The recent Stanford Bird Club outing took place on a glorious autumnal morning. Eight eager birders set out for a morning’s bird-watching to the salt pan at Vermont, stopping en-route on the banks of the rapidly drying Hermanus lagoon to view the elegant Greater Flamingos gathered in large numbers. Twittering in the surrounding reeds and vegetation were flocks of Cape White-eyes and a Levaillant’s Cisticola or two.
The Vermont salt pan is certainly a place to revisit, not only for birding but also for the beauty of the surrounds. Quirky garden doors hidden in the hedges latticed by great webs of the Golden Orb spiders, beautiful gardens and weird and wonderful architecture made the walk around the dam an expedition in itself.
The tranquil waters of the pan reflected the range of mountains behind and a multitude of birds were to be seen. These included the Purple and Grey Heron, African Reed Warbler, African Darter, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Three-banded Plover, Yellow-billed Duck, Black-winged Stilt, Little Egret, Little Grebe, the Hadeda and Sacred Ibises, Egyptian Geese, Greater Flamingo, Red-knobbed Coot, Purple Swamp-hen, Cape Shoveller, Common Moorhen, Red-billed Teal and Blacksmith Lapwing.
Causing much excitement, a couple of exquisite breeding male Maccoa Ducks emerged from the reeds, the beautiful blue of their bills, brilliant chestnut bodies and black heads distinguishing them from the many other water birds on the pan. The Maccoa duck is a near-threatened species and an uncommon resident so this was a first for many of us. Unfortunately I did not get a photo of the birds.
Before indulging in fish and chips at the kiosk below the Milkwood restaurant, we took a walk along the Onrus shoreline where we saw the White-fronted Plover, Kelp Gull, Hartlaub’s Gull, Caspian and Common Terns and the beautiful and iconic Oyster Catcher and, in the surrounding Milkwood forests, the Bar-throated Apalis, Fiscal Shrike and Fiscal Flycatchers.
By the end of a most enjoyable outing the final list included the White-necked Raven, Cape Wagtail, Cape Bulbul, Speckled Mousebird, Cape Spurfowl, Karoo Prinia, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird, Cape Turtledove, Red-eyed Dove, Speckled Pigeon, Cape Canary, Streaky-headed Seedeater, Cape Sparrow and Common Starling.