20TH ANNIVERSARY OF CO-ORDINATED WATERBIRD COUNTS AT THE BOTRIVIERVLEI
Posted on the 10th July 2013
(This article originally appeared in the 100th edition of “The Kite”, the official newsletter of the Tygerberg Bird Club and is loaded here with the permission of its Editor. - Ed.)
25 July 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the Tygerberg Bird Club’s CWAC’ing at the Botriviervlei, one of the largest estuarine systems in the Western Cape. The first count was originally scheduled for 17 July 1993, but due to bad weather conditions it had been postponed to 25 July 1993. Initially we only counted the Botriviervlei (excluding the Kleinmond Estuary). The area was divided in 4 sections, and the CWAC pioneers were:
Team A: Me as team leader and Willie D’Hondt. We lost the rest of our team members as a result of the postponing of the count.
Team B: Colin Jones (team leader), Jurie & Adéle Fourie, Anton Nel and Mossie Smit.
Team C: John Philogene (team leader), Debbie Philogene, Margaret McCall and Talitha le Seur.
Team D: Brian Vanderwalt (team leader), Ann Rickets, Libby Kerr, Brenda Anderson and Beverley Patterson.
In January 1995 the Kleinmond Estuary was added to our CWAC area. Birders from Kleinmond, Hermanus, Somerset West and Cape Town have given of their time to do the regular counts, mostly twice a year (February and July). From January 2003 until December 2006, for a full cycle between two breaches, we counted all sections every month. Quarterly counts were then done for another 3 years. This called for some dedication, especially for us driving all the way from Cape Town, sometimes in adverse weather conditions.
Looking at the CWAC results of the past 20 years, not much has changed since 1993. The numbers of Red-knobbed Coot, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveler, Red-billed Teal, Grebes, Flamingo’s, Terns, shorebirds, etc. have varied seasonally as well as according to the breaching regime of the sand bar at Meerensee. Some species, such as Red-knobbed Coot and Great Crested Grebe have gradually declined in numbers, though. African Fish Eagles are seen regularly, with several breeding pairs in the surrounds. I was very fortunate to see 8 African Fish Eagles together, directly above me at one time. In recent years we have seen an increase in the number of Blue Cranes along the upper reaches of the lagoon, which is great. Occasionally some rarities make their appearance, like Osprey, Black Harrier, Common Black-headed Gull and African Openbill.
CWAC’ers have come and had gone, and sadly, some are no longer with us. Until 2003 we used to gather at our “Pondok” on the water’s edge after completing the counts of our various sections. After doing a check-list of all bird species seen it was time for socialising and enjoying our eats and drinks, and even sometimes having a swim before heading back to Cape Town again. Sadly, we had to vacate our “Pondok” when my brother-in-law sold the lagoon side part of the farm, which is now the Benguela Cove Wine Estate.
Thank you to everyone who has been involved in CWAC’ing the past 20 years. Let’s continue for another 20 years!