28 October 2012 – untickable ducks…
With the discovery yesterday of a male Tufted Duck at Paarl Bird Sanctuary, we decided to head through there this morning to see if we could find it. Although it is not yet officially accepted on to the Southern African list due to the doubt that previous records may refer to escapees rather than genuine vagrants, there has got to be an excellent chance that this bird actually gets here on its own steam. Most records always seem to co-incide with large influxes of Southern Pochards into the area, the bird they are most likely to team up with on their wintering grounds in East Africa, so there is every chance that one could get mixed up in a flock of Pochards and head south instead of north.
Anyway, we got through to the sanctuary reasonably early (the gates only open at 7am) and started searching the area where it had been reported from. There was certainly reasonable numbers of waterfowl in the area, but nothing that even looked remotely like a Tufted Duck. We spent a bit of time photographing some of the other more usual species in the nice morning light to kill the time whilst we continued the search.
After a little while, Margaret picked up on a bird which was different and, after having reasonable looks at it, we suspected that it was a Marbled Duck. This is a bird that has a fairly restricted range in Europe, some parts of Asia and in north Africa and only ever comes as far south as the Sahel belt. It is also only a partial migrant, so the chances of a genuine vagrant making it all the way to South Africa are particularly slim. What was strange was that there was also some plumage anomalies with this bird, most obviously a glaring white vent which this species is not supposed to show. Our final conclusion was that it was most likely to be an escapee from someone’s local collection which then also raised questions about the validity of the Tufted Duck. Oh well, another potential duck tick down the drain…:(
We then moved through the rest of the sanctuary completing an atlas card and seeing what else we could find. For a change, there were reasonable numbers of Greater Flamingos present whilst the first Common Sandpipers were also in evidence. A Tambourine Dove, a species which seems to have moved into this area very recently, was also calling in the woodland along the river for most of the time that we were there, but we didn’t put any effort into going to look for it. We also spent a frustrating time trying to photograph Cabbage Whites, one of the common butterflies in the Cape, as they were feeding on some purple flowers. We secretly hoped that we might bump into a Greater Painted Snipe somewhere which, surprisingly, we still need for our challenge list, but it was not to be and, eventually, we packed it in and made our way back home.