For the uninitiated C.W.A.C is the quirky acronym for Coordinated Waterbird Counts, a 'national citizen' science monitoring project run by the University of Cape Towns Animal Demography Unit. The bi-annual counts of selected wetlands are performed by volunteers throughout the country. In early February and at the end of July members of Birdlife Polokwane count the water birds at six sites in the Polokwane region. The prominent sites here are: the Sterkloop Wetland - a natural spring feeding marshes and an earth dam situated on the Percy Fyfe Road beyond Westernburg, Turfloop Dam – a fairly large reservoir situated a few kilometres east of the University of Limpopo, Rondepan Farm Dams - a series of small impoundments at the Vencor cattle feedlot, Kalkfontein Dams - two large irrigation dams in the Strydomsloop drainage line on the farm Kalkfontein north of Polokwane, Polokwane Bird Sanctuary - settling dams are fed by the neighbouring water purification works and the Deloskop Farm Dam - a fairly large but erratic earth dam located at the southern base of the Deloskop hill south of Dendron.
Three of the sites situated along the R21 (Polokwane–Alldays road) were counted by Joe Grosel, Charles Hardy and Bruce Goetsch on the 11th of February. Due to good rains during December and January water levels were high at all three sites so the conditions were favourable for water birds.
The highlight of this year's count was again the vast numbers of Marabou Storks recorded at two of the sites. Well over 1200 birds were counted at the Rondepan and Kalkfontein. This is the highest number ever recorded on a CWAC count with the previous highest of 870 birds counted in Feb 2013. By all accounts this constitutes the greatest density of Marabou Storks in such a restricted area anywhere in South Africa. Interestingly, significant numbers of young birds were encountered! There are no known breeding sites for this species in South Africa so where are all these young birds coming from? This could be the subject for a very exciting telemetry tracking project!
Some noteworthy totals and unusual species for the three sites are listed below:
Marabou Stork – 811,
Sacred Ibis – 351,
Red-billed Teal– 86,
Cattle Egret – 299,
White Stork 186.
Good numbers of Cape Teal (uncommon in the Limpopo Province) were also recorded.
Marabou Stork – 427,
Egyptian Goose – 296.
Egyptian Goose – 705,
Southern Pochard – 142,
White-faced Duck – 170,
Little Grebe – 95.
Also counted were 18 Greater Flamingo, 10 Pied Avocet and 23 Maccoa Duck (all uncommon in Limpopo).