04 March 2012 – a regional rarity bonanza…
Up early this morning, our plan was to head out to Rooisand Nature Reserve near Kleinmond to chase the male Red-backed Shrike that had been reported from there a few days prior. This species is a Western Cape rarity and is a bird that we had not yet managed to catch up with for our challenge list. Looking outside, it had rained overnight and it was looking very gloomy indeed, but we decided to have a go at it anyway and we are glad that we did…
After about an hour and a half’s drive (including a quick stop for a take-away breakfast), we were on site in what one would consider not prime birding conditions. We also started a pentad list on arrival and progress on this was really slow with virtually no birds visible in the horrible conditions and hardly any even calling. But persistence paid off and, after not too long, Trevor picked the Red-backed Shrike up sitting quietly in a recently burnt Protea bush, making it only the 5th species to be added to our pentad list! Not often you get to list a regional rarity in the first 5 birds you list for a pentad!! Unfortunately, the bird remained distant at all times and with the poor light conditions, the photos served as nothing more than record shots, but more than enough proof that the species could make its way on to our challenge list.
After this initial success, we then moved off further into the reserve to where the vlei is. The road to the car park at the edge of the vlei was very quiet and we added only a handful of species along the way. Once in the carpark, there was a little more activity on the vlei itself and, while we enjoyed a welcome cup of coffee at the car, we soon ticked off a number of common water birds. It was also here, while drinking coffee, that Trevor noticed a large white bird off in the distance and grabbed the scope to have a look at it in more detail. Imagine the surprise when he realized it was a Great Egret, another Western Cape rarity and another new species for the challenge list which was totally unexpected. We then made our way along the edge of the vlei to get a little closer to the bird and managed to get a few record shots of the bird as proof. It was also at this point that we put a quick phone call through to our friends, Cliff and Suretha Dorse, as they still needed this species for their provincial lists. Cliff was very excited to hear about it and indicated that they would be jumping into their car straight away to come through – once a twitcher, always a twitcher…:)
We then made our way down to the hide and were surprised at the number of birds around – loads of flamingos, pelicans, egrets and a multitude of waders. This place certainly looks like it could turn up a few more rarities (perhaps even a mega or two) in years to come and we were pleasantly surprised with this, our first ever visit to this reserve. After having worked through the birds at the hide fairly rigorously, we then made our way back to the car and were surprised to find our 3rd Western Cape rarity of the day, a Yellow Wagtail, along the way! Unfortunately, the bird was extremely skittish and took flight before we managed to get any photos of it and flew back over our heads towards the hide. We chased after it, but were not able to immediately relocate it. At this point, we contact Lisle Gwynn, another local who had recently “claimed” this reserve as his local patch, to let him know about the find and he also jumped into his car and headed over straight away (fortunately, Lisle was able to connect with the Yellow Wagtail a little later on the day and the Dorses were able to nab the Great Egret as well, so all in all, a very successful day!).
We decided to do one last walk around another part of the vlei and didn’t really add too much to our list birdwise, although we were able to find a new butterfly for ourselves, a Water Bronze. Mind you, at this point, virtually all butterflies are new to us, so it doesn’t quite hold the same level of excitement as finding a new bird just yet…:)
By now, we were starting to get a little peckish, so we decided to call it a day (a very successful one at that!) and made our way through to Kleinmond where we bought some lunch and then began the long drive back home, very satisfied with the 2 new birds on our challenge list.