Another glorious day for our winter count. Sunshine, no wind, generally good visibility. Some coastal roads had a bit of mist to begin with, but on the whole most routes leaders commented how their teams had enjoyed the day. As usual many teams mentioned the many canola fields taking the place of fynbos, and in some places the plants were so tall that it was impossible to count any birds. This is mainly in the west of the precinct as many more Blue Cranes are counted to the east of the precinct. After all the rain we have had there was much water on most routes. Two of our best routes were not counted so it makes a difference in numbers per year.
Blue Cranes 3461
If the two routes had been counted, the count would have been the same as in 2018, so numbers remain more or less constant which is encouraging. As usual in winter the count is highest in the Heidelberg/Swellendam areas with the Moodies counting 1332, Hedda 220, and Hans 101. In the middle section Charles Britz, a new route leader, counted 284, Ken 317and Myra 157. Around Caledon area the Bramhalls counted 196 and Wicus 109. Sally in Mossel Bay counted 184. This shows one how the canola fields affect the count. Many Blue Cranes were still in pairs, but no chicks seen. One Blue Crane was seen with a damaged wing.
Denham’s Bustard 118
Most teams saw some with Tonia in Mossel Bay seeing the most – 32. Wessel saw 20 around L’Agulhas and Stuart in the Protem area saw 13. The count remains steady. A Ludwig’s Bustard was seen by Jeff in the Caledon area.
Southern Black Korhaan 20
A wonderful count after years of counting only one or two. The Moodies saw 16 and the others were seen by the Whitelaws two, Hans one, and Pierre one.
Karoo Korhaan 36
The count remains more or less the same with most seen in the Swellendam area with Hedda counting 16, Bev six, Stuart six and Hans five.
Spur-winged Goose 1155
Counted by all teams with the highest count by Daryl – 95, Moodies 88 Hedda 79, John 74, Hans 69 and Ken 64. Most birds were seen in the Swellendam/Heidelberg area, but I think a lot of geese were not counted as they love canola and the plants were too high.
Black-headed Heron 77
Good to see how they have increased after years of poor counts. Most teams saw between one and six birds with Andrew in Mossel Bay counting 10.
Secretary bird 3
A worrying count as we are seeing less and less each year. Two were seen by Charles in the Greyton area, and one by Wessel near L’Agulhas. Thank goodness BirdLife SA is doing research on this beautiful bird.
Grey-winged Francolin 24
Count remains the same. Fourteen seen by Hans in the Swellendam area, six by Bev in the same area, and four by Linda near Napier.
White Storks 15
Obviously these birds did not migrate – most unusual to see so many. Thirteen seen by Jeff in the Caledon area, and Stuart saw two in the Protem area. Many teams remarked on a lack of raptors.
Black Harrier 9
Remains the same, with seven teams seeing them. Good to see numbers spread from Caledon to Swellendam.
Jackal Buzzard 71
Only three teams did not see any, with Andrew counting seven, Stuart, Tonia and Charles counting six each. The other teams saw between one and five birds, so they are around from Caledon to Heidelberg.
Black-shouldered Kite 13
More than usual were seen, and mostly seen in the L’Agulhas area where four were counted.
Cape Crow 886
Numbers remain more or less the same. Seen on all routes, with the highest number seen by Andrew in Mossel Bay 69, Moodies 62 and Wessel 61. All other teams saw between five and 50.
Pied Crow 65
On the increase. Fourteen routes counted between one and 14, with Lee’s team counting 19 in the Caledon area. White-necked Raven 46 Numbers were down, maybe Pied Crows have taken over! Seen on fifteen routes, sometimes on carcasses. Hedda in Swellendam counted the most – 19, while other teams counted between one and 13.
Vaal Rhebok 74, Steenbok 27, Cape Grysbok 10. Charles saw 21 Vaal Rhebok. The Moodies and the Brinks saw 12 and 11 Steenbok respectively. All mammals were counted on fourteen of the thirty routes. Many routes also mentioned seeing Yellow Mongoose, and Hans’ team were lucky to see two Bat-eared Fox coming out of their home alongside the road.