9th February 2020
Trip report by Nicolette & Ticky Forbes (all photographs Nicolette Forbes)
An Early Start
A total of 17 people, some of whom managed to make the very early start by meeting at the Sappi Stanger Mill carpark around 05h15, enjoyed a really wonderful morning at the Mbozambo Wetlands and Sappi Hide and Platforms.
The hide and platforms – three times
After parking all the cars at the picnic/braai area everybody wandered down the track past the platforms and eventually to the hide where we were greeted by the most spectacular sight was the group of about 50 great white pelicans which periodically during the course of the morning used developing thermals to soar in great spirals above us. However they seemed undecided as to whether to leave or not and would return to the resting area in front of the hide.
Getting to know the waders…
The views from the platforms on to the shallow water fringing the reed beds were very different as these areas were being used by a variety of ducks and teals as well as waders of different sizes ranging from ruff and stilts to the smaller plovers and little stints. It was possible to compare the sizes of the common ringed, three banded plovers and little stints and note the visual feeding behaviour of the plovers as opposed to the tactile feeding of the stints, a feature of the scolopacid family of waders.
Ruffs were present in small groups, recognizable by the tortoise shell patterns of the feathers on their backs and white spot at the base of the bill. Wood sandpipers, with their spotted backs were also common. A single marsh sandpiper with its distinctive needle like bill was also recorded.
The variety and abundance of waders and other water birds compensated for the absence of any of the special species of crakes and snipes which have been a feature of the ponds over the last two years. The large numbers of ducks (Yellowbilled, Whitefaced. Hottentot and Red-billed teal, Spurwinged and Egyptian geese) with large numbers of Blackwinged stilts, Ruff and Little stint gave us a lot to look at and chat about.
There was an interesting interaction between a large Varanus niloticus lizard (leguaan) and the birds on the island, particularly a lone crowned crane, which kept a wary eye on the reptile but did not seem particularly alarmed and just watched it emerge from the water on to the island and then eventually swim away.
A stroll along the paths and tracks around the ponds produced Brown-throated and Yellow weavers in the reed beds, as well as Rufous-winged and Red-faced cisticolas. The usually favoured Black crowned night heron roosting site had been changed by cutting of the usual screening vegetation and the birds were nowhere to be found.
A Scarlet-chested sunbird turned up at the end of the morning at the end of the picnic brunch in the braai area when the sightings were tallied with a total count of 73 species. The complete list is at the end of the report.
Thanks to a great group – it was a wonderful morning of birding !