Red Phalarope near Himeville

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

5 March 2016

Sally and I took a trip to find the Red Phalarope near Himeville in the Midlands. It had been reported as being seen there for several weeks.

Our plan was to meet Trish Strachan at the site at about 08h30. We arrived in the area very early so took a dirt road shortcut to Himeville from the road to Underberg.

Meandering along the way we noticed a Denham’s Bustard ambling in a field some 200 metres from us. Out came the scope and camera.

Denham's Bustard
Denham’s Bustard

A bit further along we stopped for a pair of Cape Longclaws next to the road.

Numerous Amur Falcons were seen on the distant power lines and trees. Even with the scope it was very difficult to identify any possible Red-footed Falcons amongst them.

Amur Falcon
Amur Falcon

At a bend in the road there were Red Hot Pokers (Kniphofia sp.) with a malachite Sunbird enjoying the nectar.

Further along more Falcons but no Red-footed spotted.

Then we arrived in the wetland area meeting Trish and David. The Red Phalarope was swimming up and down in a channel between South African Shelducks and Egyptian Geese. It was quite distant and was swimming up and down the channel every so often stopping and pecking at something in the water – often behind it.

We spent most of the rest of the morning driving around the area looking for Red-footed Falcons. However Falcons were few and far between. It seems they leave their roost early in the morning and head for trees and power lines to warm up before dispersing to forage.

There were many other birds of interest which we saw. Five Grey-crowned Cranes and two Blue Cranes in a field together.

Hundreds of Southern Bald Ibises in one farmer’s field and perched in trees in his dam.

Southern Bald Ibis
Southern Bald Ibis

White Storks

And a host of other birds

That afternoon Trish and Dave joined us to search for Red-footed Falcons without success. As the afternoon progressed so the sky got darker and darker. And then thunder and lightning all round us. The rain held off while we watched the thousands of Falcons coming in to roost in the tall trees in Himeville. A spectacular sight. Then the rain started – very heavy but much needed.

The next day we spent an hour early morning, again searching for the Red-footed Falcons. no luck so we will have to go again. We went past the Red Phalarope dam but the bird was absent – seems we were lucky to go when we did as I am not sure it has been seen since – however we have read that a Great Bittern was found there recently!

Paul and Sally Bartho