by Bryan Butler

Birders are crazy. Friday was a perfect winter’s day but the weather forecast for Saturday was dire. And so it turned out. Cold, miserable, windy and the threat of heavy rain. Three of us pitched up to keep outing leader John Magner and his wife Jane company.

To go or not to go – that was the question. But, as said, birders are crazy, so off we set. As it turned out, none of us had any regrets – we had a fairly short but thoroughly enjoyable – and rewarding – morning.
It’s been a little while since we were last at Vergenoegd which is now under new ownership.

Clearly the status of the Runner ducks has changed from being useful eliminators of snails in the vineyards, to a revenue producing spectacle. They are now herded twice a day in front of visitors @ R10 a time! In the process they are ushered into the dam and herded out (sometimes using canoes) for the audience.

Unfortunately this is a little disruptive to the genuine wild fowl population inhabiting the main dam. Despite this we had good sightings of Black-crowned Night Heron, Little Grebe, Yellow-billed Ducks, White-backed Duck and an unwelcome Mallard.

And then, out of the blue, a Fish Eagle suddenly appeared, circling the dam slowly and creating panic among the ducks on the dam which fled for cover.

We parked the cars and walked round the dam, seeing and hearing Cape Canary but also observing the nests of Cape Weaver (their nest is always built around two stalks of reed) and Southern Masked Weaver (who only use a single reed as anchor) and the Red Bishop, (whose nest entrance is at the top, not the bottom.)

All the doves were present plus Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape and House Sparrow and Karoo Prinia. After an extended walk around the main house we decided to move on to John’s home at de Wijnland where we had coffee and then walked around the estate, ticking, for instance, Red-faced Mousebird, Malachite Sunbird, Cape Robin-chat, Pin-tailed Whydah and Fiscal Flycatcher.

Main treat was a lovely view of a Rock Kestrel, swooping over the rolling lawns. Suddenly it was 11 o’clock and we parted with the agreement that in future, winter outings do not necessarily have to start at 07h15 – particularly if they are close to home! Total bird count for the morning, by the way? 53!