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Rondevlei Bird Sanctuary Pelicans

Public Holiday at Rondevlei

A couple of weeks ago there was a public holiday in the middle of the week and I decided I would head to Rondevlei as it had been a year since my last visit, entirely too long if you ask me. I won’t lie, there was some hesitation in the idea of using the rare jewel of a public holiday to wake up even earlier than I do on week days, but I fought through it and left Somerset West at around 7:30 that morning, arriving at Rondevlei Bird Sanctuary at around 8:00.

While walking to the first hide I noticed an amphibian friend hopping across the path ahead of me, I have not had great luck when it comes to frogs so I did my best to get a couple of shots so I could ID it later.

At the first hide there was a Glossy Ibis which while not exactly uncommon, was a lifer for me and my little life list. The hide was otherwise quiet with not too much action, a couple of Little Egrets were around and a Little Grebe and some Red Knobbed Coot.

Glossy Ibis at Rondevlei Bird Sanctuary
Glossy Ibis at Rondevlei

The second hide was even quieter but when I heard the loud watery grunt of what I assume was a nearby hippo, I decided it may be better to move further on.

After a few common species here and there between the second to last hide I finally settled down where another photographer was watching what he thought was a Marsh Harrier, now typically I would never take it upon myself to try correct another persons ID, but just the day before I had come across the same bird and with identical plumage at Helderberg Nature Reserve. I was convinced that the bird was in fact an Immature African Fish Eagle, and shared my thoughts, but apparently it had more chance of being a “unusually large, lighter coloured, young Marsh Harrier”. Regardless, the African Fish Eagle was perched on the dead tree on the far bank of the last hide and refused to move, apparently the other birder had been there waiting for it to move for a while. I was then joined in the hide by fellow birder Michael McSweeny who agreed with my deduction that it was in fact an African Fish Eagle.

Immature African Fish Eagle at Rondevlei
Immature Fish Eagle being bothered by a gull.

The three of us watched and waited for any movement from the African Fish Eagle but nothing was happening so more attention started to be focused on the steady influx of Pelicans which were filling up the far bank, probably close to 40 of them coming from all directions.

Rondevlei Bird Sanctuary Pelicans
Vast amounts of Pelicans at Rondevlei

It wasn’t long until it was Mike and me left in the hide as I watched for anything interesting, a White-Throated Swallow rested in the reeds next to me, followed by a Malachite Kingfisher minutes later. Both me and Michael were a bit distracted by the closer species but when we looked again the African Fish Eagle was gone, where-after he left and I was the only one in the hide. It wasn’t long at all before I heard the sound of gulls, knowing that they tend to harass the raptors I followed the sound and saw the African Fish Eagle in flight trying to dodge the gulls attacks, I managed to follow it for a minute or two before it ascended into the low clouds.

Goliath Heron at Rondevlei Bird Sanctuary
A Goliath Heron at Rondevlei chases away other Herons.

Malachite Kingfisher at Rondevlei
A young Malachite Kingfisher

A few minutes later there were two more groups of people in the hide who were now looking for signs of the African Fish Eagle, but while the Fish Eagle didn’t return, another interesting visitor showed up on the bank. A Goliath Heron was quick to spread it’s wings and chase off the smaller Herons from the area as it wandered on the far bank for a while, this is a species which is typically found to the north of Cape Town but there are sightings fairly often of these large and intimidating Herons.

Bryn De Kocks

Bryn is a passionate and opinionated antinatalist and naturalist with a love for nature, the ocean, photography, severe weather and music. He spends most of his time looking for new birds within the Western Cape, taking landscape photographs or behind his computer being a nerd.

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