
For a long time I have seen Cape Glossy Starlings and Red-winged Starlings in the coastal area of the garden route and ignored them as I have seen them quite often, but I did not realise that this starling does not occur in this area. So I was rewarded with a lifer once the other members pointed out to me that the starling I was about to ignore was actually a Black-bellied Glossy Starling. I felt very embarrassed for being such an ignoramus. Not too surprising was the Knysna Turaco, but a little more uncommon was the Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher. At the same time the agitated movements of a Cape Batis ensured that it also made the list. We then decided it was time for a coffee break and moved back to the vehicles where we witnessed the uncanny flying abilities of Black Saw-wing (Southern race), White-throated Swallow and Brown-throated Martin as they swooped low over the water and Little Swift high up in the sky as well as two other sky denizens - White-necked Raven and a Booted Eagle.
In Kurland’s grounds we stopped at the beautiful dam under the trees, and saw African Jacana and some White-faced Duck. After lunch we decided to walk a little way up a dirt road and a Peregrine Falcon was added to the list. At the little dam and surrounds the last few birds were added to the list and these included Brown-hooded Kingfisher, White-backed Duck , Swee Waxbill, Forest Canary, Southern Red Bishop and last but not least, African Stonechat.
An Impressive list of 95 was recorded.
(Report copied with permission from the August newsletter of the Lakes Bird Club. - Ed.)