Eston Ponds

Sunday  22 January 2017

Report by Dave Rimmer

It was an early 6am start in anticipation of hot weather forecast towards midday for the January Sunday outing. A total of 23 eager birders assembled at the entrance to the Eston Sugar Mill and proceedings commenced with a few words in honour of the late Roy Cowgill. His contributions to birding, environmental matters on the eastern seaboard and Birdlife South Africa were fondly recalled, along with the tremendous knowledge he has imparted to many BLPN birders over the years, and hence the outing was dedicated to Roy. From here we drove in convoy down to the dams bordering the Eston pond. Thanks to local farmer Derek Bennet for allowing us to park under the trees next to his dam.

We were treated to a feast of birds during the course of the morning eventually racking up a final count of 90 by close of the outing. Excellent views were had of Little Bittern (lifer for Rex Aspeling) and Black-crowned Night Heron flying up and down the channel between the dams. ‘

The first section along the western flank of the pond yielded very few birds due to expansion of the reed beds into the previously exposed mudflats. Spirits were soon lifted when all managed to get good views of what was to be our bird of the day – Orange-breasted Waxbill.

The section along the dam wall proved very rewarding with sufficient water and mudflats hosting a wide array of waders and water birds, and an assortment of birds overhead on the wing.

The eastern section of the pond was quickly inspected but being largely overgrown and bordered by sugar cane fields we opted to return along the same route back to the cars. As always, the return walk sees the group unravel into smaller groups as some head for a bite to eat whilst others mopped up on birds missed earlier, as well as practicing their ID skills on all the swifts and swallows flying overhead.

Very loosely classified, some of the birds seen (and heard) included:

Waders: Little Stint, Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Common Ringed and Three-banded Plover, Blacksmith Lapwing, Black Crake, Common Moorhen, White-winged Tern, African Rail (heard), African Swamphen, African Jacana, Hamerkop

Raptors: African Marsh Harrier, Jackal Buzzard, Long-crested Eagle, Common Buzzard, Yellow-billed Kite, African Fish Eagle.

Water fowl: Hottentot and Red-billed Teal, White-faced Whistling Duck, Little Grebe, Cape Shoveler, Egyptian and Spur-winged Goose, Red-knobbed Coot, White-breasted and Reed Cormorant.

Swifts: Horus, Little, African Palm, African Black, and White-rumped.

Swallows: White-throated, Barn, Greater-striped, Lesser-striped.

Other notables: Red-necked Spurfowl, Grey-crowned Crane, Diederik Cuckoo, African Firefinch, Southern Masked Weaver, Streak-headed Seedeater, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Pin-tailed Whydah, Malachite Kingfisher, Willow Warbler, White-bellied Sunbird, Brown-throated Martin, Dusky Indigobird (en route near Camperdown).

A full protocol atlas card for the outing was submitted to SABAP2, and although no ORFs were received, the Little Bittern, Horus Swift, and White-winged Tern were first time records for the pentad. Viva atlassing!!!

White-winged Tern  (Ryan Ramsamy)
White-winged Tern (Ryan Ramsamy)
Little Bittern  (Ryan Ramsamy)
Little Bittern (Ryan Ramsamy)

Grateful thanks extended to Tony Bevis and Ryan Ramsamy for sharing their photographs.

Yours in birding,

Dave Rimmer


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