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Road To 300 – Lesser Crested Tern at Strandfontein Sewage Works (295)

Saturday morning started out with some local birding. A trip to Dick Dent Bird Sanctuary in Strand with Monique, saw us getting her a few new ticks for her life list. We encountered a Lesser Honeyguide shortly into the visit, a nice record for the area. We also then came across a number of Amethyst Sunbirds, which we’ve been trying to get around here for a few weeks now. The birds were in their transition phase with their plumage.

The pans/dams in Dick Dent were surprisingly filled with water, weird given our current drought. Maybe this water is fed in through a system now, but hard to believe our natural rain has kept it going.

We grabbed some sushi afterwards and then headed home. We weren’t home for even 30 minutes before a rare bird report came through from Trevor, an Elegant Tern had just been spotted by him and Margaret at Strandfontein Sewage Works at the tern roost on P2. Monique still needed the bird, while I had seen it last year at Hermanus. But it was a long drive, so passed up the idea. But then just a few minutes later another report came through from Trevor on the rare bird reports, of another orange billed tern they had just picked up — Lesser Crested Tern.

There’s no time to waste…


amethyst sunbird

I had never chased a Lesser Crested Tern before, nevermind seen one. So I hopped out my chair and exclaimed to Monique, “Off to Strandfontein! Got your stuff?”

Within 2 minutes we were in the car and making haste for Strandfontein Sewage Works. Too many times have I been burnt by waiting too long before leaving, and we had nowhere particular to be. We arrived in Strandfontein about 30 minutes later to find a group of people, around 5 cars, staring into the terns in the foreground. A spotting scope owned by John Graham, who was also already at the scene, was pointed on the bird and gave easy, quick views of the bird amongst the myriad of Swift and Sandwich Terns.

It wasn’t long until we had picked the bird up on our camera. The smaller stature in comparison between the Swift Terns around it was the easiest noticeable feature. The bill a close second, as it was more orange than the yellow bills found on the Swift Terns. Still however, the bill was not a striking orange that allowed for immediate identification from other birding individuals.

lesser crested tern strandfontein


Lesser Crested Tern at Strandfontein Sewage Works

Cape Longclaw


Young Cape Gannet

The bird wasn’t too fussed and spent time either with its bill tucked, or staring away from the crowd. However, for a few brief moments the Lesser Crested Tern decided to give us a view worth capturing on camera.

We ended up scanning for a while afterwards in the hopes of coming across the Elegant Tern as well, for Monique’s life list. However, I located the potential birding in a large group at the far back and when I tried to pick it up again to show her, I couldn’t find it. A record shot was all I managed to get, and even then I am only relatively sure that it is the Elegant Tern (of which 2 were actually discovered on the day, another being found late in the afternoon).


While in Strandfontein, we drove across some of the other pans which produced the regulars. However, one big surprise was definitely a young Cape Gannet which was sitting on the side of the road. Whether sick, injured or just tired — who knows. But it remained still, looking at us as we slowly passed by.

The Lesser Crested Tern became my 295th bird in the province, and a rather ‘easy’ way to get it.

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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