by Ingrid Friday

This waterbird count will always be remembered by those of us who were there as “that misty winter count of 2017”.

I don’t see anything, are you sure we are in the right place?

We all drove to Borakalalo in very thick mist early on Sunday morning to arrive by 7h30.  The mist was thick and continuous all the way from Fourways to Bora and added a new dimension to the pothole and speed hump challenge. We could not see the dam from the picnic site and John remarked, “So, it looks like we will be counting Fish Eagles and Egyptian Geese today”.

Thanks to Viv, John, Mark, Neithard, Janice and Mike for braving the mist to arrive at Bora to support the CWAC.

HOs have been conducting the CWAC counts in Bora since 2004. We are very pleased to be able to continue this twice-yearly count.

Even though the mist remained heavy, we decided to drive to each of our sections to wait for it to clear.  It was decided that 10h30 would be the cut-off time.

It was a long wait – at 9h30 still misty.

Ian and I stood at the water’s edge peering into the mist. We could just make out two ghostly shapes.  Ahh!  Two White Breasted Cormorants floated by.  A single call alerted us to the fact that the 94 dark blobs that we could just make out were in fact Egyptian Geese.  Thanks John!

Eventually at 10h00 the sun was just visible as a round, yellow disc and a light breeze was causing the mist to swirl over the dam. Then at 10h30 the mist cleared completely.  Just in time!!

The transformation was amazing, clear blue sky, sunny, calm and warm.  A perfect Bora day!  Finally, we could begin counting birds.

Incy Wincy Spider. What a difference the sun makes

We counted many fish-eating birds – the fish in the dam seemed abundant:

  • White-breasted Cormorant (891) – many more than normally seen in Winter
  • African Fish Eagle (27) – the numbers seem to be steadily increasing
  • Grey Heron (53)
  • Squacco Heron (90) – they continue to increase every winter since 2010
  • Pied Kingfisher (30)

The water pollution is evident and seems as bad as ever and there are very few ducks and coots. The ever-present Egyptian Geese (237) seem to be unaffected by anything.

A total of 206 Spoonbills were counted, a record number since 2004.

Waders were very scarce due to the high-water level in the dam. The water was still flowing over the top of the wall.

Water still going over the Klipvoor dam wall

Winter is normally the time for the “Bora Winter Special”, the Greater-Crested Grebe. They were largely absent this time, with only 9 counted.

We enjoyed watching the Whiskered Terns fishing close to the water’s edge and we were able to get a good close-up view of them.

While walking along the northern bank of the dam we came across two jackal as we walked and an inquisitive giraffe peered at us over the tree tops.

Are you 100% sure it’s a giraffe?

There were hippo tracks all along the edge of the dam with flattened reeds and dung everywhere.

We were identifying a Southern Pochard among some Egyptian Geese, when suddenly a hippo swam by and emerged from the water ahead of us. We made a big detour inland and when we approached the shore again, there was a pod of 12 hippo lying on the water’s edge close to Pitjane Camp. Their numbers seem to be increasing every year.

We all returned to the day visitor’s area for a quick lunch.  Everyone had enjoyed their morning. Mark and Neithard had also encountered a camouflaged hippo lying between two rocks.  We compared notes and counted numbers and species.  The total count of 2 150 birds and 39 species compared favourably with previous winter counts.

The 2017 misty winter count Team

It was great to walk in my beloved Bora again.

Join us for the summer CWAC count in January 2018.



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