(Dr Wim de Klerk posted this report on the CapeBirdnet. - Ed.)
A birding report for those interested! For the past 2 months the Agulhas Plain was not at it its best for birding due to the drought, but - it has rained! The area is green and although the pans are still very dry, the fynbos is responding well and now is the time to go there for some winter birding!
Saturday was a stunning windless day and Louise Beeslaar and yours truly set off to a normally boring pentad that needed attention - "Rietfontein se Baai". This is a small pentad that runs parallel to the coast about 1km inland. For the first 5 years of the project, this pentad was overgrown with Port Jackson and accept for coastal species, very few birds was seen. The area has now been almost 90% cleared of aliens and the fynbos has been restored to its previous glory. And what a sight it was. We only recorded 33 species in 4 hours but we were greeted with hectares and hectares of blooming proteas and fynbos. And as if to complement it, hundreds of Cape Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird and Orange-breasted Sunbirds were bobbing in and out of the proteas in bird parties. Interestingly they operated by species and were rarely in mixed parties.
Close your eyes and please imagine this: It is a cold morning, you stop in the track, get out of your vehicle and there is just no wind, dead quiet, but for the call of the sunbirds. The sun tries to warm your back as you simply just try to take it all in! Man, this is why we do what we do! And so we enjoyed the sunbirds and Cape Sugarbird, Bokmakierie, Karoo Prinia, Grey-backed Cisticola, Cape Bunting(which always seem to be close to the coast when we find it here). And oh! Isn't the Cape Grassbird the most underrated bird in the world! So easy to find but the call is just so special - it has the X-factor! Especially on a windless sunny morning - is there any other species that gives you such a colourful picture! And so we end up on the coast where we expect to see African Black Oystercatcher, Kelp Gull, Swift Tern, White-fronted Plover and the odd cormorant.
But today we are surprised by some odd shore species(which happens from time to time). Today we find two Pied Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Little egret and - believe it or not - way out on the rocks among the cormorant(100m from the coast?) an Egyptian Goose! Now we have all seen this from time to time and it is not strange to see Cape Wagtail, Yellow Canary, even White-throated Canary, Sacred Ibis, Grey Heron etc among our "Shore Birds". Then I just wondered: what are the strange, unlikely "Shore Birds" others have seen before?
We turned and on the way back noticed some African Black Swift, Acacia Pied Barbet(both a first for the pentad) and Jackal Buzzard. Five meters(yes) before we leave the pentad - Black Harrier and Brimstone Canary!
As we drive back on the slippery clay track, we look for the Temmincks Courser but to no avail and then we see a raptor high above - Black Sparrowhawk - perfect end to another Agulhas Plain birding day!