NOW THAT THE MIGRANTS ARE MOSTLY GONE – CASUAL BIRDING AT ONRUS
Posted on the 28th April 2019
Five of us spent just over two hours birding in the Onrus and Vermont area on Thursday morning. It was a beautiful crisp day and having coffee in the garden it became evident that the seasons have changed. There were no swallows patrolling the skies and the Cape Sugarbirds were suddenly absent in bottlebrushes across the road. They always leave suburbia at this time of year to breed in the Fynbos up in the mountain.
We got together at the entrance gate to the Onrus caravan park and were immediately entertained by an adult African Goshawk calling from a tree. A juvenile joined it causing great excitement. We chatted with the manager and he gave us a copy of their bird list – only 30 species on it with Dusky Sunbird being a strange odd one out. I offered to give them some copies of our identification brochures and to draw up a list species that we have seen over the years. I combined my list with the bird atlas pentad list and found that at least 116 species had been recorded at the caravan park and Harderbaai! We will make this list available shortly.
Adult African Goshawk. Both images by Ben Thompson
Immature African Goshawk
The caravan park is hugely underrated as far as birding is concerned – this obviously does not apply to holiday periods when it is packed. Our casual stroll through the well-wooded area produced species such as Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Batis, Bokmakierie, Southern Boubou, Cape Bulbul, Fiscal Flycatcher, Sombre Greenbul, Karoo Prinia, Cape Robin-Chat, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Weaver and Cape White-eye, amongst several others – note that nine of these are endemics! No Southern Tchagra, Long-billed Crombec, sparrowhawks or woodpeckers this time. We agreed that we should again put together a morning outing to the area ending off with a braai under the milkwoods as we had done regularly some years ago.
Sombre Greenbul - Ben Thompson
We then hiked along the Harderbaai section of the Onrus-Vermont coastal path. A thick mist suddenly moved in from the ocean, but we were still able to see many African Sacred Ibis and Western Cattle and Little Egrets. It is interesting that these three species are just about absent during summer months, but that large numbers congregate here during winter months. I am sure that this is to feed on all the goggos (or Rice Crispies as we call them) that feed on the kelp that wash up on the rocks during winter storms. There were good numbers of the usual Hartlaub's and Kelp Gulls, Cape Cormorant, Swift Terns and several other common species around. Surprisingly many migratory Sandwich Terns were still on show.
African Black Oystercatcher
From here we drove to the Vermont salt pan where for the first time ever there was not a single White-breasted Cormorant to be seen. The same applies to Kittlitz's and Three-banded Plovers. One can only hope that the pan fills up again with good winter rains. We did however record some Egyptian Geese, Grey Herons, Blacksmith Lapwings, Cape Shovelers, Black-winged Stilts and Cape Teals, together with a small group of Greater Flamingos. The vegetation around the pan produced species such as the Levaillant's Cisticola, Karoo Prinia, Little Rush-Warbler, Cape Spurfowl, Lesser Swamp-Warbler and Common Waxbill.
We stopped over at the Onrus lagoon before having coffee at the Milkwood restaurant and added African Darter and a magnificent African Swamphen flying over the water with its typically dangling legs. We also saw African Black Oystercatchers and White-fronted Plovers along Harderbaai when driving back home. To record more than fifty species in two hours of casual birding with most of the migrants already gone clearly indicates the huge birding potential of the Onrus area. Elaine and Helé also saw a few Common Whimbrels and Southern Tchagra on their regular early morning hike along the coastal path on Friday morning and I still saw a few Barn Swallows this afternoon.
27 April 2019.