Posted on the 27th November 2018

Members of BirdLife Overberg and a variety of other birders participated in BirdLife South Africa’s annual Birding Big Day on Saturday 24 November 2018. As usual it also formed part of BirdLife Overberg’s quarterly Big Bird Count. Teams of birdwatchers birding in their “home patches” contributed from several areas of the Overberg and interest grew as people started giving feedback through the various media. 

I travelled with Keith and Barbara Baughan and Emmie Ackerman and Chris Faure followed us in another vehicle. Deon Steenkamp also joined us for a short while. Our beat took us along the Vermont salt pan, the Onrus River estuary, Harderbaai, the Hawston sewage works, Meer-en-See, the Botvlei area along Fisherhaven and the Karwyderskraal road. I started with coffee on a beautiful morning and birded around the house at Onrus and was able to quickly pick up on the usual suspects such as the CAPE SUGARBIRD, OLIVE THRUST and the common doves and sparrows. I also heard the SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL and SPOTTED THICK-KNEE calling in the distance.

Early morning at Kleinmond estuary
And later (Both by Carin Malan)










We got together at 06:00. The VERMONT SALT PAN produced the PIED AVOCET, BLACK-WINGED STILT, REED and WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANTS and GREY HERON. Both flamingo species were on view in good numbers and several BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS caused a stir. An AFRICAN GOSHAWK patrolled the skies for most of the time that we were there. Around the edges of the pan species such as the LEVAILLANT'S CISTICOLA, FISCAL FLYCATCHER, KAROO PRINIA, CAPE SPURFOWL and MALACHITE SUNBIRD were seen. The calls of the BAR-THROATED APALIS, SOMBRE GREENBUL, LITTLE RUSH-WARBLER and LESSER SWAMP-WARBLER, as well as AFRICAN PARADISE-FLYCATCHER added to our growing list. We reached 50 species before we left the pan. 

Cape Teal and young (Steve Peck)
Cape Batis (Riaan Jacobs)








We then stopped at the ONRUS LAGOON where the reeds had unfortunately taken over dramatically – only a small patch of water was visible and only a RED-KNOBBED COOT and YELLOW-BILLED DUCK were added. The continual call of a BURCHALL’S COUCAL was however very exciting. At HARDERBAAI the three terns and the common cormorants were on view, together with the LITTLE EGRET, several WHIMBRELS and of course the bird of the year. This left us on 65 species logged by the time we left Onrus! Birding is actually excellent in Onrus and Vermont.

The Hawston sewage works is now very well manicured and clean. Well done to the contractors, even though it does not offer much safe habitats for birds anymore. The highlights here were several HOTTENTOT TEALS and NAMAQUA DOVES, the latter staging a flypast. Interesting that four of the Kleinmond horses and two foals were inside the works and the manager told us that they had been there for some time already – lots of good grass one must assume. There were vast numbers of BARN SWALLOWS along the access road to Meer-en-See. We express our sincere appreciation to Nida Potgieter for organising entrance for us. The water levels are extremely high along the Botvlei at the moment leaving very little forage space for waders. With some very hard work we were able to add COMMON GREENSHANK, GLOSSY IBIS, GREAT WHITE PELICAN (in the distance), COMMON RINGED, KITTLITZ’S and WHITE-FRONTED PLOVERS and MARSH SANDPIPER. We enjoyed something to eat here.

Namaqua Dove - (Riaan)
Black-winged Stilt - (Steve)









We then moved onto the Karwyderskraal road and travelled via the shores of Botvlei at Fisherhaven. This did not produce much as we only started picking up on some SOUTHERN RED BISHOPS, and at the slipway area we found both BLACK-NECKED and GREAT CRESTED GREBES. At this point news started filtering through on the WhatsApp group of real rippers picked up by Carin’s team: Our very own CAPE ROCK-JUMPER of course, but wait for it ….… brilliant images of both VICTORIN’S WARBLER and BLUE-MANTLED CRESTED FLYCATCHER!!!!!!!!!!!

Victorins Warbler - (Duncan Butchart)
Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher - (Duncan)









The Karwyderskraal road section produced droves of SPUR-WINGED GEESE, BLUE CRANES and AFRICAN STONECHATS. We really worked hard to get the Maribou Stork that has been around this area for some months now, but with no luck. There were good numbers of STEPPE BUZZARDS around and a FOREST BUZZARD created much excitement. A quartering bird of prey caused a lot of debate, but we eventually figured that it was an immature BLACK HARRIER. Temperatures were now soaring into the lower 30s and we expressed concern about the dramatic drop in water levels at most of the dams and along the Bot River. None of the usual waterbirds were on view. We did hear AFRICAN FISH-EAGLES calling at the metal bridge however. We still had time on our hands and decided to go to Gabriëlskloof Wine Estate for a beer and took on the Swartrivier road.
As can be expected this road delivered on common LBJs such as LARGE-BILLED and RED-CAPPED LARKS, AFRICAN and PLAIN-BACKED PIPITS and CAPPED WHEATEAR. A magnificent JACKAL BUZZARD was also found, but surprisingly no Back-shouldered Kite. In the end we managed to log 106 species in six hours which I thought was not too shabby – once again great Overberg birding!

At Rooisand - (Carin)
At Napier with chicks - (Steve)









Elaine Odendal and Helé Oosthuizen had a commitment of a difference and took the children of the Zwelihle Recycle Swop Shop who had assisted us so well with our monthly coastal cleanups to the Stony Point penguin colony as a Xmas treat. The transport and eats and drinks were sponsored through the sales of Waddle On Penguin socks throughout the year. The kids had a blast especially being exposed to binoculars for the first time. Many, many thanks for exposing these kids to the outside world girls and for the wonderful monthly coastal cleanup efforts this year. Birding was not part of their mission, but they managed to add BANK CORMORANT, AFRICAN PENGUIN and RED-WINGED STARLING to our list of species.

Picnic at Stony Point - (Carin)
My 1st view through binoculars - (Hele Oosthuizen)

















The first report in was that of Dr Odette Curtis-Scott and her husband Michael and John Barrow who only spent a few hours birding in and around Napier. They did however manage to add great species to our growing cumulative list that included ACACIA PIED BARBET, BOKMAKIERIE, DIEDERIK, KLAAS’S and RED-CHESTED CUCKOOS and STREAKY-HEADED SEEDEATER. This took us to an impressive 123 species. 

The first list in on Sunday morning came from Team Rock-jumper that consisted of Carin Malan, Carl Swart, Duncan Butchart and Peter Theron. They worked in the area between the Swartrivier road and Rooiels. Besides the rippers mentioned earlier they were able were able to contribute a very impressive list of species on the day. They added beauties such as DENHAM’S BUSTARD, INTERMEDIATE EGRET, PEREGRINE FALCON, AFRICAN MARSH HARRIER, CAPE ROCK THRUSH, WHITE STORK, ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD, ALPINE SWIFT, and most impressively SAND MARTIN. This took our list up to 148 on the day.
Then followed the report from Napier Birding – Steve and Lee Peck, Steve Bailie, Cornel Bester and Christine Oosthuizen really produced the goods and a few of their additions included TAMBOURINE DOVE, AGULHAS LONG-BILLED and CAPE CLAPPER LARKS, CAPE LONGCLAW, KAROO SCRUB-ROBIN and COMMON QUAIL. Birds of prey were BOOTED EAGLE, LANNER FALCON, BLACK-SHOULDERED KITE, BARN OWL, SECRETARYBIRD (the BLSA bird of the year for 2019) and BLACK SPARROWHAWK. This took our cumulative total to 165 species. 

Bird of the Year 2018 - (Riaan)
Bird of the year 2019 - (Cornel Bester)










Riaan Jacobs and Christo Wessels operated in the greater Gansbaai region and visited sites such as Witkrans, Baardskeerdersbos, the Uilenkraals estuary and the coastal strip between De Damme and Danger Point. Some of the special birds seen by them included WHITE-FACED DUCK, VERREAUX’S EAGLE, CASPIAN TERN, RUDDY TURNSTONE AND KNYSNA WOODPECKER. To crown it all they managed to get images and a sound recording of a BLACK CUCKOO that is still regarded as very rare in our area – we predict a busy summer for the local Southern Boubous. We were now up to 178 species on our cumulative count. 

Capped Wheatear - (Steve)
(Large-billed Lark - (Riaan)









Three teams working in the Agulhas Plains region also submitted lists and these kept our growing list ticking over. The Agulhas Long Pilled Clarks contributed great species that included LONG-BILLED CROMBEC, FIERY-NECKED NIGHTJAR, SOUTHERN TCHAGRA, DAMARA TERN and WHISKERED TERN. The Nuwejaars Birders added MARTIAL EAGLE, GREY-WINGED FRANCOLIN, GREY-HEADED GULL, PURPLE HERON, RUFF and AFRICAN SNIPE. The Southern Twits found much of the same, but also brought in COMMON SANDPIPER. All these species took our cumulative total to 198 species.

Searching for Victorins - (Carin)
At Rooiels - (Carl Swart)









We then studied some BBD lists submitted through BirdLasser and gleaned a few interesting species from it: WHITE-BACKED DUCK, BUFF-SPOTTED FLUFFTAIL, AFRICAN OLIVE-PIGEON, CAPE SISKIN, BLACK-CHESTED SNAKE-EAGLE and GROUND WOODPECKER. This took us to 210 species, precisely the same amount recorded during the quarterly BLO Big Bird Count in February 2018. The full list of species seen is available upon request from There are still a few lists outstanding and we are awaiting the list of pelagic species recorded on Saturday by staff members of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust. These will be reported on later.

African Penguins - (Duncan)
Cape Clapper Lark - (Cornel)










So what’s the big deal? Why draft such an extensive report on 210 species seen when there were some teams in other parts of the country that recorded well over 300 species? Well, firstly a rough count of species recorded indicates that 45 of the 210 species are endemic or near-endemic to southern Africa. This high level of endemism certainly confirms the Overberg region’s vast potential as a top bird-watching destination, particularly as far as overseas birders are concerned. 

Secondly, there were several members and other birders who were unable to participate on Saturday and these include people from the towns of Elgin/ Grabouw, Villiersdorp, Greyton, Caledon and Swellendam, as well as central Hermanus. To this should be added that we were unable to get birders or staff members to participate in the Bontebok National Park and the De Hoop and Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserves. Species that might have been recorded had these areas been involved could conservatively include the following: Cloud Cisticola, Maccoa Duck, Spotted Flycatcher, Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Brown-backed Honeybird, African Reed Warbler, Sentinel Rock-Thrush, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk and Swee Waxbill. One might even have dreamt of finding rippers such as Forest Canary, African Crowned Eagle, Karoo Korhaan, Southern Black Korhaan, Western Osprey, Narina Trogon, Cape Vulture and Olive Woodpecker. 

Cape Sugarbird - (Anton)


Young Black-winged Kite - (Steve)











This exercise once again illustrates the vast bird-watching potential of the Overberg region. We would like to invite all birders who could not participate on Saturday to do so on the next BirdLife Overberg quarterly Bird Bird Count scheduled for Saturday 16 February 2019. Our appreciation goes to everyone who had contributed to the success of Saturday’s counts, as well as for the reports, images, fun and lots of laughs.
27 November 2018.

Swop Shop kids at Stony Point - (Hele)
Cape Spurfowl - (Anton)

















RICHARD MASSON (posted: 2018-12-04 09:16:08)
Well done guys and sorry I missed it
DIANE STEENKAMP (posted: 2018-11-27 20:09:18)
Thanks, glorious write-up, regards Deon and Diane
MICHAEL STOCKER (posted: 2018-11-27 20:07:29)
Wish I was there instead of wet and windy uk
MARIETTE PITLO (posted: 2018-11-27 15:23:49)
What wonderful pics you have shared - your enthusiasm as a birdclub is truly infectious. I cannot wait to be more involved in 2019