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Snowy Egret in Cape Town – Worth a Second Visit

In the middle of last week I made a post about my first twitch of the Snowy Egret which was spotted along the Black River near Cape Town a week ago now, I also mentioned how short I was on time — with my original twitch being done during my lunch break. Because I was so rushed, I was left very unhappy with the images I had managed to get and wanted to return to better what I had gotten the previous time. I was set to be in Cape Town from Friday evening and made a stop off at the river around 16:30 on Friday afternoon, but the Egret hadn’t been seen for 15 minutes and it was getting dark, so I decided the next day would have to do.

I woke up on Saturday at my girlfriend’s place in Vredehoek, much closer to Mowbray than my own home in Somerset West. Megan had already actually ticked the Snowy Egret on Thursday, but we decided to head down early on Saturday, both with our cameras.

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While there was fog visible out the window overlooking the city, for the most part it seemed patchy and conditions in Vredehoek were mostly clear, so we were optimistic when we headed out the door. However, during out drive along De Waal Drive we became a bit more skeptical as thick fog covered the land below us. Arriving at the location of the bird, this was very much the case as low visibility and cold winds left it far from the most pleasant conditions to bird in, however most twitchers have been out in worse.

There was already a group of people watching the bird, with the number of visitors to the bird at that time around the 500 mark. We stood in the cold and waited for the Snowy Egret to move closer to us, while also enjoying some of the other bird life along the river. We got to witness some great viewings of a Kelp Gull pulling out a large fish from within the river, as well as several other bird species including Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron, Black Headed Heron, Greater Flamingos, Pied Kingfisher and more.

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About 30 minutes into watching the Egret, it took flight – heading under the bridge and out of view. We decided to walk around the bridges and look for it, but didn’t have any luck originally. It was at this time that I decided to pull out my wide angle lens and make the most of the location and the weather conditions and take some photographs of the tracks that we were at.

The Hardakers arrived about 15 minutes after it was last seen and Trevor was determined to find it, eventually managed to locate the bird at the furthest bridge. “It’s flying your way” he shouted to us still at the first bridge, while everyone tried to grab their cameras fast enough to capture the bird’s landing right near us. The Egret was soon moving again, this time back towards the area before the bridges. It then played Pong between each side of the river, offering some tough angles but close opportunities at times. And while I wasn’t able to get the in flight shots I had hoped for — I did manage to better that which I had achieved earlier in the week.

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At the time of posting this entry, over 700 people had twitched the Egret, making it the single largest twitch in Southern Africa, dethroning the Little Crake, which had managed to hold that record for just a few years. The story has also since been picked up by several news publications and the Snowy Egret seems to have ‘gone mainstream’. There’s no way of knowing just how much longer it’s going to stay, but whatever the answer, there’s no doubt that this will be a twitch that is remembered by a lot of people for a long time.

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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