‘Happy 400’ on twitcher’s list

Rietvlei where the squacco heron was spotted.

While dozens of birdwatchers celebrated the sighting of the squacco heron at Rietvlei last week, (“Unusual squacco heron sighted at Rietvlei,” Tabletalk, October 26) twitcher Karen Powell marked a very special moment in her birding career.

Following the sighting of this rarely seen bird in the Western Cape, she posted on Facebook, “Today was a milestone in my birding hobby-life… drove the nightmare of early morning bumper-to-bumper traffic from the south to Operation Squacco.

“Upon my arrival in a quiet cul-de-sac, I meet Dana Hart Goldberg and Frieda Prinsloo and Jan Prinsloo…. sigh of relief as they tell me they had just seen it fly over and settle in reeds.

“We go further along and investigate… something flies. I then exclaim Happy #400 out loud to my three friends. Thank you to all who have helped me get this far…Today was a great day!”

Mrs Powell who lives in the Constantia area, told Tabletalk she started birding in 2009.

She ticked off the #400 when she saw the squacco heron just before her birthday last week.

“I was rather ‘naive’ when I started birding… in the sense that I really didn’t realise the doors it would open and how many facets there are to the hobby…

“Twitching, listing, chasing, etc, I just wanted to look at birds. Well, I am captured by the bug and the fun that goes with it. The challenges, the humour, the friendships, the networking, cameraderie! The new places I go to; family camping trips always have birds in mind now. I am learning all the time, new sounds, new info, being exposed to birds I never knew existed.”

She says her first twitch in Clovelly was a Little Crake and one of the highlights of her twitching was on her home turf in Constantia in the same year when she spotted the Pels fishing owl;.

“My Southern African 400 list is mainly Western Cape birds and the balance is from Kgalagadi, Kruger Park and Port Elizabeth

Her 399th bird was spotted last month when she says she drove to Wolseley to see the Knob Billed Duck “with my patient husband”.

Steve Williams, a photographer and fellow birder who was one of the first to spot the squacco, said he had photographed it in Rietvlei opposite Dolphin Beach Hotel.

“This is a very rare sighting for the Western Cape,” he said, adding that being in the right place at the right time and having “a ton of luck” always helped.

Mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, Johan van der Merwe, confirmed the squacco heron had been sighted at a section of Table Bay Nature Reserve at the T-junction of Marine Drive and the R27.

The bird had been spotted in an area that had been the subject of an extensive bulrush-clearing programme.

“The water body is now a much more open habitat and is used by birds as a feeding and roosting area. Before the reeds were cleared, the habitat was inaccessible for birds, and people could not see past the reeds,” said Mr Van der Merwe.

“Birdwatchers love to tick off rare birds on their checklists because of the fact that they would otherwise have had to travel a great distance to see a bird of the same species.”