Sunday, 23 October 2016

Trogons Outing report - Eston Sugar Mill, 23 October 2016

Attendees: Stan & Val Culley, Jonathan Davidson, Stanley & Asothie Gengan, Tina Haine, Caryl Lowe, Andrew Maree, Hazel Nevin, Sandy Olver, Andrew Pickles, Graham & Sue Salthouse , Barry Swaddle and Noel, Bob & Hazel van Rooyen (17 attendees)

Species counted: 84  (see end)                                              Text: Hazel van Rooyen

Purple Swamphen  (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
It was with a big question in mind that we set out last Sunday – will the weather hold?  - because it can be a totally different climate inland to our normal bird-watching territory on the coast.  Fortunately it held just long enough for us to have a good look around the general area followed by the ponds at the sugar mill, after which the mist became a bit too damp.  Having Barry Swaddle to lead us for this outing was a bonus.  His familiarity with the area, knowing where those special birds like to frequent and his pleasure in sharing his knowledge with others is amazing.

Barry started us off with a drive along a dirt road and past the Toyota testing grounds.  This is an area which is kept under wraps  - literally.  He explained that the vehicles actually arrive “under wraps” so the opposition cannot get a peak and the area is heavily secured.  Therefore most of the time the birds are undisturbed by humans.  A pair of Oribi (rarely seen these days) also enjoy the privacy.  
Oribi (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

We could only see the edge of this area as the land fell away sharply but we soon spotted a pair of Crowned Lapwings and a Rufous-naped Lark.  
Crowned Lapwing (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Other birds in the vicinity were Fantailed and Red-collared Windowbird, African Stonechat, Yellow-fronted Canary, and Red-winged Starling, amongst others. 
Red-knobbed Coot and chick (photo: Hazel Nevin)
Moving along to a farm dam, Southern Red Bishop were frantically nest-building in the reeds, swizzling away to their hearts’ content, while Red-knobbed Coot, Common Moorhen and Little Grebe tootled about on the water, along with White-backed Duck.  A Purple Heron landed and promptly disappeared into a bed of reeds while a Diderick’s Cuckoo called nearby.                      Here we gulped down some coffee and snacks.   

Purple Swamphen (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
Then we were off again to yet another dam where a pair of Purple Swamphen stepped delicately upon the pond weed and Southern Pochard and Hottentot Teal dabbled along contentedly.  

An African Marsh Harrier was observed high above us.  A little further along we stopped to identify a Yellow-billed Kite and then spotted another raptor preening on a tree in the distance,  which Stan recognised as a Common (Steppe) Buzzard.  The side of the road here rose steeply up a hill and somehow Tina Haine spotted a Jackal Buzzard, also resting on a tree.  There was a bit of a cut-away in the hillside where Yellow-throated Longclaw and Common Waxbill foraged on a pile of sugar cane.   

Kitlitz Plover (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

 On again, pulling over this time next to a field where Barry had observed a Red-capped Lark.  African Pipit and Kitlitz Plover were also very active.

Red-capped Lark (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

African Pipit - observe white outer tail feathers (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Our next stop was Eston Sugar Mill at last.  Here, a small chapel and wedding venue lent a nostalgic air.  We decided to see what was in the three dams, rising up a slight incline.  African Fish-Eagle and White-breasted Cormorant were easy to spot but then a startled Black-crowned Night-Heron burst out of the reeds.  Other water-birds here were Hottentot Teal, Yellow-billed Duck, Red-billed Teal and waders – Wood Sandpiper, Blacksmith Lapwing and Black-headed Heron.  Further around, a wooden deck afforded a more central view of the dam and higher up on the next dam Barry spotted a Malachite Kingfisher.

Having had a bit of a walk around the dams, we would have braaied if the weather had been slightly more encouraging but Barry needed to get home and still wanted to show us some ponds on the other side of the sugar mill so he guided us through the sugar cane fields to where there were more ponds.  Sadly, the one that had been the best bird-wise was almost dried up.   
Searching for waders (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
However, we still saw Three-banded Plover, Ruff, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Little Stint, Common Ringed Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, African Palm Swift and Barn Swallow and to top it all a pair of Grey Crowned Cranes arose out of the marsh waving their showy wings before re-settling further away.
Grey Crowned Crane (photo: Hazel Nevin)

At this point some people left to return home while the braaiers pondered whether to risk a braai.  Feeling the rain becoming stronger we considered we had been lucky with the weather so far, no point in pressing our luck and all headed homewards, content that we had had such a rewarding day.

I didn't believe these existed - a four-leafed clover - what good luck! (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
Thankyou to all those who braved the poor weather.

Species seen:
Barbet Black-collared
Bishop Southern Red
Boubou Southern
Bulbul Black-capped
Buzzard (Steppe) Common
Buzzard Jackal
Cameroptera Green-backed
Canary Yellow-fronted
Cisticola Levaillant’s
Coot Red-knobbed
Cormorant Reed
Coucal Burchell’s
Crane Grey Crowned
Crow Cape
Crow Pied
Cuckoo Diderick’s
Cuckoo Red-chested
Duck White-backed
Duck White-faced
Duck Yellow-billed
Fiscal Common
Fish-Eagle African
Goose Egyptian
Grebe Little
Greenbul Sombre
Greenshank Common
Guineafowl Helmeted

Heron Black-headed
Heron Purple
Ibis African Sacred
Ibis Hadedah
Kingfisher Malachite
Kite Yellow-billed
Lapwing Blacksmith
Lapwing Crowned
Lark Red-capped
Lark Red-naped
Longclaw Yellow-throated
Marsh-Harrier African
Martin Brown-throated
Moorhen Common
Mousebird, Speckled
Myna Common
Night -Heron Black-crowned
Ostrich Common
Palm-Swift African
Palm-Swift African
Pipit African
Plover Common Ringed
Plover Kitlitz
Plover Three-banded
Pochard Southern
Robin-Chat Cape

Rush-Warbler Little
Sandpiper C urlew
Sandpiper Wood
Sparrow Cape
Spurfowl Red-necked
Starling Red-winged
Stint Little
Stonechat African
Sunbird White-bellied
Swallow Barn
Swallow Lesser-striped
Swamphen AfricanPurple
Swamp-Warbler Lesser
Swift African Black
Teal Hottentot
Teal Hottentot
Teal Red-billed
Wagtail Cape
Waxbill Common
Weaver Cape
Weaver Thick-billed
Weaver Village
Weaver Village
Weaver Yellow
Whydah Pin-tailed
Widowbird Fantailed
Widowbird Red-collared
Wood-Dove Emerald-spotted

  (All photos property of photographer)

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