CREATING NESTING HABITAT FOR MIGRATORY BIRDS, STRANDFONTEIN BIRDING AREA, WESTERN CAPE, SOUTH AFRICA.
OUR CLIENT’S NEED
NCC Environmental Services was approached by the Cape Bird Club and requested to spearhead an initiative at the Strandfontein Birding Area within the False Bay Nature Reserve to create purpose-built breeding habitat for Brown-throated martins Riparia paludicola and Kingfishers Alcedo atthis in the form of steep artificial riverside embankments.
DESIGNING A CUSTOMISED SOLUTION
Both species typically nest in burrows dug into vertical sandbanks along rivers or man-made excavations such as quarries. The vertical faces and height above ground provide a measure of safety from predators below. The availability of suitable wetlands and associated nesting sites is a key factor in whether these birds remain in an area or choose to migrate to more appropriate localities. Through consultation with the various specialists and role-players suitable wall designs were drafted and the locality for these chosen according to factors such as orientation and seasonal influences, existing vegetation and public viewing access.
The two nesting walls comprise a free standing structure near the central environmental education block whilst the second is an extension of an existing drainage culvert transforming the existing infrastructure from a purely utilitarian usage into a conservation feature. PVC pipe tunnels each 1metre long have been built flush into the walls and the front visage finished off with brown stippled cement giving the walls a natural look and feel. A special thanks to Mr. Cashief Domingo for his teams excellent work on the construction.
Unbeknownst to most people two highly localised butterfly species, the Barber’s Ranger (Kedestes barberae bunta) and the Unique Ranger (Kedestes lenis lenis), critically endangered as a result of habitat destruction, are known to reside at the Strandfontein. With this in mind when it came to planting up the ‘roof’ of each bird wall Cape Flats Life Indigenous Nursery was contacted to provide the best and most suitable plants for the area and which would be most beneficial to these butterflies. Cottonwool grass (Imperata cylindrica) is known to host the larvae of these two species and as such it, along with a selection of other Cape Flats Dune Strandveld species were been planted.
With Brown-throated Martins already known to frequent the area and the new artificial habitats in place we very much hope that a colony will become established. It is from this point that these species, their breeding and habitat preferences can begin to be better studied.
ACHIEVING REAL GROWTH
Information sign boards have been set up near each wall and suitable branches cut from cleared invasive alien vegetation have been installed as supplementary bird perches. It is envisioned that these area will function as biodiversity ‘hotspots’ supporting not only greater bird diversity but also indigenous vegetation and endangered insects as a result.
This project highlights the necessity and effectiveness of skilled collaboration through utilising specialists in their particular field of excellence, critical research, and the potential of imaginative creativity within the field of urban conservation.
As its name indicates, ‘fisher’ it lives near to waterbodies. It is a resident specie but will seasonally migrate short distances to appropriate nesting sites which are holes excavated in a vertical mud banks about five feet above water.
The breeding season is February to April.
It is a diurnal (day time) feeder relying on sight to identify prey (fish and sometimes dragonflies). It usually hunts by hovering over the water to detect prey then diving vertically bill-first to capture fish
Photo: Dr. Anton Odendal
BROWN THROATED MARTIN
The Latin meaning of Riparia being ‘river bank’, Paludicola from paludosus meaning ‘marshy’ and cola meaning ‘dwelling in’ accurately depicts the preferred habitat of these swallows to be in and around water bodies especially fynbos, karoo and grasslands.
Present throughout the year dependant on availability of suitable wetland breeding sites.
It is a diurnal (day time) insect eating specie which often forages in flocks over water. Methods involve plucking insects off water bodies or from open vegetation.
Photo: Richard Masson