Posted on the 30th December 2020

Members of BirdLife Overberg started recording birds seen in their gardens during the initial level 5 COVID19 lockdown period in April. This proved to be very enjoyable, entertaining and interesting, with the result that these monthly counts were extended to wider areas in the Overberg as the travelling restrictions were eased. It was very interesting to see how the number of species recorded increased as the weather improved and more and more birders started participating. This culminated in a remarkable 285 species being recorded in the Overberg region during the month of December 2020. At least 59 of the birds recorded are endemic or near-endemic to southern Africa and therefore hugely sought-after in the birding tourism industry. A brief overview of some of the species recorded is provided herewith, together with a link to the list of species, as well as a link to a site where most of the top birding destinations in the region are described.

A few Cape Cormorants at Onrus - Anton Odendal
Common Greenshank - Carin Malan









We are firstly compelled to report on some sightings of vagrant birds not often seen in the Overberg. These included the BLUE-CHEEKED BEE-EATER at Rooisand and Waschkraalvlei in the Nuwejaars wetland, BLACK CUCKOO at Swellendam, EURASIAN GOLDEN ORIOLE at De Hoop and Rooisand, EUROPEAN ROLLER at Malgas and a GARDEN WARBLER at Harold Porter. Up there in the skies our collaborators reported the SAND MARTIN at Rooisand, LESSER STRIPED SWALLOW at De Hoop and COMMON SWIFT at Hermanus, the latter only visiting our region in summer months after good winter rains. Three outstanding raptors reported were the EUROPEAN HONEY BUZZARD along the Swartrivier road, the LONG-CRESTED EAGLE near Swellendam and the EURASIAN HOBBY at Rooisand. Several of our top sites for waterbirds also did not disappoint with sightings of the GREAT EGRET at Stanford, SQUACCO HERON at Soetendalsvlei and LESSER SAND PLOVER at Rooisand certainly worth a mention.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater at Rooisand
Lesser Sand Plover - Lester van Groeningen (2)









The majority of waders that one would normally expect to find in our region during summer were also found and species to take note of included the EURASIAN CURLEW, BAR-TAILED GODWIT, RED KNOT, COMMON RINGED and GREY PLOVERS and TEREK and WOOD SANDPIPERS. Other popular summer migrants were the AFRICAN PARADISE FLYCATCHER, SPOTTED FLYCATCHER, BLACK SAW-WING, HORUS SWIFT and WILLOW WARBLER. Needless to say sightings of WESTERN OSPREYS, especially one flying past with a catch caused huge excitement. Two hugely sought-after resident species noted were the INTERMEDIATE (YELLOW-BILLED) EGRET and DAMARA TERN.

Terek Sandpiper at Rooisand - Carin Malan
Whimbrel & Eurasian Curlew - Pieter Verster









Several participants visited the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve near Swellendam and some special species associated with forest habitats were added to our list. These were the TERRESTRIAL BROWNBUL, FOREST CANARY, both BLACK and GREY CUCKOOSHRIKES, BUFF-SPOTTED FLUFFTAIL, OLIVE BUSH SHRIKE, KNYSNA WARBLER and YELLOW-THROATED WOODLAND WARBLER. One would normally expect to find such species along the Garden Route at sites like Nature’s Valley and it is great to know that these can be found in such close proximity of Cape Town and Hermanus. Other noteworthy specials found in thickets and well-wooded areas were the BLUE-MANTLED CRESTED FLYCATCHER, BROWN-BACKED HONEYBIRD, SOUTHERN TCHAGRA and KNYSNA and OLIVE WOODPECKERS.

Knysna Woodpecker - Riaan Jacobs
Forest Canary - Steve Peck









Swee Waxbills - Richard Masson









Birding along the Overberg Wheatbelt gravel roads again proved to be very popular with the majority of LBJs to be expected noted. Pairs of BLUE CRANES with chicks stole the show and many participants sent in brilliant photographs or posted it on social media. Two species that impressed visitors were the KAROO KORHAAN and CAPE CLAPPER LARK and cracking raptors reported were the BLACK HARRIER, AFRICAN GRASS OWL, SECRETARYBIRD and CAPE VULTURE! BOOTED, MARTIAL and VERREAUX’S EAGLES were also reported from other habitat types. Bird-watching along Rotary Drive at Hermanus should also be taken note of – this site is gradually developing the reputation that it could be as good as the famous Rooiels site. Top species recorded (and photographed) here included the GREY-BACKED CISTICOLA, CAPE ROCK-JUMPER, CAPE and SENTINEL ROCK-THRUSHES and GROUND WOODPECKER, several of them actively provisioning food to chicks. 

Blue Crane Family - Steve Peck
Sentinel Rock Thrush - Duncan Butchart











Birders from overseas and provinces in the interior and the north of our country are however always looking for the endemic specials that our region has to offer. The so-called “Fynbos endemics” recorded in the Overberg during December were the FYNBOS (aka HOTTENTOT) BUTTONQUAIL, AGULHAS LONG-BILLED LARK, SOUTHERN BLACK KORHAAN, CAPE ROCK-JUMPER, CAPE SISKIN, CAPE SUGARBIRD, ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD and VICTORIN'S WARBLER. Endemic species associated with the cold Benguela current should be added to this description as sightings of the BANK, CAPE and CROWNED CORMORANTS, CAPE GANNET and AFRICAN PENGUIN are always in demand. Many reports and sets of images of AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER and WHITE-FRONTED PLOVERS breeding or looking after chicks were received and we thank all the volunteers who are assisting us with the protection of these breeding sites along our shores. A separate report on progress with BirdLife Overberg’s CleanMarine campaign will follow towards the end of summer.

Male Cape Rock-jumper - James Luckhoff
Paula's Marine Hotel coastal owls - Paula Combrink










Cape Town has always been regarded as the top destination for pelagic birding. Wilfred Chivell and Hennie Otto of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust have recently started offering cruises from Kleinbaai and some of our members and collaborators were delighted with what they had experienced this time around. An amazing five albatross species were encountered: ATLANTIC and INDIAN YELLOW-NOSED, BLACK-BROWED, NORTHERN ROYAL and SHY ALBATROSSES. No less than six different petrel species, together with CORY’S, GREAT, MANX and SOOTY SHEARWATERS were logged on the day. Some of the other species recorded were the SABINE’S GULL, PARASITIC JAEGER, BROWN and POMERINE SKUAS, EUROPEAN and WILSON’S STORM PETRELS and ARCTIC TERN. These pelagic cruises with DICT are certainly one of the brightest feathers in the Overberg’s impressive birding cap.

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross
Shy Albatrosses - Lester van Groeningen (2)









This brief overview of some of the species recorded by our members and collaborators clearly illustrates the vast potential of the Overberg region as a top birding destination. The complete list of the 285 species recorded during the month of December, together of the name of the birders and locality where it was seen for the first time during the month can be viewed at this link:

We would like to express our sincere appreciation to everyone who had contributed to this fun and very entertaining effort. Several requests regarding the continuation of these monthly counts are being received and we will do so, possibly on a permanent basis. So, let us start all over on New Year’s Day. All birders in the region are encouraged to inform Anton at or WhatsApp at 082 550 3347 of species encountered.
31 December 2020
Details of all the top birding destinations along the Cape Whale Coast can be viewed at this link:

It is hoped that similar extensive bird finder web pages for the Theewaterskloof, Swellendam and Cape Agulhas local municipal regions will be developed in future.

Greater Flamingos - Johan van der Westhuizen
Female Cape Rock-jumper - James Luckhoff












The iconic Cape Rock-jumper: The BirdLife Overberg logo-bird and the BirdLife South Africa Bird of the Year 2021 - Image by James Luckhoff
















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