Posted on the 9th November 2020

(Pieter and Janelle Verster spent some time over a period of five days atlassing around the Botriviervlei. In the limited time available they were able to record 151 species once again illustrating the vast bird-watching potential of the Cape Whale Coast region. - Ed.)

On the first day we returned from Cape Town and having heard that friends connected with a Western Osprey at Rooisand we decided to stop late in the afternoon to try our luck. We were almost immediately rewarded with an Eurasian Curlew, a bird we have not seen in this part of the world before. My wife Janelle who always also scans the distant skies excitedly called out: “Check there, it is coming this way!” Sure enough it was the osprey – another great bird for the area. With our target in the bag we felt optimistic as we headed towards the sandy lagoon shores closer to the mouth of the lagoon. I picked up a smallish bird with a thick stubby bill. The Greater Sand Plover was confirmed after some help from the experts. Wow, we certainly seemed to be in luck. We also picked up 3 Sanderlings, 5 Bar-tailed Godwits, and then the first twitchers arrived trying to also share in the attractive Rooisand menu. With friends managing to also connect with the main targets we were very pleased to find another great bird in the form of Terek Sandpiper on the way out. We finished day 1 with the card on 38 species. Although it was not many, there were some seriously good birds on the card and we thought maybe to put in some serious effort over the next few days.

Greater Sand Plover. Image by Keith Hamilton

















On day 2 we did no birding due to work commitments. On days 3 to 5 we were limited to birding between 05h00 and 08h00 and 17h00 and 19h30 each day. The morning of day 3 was again spent at Rooisand, trying to help more friends connect with the birds. With the wind down it was easier to hear birds and we added a number of common species including a few good ones such as Ruff and Ruddy Turnstone. Nothing else extraordinary, but the card grew to 62 before we headed back to work.

On the afternoon of day 3 I decided to spend my time on the Fisherhaven side of the lagoon and this took the tally up to 84, before finishing off at Vermont Salt Pan between 18h45 and 19h30. The pan is not to be underestimated and added 14 species to finish day 3 on 98 species. Some highlights included the Black Sparrowhawk, Common Sandpiper, Southern Pochard and Black-crowned Night- Heron.

Ruddy Turnstone. Image by Keith Hamilton

















On day 4 and with 2 days to go and some key areas still to visit things were looking good. The morning was focused around the road towards the municipal dumpsite along the Karwyderskraal road – some good farmland birding albeit on a little busy tar road. We connected with goodies such as Denham’s Bustard, African Stonechat, Zitting Cisticola and few farmland raptors. The dump itself was quite, but we did get African Reed Warbler in the reed beds en-route. The Fisherhaven roadside and lagoon birding never disappoints and Cape Clapper Lark, Spotted Thick-knee, and a good selection of swifts and swallows were added. These included African Black and Alpine swifts. The card was growing rapidly and we finished the morning session on 120 species.

The afternoon of the fourth day was spent around the Hawston neighbourhood and harbour. This area is very good for general birding and we added a number of good species including Crowned Cormorant, Crowned Lapwing and Long-billed Crombec. A late night drive in Vermont added Spotted Eagle-Owl for number 131.

Caspian Tern. Image by Keith Hamilton
















With all areas now covered we decided to do a repeat of the Hawston area, as well as a quick visit to the dumpsite. Hawston delivered again with Diderick Cuckoo, Burchell’s Coucal, Streaky-headed Seedeater, Klaas’s Cuckoo, etc. We signed off the morning session with an African Hoopoe for number 142. With only 3 hours left to try and find 8 more birds we decided to give the Rooisand site one last go in the afternoon. It was a race against time. We were lucky to flush a Common Quail while walking upriver on the grassy trail. We also added the African Fish-Eagle and after some serious scanning a Greater Crested Grebe. We turned around after 1 kilometer and added Cape Longclaw on the way back as number 146. It was now 18h15 and we had 4 birds to go to get to our target of 150 species. We took the long walk to the hide and were delighted to add one of last common waders remaining: A Marsh Sandpiper. We now needed only 3 more species for the big 150 target, but time was seriously running out. We decided to semi run towards the beach, with my wife closer to the side of the vegetation and I searching from the waders on the lagoon edge. We almost shouted at the same moment: She in excitement of having found a Water Thick-knee and my wader scanning finally revealed a Curlew Sandpiper. We were on 149 species with darkness upon us. With the eagle owl in the bag, our only hope now was a nightjar on the way out: And at 19h46 the beautiful call of “Good Lord, deliver us” did not disappoint. A Fiery-necked Nightjar took us to 150 species.

After submitting the card we realized that we forgot to add the Common Ring Plover, leaving us on the official number of 151 species for the 5 days. Also consider that previous records from here included sought-after, even though vagrant species such as White Wagtail, Pectoral Sandpiper, Lesser Crested Tern, Sand Martin, Greater Painted Snipe, Little Ringed Plover, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and European Oystercatcher. This pentad is a beauty and always delivers something interesting with the sheer diversity of species making it an area not to be missed during your next visit to the Overberg region!

Western Osprey. Image by Carin Malan
Common Ringed Plover












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