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Birding in the New Year: Right here at home.
Home is where the birds are
Ending 2013 on a Birding Note.
Sometimes one forgets that doing things right at home can also be fun. Living in a place like East London the influx of holiday makers tells one that this is not a bad place to be. Recent visitors from Swaziland were excited to sight whales of the Nahoon Point Boardwalk and just spend some time walking along the beautiful Nahoon Beach.
Two of the Pentads (5x5 minute areas on the map) that I have chosen to send in regular bird lists to the South African Bird Atlas Program (SABAP2) are in easy driving distance from our house. One covers a part of East London and Gonubie(where we live) and the other Chintsa/Cefane about 40 km. to the N/E. Birding those two areas seemed like a good way to end the year.
Over Christmas I then combined our family dinner in Chintsa with a time to list birds in that area. As always we started at the sewage works on the way to Chintsa and were not disappointed. A good selection of waders and ducks were listed but it was the 30 Spoonbills that really caught our eye. These amazing birds with their spoon like bills feed in the shallows sweeping the water and mud, gathering small fish aquatic invertebrates.
From there we drove slowly through the small village of Chintsa East adding some of the garden and forest birds to our list. The majestic African Fish Eagle did a fly past over the small Chintsa River with an immature bird flying close behind. It was as if Mom was taking junior out for a learning experience. Soon afterwards a Yellow-billed Kite flew over being pursued by a Forked-tailed Drongo that for some reason had decided to chase the much bigger bird. One could only imagine what territorial dispute had resulted in this violent behaviour.
The beach area provided the usual White-fronted Plovers and a Grey Heron, the former dashing along the sand dunes and the latter standing Heron like in the shallows of the estuary waiting to pounce on any of the small fish that happened to come too close. A tall Palm tree provided a suitable nesting site for a colony of Village Weavers. In the nearby forest the colorful Knysna Turaco called its mate or warned an intruder with its typical growling/harsh call. We only saw a flask of green, red and blue as it flew across a clearing in the canopy.
Our last port of call was the lovely Cefane Estuary with its huge sand dune forest and mud flats. As usual it did not disappoint. For the first time in our area we were treated to a view of two Yellow-billed Storks. Audrey spotted one on a tree next to the river and the mate was feeding along the banks of the river. When I listed this sighting I received a notification that this was totally ‘out of range’ and I had to fill in the necessary form about how clearly did I see it, what aids did I use, what experience I had in seeing these birds, etc.,etc. I ask you with tears in my eyes, how can you mistake these Storks for anything else? Perhaps no-one told them they were not supposed to visit the Eastern Cape for Xmas!
On our way back to the main road we saw (thanks to Audrey’s eagle eye) an amazing Orange-breasted Bush Shrike. This bird was not out of range but a first for us in this area and its beauty alone made the trip worthwhile.Our list came to 56, not a bad effort for a couple of hours!
New Year Eve was the designated day to visit the East London/Gonubie Pentad. After the very good total over Xmas it was a challenge to find a similar number in this more urban area. At the same time the excellent Nature Reserves and coastal areas provides great opportunities. Starting in our garden we listed the usual regulars like Cape White Eye, Yellow-fronted Canary and Olive Thrush to mention just a few that we see here. A group of Speckled Mouse Birds having a dust bath in a flower bed and a pair of Lesser-striped Swallow building a nest over our front door light gave us an opportunity for some interesting photos.
The Nahoon Estuary Nature Reserve, Gonubie Beach front and Gonubie Nature Reserve saw our list growing fast but eventually the Xmas area won the day with the New Years Eve list falling two short at 54. Highlights would be the African Oystercatcher and the African Black Crake. The Grey Crowned Crane that is usually seen in Gonubie was for some reason missing. Perhaps due to the influx of visitors it decided to move further inland to avoid the holiday crowds.Some of the usual waders in the river estuaries were also missing perhaps due to the many holiday makers and dogs on the beaches.
All in all the greater East London area is a good birding area and in the very helpful book by Cohen, Spottiwood and Rossouw; Southern African Birdfinder it is rated with two stars out of a possible three, similar to Mukuze and other excellent birding areas in Southern Africa. Sometimes staying home and looking at what is right near us is the best option.