An early morning visit to Park Island, just as the sun rises, can be extremely rewarding reason to leave the snug bedclothes behind. Many of the birds are at their busiest at this time of the day, especially before all the dogs, walkers and mountain bikes do the rounds.....proof that the island is big enough for all of our interests.
The checklist for this area comprises over 100 entries, from the common residents to the more elusive and rarely seen species. On a recent early morning trip, I spotted a Little Bittern, Purple Gallinule and Malachite Kingfisher all within a few meters of each other. There are a few places left for that kind of observation. The northern reed beds provide a superb lookout position for the whole of the upper reaches of Zandvlei and Wildwood Island. Nesting species here include the Purple Gallinule, Little Bittern, Masked Weavers, Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, Great Crested Grebe, lots of LBJ's and a whole gambit of warblers endemic to these parts. Whether it is the Fish eagle chasing a Pelican down the vlei, Terns trying to snatch a Darters catch from its mouth or just the normal territorial squabbling between Coots and Grebes, there is always something amusing and interesting going on.
Some of the occasional sightings include the Orange throated Longclaw, African Marsh Harrier, greenshank and Spoonbills. An elusive water Dikkop is also sometimes observed playing cat and mouse with a Grey Mongoose on the shore of Wildwood Island. Herons and the Burchell's Coucal love the menu offered during the nesting season and snatch young chicks to supplement their diet of frogs and sprats, which lurk in the marshland and canals. The high water level for much of the year unfortunately precludes the presence of most of the summer waders on the island. The new vegetation offers a unique opportunity to monitor the influx of species to the area and park Island plays a crucial role in providing information for the recently established Zandvlei Inventory and Monitoring Programme. Anyone interested in assisting or even just learning about the bird life should contact the Committee to get details.
P.S. Many birders spend hours often in adverse conditions, hoping to get a sighting. Spare a thought for them when you are walking the dog or paddling your boat. Maybe we should have a small red flag on a pole to indicate when the feather fanatics are doing their stuff?