Trip Report on Napier Gravel Roads – 14 November 2020
Posted on the 15th November 2020
On Saturday 14 November 2020 members of BirdLife Overberg had a trip out to Napier to sample the birds that the gravel roads and recently harvested fields had to offer.
This type of trip differs from the conventional “drive to a location and get out and walk around” to try and spot the birds, in as much that it has to be done in car convey and the two way radios issued to each vehicle are invaluable in allowing different people to alert the others to sightings as you drive slowly around.
Some people had driven across from the Hermanus region and others from Cape Agulhas and by the time we all met up in Napier at 8am a healthy list of birds had been started, these included, Cape Sugarbird, Red-knobbed Coot, Yellow-billed Duck, Southern Fiscals and flycatchers. Both Yellow-billed kite and Jackal and Common Buzzard were also ticked off by the travelling members….a good start.
So all assembled and it was off along Station Road, Napier towards the Klipdale gravel road turning, we had hardly gone 4km before we had a fantastic sighting of a dark morph Booted Eagle, this is the first sighting of the dark morph seen around here as normally the pale is the prominent species.
Turning off the tar onto the dirt we stopped at a little bridge to tick off Sothern Red Bishops, Greater-striped & White throated swallows, plus a great little find of a pair of African Reed Warblers.
Immature Greater Striped Swallow (Johan)
White-throated Swallow (Johan)
No more that a kilometre up the road and we had Red-capped & Large-billed larks in the bag, along with African Pipits and Capped Wheatears. Cape Crows were seen on the poles and the call of a Cloud Cisticola could be clearly heard.
This gravel road is littered with small ponds or dams and stopping and checking them out was great fun as it yielded great birds such as Karoo Scrub Robin, Karoo Prinia, Three-banded Plover, Cape Bunting and African Stonechats.
As we continued slowly along Barn Swallows, Alpine, Little and White-rumped swifts were spotted, Cape Sparrows and Grey-backed Cisticola were seen on the low wires and Grey-winged Francolins scurrying about were spotted.
Turning up the Rietpoel road both Egyptian and Spur-winged geese were seen on the larger dams and Namaqua Doves strolled around the road completely unfased by the cars. Both Cape and Yellow canaries were out in force and our national bird the Blue Crane put in an appearance at times.
Namaqua Dove (Steve)
Blue Crane (Johan)
Now we come to some great sightings……
We pulled up opposite a small copse of blue gums and opened up the coffee and sandwiches and were treated to a family of Black-winged Kites going about their daily business in and around the trees. We had the two adults and three juveniles sitting watching us watch them, and then we had a great spectacle of an adult hunting low of the renosterveld and catching a mouse. It flew back to the tree and sat and devoured it itself, flatly refusing to share with its kids who could be heard screaming their interest…
Moving on not more that 2km a pair of African Fish Eagles were spotted sitting in the trees….again they were contented to allow us to watch and photograph them without moving away.
Back on the move again and we soon picked up Levaillant’s Cisticola, Familiar Chat and even a Pin-tailed Whydah on the low wires, along with a brief sighting of the iconic Agulhas Long-billed Lark scurrying along the verge.
Common Buzzard (Steve)
Booted Eagle (Steve)
So nearly back to Napier now and as we travelled along the last dirt road a dark raptor came over the fields and landed on a pole in front of us and began tearing at a small bird it had in its talons…..another dark-morph Booted Eagle (or maybe the same one as earlier) but anyway another fantastic find…
And there was just time to pick up Kittlitz’s Plover and Crowned Lapwing in the open fields before we called it a day.
So we all said our goodbyes and that was it…..except it wasn’t. Lester decided to go back via the Sandy Glen road and had great sightings of Black Cuckoo, Striped Flufftail and a Burchell’s Coucal, add that to the three cuckoos I recorded in Napier later that day (Diederick, Klaas’s and the very noisy Red-chested one) …and what a great day was had ……over 100 different species recorded, the weather played nice and the birds obliged!
Our appreciation to Johan van der Westhuizen for logging the bird recorded on BirdLasser.