BirdLife Overberg’s first official Covid-19 lockdown morning outing on Saturday morning took us along the Swartrivier road and the road along the Sonderend River to Greyton. Members from Kleinmond, Elgin, Somerset West, Agulhas and Stanford joined those of us from Onrus and Hermanus. We restricted the group to three participants per vehicle causing quite a procession – the four radios did help somewhat to facilitate communication.
Levaillant's Cisticola - Johan van der Westhuizen
We wanted to get the African Snipes reported from the old metal bridge recently, but an icy wind was blowing with the result that we were back in the cars quickly. Most of the fields along the Swartrivier road are under wheat and canola at this stage and this mono-culture effect is really not good for birding. There are a few overgrazed or fallow areas and we concentrated on these. We did see many BRIMSTONE and CAPE CANARIES, AFRICAN STONECHATS, LARGE-BILLED and RED-CAPPED LARKS, AFRICAN and PLAIN-BACKED PIPIT, KAROO PRINIA and all four the cisticolas species – the latter rather windswept. Other common species included SOUTHERN RED and YELLOW BISHOPS, FORK-TAILED DRONGO, COMMON FISCAL, FISCAL FLYCATCHER, HELMETED GUINEAFOWL, BLACK-HEADED HERON and ROCK MARTIN. The BLUE CRANES and WHITE-FACED WHISTLING DUCKS were out in good numbers. This again illustrated with wonderful birding potential of the Swartrivier road despite weather not conducive for great birding.
Male African Stonechat
Female Stonechat - Young Aiden van Heerden
We then drove rather rapidly along the N2 and the R43 before turning off to the Helderstroom prison and the road that follows the Sonderend River to Genadendal and Greyton. We spent some time photographing CAPPED WHEATEARS and recorded most of the usual doves, mousebirds and sparrows. Conditions were getting worse and we only recorded some ducks, coots, BLACK CRAKE and GREY HERON along the river. Birds of prey seen included the JACKAL BUZZARD, AFRICAN FISH EAGLE, BLACK HARRIER, AFRICAN HARRIER-HAWK and BLACK-WINGED KITE. We spent some time at a grove of casuarina trees and eventually got the CAPE SISKINS that we always look for at these trees.
The village of Greyton was totally overrun by visitors and strangely enough there was very little, if any parking available in the town. It seems as if everybody was out and about over the long weekend. We even battled to get parking at the nature reserve. The wind was now really pumping and we decided to call it a day and make our own ways home. Young Tristan did however pick up on the call of a CAPE ROCK THRUSH and we eventually found the bird – a great way to end a fairly productive morning’s birding.
In the end we managed to record 87 species that we thought were not too shabby given the conditions. The Overberg wheatfields are however approaching its most beautiful spring splendour and we believe that most of us should get out there whenever the weather seems clear for some excellent birding in one of South Africa’s most beautiful regions.
There is a huge demand for more outings at this stage and outings to at least Napier, De Mond Nature Reserve, the Gansbaai region and Elgin are currently being considered. We should organise outings for every second week from now till the end of the year. Our next morning outing will be Saturday 29 August and details of this will be released shortly.