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GLOBAL BIG BIRD COUNT REPORT PART 1: FROM ONRUS TO ROOIELS

Posted on the 8th May 2019

(Report by Jenny Parsons, Aiden van Heerden and Anton Odendal).

Members of BirdLife Overberg again participated in our quarterly Global Big Day count co-ordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this Saturday (4 May 2019) as part of the annual global day count. Teams of members birding in their “home patches” contributed from several areas of the Overberg. We can obviously not mention all species seen by teams, or even all the species seen on the day. Therefore only a few special species seen by each group are added on. The overall list is available from us upon request. The report is loaded in two parts as there is simply too much information for one report.

I unfortunately had one of my bad health days and had to cancel the members wanting to join me around the Onrus, Vermont and Karwyderskraal loop roads. I only went out for an hour or so each time and then returned home. Harderbaai at Onrus was first on the list and I found the usual gulls and cormorants, as well as African Black Oystercatchers and Swift Terns. It is always interesting that vast numbers of Cattle and Little Egrets and African Sacred Ibises congregate here in winter months, being just about absent in summer. One assumes that they benefit from the “Rice Crispies” feeding on the kelp that get washed ashore during winter storms. At the Onrus Lagoon I added species such as African Darter, Lesser Swamp-Warbler and Little Grebe. 

Laughing Doves - Jenny
Helmeted Guineafowl - Jenny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later on the Vermont salt pan still had very little water and birding was fairly disappointing. There were many Greater Flamingos on show, together with Blacksmith Lapwing, Black-winged Stilt and Cape Teals with six ducklings. Surprisingly there were no plovers to be seen. Around the edges of the pan species such as the Cape Bulbul, Cape Canary, Cape Spurfowl, Sombre Greenbul and Common Waxbill were added. The highlight of my morning was certainly the action at the lookout point along the coast at Bitou Road in Vermont. There was an amazing swell and there were lots of pelagic species out on the sea with Cape Gannets being very prominent. Amazingly several White-chinned Petrels and a single Southern Giant Petrel came close enough to shore for me to positively identify them with binoculars. See Jenny’s similar experiences at Stony Point later on in this report. The count at Onrus and Vermont again left me on just over 50 species – similar to the counts during May in the previous two years. 

Later on in the afternoon the Karwyderskraal section produced birds such as the Brimstone Canary, Cape Crow, Red-capped Lark, Crowned Lapwing and five Denham’s Bustards. The Swartrivier road had all the cisticolas, Blue Crane, Large-billed Lark and two of the pipits. I ended up with 104 species, very similar to previous years.

Carin Malan spent a few hours birding around the Arabella Estate and added good species such as White-faced Whistling Duck, Spotted Eagle-Owl, African Fish-Eagle, Cape Grassbird, African Spoonbill and Cape Sugarbird. She was however most excited about a chameleon that she found close to her home!

Capped Wheatear
Denham's Bustards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jenny Parsons then sent in her report and images and I decided to publish it as such as it brilliantly illustrates the birding potential of Betty’s Bay, Pringle Bay and Rooiels:
“I approached the day with a walk around the Hangklip Lighthouse Peninsula so that I could bird and walk the mutts. Kelp Gulls were hunkered down on the beach, while pairs of both African Black Oystercatchers and White-fronted Plovers were wondering along the wash. Overhead flew a few Swift Terns and a squadron of Cape Cormorants hugged the space above the waves as they headed west. Hadeda’s and Sacred Ibis were on the rocks near the lighthouse as were White-breasted and Crowned Cormorants. A Grey Heron and a Little Egret were seen on the stretch towards the slipway. As we walked back to the car a Cape Grassbird sang his beautiful song and the Cape Bulbuls were busy in the Osteospermum moniliferium (Tickberry) bushes. Driving home the Cape Spurfowls wondered along the dirt road and the local baboon troop caused a road block and of course the dogs went berserk!

I then headed off to what was promising to be quite a windy outing at Rooiels. Arriving at 10h00 the mountain shadows were still receding, but the nip in the air was biting. This was not looking too promising. I was greeted near the gate by Karoo Prinia’s, Cape Buntings and Familiar Chats. After that I walked all the way to the patch of green fynbos before I saw another bird! An Orange-breasted Sunbird was happily drinking nectar from the white Protea repens (Sugarbush). I really thought that the Cape Siskins would be enjoying all the flowering yellow Othenna parviflora (Bobbejaankool)?

Orange-breasted Sunbird - Jenny
Familiar Chat in typical Rooiels Fynbos - Jenny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to sit on my favourite rock near the paved driveway and just enjoy the peacefulness. The wind was fresh but when the birds are scarce, I often turn to the fynbos to soothe my soul. So, I distracted myself with some flower photography and identification, when suddenly I heard the Cape Rockjumper’s distant call – they were visible through binoculars high up the slope. I also found some Cape Siskins after all, they were enjoying the yellow flowers! A solitary Grey-backed Cisticola also showed himself. I then made my way back to the car, dipping on the Ground Woodpeckers but did see two Cape Rock-Thrush and Cape Sugarbirds in the gardens and a Cape Robin-Chat on the telephone wire. Not a bad day for Rooiels after all…

I decided to have a quick look at Rooiels beach as the last few times driving past, I have seen quite a large group of terns and gulls there. So, from the road I was able to see Common and Swift Terns amongst the Kelp and Hartlaub’s Gulls. Tucked away near the bridge was a Grey Heron and a Little Egret. A Giant Kingfisher was fishing from the rocks.

Rock Kestrel - Jenny
Spotted Thick-knee- Jenny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By now I needed a cup of hot coffee! I decided to give Harold Porter Botanical Gardens a miss and just do Stony Point in Betty’s Bay. While driving White-necked Ravens were seen in the burnt area just outside Pringle Bay and a flock of Red-winged Starlings took off from the side of the road. Several Southern Fiscals were perched on the telephone wires along the way. Driving through Betty’s Bay all the doves were around – Cape Turtle, Laughing and Red-eyed. Cape Weavers were flying over reed beds.
Stony Point was blustery to say the least, but head down I was determined to add a few more birds to my list. The African Penguins always deliver – this time they posed in the sea grass which made for a striking contrast. Four were having a wonderful bath and preened in the sea which was fascinating to watch. There were a couple of juveniles in various stages of moult and I managed to glimpse two eggs that were being incubated. The Kelp Gulls are on the prowl and looking to raid any unguarded eggs. Hartlaub’s Gulls were bobbing on the sea and the Bank Cormorants were regularly flying in with nesting material. A White-breasted Cormorant was drying out on the rocks, wings stretched wide open. All the cormorants were present - Bank, Crowned and White-fronted were sitting on nests and the Cape’s were more restless so to speak. The ever-present Cape Wagtails were busy and Helmeted Guineafowls were spotted in the grass amongst the Penguin shelters. A solitary Egyptian Goose stood sentry on a wall of a house.

The best and most unexpected was still to come! When I got to the end of the wooden walkway I saw a young chap sitting with binoculars in hand and a spotting scope. We got chatting, like “birders” always do and he very kindly pointed out and showed me some fantastic birds blown in on the storm. Pelagics that I thought were only seen far out at sea! So, there were plenty of Cape Gannets and the Subantarctic Skuas were identifiable by their white wing flashes – an unexpected lifer! A White-chinned Petrel flew quite close to the rocks too. While I can’t add the Shy Albatross as I never saw it, Joshua had before I arrived! So, I left Stony Point on a high, promising myself when the next big storm blows in I will go armed with a beanie, arctic clothing, a hipflask of OBS and our scope!

White-breasted Cormorants at nests - Jenny
Cape Cormorants on the move - Jenny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heading home I saw a Rock Kestrel, House Sparrows near Tickle Mouse, a resident pair of Spotted Thick-knees and lots of Speckled Mousebirds along High Level road. I enjoyed a cup of coffee and a late lunch on our deck where the Yellow Bishops were feeding. Late afternoon the Cape White-eyes arrived to feed along with the Southern Grey-headed Sparrows, Cape Bulbuls and weavers. The Southern Double-collared Sunbirds were enjoying my potted aloe flowers and the Malachites were arguing over the nectar bottle. The Speckled Pigeons and Rock Martins roosted on the window sills.

We drove into Somerset as the sun was setting and I saw Blacksmith Lapwings and Pied Crows along the N2. My mission for the day complete, my thoughts now turned towards a delicious food and wine pairing at the iconic Camphor’s Restaurant at Vergelegen Wine Estate!” – Jenny Parsons.

I was however over the moon when I received a report with images from teenager Aiden van Heerden who attended the Flight for Birders course in February. He is being home-schooled and mother Liesl thankfully gave him the task of drafting a report on his day’s birding as part of his homework. Aiden reports:
“Our morning started at our birdfeeder, where we saw most of our old friends: common garden birds such as Cape Weavers (Ploceus Capensis) and Cape Sparrows (Passer melanurus) intermixed with more striking species such as the Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrilda), Brimstone Canary (Serinus Sulphuratus) and the Acacia Pied Barbet (Tricholaemaleucomelas). We were fortunate to spot a juvenile Jackal Buzzard (Buteo rufofscus) perching on a telephone pole behind our house.

The second leg of our birding was at another of our favourite haunts, the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden. We arrived there at eleven and immediately were rewarded by sightings of many garden birds such as the Karoo Prinia (Prinia maculosa) and the seemingly omnipresent Speckled Mousebird (Colius striatus).

Neddicky - Aiden
Cape Siskin - Aiden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were a great many bush dwelling birds in the lower gardens, where the fire did not do any damage. On one of the lawns a small flock of Cape Siskins (Pseudochloroptila totta) landed on the ground in front of us. In the area that has been burned, the bracken and all manner of other ferns have started to carpet the ground, along with splashes of red supplied by Nerina lilies.
In this undergrowth we saw some movement and a brown shape, which at first we thought was a mouse, but was none other than a Neddicky. It was scooting daintily about, even posing cheekily for a photo. As we moved on to the Disa Kloof water fall forest we saw a Cape Batis (Batis Capensis), teasingly flitting from branch to branch and a whole flock of busy Cape White-eyes (Zosterops Capensis) 

On a brief sunset excursion later in the afternoon around Bettys’s Bay, a huge flock of Sacred ibises with five Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta) bringing up the rear, flew overhead in a pink sky, coming in to roost for the night. What a picturesque ending to a rewarding day of birdwatching!” – Aiden van Heerden.

Neria - Aiden
Cape Batis - Aiden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What great reports – thanks to Jenny and Aiden. Note should be taken of the fact that for a variety of reasons we were unable to cover top bird-watching destinations such as the Hawston sewage works, Meer-en-See, the Fisherhaven slipway and the Rooisand Nature Reserve. Just imagine what those spots would have added to our day’s lists. The second report on the day’s birding will follow and will cover the area from Sandbaai in Hermanus to Cape Agulhas.

African Penguins - Jenny
Moulting youngster - Jenny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adult & young - Jenny
Cape Robin-Chat - Jenny

COMMENTS

2492
RUTH BARCLAY (posted: 2019-05-13 12:05:19)
Hi. I know very little about birds, and I would love some insight..... Yesterday afternoon at about 4-5pm I was walking along the seafront at Sandbaai. A column, or migration, or flight of darkish birds began to fly along the coast a short way out to sea from East to West. The extraordinary thing is that these birds flew along in a thickish column for about 5 minutes, which means there must have been literally thousands of them. Does anyone know what they were and what they were doing (unfortunately I didn't have a camera with me.)