SOMERSET WEST BIRD CLUB AT STRANDFONTEIN - 19 MARCH 2016
Posted on the 4th May 2016
I met up with a group of 17 enthusiastic birders at the designated parking and we left sharp at 07h00 in 5 cars for Strandfontein, complete with the new walkie-talkies through which we were to communicate. What a day it turned out to be – perfect weather, no wind, sunny, not too hot, stunningly clear mountains and a beautiful blue sea like a mill pond.. Before we had even entered the gates the birding started in earnest. Black-headed Heron crouching next to the cars, stunning views of a Black-shouldered Kite as he hovered above our heads and hundreds of Barn Swallows feasting on the trillions of midgies in the air. LeVaillant’s Cisticolas, Karoo Prinias, Cape Robin-Chats, Cape Bulbuls and a surprising Brimstone Canary started the list. On entering the gates we were blown away by the sight of some 2 -3,000 Greater Flamingos moving in a wave across the first pan while behind them were a group of the brightly coloured Lesser Flamingos – what a magnificent sight and still more continued flying in and over the ponds. Small groups of Cape Teals were sitting rather quaintly on top of the bushes, while Cape Shovelers, Red-billed Teals, together with Red-knobbed Coots and Moorhens were feeding in the water. A lone African Pipit was spotted as well as plenty of Blacksmith Lapwings.
Greater Flamingos - Riaan Jacobs
Red-billed Teal - Carin Malan
The adjacent pond, so much better for viewing and photography because of the position of the sun), had a few Little Grebes and a couple of Moorhens – and that was all! Large numbers of Swift Terns continually flew overhead and the occasional Greater-striped Swallow and Brown-throated Martin were seen (strangely no Swifts at all,) as well as a pair of Pied Kingfishers.
Continuing round the pans, we encountered nice groups of Pied Avocets and dozens of Black-winged Stilts with many juveniles, some of which we tried hard to turn into a wader or two! Both Lesser Swamp and Little Rush Warblers were
continually heard and occasionally seen. Large groups of stream-lined Glossy and Sacred Ibis as well as a few ubiquitous Hadeda Ibis were seen. A pair of African Purple Swamphens posed on the reeds, their reflections shining on the water below
them. Two separate pairs of South African Shelduck looked beautiful as the sun caught their brilliantly coloured russet feathers and two Three-banded Plovers were feeding on the shore line.
Cape Shovelers - Richard Masson
Pied Avocet - Anton Odendal
We caught up with the Tygerberg Bird Club and we could see that they were looking with great enthusiasm and excitement at something, so we honed in immediately. It was good to meet up with old friends and found that they had both Hottentot Teals and African Snipe. What excitement, and Lifers for some of our group. Another special sighting was that of a Cape Longclaw and a Marsh Harrier was seen by some. It seemed difficult to get the leader to stop for coffee but at last we arrived at the very pleasant picnic spot – although the over growth of reeds has put an end to the excellent birding spot that it was. Suddenly we were surprised to see that a large raptor was sitting on a pole near us and after much discussion of trying to turn him into all sorts of things, he flew and turned out to be juvenile Jackal Buzzard! Amazing how a cup of coffee can distort things!!
One member, excellent birder that she is, promised us roosting Spotted Eagle Owls, but although we found the roost, the birds had flown!!! A group of very well camouflaged Water Thick-Knees was delightful to see and a group of 4 African Black Oystercatchers flew overhead. Continuing round, we hoped to see some waders at the very shallow and sandy Pans, but were disappointed to see none.
Lesser Swamp-Warbler - Anton Odendal
Common Moorhen & chick - Anton Odendal
However, the huge flock of Great White Pelicans, looking like large Boeings as they glided in to land, was a real delight and further round we found hundreds of Kelp Gulls with many juveniles with one lone and unexpected White-necked Raven amongst them. Nearly at an end, we spotted a small flock of Common Waxbills and a single Zitting Cisticola.
What a superb morning and thanks to the enthusiastic members who joined me for this outing, I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. Annamarie has produced a full list of the birds seen, which I believe totalled a whopping 70!