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LAKES BIRD CLUB AT THE BITOU RIVER ESTUARY NEAR PLETT

Posted on the 31st March 2014

(This trip report originally appeared in the April 2014 edition of The Lakes Bird Club Newsletter and is posted with permission. - Ed.)
Bitou Estuary outing. Saturday 8th February
What a day to start a journey for birding. Most members from George, Wilderness and Sedgefield drove through continuous rain in the hope that the weather was better in Plettenberg Bay. Telephone calls to John Bircher – weatherman and group leader kept all moving forward with “it’s just misty here at Old Nicks”. On arrival 19 members were greeted with low cloud and very overcast conditions, “Are we mad or just plain mad”
We set off to the Bitou Estuary where Levaillants Cisticola (Vleitinktinkie) kept an eye on us from the reed beds. On the estuary the usual crowd greeted us, Common Whimbrel (Kleinwulp)and Grey Plover(Grysstrandkiewiet) always seem to be together, is this a symbiotic relationship like cattle egrets to cattle?, Reed Cormorant(Rietduiker), Sacred Ibis(Skoorsteenveer), African Black Oyster Catcher(Swarttobie), Southern Pochard (Bruineend), yellow bill duck(Geelbekeend), Common Greenshank (Groenpootruiter) target bird and -what was that! A partial outline appeared through the distant reed grasses, burnt orange back with white throat wrong habitat for Burchell ’s Coucal (Gewone Vleiloerie) surely; get the scope Alistair came the cry from Robert Smith. Eventually the suspect was identified as an African Jacana (Grootlangtoon) which Robert explained had never been recorded in this particular area. On approaching to get a better view the wader kindly flew out onto a partially submerged log in the estuary and was still standing when we left to visit the Derbyshire quarry pond. Here Pin-tailed Whydah (Koningrooibekkie), common waxbill (Rooibeksysie) and Little Grebe (Kleindobbertjie) where amongst others added to our list.
Fine drizzle blowing in the wind hastened us on to the Plettenberg Sewage ponds. Favourite among the sightings were the proud White-faced duck (Nonnetjie-eend) parents with 13 offspring paddling furiously behind them-what a handful. Blacksmith Lapwing (Bontkiewiet) with juvenile watched us looking skywards as a Jackal Buzzard (Rooiborsjakkalsvoel) circled. Suddenly John Bircher cried out (we thought he had fallen into a pond!) and pointed skyward as an Osprey (Visvalk) flew towards us at a high level clutching a fish. It eventual ly settled on a power line pylon in the distance to eat its breakfast. This event was the inspiration for us to also settle on the grass and have lunch as the sun tried to break through while still adding Knysna Turaco (Knysnaloerie), Cape robin-chat (Gewone Janfrederik) and other locals. A total of 74 birds where listed.
Note: The African Jacana was accepted by SABAP2 after submission by Robert.
Brian Taggart

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