An ordinary looking bird, going about its business eating insects and other small invertebrates, is unaware of the stir it is creating.
It all began around 10.30am on Saturday November 26. Edgemead twitcher Glynis Bowie spotted the wader at the eastern edge of Pan P1 at Strandfontein sewage works. Three days later she posted her picture on Facebook hoping for assistance with its identity.
The following day it was confirmed and Trevor Hardaker, who has 915 bird sightings to his credit, posted the mega alert on the Southern African Rare Bird News (SARBN). “I can’t believe that I am typing this,” wrote the bird twitcher. “There has been a confirmed record of a single individual Temminck’s Stint. If it is still around, it is going to cause absolute mayhem with lots of people arriving to see this rarity-fest!!”
It’s the third time Temminck’s Stint has been spotted in South Africa and the seventh time in Southern Africa.
Six days later, on Monday morning, 600 people had recorded seeing it.
Trevor also wrote that with many pairs of experienced eyes scouring the area more alerts would come through, and they did. Later that day, Thursday November 29, he posted camera shots of an American Golden Plover found on Pan P2 and a Red-Necked Phalarope found by Mike Buckham and reported by Cliff Dorse.
On Thursday December 1, Cliff spotted a Western Yellow Wagtail flying across the causeway between pans P1 and P2, another out of range bird.
And it didn’t stop there, during last week there was a Pectoral Sandpiper, a Sand Martin and an African Jacana holding territory on Pan P5.
Over the weekend there was a non-stop trail of vehicles with people coming from up the West Coast, the northern suburbs and even Grabouw.
Southfield twitcher Karen Powell clocked up the Temminck as number 402 and the American Golden Plover at 403. She has been birding for about seven years and of the 403 birds in Southern Africa her rarity list is 27 rarities or out-of-range birds, 10 of which have been seen at Strandfontein.
A Hong Kong birder might have crossed flight paths with Deona Andrag of Bellville as they both made a beeline from the airport to Strandfontein for the rarity feast.
Deona, who returned from Oman said it was terrible being in the middle of a desert and hearing about all the unusual birds.
Asked about the feast of so many out of habitat birds, Professor Peter Ryan of the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology said it is most likely because there are more people looking rather than an increase in the numbers of rarities. “If anything long-distance migrants are becoming less common, so on average we should be seeing fewer, not more. But you could argue that global change is causing more birds to get lost on their migrations,” he said.
However, Shelly Marx, a Hout Bay birder who has clocked up over 500 wader sightings, believes it is because the pans have been rehabilitated.
As the website www.capebirdingroute.org says, “Although the uninitiated will often turn up their noses at the idea of voluntarily visiting a sewage farm, such places are often exceptionally rich in birdlife. This is especially true of the extensive Strandfontein sewage works, arguably the best waterbird locality close to Cape Town, whose existence is under threat from a new motorway. The abundant and diverse birdlife makes it an ideal destination for the beginner and serious twitcher alike. A major advantage is the opportunity to bird from your car, which can be used as a moving hide. The reed-fringed pans which radiate out from the sewage plant buildings is connected by good gravel roads, but beware of occasionally treacherous sandy patches, especially along the southern coastal road.”