Birding the Nahoon River in Winter.
Nahoon Birding in Winter.
While winters are not really severe at all in East London, South Africa, the birding is actually better in summer. The birds are more active and those that have migrated north return. The Sardine season brings with it a large number of birds that include Cape Gannets, which are not normally seen in this area. Reports on the local bird net that Cape Gannets and Cape Cormorants had been seen moving up the Nahoon River got us moving. These birds follow the millions of Sardines that move up the East Coast of South Africa in July and August every year.
Audrey and I decided to investigate and so, after dragging myself away from watching the Olympics, we drove down to Nahoon this morning. Our first stop was at the Nahoon Point Nature Reserve where the boardwalk provides a spectacular view of the Indian Ocean, the Nahoon Beach and River Mouth and the East London Harbour. No birds, except a couple of Cape Wagtails and a lonely Kelp Gull patrolling the edge of the water, were to be seen. So on we moved.
The view from the road along the Nahoon River, in the suburb aptly called Nahoon, provides a great view of the river as it sweeps past the Nahoon Estuary Nature Reserve. Binoculars are needed as the road is about 50 meters above the river and the river about the same distance wide. What a beautiful sight is was however, on this sunny winter’s day.
The birding, as we sat on the grassy slope, was not disappointing. While there were no signs of the Cape Gannet we did notice schools of small fish in the water but they were probably the usual Mullet that feed in the shallows and in turn are fed upon by birds and larger fish like Cob.
Down the river we spotted a large group of Sacred Ibis that then obliged with a fly past. With them was a couple of Little Egret. Across the bank some Helmeted Guinea Fowl fed on the grass near the river near the ever present Blacksmith Plovers that patrol the mud banks. A lonely Pied Kingfisher hovered over the Nahoon and then did an arrow like dive into the water.
To our amazement a Klaas’s Cuckoo flew into a tree nearby and we got a really good view of this bright green and white coloured bird. As he left, a Black-collared Barbet obligingly took his place, giving us an equally good view. An interesting sea bird and a pair of raptors flew past and we could identify neither. The raptors were possibly Crowned Eagles but we could not be certain. If they were, they were young ones that had not yet grown their adult plumage. A Fish Eagle called in the distance, but did not come this far down the river only its haunting cry was heard.
The usual Grey Herons, White-breasted Cormorants, Darter and Little Terns were ticked off on our growing list. A group of Black-smith Lapwings had a brief disagreement with a Kelp Gull over air and land space. The normal Hadeda Ibis fed on the far bank and joined the Knysna Turaco announcing their presence with their harsh cries. A Plover with a slightly up curved bill worked its way along the bank of the river. It looked like it could be Common Greenshank but if so it should not really be here in the winter.
As the wind was coming up, as it often does along the coast at mid-day, we decided to leave this beautiful place only a few kilometers away from out house. The 23 birds we had listed in an hour and a half of not very serious birding was not bad for winter. We determined to return with a picnic basket in the near future.