SAPPI beckons.

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

8th January 2016

Sally and I set out this morning at 04h45 to try and find the Spotted Crake in at SAPPI, Stanger.

The weather forecast was for heavy rain in Stanger – we were well prepared. Driving down Fields Hill – drizzle; then heavy drizzle as we went through Durban and up to the tolls. However when we got to SAPPI it was overcast but dry – and it stayed that way all morning.

On arrival we headed for the hide. Fortunately other birders had got there first and locked the gate behind them so we could not get in. Instead we headed down the road towards the picnic site. There we met Nicolette and Ticky Forbes sitting quietly waiting for the Striped Crake to re-appear. They had seen it 5 minutes before we arrived.

I returned to the car and fetched our chairs to join them. We sat for some time with no sign of the Crake. However many different birds made an appearance keeping our eyes alert.

More people arrived . We waited. Then after a while some of us trundled down the road to see if we could get a better view. Suddenly out popped a Baillon’s Crake – close by. Big excitement – a special bird. As the morning went on the Baillon’s Crake kept making an appearance. I was told that 4 were seen together yesterday.

After an hour the Spotted Crake was seen and showed itself well – a lifer for many of us.

At times both Crakes were seen together.

Spotted and Baillon’s Crakes together.

Nicolette told us that the Spotted Crake is quite wary of movement and it is best to sit quietly and wait. I think she is right because after our first view of the Crake, with people moving about for a better view, it disappeared for a long time and was only seen briefly once later on.

We then had some more excitement with a small wader which looked unusual. At first it was believed to be a Curlew Sandpiper based on its down curved bill. But questions arose because it did not appear to have an eye-brow and had an unusually plain back for a Curlew Sandpiper. It was on its own and liked to forage away from the mud into the reeds – also unusual. We waited and took numerous photos just in case. Could it possibly crown the day by being a Dunlin. No. It flew and we noticed it’s white not dark central rump – it was as we first suspected a Curlew Sandpiper.

Around us we saw Goliath Herons; Black-crowned Night-Herons; Greater Flamingos and their young amongst the many other typical species usually seen at SAPPI.

Then as we were leaving we observed 3 raptors circling high above us. One was a Yellow-billed Kite, another raptor was of similar size with a rounded tail and they were bombing a larger bird below which I think may be a Palm-Nut vulture but the photos are rather poor.

Overall a well spent morning.

Paul and Sally Bartho

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