Chris put out a shout late yesterday afternoon for a few hours birding this morning and the two of us decided to just work my home Pentad (3420_1905).
We started at the Vermont salt pan and the first impression was a large group of Pied Avocets, with a few Black-winged Stilts. A few Greater and Lesser Flamingos were present and Kittlitz's and Three-banded Plovers were working the shallows. There were very few ducks around, probably due to the very low level of the water, but we did manage to add Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveler and Cape Teal. The most exciting about waterbirds was that there were MANY (I estimate about thirty) Black-crowned Night Herons standing around in shallow water. They then gradually started flying off in small groups in the direction of the Onrus estuary where I know that many of them roost in the reed beds.
Grey Herons are breeding actively at the pan
Many birds were in various forms of breeding and feeding behaviour around the edges of the pan. These included the Cape Bulbul, Common Waxbill, Levaillant's Cisticola, Pin-tailed Whydah, Malachite Sunbird and Cape Spurfowl. We were also able to pick up the calls of several species such as the Bar-throated Apalis, Grey-backed Cisticola, Burchell's Coucal, Sombre Greenbul, Olive Thrush and Lesser Swamp Warbler.
The best however came in the end. A magnificent male African Paradise Flycatcher flew over us and we both agreed that this was the longest tail that we had ever seen in this bird. And then a Black Sparrowhawk flew towards the blue gums where they have bred for many years with an unfortunate Speckled Pigeon in its talons. What a fantastic sighting! In the hour that we spent at the Vermont salt pan we were able to record more than 40 species. Not too shabby!
We then drove through the section of Vermont included in the Pentad – the coastline is not. Endemic species found were the Cape Canary, Fiscal Flycatcher, Karoo Prinia, Southern Double-collared Sunbird and Cape White-eye. A Rock Kestrel also perched of a roof where we often find them. We suspect that they have also taken to breeding in roofs in our area.
We then headed off to the Hawston sewage works, but not before going to the harbour to get the African Black Oystercatcher. Several of the species reported on earlier were around in abundance at the sewage works and a Black Crake was exciting, We added Barn, Greater Striped and White-throated Swallows, Rock Martin and Little and White-rumped Swifts. Little Rush Warblers were noisy in the reeds and we had good views of open water along Paddavlei. Southern Masked Weavers were prominent in their brilliant yellow breeding plumage, but then we found a few Hottentot Teals – very exciting, as a decade ago it would have been unthinkable to find this species in our area. Amazingly Chris then found a Little Bittern in the reed beds, just after he mentioned that he still needs the bird for his 2017 list.
African Black Oystercatcher
At the Fisherhaven launching post we managed to get all three grebes with Black-necked Grebes being particularly numerous. On our way out of the village we found Cape Longclaw and Cape Sugarbird, as well as a single Wattled Starling that I had not seen in the area for quite a while.
The Pentad ends at the landfill site along the Karwyderskraal road. Along here we initially found the African Hoopoe and Crowned Lapwing and good numbers of Yellow-billed Kites. Blue Cranes and Spur-winged Geese were present in large numbers. And then both African Marsh Harrier and an immature Black Harrier staged flypasts! LBJs included the Large-billed Lark, African Pipit and African Stonechat. The grand finalé however was Cape Clapper Larks with their brilliant breeding displays – a first for me along Karwyderskraal.
We managed to record 87 species in just more than three hours of birding. We believe that this again illustrates the wonderful birding opportunities in our area, particularly if one considers that the Pentad does not really allow for the observation of coastal birds. Thanks for a great morning Chris.
I later went to the OK in Onrus to buy the paper and added the Bokmakierie, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Red-faced Mousebird and Red-winged Starling. Finally one of our local African Harrier-Hawks glided past overhead. Last night I also heard the calls of Spotted Eagle-Owl and Spotted Thick-Knee. Lekker birding.
(Images take previously).