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Heron, Malagasy Pond

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa
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Johan van Rensburg
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Heron, Malagasy Pond

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Mon Jun 19, 2017 8:43 am

Thinly distributed throughout its breeding range on Madagascar and the neighbouring islands of Seychelles, Comoros and Europa Island, the endangered Malagasy pond heron disperses widely during its non-breeding season mostly into central and east African countries. Finding Ardeola idae spending time in South Africa is extremely rare. Discovering it in a location that is accessible to a photographer is an absolute boon!

This bird was stumbled upon sometime in late May by one of the owners in the Mziki shareblock, part of the greater Phinda Game Reserve in KZN. It took all of three weeks for the news to filter through to the birding community. Although the bird may hang around for a while at this particular dam that is part of the Mkuze River catchment, I made it an urgent priority to unravel the “red tape” that was the main hurdle preventing casual access to the venue. Phinda kindly made available a game drive vehicle to shuttle birders to the Mziki dam, and I reserved the first available game drive slot. Three days after the news broke we clocked in at the Phinda Reserve access gate. We were given directions to the Mziki offices where we were met by the Mziki share block manager and a Phinda reserve ranger.

The three hours of our game drive game drive flew by and before we could locate the heron, it was time to go back to the Mziki offices! The share block manager took pity on our very sad and frustrated bunch and in his private vehicle took us around the dam once more… and VOILA!!!! …that extra mile did the trick.


High-fives and huge grins were telltales of the delight this sighting brought us.

The Malagasy pond heron has a very small population (estimated at 2,000 – 6,000), declining at an alarming rate due to habitat degradation.

Its hunting method is reminiscent of the closely related Squacco heron: a secretive, solitary feeder that sneaks up on its prey. It feeds on small fish, reptiles, amphibians and small invertebrates usually at fresh water pond edges fringed with vegetation, the dam at Mziki being a model example. I cannot think of any reason why the heron would prematurely disappear from this “pond” before its breeding season impulse would call it to migrate north-east. I think this bird is going to stay the full term to September and afford many birders a viewing opportunity…
Last edited by Johan van Rensburg on Mon Jun 19, 2017 12:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
728 Latest lifers: Hartlaub's babbler, Coppery-tailed coucal, Red-billed spurfowl, White-browed coucal, Scharlow's turaco, Copper sunbird, Long-toed lapwing, Eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Malagasy pond heron, Soft-plumaged petrel, Orange-winged pytilia.

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Re: Heron, Malagasy Pond

Unread post by Karin Mitton » Mon Jun 19, 2017 8:49 am

What a wonderful sighting - really a once in a lifetime experience!

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Re: Heron, Malagasy Pond

Unread post by barryels » Mon Jun 19, 2017 8:50 am

Amazing sighting JVR :clap: :clap: .

Thanks for sharing :thumbs_up: .
Always be humble and understanding.

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Re: Heron, Malagasy Pond

Unread post by hilda » Mon Jun 19, 2017 11:49 am

Absolutely fantastic Johan! :clap: :clap:

Johan van Rensburg wrote:The share block manager took pity on our very sad and frustrated bunch and in his private vehicle took us around the dam once more… and VOILA!!!! …that extra mile did the trick.

How kind of the share block manager! Kudus to him! :clap: :clap:
"Like a sunflower, always turn toward the light." Eleanor Brown.

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