Winter Morning at Rietvlei, Milnerton

After some very good rainfalls on Friday evening, the weather had cleared by Sunday and unlike the previous day, there was hardly any wind around. Not wanting to waste the rare pleasure of a warm and sunny winter’s day, we headed through to Rietvlei in Milnerton at around 09:30. I had previously been to Rietvlei once before, but it is a location that I should really spend more time birding at, over the years it has seen some great records, with over 200 species listed for the reserve, including several great sightings over the past few years such as: Black Skimmer, Yellow Billed Stork, African Jacana and Squacco Heron (All birds that I also happen to still need to see).

We paid our entry fees and entered into the reserve, and despite what must be rather damn cold water, there were already several people out on the water skiing and otherwise just doing a good job at making noise and annoying the fishermen who lined the shore.

Making our way towards the hides, we came across a large group of Swifts and Martins near the reeds – there were numerous Alpine Swifts and African Black Swifts, it was primarily the Brown Throated Martin that flew past us every few seconds, ducking and weaving through the sky. The Swifts were fairly cooperative, and were flying by just above eye level a few times, though photographing aerial feeders never really gets any easier, at least their flight paths are more predictable than that of the Martins.

African Black Swift
African Black Swift
Alpine Swift
Alpine Swift
African Black Swift
African Black Swift
Brown Throated Martin
Brown Throated Martin

As we walked to the wooden pathway that leads to the hide on the left, our footsteps flushed dozens of Levaillant’s Cisticolas from the reeds alongside us, with the sounds of Warblers ever-present. I was really hoping for some luck and to maybe catch a Hottentot Teal here, but water birds were limited in species with hundreds of Egyptian Geese, Greater Flamingos and numerous Great White Pelicans making up the collective bulk of the bird life. From the hide we didn’t see anything too exciting with several Cape Shoveler, Pied Crows, Lesser Swamp Warblers and more of the Brown Throated Martins.

The Pelicans gave me a few good photographic opportunities as they past overhead, but all in all – not much to write home about.

As we began heading back we caught a glimpse of a couple of Black Shouldered Kites who were active and moving between several small bushes, unfortunately not being very obliging when it came to photos though. A little later, while leading the wooden path back to the gravel, I turned around and caught sight of a Cape Longclaw who had perched himself along the hand rail of the walkway, though quickly moving back down into the grass.

Lesser Swamp Warbler
Lesser Swamp Warbler
Great White Pelican
Great White Pelican
Sacred Ibis
Sacred Ibis with nictitating membrane seen over the eye.
Great White Pelicans in Flight
Great White Pelicans in Flight
Black Shouldered Kite
Black Shouldered Kite
Cape Longclaw
Cape Longclaw
Pied Crow
Pied Crow

From there, I decided we should go stop by the picnic area and see what we could find in that area. There were a few Reed Cormorants who were getting some good returns on their fishing efforts, as well as a pair of Pied Kingfishers perched on a nearby dead tree. A Caspian Tern joined in a Juvenile Grey Headed Gull and a few Hartlaub’s Gulls in passing over the area in front of us. Allowing me to better my previous Caspian Tern shots, though still leaving something to be desired (A fish in the bill perhaps). We also managed to see a few Great Crested Grebes, with me handing my camera over to Megan in order to get better views of what was a lifer for her.

On route back to the car we came across a Purple Heron and a Red Bishop. The Bishop was showing the first signs of breeding plumage with a few red feathers beginning to become visible on his back. It’s not long now before the reeds will come to life with colour. At the car, a single Rock Pigeon gave us a farewell.

Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Juvenile Cape Cormorant
Juvenile Cape Cormorant
African Darter
African Darter
Red Bishop showing signs of breeding plumage on the back feathers
Red Bishop showing signs of breeding plumage on the back feathers.
Purple Heron
Purple Heron
Pied Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher
Feral Pigeon / Rock Dove
Feral Pigeon / Rock Dove
Table Mountain as seen from Blouberg
Table Mountain as seen from Blouberg

Before concluding our outing for the morning, we also stopped off at Blouberg Beach – a beach I hadn’t been to since I was a child. My only regret was being there during the day and not at sunset, I will however, definitely be paying it a visit again, hopefully with a more dramatic sky!

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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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