Raptors and Wetlands

The original plans this weekend were to head off with Cathryn to Kirstenbosch Gardens on Saturday morning and attempt to find some of our feathered friends, though due to rain which persisted through most of the day, we found that we were unable to really head out at all. Sunday morning however, the sun was out for the most part at 8:30am, and I began thinking of birding locations in the area- I jumped onto Google maps and checked the distance of Rondevlei to my currently location (at the time) in Kenilworth. To my surprise, it was a mere 9 kilometer drive- and at this point, I knew what I wanted to do.

We left Kenilworth at around 10:00, the clouds moving in once again- masking the sun. After stopping at a couple places on the way, we arrived at around 10:30.

A few seconds after exiting the car I looked up and saw, in the distance- a rather large bird in typical raptor-like flight, I quickly fired off a few shots as it moved off away from us. After zooming in on the viewfinder, it was clear that our first sighting for the day was a Booted Eagle (Pale Morph), I definitely wasn’t expecting to see one over suburban wetlands.

Booted Eagle
Booted Eagle

We moved onto the first “hide”, where we enjoyed a large group of Great White Pelicans flocking around the reserve- coming right towards us, like a squadron of Spitfires. This unofficial hide which was just a decked cabin, seems to have been renovated into a coffee and tea cafe type thing.

I feel it’s important to emphasize the fact that there was very little if any direct sunlight throughout the day, and as such lighting conditions for photography were pretty poor.

Great White Pelicans
Great White Pelicans

We went through to the next hide, things were quiet here with only a few Barn Swallows flying past overhead, along with the typical species like African Darter, Reed Cormorants etc, we also saw a group of Common Waxbills on the ground in front of the hide.

On the way to the next hide, we caught glimpse of a Yellow-Billed Kite in the distance. We decided to stand where we were and to wait in case it came any closer, and closer it did come- it ended up passing directly over us, at a distance where my 400mm lens was too long to keep the bird in frame, of course with the lighting being as it was, it was more of a great opportunity missed (as opposed to if it had been ideal, or even good lighting), but it was a good sighting and experience and again hadn’t been expected.

Yellow-Billed Kite
Yellow-Billed Kite

Yellow-Billed Kite
Yellow-Billed Kite

Yellow-Billed Kite
Yellow-Billed Kite

Common species were seen and heard as we walked to the next hide, Lesser Swamp Warblers being the latter of the two. Some Karoo Prinia, Blacksmith Lapwing and a single Black Shouldered Kite were encountered along the way.

Blacksmith Lapwing
Blacksmith Lapwing

Black-Shouldered Kite
Black-Shouldered Kite

The next hide saw us walk in to a Pied Kingfisher which was busy perching on a piece of reeds about 7 meters from the hide. It gave us a brief display when it flew around the pond area several times, before once again settling down. To keep him company was a small Malachite Kingfisher closer to the hide, yet obstructed by reeds.

Pied Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher

Malachite Kingfisher
Malachite Kingfisher

After the Pied Kingfisher had stopped displaying, we moved onto the next hide- which on the way again produced some more common birds: Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Bulbul, Terns, Hartlaubs and Kelp Gulls. This hide was fairly quiet too in the beginning, but we soon saw the Pied Kingfisher again, this time there were a couple, and they were taking turns in dipping into the water, then hovering and repeating. An Immature African Purple Swamphen (Or whatever it is they’re called these days) was also present in the reeds.

Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Robin-Chat

Pied Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher

Birds weren't the only thing around...
Birds weren’t the only thing around…

The final hide brought us some Little Grebes, Grey and Black Headed Herons, Spoonbills, Darters, Cormorants etc.

African Fish Eagle
African Fish Eagle

Karoo Prinia
Karoo Prinia
Little Grebe
Little Grebe

Purple Heron
Purple Heron

We then made out way back, but on the return to the car we came across a shy Cape Grassbird, Purple Heron- and most excitingly, a pair of African Fish Eagles in adult plumage.

There were no lifers for me, though Cathryn- who only recently started keeping a life list, managed to tick off 18 species, so it was definitely a valuable outing for her. And even though there was nothing new for me, I thoroughly enjoyed being there again and enjoying so many majestic raptors in such a short period of time, in a place I wasn’t expecting. Next week is the annual SWBC (Somerset West Bird Club) outing to Newlands Forest- where I am hoping the raptors will once again make their presence felt.

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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