6 to 8 February 2016
Report by Paul and Sally Bartho
On Friday 5th February, Sally and I made an impromptu decision to visit SAPPI over the weekend. We decided to take our off-road caravan to Salt Rock Caravan Park and camp there for two nights. The aim being to get up early and be at SAPPI at dawn each morning – the best time, we understood, to see the Crakes.
Saturday afternoon we did a recce to see what was about but the Crakes were not obliging. However spending some time in the hide we did spot a Lesser Moorhen rummaging on the treated hyacinth (which is receding thankfully).
From the hide we had a splendid array of waterbirds. In particular numerous White-backed Pelicans up to 17 at one stage.
There were several Yellow-billed Egrets and Great Egrets – the pictures show well the facial features helping with their ID. Note the gape does not extend behind the eye in the Yellow-billed Egret. Also interesting, was the colour of the Great Egret’s yellow bill with its black tip.
The next morning we were there before 05h00 – still dark and dawn was approaching.
Not long after that people started arriving.
With the melee of people watching out for the Crakes we took a walk round the other side through the picnic site.
During the course of the morning we spotted 2 separate pairs of Spotted Crakes. Surprisingly the Baillon’s Crakes were hardly seen but an African Rail made a very public display.
The Western Marsh Harrier was spotted but we dipped on that one. The Lesser Moorhen was again seen from the hide on the hyacinth. No sign of the White-winged Flufftail, Eurasian Bittern, Rufous-bellied Heron nor the Corn Crakes – not that we expected to be lucky enough to find any of these birds.
Sunday lunch was spent overlooking the Tugela in Harold Johnson NR. It was good to see the river so full. Apparently the rains were further inland about two weeks ago.
Monday morning, we again arrived early at SAPPI and a few people turned up. A pair of Spotted Crakes made several appearances in the scrub but were difficult to see clearly. Baillon’s Crakes were absent. We did however see a Water Mongoose in front of the hide.
It was a pleasant way to spend the weekend.