OVERVIEW OF BIRDING BIG DAY MOSTLY ALONG THE CAPE WHALE COASTPosted on the 28th November 2017
In May this year members of BirdLife Overberg participated in the Global Big Bird Count and teams of members did counts in various areas of the Overberg. This was so successful that it was decided to do this on a quarterly basis. The exercise was repeated in August and then again on Saturday to coincide with BirdLife South Africa’s Birding Big Day. Several trip reports were received and these can be read on the BirdLife Overberg website. Herewith a summary of some of these reports highlighting the excellent birding potential in the Overberg in general and the Cape Whale Coast region in particular.
|Moulting African Penguins at Stone Point - Jenny Parsons|
Our team started at 04h00 and drove 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. Richard and his team did however find this illusive bird in Stanford. We did 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 improved we found African Dusky Flycatcher and Cape Batis, and most excitingly the call of the Olive Bushshrike (confirmed with the app) and the single ‘skree’ call of Knysna Woodpecker. Richard and his team did later get some photographs of the bird at what looked like a nest site. Strangely enough we did not get the two common woodies.
|Knysna Woodpecker - Richard Masson|
|Red-eyed Dove - Steve Peck|
We also took a hike along the Fynbos dominated surrounds of the well-wooded area and added the Bokmakierie, Diderick Cuckoo, Cape Grassbird, Cape Bulbul, Yellow Bishop, Karoo Prinia, Cape Siskin, Cape Sugarbird, as well as several swallows, swifts and martins. Our best sightings however were the Lesser Honeyguide that Carin picked up, but then two Streaky-headed Seedeaters feeding a Klaas’s Cuckoo fledgling! We reached 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.
At the UILENKRAAL ESTUARY we added Caspian, Common, Sandwich and Swift Terns, together with African Oystercatcher and White-fronted Plover. The waders were out in force as we found species such as Common Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Common Sandpiper, Little Stint, Whimbrel and several others. Giant and Pied Kingfishers were also active and vast numbers of Cape Cormorants passed by out to sea. Note should be taken that spotting scopes are usually needed at this estuary in order to study the birds meaningfully. KLEINBAAI and the DANGER POINT PENINSULA produced the usual gulls, Crowned Cormorants and Ruddy Turnstones.
|African Oystercatchers - Richard Masson|
|Whimbrel - Richard Masson|
Yet another brilliant destination along the Cape Whale Coast to study waterbirds and waders is the ROOISAND NATURE RESERVE along the Bot River estuary. Our team arrived there too late as a gale-force south-westerly wind made birding almost impossible. Duncan and Jenny’s team did however experience brilliant birding at Rooisand earlier in the morning as Jenny’s report illustrates: On the Rooisand road we picked up the Namaqua Doves, Cape Spurfowl and clutch of chicks plus the Crowned Lapwing. The day was certainly starting with a bang! Arriving at the parking lot Carl, Jill and Justin were ticking off the waterbirds at a rapid rate – I really had to concentrate to catch up – Black-winged Stilts, Kelp and Hartlaub’s Gull, Common-ringed and Kittlitz’s Plovers were all at the water’s edge. The juvenile Greater Flamingos In their unusual black and white plummage was a first for me. We headed down the boardwalk and saw yet more…
|Immature Greater Flamingos at Rooisand - Jenny Parsons|
On the little islands were the White-breasted Cormorants, Common Terns, Cape Shovelers and the Common Greenshank were making a noise. The Greater Crested Grebes were bobbing some distance away in the lagoon. Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints were busy on the mudflats. Along the sand path the Barn and White- throated Swallows plus the Brown-throated and Banded Martins were hawking the flying ants (it felt like we were under aerial attack at times!). The Cape Bulbul, Bokmakierie, and Karoo Prinia and fiscals were seen in the thicket on the right. Over the water on the left we were entertained by the hard working Little Swift and Pied Kingfishers diving for breakfast.
At the bird hide – Three Ibis species were present (Hadeda, African Sacred and Glossy). The Spurwing Geese were out in numbers and a few Blue Cranes graced the islands. A Kelp Gull showed us two chicks (very special) and the highlight for all of us was identifying all three Teals – Cape, Red-billed and Hottentot. (Comment: Most of the teams found Hottentot Teals – this is very special as a decade ago this would have been unthinkable in our area. – Ed). Other usual suspects were spotted – Grey Heron, Little Egret, Three-banded Plover, Red-capped Lark, African Spoonbill - who were still fast asleep and we had to wait until they moved their heads before we could give them a positive ID. We met up with Duncan and his daughter in the hide so BirdLife Overberg members were definitely out and about. A highlight was the African Marsh- Harrier who was flying over the dunes. Two Yellow-billed Kites were seen towards the estuary mouth and a Bar-throated Apalis surprised us on our way back to the car park. Leaving Rooisand, a Black-headed Heron did a flyover.
|Sub-adult African Fish-Eagle - Jenny Parsons|
|Black-winged Stilt - Steve Peck|
From here we moved to STANFORD. WILLEM APPEL SE DAM was surprisingly quite. No Black Crake, White-faced or White-backed Ducks which one would expect to find on any given day. We did however add species such as African Darter, Malachite Kingfisher, African Reed-Warbler, African Purple Swamphen, Lesser Swamp-Warbler and Little Rush-Warbler.
Several interesting species were also reported on in and around Hermanus. The KLEIN RIVER ESTUARY produced good numbers of Great Crested Grebes and the Orange-breasted Sunbird was added at the FERNKLOOF NATURE RESERVE. Other parts of town produced African Harrier-Hawk, Grey-headed Gull and Spotted Eagle-Owl. (Thanks for the photograph Paula).
The VERMONT SALT PAN again came 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 was also still present in the blue gums.
From here we were off to the HAWSTON SEWAGE WORKS where we are able to add all three 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.
|Cape Spurfowl chicks - Jenny Parsons|
|Cape Teal - Steve Peck|
Most of the gravel roads along the Overberg Wheatbelt can produce exceptional birding, particularly as far as LBJs are concerned. Two of the teams worked the Klipdale road outside Napier and most of the LBJs of the region were recorded here. The Black Harrier reported by Cornel Bester was a highlight of the day in this area. The village of Napier should also not be under estimated as Steve found Red-chested Cuckoo, Booted Eagle, Amethyst Sunbird, African Paradise Flycatchers, Hamerkop and Black Sparrowhawk on his property.
The KARWYDERSKRAAL and SWARTRIVIER ROADS really delivered on LBJ's as we got Cloud, Grey-backed, Levaillant’s and Zitting Cisticolas, Large-billed and Red-capped Larks, African, Long-billed and Plain-backed Pipits, African Stonechat and Capped Wheatear. The Cape Clapper Lark stood out as the highlight along these roads. As was to be expected we found large numbers of Blue Cranes, all three crows and Steppe Buzzards.
|Large-billed Lark - Richard Masson|
|Red-capped Lark - Richard Masson|
Two of the flagship birding destinations along the Cape Whale Coast, namely Rooiels and Stony Point brought their unique species composition into play. The famous ROOIELS SITE produced the Cape Bunting, Familiar Chat, Rock Kestrels, White-necked Ravens, Red-winged Starling and the fly-over of the juvenile African Fish-Eagle. The Verreaux’s Eagle was unfortunately not seen on the day. How is this for species added: Cape and Sentinel Rock-Thrushes, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Ground Woodpecker and wait for it ………… the iconic Cape Rock-jumper. Little wonder that this is BirdLife Overberg’s logo bird.
At STONY POINT we could tick the African Penguins (most sporting interesting and scruffy moults!), Bank, Cape and Crowned Cormorants, African Black Oystercatchers and White-fronted Plovers and a variety of terns. Wow!
Interesting that Wim de Klerk found other great birds in the Agulhas region: Eurasian Curlews, Bar-tailed Godwit, Cape Vulture, Common Ostrich and African Rail. The Overberg certainly offers outstanding birding.
|Cape Rock-Thrush - Jenny Parsons|
|Orange-breasted Sunbird - Jenny Parsons|
The combined counts of all the teams took us just over 200 species – a great achievement for the Western Cape. One might ask what we had missed out on during the day. On 4 November Chris and I did a count in my home pentad and added Little Bittern, Lesser Flamingo, Neddicky and Wattled Starling that we did not record on Saturday. Our combined outing with the Somerset West Bird Club on 18 November further produced Denham’s Bustard, Forest Buzzard, Cape Longclaw, Western Osprey and Black-crowned Night-Heron. Birds recorded on the previous two Birding Big Days, but not this year include Long-billed Crombec, Spotted Flycatcher, Brown-backed Honeybird, Greater Honeyguide, Ruff, White Stork, Southern Tchagra and Victorin's Warbler. Just imagine ……..
Our day clearly illustrated the brilliant birding available along the Cape Whale Coast, and other parts of the Overberg. Keep in mind that Cape Whale Coast birdfinder web page gives detailed descriptions of birding opportunities in the region. Visit:
|Booted Eagle - Steve Peck|
|Steppe Buzzard - Steve Peck|
My sincere appreciation goes to all the teams who had participated and forwarded lovely reports and many outstanding photographs. This was however not all: On Saturday Elaine and Helé and 26 volunteers also participated in a coastal cleanup at the Hoek van de Berg Nature Reserve. We will report on this later.
Our next quarterly Big Bird Count will be on Saturday 24 February 2018 – let’s see if we can get even more teams into the field on that day.
|Ground Woodpecker - Anton|
|Cape Rock-jumper - Anton|