Posted on the 12th September 2011

Birding at the Voëlvlei Area near Gouritzmond

The area around Albertinia received some very heavy rain during the heavy rains in August and September. In some areas as much as 400mm were recorded! This led to an huge inflow into Voëlvlei which filled overnight and when the culvert below the tar road immediately below the Voëlvlei overflow could not cope with the flow, the road created a dam which caused the water to rise to about a metre above the outlet!

It took about a week for the inflow to drop to a point where the culvert could cope and then the pan dropped down so that the water was just over the top of the overflow. A visit on the 7th September revealed that the small pipes under the causeway at the southern end of Voëlvlei were still flowing at maximum capacity. However, the area around the outflow now has numerous shallows and areas of drying mud.

The area has plenty of birdlife despite the fact that there are still only comparatively few waders. We recorded Common Greenshank, Ruff, Little Stilt, Curlew Sandpiper. There are lots of Black-winged Stilt including full sized juveniles – they must have nested almost immediately after the rains. We saw a number of Pied Avocet feeding in small loose flocks. There were at least 6 Black-necked Grebes and plenty of Little Grebes.

There were lots of ducklings, including Red-billed Teal, Cape Shoveller and Yellow-billed Duck.

The Kittlitz’s Plover and Blacksmith Plovers were nesting along the southern Causeway and visitors are asked not to drive or walk along the raided verges of this causeway as they could destroy nests.

The road over the causeway and around the eastern bank of the pan is a municipal one and may be driven without getting permission, but driving off this requires permission from the land owners who are: Northern End Mr Jannie Zietsman (044 – 699 1040) Western side Mr David Johnston (044 – 699 1041) and Eastern Side Mr Johan Muller (044 – 699 1055).

There are a large number of small pans lying on the open country above Voëlvlei all of which were absolutely full after the heavy rains. Most of these now have more or less emergent vegetation and the birding on these pans is exceptional.

The largest is Langvlei and there were at least 20 Black-necked Grebe in a single flock on 7th September. The very large numbers of Blue Cranes noted at the beginning of August at the top of Langvlei seemed to have dispersed and there was at least one bird sitting on eggs on an island in a dam.

Again most of these pans can be seen from the main roads, particularly the tar road from near Petro SA to Gouritzmond and the gravel road heading north from this road opposite the turn to Vleesbaai. Going up this road there are a couple of large eucalypt trees – if you turn in there the resident of the house will give permission to park off the road where you can view the whole of Langvlei using a scope.

About 1 km north of the left turn to Gouritzmond at Johnson’s Post there is a small pan about 100 m west of the gravel road. Around the pan are some thick bushes and in the bushes are the nests of a colony of Wattled Starling’s – the males are in exceptionally bright breeding plumage. There is also a colony of Cape Weavers.

There are at least two heronries within sight of the PetroSA – Gouritzmond road. Most of the breeding birds are Black-headed Herons, but there are also some Grey Herons.

Peter Ginn


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