BIRDING AT MOSSEL BAYPosted on the 20th November 2012
(More images of participants in the course to follow. - Ed.)
We presented the Flight for Birders course at Mossel Bay on 15 and 16 November. The Mossel Bay Local Municipality came on board in a big way by providing the venue for the course and identifying and sponsoring thirteen members of previously disadvantaged communities from rural areas to attend. Our sincere appreciation goes to the municipality's Harry Hills and Edward Jantjies and particularly Suzette van Wyk, who was responsible for all the nuts and bolts to put this huge effort together.
The BirdLife Overberg committee was also able to donate mint copies of SASOL 3, provided by STRUIK NATURE, to the nominated students. These students were initially rather overwhelmed by all the information, but soon settled down and were able to come forward with fascinating stories about their dreams and ideals. A few would like to become tourist guides and others see themselves in nature conservation in future. One was really interesting in that he was able to draw brilliant sketches of a variety of birds from the images that we projected on the screen. We will try our best to get him connected to a local art teacher as he clearly has unlimited potential.
|Some of the students with Elaine, Anton & Suzette van Wyk|
Besides these young people the group was as diverse as one could imagine. The ages of participants ranged from seventeen to ninety-two years, there was a Dutch student and some people came from as far as Heidelberg and Plettenberg Bay. This created really interesting dynamics in the group and sometimes made it very difficult for me to cope with the wide range of questions thrown at me. Some thought provoking themes emerged over the two days.
It soon became evident that people in Mossel Bay deserve a more structured bird club, probably as part of BirdLife South Africa. There is an informal group that participates in outings to local birding hotspots, but several birders on the course indicated that they would be interested in joining a club once this has been formed. We were in contact with Dale Wright, the conservation manager of BirdLife South Africa in the Western Cape, and he indicated that he would be prepared to address a public meeting on this matter sometime in the New Year. We will assist in facilitating such a meeting with local birders.
|One of the groups during the practical session|
Birding destinations in the Mossel Bay local municipal region have not yet received adequate exposure. This is a pity as there is vast potential for the development of a birding tourism infrastructure in the region. This municipal region has in fact been identified as the second highest priority in the province for an area specific birdfinder brochure and similar exposure on www.westerncapebirding.co.za A project proposal in this regard has been developed and we are currently seeking sponsorship for such a project.
There are several good birding destinations in the Mossel Bay local municipal area and we can only highlight a few of these. Encouraging conservation work is being done by the Mossel Bay Environmental Partnership (MEP), and the OYSTERBAY NATURE RESERVE stands out as a prime example of the rehabilitation and environmental educational work being done in the area. Access to the HARTENBOS SEWERAGE WORKS is allowed with permission, and huge numbers of cormorants, ducks, egrets and herons are available here. There are two ponds that are very good for waders in summer. Look out for Little Bittern, African Rail and African Snipe. Comb Duck was also recorded recently and both Whiskered and White-winged Terns are often present.
|Massed Three-banded Plovers|
The rocks on the beach at the lagoon mouth and the rail bridge at LITTLE BRAK are good for waders in summer. The sandbanks along the river are very good for a variety of waterfowl and the area around Mossel Bay is known for its exceptional whale watching between June and October. This section of the Garden Route has not received much attention from the birding fraternity and we were pleasantly surprised with the birding at GREAT BRAK RIVER. Vast numbers of waterfowl are present, and the area along the river is well suited for bird photography. Most of the region’s ducks are on show and White-faced Duck and Cape Teal were particularly numerous when we visited. Kittlitz’s, Three-banded and White-fronted Plovers are well represented, and it is interesting that Purple Heron is often seen here out in the open away from the reed beds. Most of the region’s terns regularly patrol the water courses during summer. Remnant patches of indigenous forests in the village also produced most of the forest species of the region. We were delighted to find species such as Terrestrial Brownbul, African Crowned Eagle, African Goshawk, Chorister Robin-Chat, Knysna Turaco and African Wood-Owl. This area should become another top birding destination and it should be marketed as such.
There are more good birding opportunities inland from Mossel Bay. The Friemersheim loop road is well known for fynbos species, although the dams along this road, where African Jacana and African Snipe can be found, are very good for waterfowl. Birding along the R327 to Van Wyksdorp and Ladismith, and a visit to Herbertsdale and the Hartebeeskuil Dam are strongly recommended. LITTLE STONE COTTAGE is reached off the Robinson Pass along the R328 and is regarded as one of the best sites in the region for forest species.
Both VOËLVLEI and LANGVLEI along the road between the N2 and GOURITSMOND have become known as of the best sites in the Southern Cape to look for resident waterfowl and migratory waders. These destinations are on private land. Please comply with requests for courtesy and the closing of gates! Breeding Baillon’s Crakes, Black-tailed and Hudsonian Godwits, Pectoral Sandpiper, Lesser Grey Shrike and Greater Painted-snipe have all been identified here in recent years. Vast numbers of waterfowl can be found during wet cycles and in years of very good rain many Black-necked Grebes and Whiskered Terns breed here. Many sought-after terrestrial species can also be found in this general area, notably Blue Crane, Lanner Falcon, Black Harrier, Agulhas Long-billed Lark and other LBJ’s, and Secretarybird. There is also a small valley on the tar road between ALBERTINIA and GOURITSMOND where many of the region’s species associated with forest habitats can be found. Look for Terrestrial Brownbul, Tambourine Dove, Knysna Warbler, and Cardinal, Knysna and Olive Woodpecker.
|Agulhas Long-billed Lark|
Further information on these destinations can be found in the 'birdfinder brochure' that was developed for Eden District Municipality – these are available at tourism offices in the region. Much greater detail can be found in the Mossel Bay section of the Eden web pages of www.westerncapebirding.co.za Note that trip and outing reports, descriptions of interesting sightings and conservation issues may be found in the drop down menus below the text. Visit the following link:
Our visits to the Mossel Bay local municipal area certainly showed that the area is highly underrated as a top bird watching destination. The diversity of habitats and the resulting diversity of species should support a meaningful birding tourism infrastructure. The hope is expressed that such an infrastructure would be developed soon.