THE CAPE WHALE COAST ROCK-JUMPERS REPORT ON BIRDING BIG DAY 2017Posted on the 26th November 2017
THE CAPE WHALE COAST ROCK-JUMPERS REPORT ON BIRDING BIG DAY 2017
(Please accept my sincere apologies for not posting progress reports on my Facebook page yesterday as promised. This idiot did not have his mobile data switched on. A)
Carin Malan, Ilse Bigalke, Chris Cheetham and I again participate in BirdLife South Africa's BIRDING BIG DAY by visiting some of the top birding destinations in the beautiful Cape Whale Coast region. We have a title to defend, because last year we recorded the most endemic species nationally and would love to repeat this achievement. We participate in the national BirdLasser category and it is very stimulating following the progress of some of the other teams. Amazing how blessed teams in the north of the country are as several of them are approaching 300 species recorded on the day.
We start at 04h00 and drive to WITKRANS in the Uilenkraal's Valley. The river was unfortunately merely a trickle – probably explaining why we did not hear the haunting call of the BUFF-SPOTTED FLUFFTAIL this time around. We do however quickly pick up the calls of BURCHELL'S COUCAL, BLUE-MANTLED CRESTED-FLYCATCHER, AFRICAN PARADISE FLYCATCHER, TAMBOURINE DOVE and FIERY-NECKED NIGHTJAR. As the light improves we find AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER and CAPE BATIS and most excitingly the calls of OLIVE BUSHSHRIKE (confirmed with the app) and the single ‘skree’ call of KNYSNA WOODPECKER. Strangely enough we did not get the two common woodies.
We also take a hike along the Fynbos dominated surrounds of the well-wooded area and add the BOKMAKIERIE, DIEDERIK CUCKOO, CAPE GRASSBIRD, CAPE BULBUL, YELLOW BISHOP, KAROO PRINIA, CAPE SISKIN, CAPE SUGARBIRD, as well as several swallows, swifts and martins. The best sightings however are the LESSER HONEYGUIDE that Carin picks up, but then two STREAKY-HEADED SEEDEATERS feeding a KLAAS’S CUCKOO fledgling! We reach our target of 50 species at Witkrans, again illustrating that this spot must certainly count as one of the most underrated birding areas along the entire Cape Whale Coast.
The small sewage works outside FRANSKRAAL is now very overgrown with exotics and we only add WATER THICK-KNEE. At the UILENKRAAL ESTUARY we add CASPIAN, COMMON, SANDWICH and SWIFT TERNS, together with AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER and WHITE-FRONTED PLOVER. The waders are out in force as we find species such as COMMON RINGED PLOVER, GREY PLOVER, COMMON SANDPIPERS, LITTLE STINT, WHIMBREL and several others. GIANT and PIED KINGFISHERS are also active and vast numbers of CAPE CORMORANTS pass by out to sea. We reach an impressive 100 species before 08h00. KLEINBAAI and the DANGER POINT PENINSULA produce the usual gulls, CROWNED CORMORANT and RUDDY TURNSTONE.
From here we drive to STANFORD. WILLEM APPEL SE DAM is surprisingly quite. No BLACK CRAKE, WHITE-FACED or WHITE-BACKED DUCKS which one would expect to find on any given day. We do however add species such as AFRICAN DARTER, MALACHITE KINGFISHER, AFRICAN REED-WARBLER, AFRICAN PURPLE SWAMPHEN, LESSER SWAMP-WARBLER and LITTLE RUSH-WARBLER. The KLEIN RIVER ESTUARY only produces good numbers of GREAT CRESTED GREBES.
We pop into FERNKLOOF NATURE RESERVE to add ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD and find the GREY-HEADED GULL at GEARING’S POINT. The VERMONT SALT PAN again comes up trumps as we are able to add PIED AVOCET, LEVAILLANT'S CISTICOLA, many young GREATER FLAMINGOS, BLACK-WINGED STILT and pairs of CAPE SPURFOWLS with lots of chicks. The rufous-phased BLACK SPARROWHAWK fledgling is also still present in the blue gums.
From here we are off to the HAWSTON SEWAGE WORKS where we are able to add HOTTENTOT and RED-BILLED TEALS and ALPINE and AFRICAN BLACK SWIFTS. The FISHERHAVEN SLIPWAY again produces the BLACK-NECKED GREBES and we are very surprised to find both AFRICAN and LONG-BILLED PIPITS close to houses in Fisherhaven as such.
The KARWYDERSKRAAL and SWARTRIVIER ROAD really deliver on LBJ's as we get CLOUD, GREY-BACKED and ZITTING CISTICOLAS, LARGE-BILLED and RED-CAPPED LARKS, PLAIN-BACKED PIPIT, AFRICAN STONECHAT and CAPPED WHEATEAR. The CAPE CLAPPER LARK stands out as the highlight along these roads. As is to be expected we find large numbers of BLUE CRANES, all three crows and STEPPE BUZZARDS. We reach Gabrielskloof at 12h00 and are on 150 species, an hour earlier than our previous best and our confidence is sky high – maybe we are in with a chance of reaching 200 species on the day, an almost impossible target for our region.
We now move on to the ROOISAND NATURE RESERVE, but our efforts for the day unfortunately hit the wall, or should I say a gale-force south-westerly wind. Conditions are terrible and we only manage to get a few extra species such as GREAT EGRET, GLOSSY IBIS, BANDED MARTIN, CURLEW SANDPIPER and AFRICAN SPOONBILL. We are now seriously contemplating packing it in, but the ever competitive Chris reckons that Team Rock-jumper can’t go back home without our bird. So we’re off the ROOIELS site where conditions are now ridiculous. I now know that birders are not well in the head as trying to bird with such high winds is simply crazy. (In Betty's Bay we located the CAPE ROCK-THRUSH). Despite the conditions we are able to again see what a wonderful birding site Rooiels is. How is this for species added: FAMILIAR CHAT, CAPE BUNTING, SENTINAL ROCK-THRUSH, GROUND WOODPECKER and wait for it ………… the magnificent CAPE ROCK-JUMPER. Little wonder that this is BirdLife Overberg’s logo bird.
On our way back home we pop into STONY POINT to get AFRICAN PENGUIN and BANK CORMORANT and we get AFRICAN FISH-EAGLE at its favourite perch along the Bot River estuary. We are very pleased with the 168 species that we find on the day, even though we are well down on last year’s count. To record 150 species in the first 8 hours, but then only 18 species in the next 5 hours must certainly be some kind of bizarre world record! Our day did however again illustrate the brilliant birding available along the Cape Whale Coast. Keep in mind that Cape Whale Coast birdfinder web page gives detailed descriptions of birding opportunities in the region. Visit:
My sincere appreciation goes to Carin, Ilse and Chris for sharing this wonderful experience, and particularly to Carin for doing the driving.
And the big dippers? Species that we found regularly on previous BBD trips, but not this year include Denham’s Bustard, Long-billed Crombec, Spotted Flycatcher, Brown-backed Honeybird, Greater Honeyguide, Black-shouldered Kite, Piet-my-Vrou, Ruff, White Stork, Southern Tchagra and Victorin's Warbler.
We are awaiting reports from the other BirdLife Overberg teams that participated in our quarterly global big birding count and will post these as it is received. Elaine and Helé also managed a highly successful coastal cleanup at the Hoek van de Berg Nature Reserve, and this will also be reported on.
(Most of the images herewith were taken previously and will probably be replaced as we start working through yesterday’s photographs).