Wednesday 27 March 2013

Strandfontein, Cape Town, March 2013

A light breeze brought the occasional stinky waft, but that was a cheap price to pay for a day at Strandfontein. Anyone who subscribed to the “Poop Week Special” on 10,000 Birds will know that where there is poo, there are birds, so the water treatment plant and settling ponds made for good watching. Greater Flamingos are the big draw, but they took their place, unobtrusively on the list with almost 70 others today.

A car is essential for getting to and around the site, but there are no regulations to prevent you from getting out and walking wherever you wish. The birds here are slightly aloof, so it is as well to use the car as a rolling hide. 

The approach road cuts off from Strandfontein Rd (at Google Earth ref; 34° 3'12.88"S 18°31'43.76"E) and it looks as if a residential development is imminent. A snake (Cape Cobra?) slipped quickly off the road at my approach and I stopped, hoping to get a look at it. Instead of the snake, I found a very approachable Cape (Dune) Molerat which was far too trusting to last much longer in the vicinity of a large snake.

Access to the water treatment plant is via a causeway between two man-made lakes. Cape Teal, Red-billed Teal and Cape Shoveler were seen in the lake to the left. On the right, a rustic frame held Great (White-breasted) Cormorant and Long-tailed (Reed) Cormorant. On the causeway itself, a few Blacksmith Lapwing “tinked” at me from the verge. As Usual, thanks go to for their permission to embed their sound recordings. 

Security personnel at the gate take name rank and serial number, but show no further interest unless you get stuck in the soft sand. A couple of my colleagues also visited Strandfontein today and fell foul of the sinky stuff. They were generously assisted by a couple of the security staff, but this is not usually part of their job description so play safe. I was sticking to the good roads in the attempt to avoid a hatrick of getting stuck.

The road leads towards a six-road junction that looks like the axle of a cartwheel (Google Earth ref; 34° 4'58.11"S 18°30'47.69"E). Any road taken from here will produce birds and the best route is the one that gives you the best light. Flamingos were very easy to find as were a good number of ducks. Each pan had its own birds that favoured the particular characteristics of that pan.

Some had sandbars that attracted Kelp Gulls to roost with the Great White Pelicans. Some pans were shallow and muddy and patronised by Little Stint, Pied Avocets and Wood Sandpipers. The road between the gate and the axle had a pan on the left which had attracted Barn Swallows and Plain (Brown-throated) Martins. I stopped here for a while, half-heartedly trying to get a shot of a hirundine in flight, but whole-heartedly failing.

At the southeast corner is an expanse of scrub and dune. An African Marsh Harrier and a Karoo Scrub-robin were seen here, but the Common (Rock) Kestrel stood out as the poser of the area.

The large numbers of some species were often made up from a number of roosting flocks that found space on sandbars, mudflats, road verges and banks of the pans. Gorged hirundines rested on the roads or roosted in the bushes of the dunes.

A Three-banded Plover was particularly faithful to a small patch of bark chippings. It looked as if it might have a nest, but it was in demure plumage indicating that it is still a juvenile. I recall reading somewhere that this plover has a duller non-breeding plumage, but I can’t find that snippet of information again to confirm. Another bird close by was showing the brighter plumage with red eye-ring and base of the bill.

Birds seen 69;

White-faced Whistling Duck 8, Egyptian Goose 65, Spur-winged Goose 25, Yellow-billed Duck 120, Cape Shoveler 300, Red-billed Duck 80, Cape Teal 65, Cape Francolin 8, Little Grebe 15, Great Crested Grebe 1, Eared Grebe 2, Greater Flamingo 700, Cape Gannet 5, Great (White-breasted) Cormorant 125, Long-tailed Cormorant 45, African Darter 2, Great White Pelican 9, Grey Heron 3, Black-headed Heron 6, Purple Heron 2, Little Egret 1, Cattle Egret 160, Glossy Ibis 60, Sacred Ibis 200, Hadada Ibis 15, Black-shouldered Kite 2, African Marsh Harrier 2, Jackal Buzzard 1, Eurasian Kestrel 1, Purple Swamphen 10, Eurasian Moorhen 30, Red-knobbed Coot 60, Blacksmith Plover 60, Common Ringed Plover 40, Three-banded Plover 6, African Oystercatcher 5, Black-winged Stilt 50, Pied Avocet 100, Wood Sandpiper 5, Little Stint 80, Ruff 1, Hartlaub’s Gull 40, Kelp Gull 300, Caspian Tern 35, Great Crested Tern 30, Speckled Pigeon 10, Ring-necked Dove 7, Little Swift 4, Speckled Mousebird 1, Common Fiscal 1, Pied Crow 15, White-necked Raven 2, Plain Martin 60, Barn Swallow 140, White-throated Swallow 15, Cape Bulbul 20, Tinkling Cisticola 2, Zitting Cisticola 4, Karoo Prinia 4, Cape White-eye 1, Cape Scrub-robin 1, European Starling 200, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Wagtail 80, African Pipit 1, Orange-throated Longclaw 3, Cape Canary 1, Cape Sparrow 8, Cape Weaver 8.

Black-headed Heron

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