I had two opportunities to bird at Stanford over the last two weeks. We did the practical outing to Willem Appel se dam as part of the Flight for Birders course in the village and today Barry, Maureen, Paul and myself used the opportunity to do some casual birding using the wonderful weather. Stanford residents Peter Hochfelden and Richard Masson joined us there and gave us access to the newly developed hide.
Willem Appel se dam is certainly one of the best birding spots in our region and we rapidly found some 40 species on and around the dam. There have been good numbers of WHITE-BACKED DUCKS at the dam in recent months and these outnumbered the YELLOW-BILLED DUCKS and CAPE SHOVELERS by far. BLACK CRAKES, COMMON MOORHENS and AFRICAN PURPLE SWAMPHENS also showed up well, together with the two cormorants and AFRICAN DARTER. We had a fleeting glimpse of a LITTLE BITTERN, but the BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON did not show as well as it did two weeks ago. The calls of LITTLE RUSH-WARBLERS and LESSER SWAMP-WARBLERS came from the reeds continually. Most of the usual terrestrial birds that one would expect in habitats like this were very active early on. We found that this area works extremely well for the practical outing during the course as a diversity of species show up so well.
The greatest part of birding here is the excellent hide that had been erected by members of the Stanford Bird Club. The key to the hide can be collected from Info centre in the main street. Richard had been taking photographs from the hide since very early this morning. Richard's images posted herewith certainly illustrates what fantastic photographic opportunities are available at this hide and spending some time here particularly during early morning and late afternoon comes highly recommended. MALACHITE KINGFISHERS and WHITE-THROATED SWALLOWS with their young showed up very well on the dry logs and branches that had conveniently been placed very close to the hide. A pair of BLACK CRAKES and their chicks were patrolling the lilies all around the hide.
Young Black Crake
Adult Black Crake
We then walked around the dam as we were hoping to find KNYSNA WOODPECKER in the Milkwood trees on the southern side of the dam. We had found this special endemic, as well as CARDINAL and OLIVE WOODPECKERS in these trees before. None were found today, but we did manage to locate CAPE BULBUL, FORK-TAILED DRONGO, SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED and MALACHITE SUNBIRDS, CAPE WHITE-EYE and several other species in this general area.
We then took a slow stroll along the well marked “wandelpad” that basically takes one along a very damp vlei past beautiful houses before eventually ending up at the Kleinrivier. The bishops were very active along this trail and we managed to add species such as CAPE BUNTING, GREY-HEADED SPARROW, AMETHYST SUNBIRD, CAPE WEAVER, COMMON AND SWEE WAXBILLS and PIN-TAILED WHYDAH. Really rewarding birding. In the past we found a variety of hawks, cuckoos and swallows, swifts and martins along this trail.
Immature White-throated Swallow
We then had a bite to eat along the river before Peter took Barry, Maureen and Paul for a spin in his recently acquired dingy with an outboard engine. There are several operators that take people on cruises down the river often allowing for fantastic birding and photographic opportunities. They managed to add GIANT and PIED KINGFISHERS and AFRICAN FISH-EAGLE and Richard and myself added YELLOW CANARY, PURPLE HERON and CAPE LONGCLAW.
This casual outing once again showed that birding at Stanford is hugely underrated and that it should be explored seriously.
(All images with this article taken by Richard Masson at Willem Appel se dam, Stanford).