02 February 2013 – raking in the rarities…
Our friends, Keir and Alouise Lynch and their son, Cian, had come through last night from Hermanus to stay with us as they wanted to twitch the penguin at Soetwater and perhaps a few other things as well. We were up early this morning and leaving the house by 5:30am. Our first stop was Strandfontein Sewage Works where we were hoping to bump into a few of the rarities that had been reported there recently.
We headed straight to Pan P1 and started scanning. Initially, there were just a number of the common species around with some reasonable looks at African Snipes, Wood Sandpipers, etc., but eventually, I was able to pick out the Pectoral Sandpiper and it ended up providing reasonable views even although it was mostly in the shade. We spent some time enjoying and photographing the bird which was one of the Lynch’s targets before moving on.
We then moved on to Pan P2 where we hoped to find the Black Tern that had been hanging around there recently. Over the next 1,5 hours, we scanned through the many hundreds of terns that were roosting and flying around there, but there was no sign of it unfortunately. It was now starting to get a little late, so we decided to move on to Soetwater as the penguin was the main target of the day and we definitely didn’t want to miss that.
En route, I received a call from Johann Grobbelaar who was at the penguin site to confirm that it was still there, so the pressure was a little off. A quick stop off for some take away breakfast and we were on our way again arriving at Soetwater just after 9am. It really was an easy twitch just walking up to the spot and there it was. There were quite a few people there (obviously!) but perhaps not as many as I would have expected for a bird of this caliber. Nevertheless, we spent the next couple of hours enjoying the bird, taking lots of photos and just generally socializing with many of those who had covered large distances to get here this morning. It was great to see many old friends again – always one of the more enjoyable parts of these mega twitches.
By about 11:30am, we had had our fill and so headed off joining John and Greta Graham for a bite to eat at a restaurant in Kommetjie. This also ended up being an extended lunch and we sat for quite a while just talking absolute birding nonsense. It was well after 1pm by the time we left there. I suggested to everyone that perhaps we head back to Strandfontein again and there was no arguments from the Lynches, not that I really expected any.
We pulled back into the sewage works just after 2pm and I headed straight for Pan P2. I stopped for a quick scan and picked something up in the distance which looked interesting. I raced off to get closer to it and then stopped again for a better look. Black Tern! Boom! We had our third target for the day! Unfortunately, it remained distant and in really poor light to get any decent photos of it, but I took some record shots anyway and the Lynches had big smiles on their faces, so it was all worth it.
After spending a little more time with the tern, we moved off and covered the rest of the sewage works to see if we could find anything else worthwhile. It was mostly just the common species and, because the light was terrible, we never even bothered taking photos. However, the best find was not a bird, but rather a mammal, when we came across a Common Hippopotamus lazing in one of the channels. I had heard that one of them had escaped from Rondevlei Nature Reserve quite a few months ago and had moved into Strandfontein, but had never been lucky enough to bump into it, but here it was. A great end to a fantastic day with good friends and awesome birds…!