BeKZN Walks! Sappi Stanger

8th January 2022

A group of 8 BeKZN members met at Sappi Stanger at 6am and whilst the weather reports threatened the outing with rain, it cleared relatively quickly and allowed for a pleasant morning out where 70 species were recorded before around 8.30am or so. 

We started off on the path to the entrance to the Bird Hide and whilst the hide itself was sadly not in a state that it could be used, the area nevertheless produced one of the birds of the day in the form of a Baillon’s Crake. It was spotted on the edge of the opposite reeds and hung around long enough for most of the group to get decent, albeit fairly distant views.

Baillon’s Crake 

Eventually the Baillon’s took off after being harassed by a nearby Common Moorhen, allowing some flight views. A nice one in the bag early! 

Other birds seen in the area around the hide were African Jacana, Goliath Heron, Little Grebe and a number of Black Crakes around the pond margins. The open water was heavily covered with thick Water Hyacinth making finding the small more secretive species a real challenge. 

Little Grebe

We moved on to the two raised platforms and were treated to a number of Warblers (Lesser Swamp, Little Rush and Sedge)

Sedge Warbler

as well as close views of a Rufous-winged Cisticola.

Rufous-winged Cisticola

The waterfowl were better represented here with Yellow-billed and White-faced Whistling Ducks as well as Blue-billed and Red-billed Teal. A small flock of around eight Pied Avocet put on a show as these delicate and attractive birds filter fed in their synchronized fashion.  

Pied Avocet

Both Pied and Malachite Kingfisher were in attendance along with Reed and White-breasted Cormorantwhile a calling African Rail teased with its presence but failed to show. Overhead various Swallows (Barn, Lesser-striped), Martins (Brown-throated) and Swifts (Little) fed on the large flying insect swarms over the ponds. A Southern Brown-throated Weaver showed well in its fine breeding plumage.          

As time was moving swiftly, we decided to move along to the back end of the Main Pond, adding a confiding Willow Warbler on route. 

We started scanning the short grassy mud flats and hyacinth of the back pond adding Kittlitz’s Plover along with the waders Wood Sandpiper, Little Stint and a small group of Ruff.

Willow Warbler
Wood Sandpiper
Ruff and Pied Avocet

A small group of Glossy Ibis were feeding out on the pan along with Great Egret and African (Purple) Swamphen.   

After much searching and scanning, we picked up at least three Western Yellow Wagtails feeding among the vegetation though they tried their best to hide from view every few steps. 

Western Yellow Wagtail

A pair of Greater-painted Snipe stepped briefly into view, soaking up the morning sun but then also proved elusive moving back out of view for longish periods.

There were lots of other general birds around to keep the list ticking up and by 8.30am with the sun now blazing down on us, we decided to break for some coffee and breakfast at the Sappi staff picnic area. Just before departure, a single Grey-crowned Crane flew into the wetland, seen by a few observers. 

A very pleasant morning with some very enjoyable birding done, despite the very high water levels that were less than ideal. Sappi proving that it’s worth a visit and definitely a site worth looking after and maintaining. Let’s hope Sappi management share the same view. 

Thanks to Ronnie Herr for providing the pictures for the trip report. 

Written by Mike O’Donoghue

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