The final installment of my rather busy Saturday that happened on the 9th March.
After spending my pre-sunrise hours at Sir Lowry’s Pass and my morning and mid-afternoon hours at Helderberg Nature Reserve, I went home for a couple of hours rest. It wasn’t long before the next item on the schedule arrived though. Each second Saturday of the month the Somerset West Bird Club meet at the Dick Dent Bird Sanctuary where we spend around 2 hours doing a species count around the small wetland area. This area has been subject to neglect and even arson, and is currently still on the mend after a fire which occurred in 2011 I think it was.
We met at the gate at 16:00 and the usual leader John Clements was absent for this outing, Fanie Kruger would be doing the guiding today. There was a moderate sized group, with around 8 of us entering, including 2 out-of-town visitors. My string of rarity sightings over the past year (which now stand at Green Backed Heron, Tawny Eagle, Long Crested Eagle, European Honey Buzzard) have prompted a few of the individuals within the bird club to provide me with the weight of having to produce something special when I join. We entered the reserve, the wind still continuing to blow gales- things were quiet. There were no signs of Weavers or Bishops in the reeds and our first sightings were some Turtle Doves and Red Eyed Doves. We looked in the gum trees for signs of the Harrier Hawks which seem to be breeding, though our search came up empty with only the occasional flickers of Cape White Eye as they skipped across the trees in front of us.
We moved down the left side of the sanctuary, typically a route we don’t take. Alistair and I then moved up to the main pond and peeked to see what was present this time. Where to start scanning?! A mass of between 50 and 60 Yellow-Billed Ducks mixed with some Red-Knobbed Coots and Little Grebes consumed the pond. The ducks seemed to possibly be feeding on some of the algae that was growing on the surface of the water. We also noticed a juvenile and an adult Black-Crowned Night Heron which took flight shortly after making eye-contact with us. A White-Throated Swallow perched itself on a dead branch in the water while a Reed Cormorant perched along the bank side. We panned the pond looking in the reeds for any signs of a possible Black Crake, but only Yellow-Billeds and Common Moorhen were visible.
A Grey Heron passed by as we proceeded, along with a Sacred Ibis and some more White-Throated Swallows. We then moved back towards the gate, around the other side of the sanctuary. A joke was made about me not being able to pull out anything special, and about a minute later I spotted a small amount of movement in a nearby tree. My raptor sense was tingling. I quickly, and with far too much excitement directed the attention of some of the others to the bird that was highly obscured by the branches. I grabbed some shots to ID, the bird clearly looked like an immature or juvenile bird and was quite small. The first thoughts were possible young Peregrine Falcon, but after describing the nature of the spots on the belly- it was suggested it could also be a young African Goshawk. After looking through my field guides, I am thinking that’s probably the case.
While it may not be a rarity, it’s definitely not a common bird for the reserve and in fact a bird that I encounter surprisingly little. It made the outing worth the trip, but that pretty much wrapped up the day and we headed back to the cars without seeing anything more worth noting.
That brings an end to my 3 part blog post of Saturday the 9th of March. Stay tuned for what went down on Sunday the 10th!