REPORT ON THE 100TH FLIGHT FOR BIRDERS COURSE AT HARTENBOS
Posted on the 23rd May 2017
On Friday and Saturday we celebrated the 100th presentation of the Flight for Birders course at Hartenbos along the beautiful Garden Route. It was decided to include some special new sections for this specific event and in this we highlighted some examples of the wonders of bird migration, as well as an illustrated overview of my favourite birding destinations and experiences. In the latter we included birding opportunities at destinations such as the Kruger National Park, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Wakkerstroom, Mtunzini, and of course Nature's Valley. We are satisfied that this improved the course contents considerably. Several questions regarding planning trips to some of these birding hotspots were fielded throughout the tea breaks and lunches. This continues through emails.
It is encouraging that recent courses had participants representing all adult age groups and that representatives from the nature conservation and tourism industries are forming an increasing proportion of the groups. Thirteen employees of the Mossel Bay local municipality participated and others came from places as far afield as Knysna, Vanwyksdorp and Montagu. We are currently looking at presenting courses in those areas as a strong need for this was identified. Also interesting that some participants have done the course several times, with one describing that he will keep on coming for “top-ups” as the course contents are changing continually.
The practical outing on Friday afternoon took place at Twee Kuilen, a housing estate close to the mouth of the river. Birding was simply outstanding as we were able to stand in one spot overlooking the river, enabling us to identify 44 species in roughly 45 minutes. The edges of the reed beds produced wonderful sightings of the BLACK CRAKE, GREY HERON, several PURPLE HERONS, COMMON MOORHEN and BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON. Species seen on the open water included the YELLOW-BILLED DUCK, LITTLE GREBE, CAPE SHOVELER, BLACK-WINGED STILT and CAPE and RED-BILLED TEALS. The AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER, THREE-BANDED PLOVER, WHITE-FRONTED PLOVER and GREY-HEADED and HARTLAUB'S GULLS were active along the water's edge. The LITTLE RUSH-WARBLER and LESSER SWAMP-WARBLER were calling from the reeds and endemic species seen in the vegetation included the CAPE BULBUL, CAPE CANARY, FISCAL FLYCATCHER, CAPE SPURFOWL and SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRD. Many ROCK MARTINS were flying around.
Purple Heron - Image by Nicole Crisp
Black-winged Stilt - Image by Nicole Crisp
This outing clearly illustrated the vast birding potential of the Mossel Bay region. Several participants believed that the bird-watching potential of the region needs to be developed more meaningfully. The Mossel Bay region includes Danabaai, Vleesbaai, Gouritsmond, Herbertsdale, Ruiterbos, Great Brak, Little Brak and Hartenbos. Many top birding destinations in neighbouring areas, that are reachable on day trips have also been noted. A few birding destinations in this region such as Great Brak, Little Brak and the waste water treatment works at Hartenbos have already been described in literature, but there are many destinations that are essentially not known to the growing local and international birding fraternity. These include the vast birding potential at Ruiterbos, Herbertsdale and the Robinson, Cloetes and Du Plessis Passes, as well as the huge numbers of waterfowl to be found seasonally at Langvlei and Voëlvlei. The possibility of developing pelagic cruises to watch seabirds from Mossel Bay should also be investigated. A proposal for the development of birdfinder web pages for this region will be forwarded to some of the participants for comments and support. The completion of such web pages will enable us to market the entire region holistically as a top birding destination.
Assorted waterbirds - Image by Nicole Crisp
Cape Teal family - Image by Nicole Crisp
Once at home we started receiving feedback from some of the participants. Here are some examples:
# Subirdly run course at Hartenbos. For all levels of birders. So many interesting facts and tips just not found in books. The course was fun and left me wanting more, just what the Doctor ordered. Thanks so much Dr. Odendal. - Arland Everard Reid
# Thanks again for a fantastic, very motivational weekend! I am attaching a few photos from Hartenbos. It will come in three batches. - Nicole Crisp
# The Hartenbos meeting was awesome. Many thanks. Please let us know when you will be presenting in the area again. - Stephen and Jeanette Hardcastle
# Jean and I would like to thank you for the most interesting course. We really enjoyed it. We are excited to start birding with some knowledge. Would you please do the necessary to enable us to keep tabs on birds migrating. Wishing you a safe trip back home. - Carla and Jean
# Hi to everyone who attended Anton and Elaine’s Birding course. I would like to repeat my invitation that you are all welcome to come and bird in Vanwyksdorp. Whether you are coming for a day or would like to stay over, I would love to show you around. We have a self-catering guesthouse and we also let our farmhouse for larger groups. Please have a look at our website: www.paddagaste.co.za There is a bird gallery of some of the birds I have managed to capture, but there are many many more to see. Looking forward to welcoming you in Vanwyksdorp! - Nicole Crisp
The next confirmed Flight for Birders courses will be at Intaka Island, Century City, Cape Town on 24 and 25 June and at Sedgefield on 3 and 4 November. Contact Elaine at email@example.com or 082 455 8402 for more information or to register.