10 November 2023

Slaty Egret - a regional rarity

15 August 2023 - Gnu Valley, Muldersdrift

If you really want to see Slaty Egret, then you need to plan a trip to the Okavango Delta. If not, then you have to patiently wait, years perhaps, for a bird that disperses to show up at Marievale or other suitable wetland or marsh habitats.

Fortunately for those of us who live in Gauteng, one turned up in Muldersdrift earlier this year and has been present between Walkhaven Dog Park and Gnu Valley for most of the year. Although I have seen one in the Delta and Marievale, I didnt have any images of this species, so this was an ideal opportunity to do so.

I arrived at a tranquil and quiet Gnu Valley early on a mid-week morning and was the only person on site. There are 4 dams on this location and speaking to the owner and workers got an idea of how to locate this gem which was normally seen after 8am - I was there at 7:15am. 

Whilst waiting, a hot air balloon from nearby Magaliesberg was slowly drifting across the sky.

Silent flight

I started searching at the lower dam without success, although there were good numbers of noisy Egyptian Geese around

Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)

I then walked up to the second big dam, again no luck - but had Yellow-billed Duck flying by

Yellow-billed Duck (Anas undulata)

As well as Speckled Pigeon from the nearby buildings

Speckled Pigeon (Columba guinea)

I continued to the third and smaller dam - no luck here either. So onward and up to the dam wall of the fourth dam which had a small reedbed in the middle. After 15-minutes, still no luck, so I turned to walk back to the third dam, when suddenly a small Heron took off from the reeds and flew over my head. That was the bird and it must have roosted in the reeds overnight. I managed to snap a few images against the light as it flew by - it was 7:55am!

Slaty Egret (Egretta vinaceigula)

Of course, it flew all the way down to the second dam where it is usually seen. I walked back and could see it foraging along the far bank. I managed to position myself low down with the sun behind me for some awesome views of the regional mega as it slowly worked down the bank feeding and resting

Slaty Egret (Egretta vinaceigula)

It then decided this dam wasnt good enough and flew off down to the first dam - this time I nailed it in flight and in good light

Slaty Egret (Egretta vinaceigula)

I walked back down to the dam where I had started earlier in the morning and got a few more images for the portfolio

Slaty Egret (Egretta vinaceigula)

A really successful morning in the end with a relatively co-operative bird in great early morning light - job well done!

Instagram - @mikepopephotography

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