Posted on the 12th March 2010

(There were many interesting sightings of birds in the Overberg during 2009. I decided to make a selection of great birding experiences reported on this website during the year and give a summary herewith. This description is not meant to be comprehensive and is rather a brief overview of the birding potential of the Overberg. Ed.)

An immature YELLOW-BILLED STORK was seen several times by Wessel Uys on the road to Witsand and was reported on 1 January.

Elaine and myself photographed a MARABOU STORK in between a group of White Storks at the Karwyderskraal landfill site outside Hermanus on 2 January. Two were seen there on 3 January by Frank Spratt and Brummer Olivier also photographed one being harressed by two White-necked Ravens while flying over Grootbos at 13h45 on the same day. The manager at the Karwyderskraal landfill site claims that these birds have been around since middle October and at one stage there were 17 birds. One could call this an invasion!

A RED-NECKED PHALAROPE was reported by several people at a pan outside the De Mond nature reserve during the first week of January.

Alaistair Kilpin photographed an EUROPEAN ROLLER at De Mond nature reserve on 8 January – one wonders if we are going to have such a dramatic invasion of these birds in the Overberg as last summer.

We participated in the Agulhas National Park CWAC count towards the end of January and were able to add GOLIATH HERON and EURASIAN HOBBY to the Park's list.

In April, Japie Claassen spent the last evening of a trip through the Western Cape with clients at the Bontebok National Park near Swellendam. “It started raining and the birding was not that good. We did though find a pair of SECRETARY BIRDS in the Park, as well as YELLOW and BRIMSTONE CANARIES. Along road to Malgas there were lots of BLUE CRANES, three KAROO KORHAANS and about twenty DENHAM'S BUSTARDS. Just west of Malgas we found two LONG-BILLED PIPITS and later on two displaying AGULHAS LONG-BILLED LARKS. We saw about twenty JACKAL BUZZARDS between Napier and Caledon, as well as one SOUTHERN PALE-CHANTING GOSHAWK.”

During the same month Japie started a trip in the Rooiels and Betty's Bay area. “We drove to Rooiels to try our first endemic, Cape Rock-jumper. Along the way we stopped and saw KELP and HARTLAUB'S GULL, CAPE BATIS, ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD and KAROO PRINIA. At Rooiels we walked down the track and found CAPE SISLIN. CAPE ROCK-JUMPER was found with ease and a pair was searching for food in a track that goes towards the sea. We had brilliant sightings and while standing in the track, the one bird came right up to our legs (less than 1 meter from us) and just "jumped" around us to continue feeding in the track. GROUND WOODPECKERS and CAPE ROCK-THRUSHES were also found.

A huge flock of about 70 WHITE STORKS came drifting over the sea towards Hangklip and we were wondering where they were going as they flew in the wrong direction. In Betty's Bay we saw some GREY-WINGED FRANCOLINS and the client had lovely views of AFRICAN PENGUINS breeding at Stony Point, together with most of our cormorants. We proceeded to the Harold Porter Botanical Garden to look for VICTORIN'S WARBLER, but with no success, not even one calling. Other good birds in Harold Porter were AFRICAN BLACK DUCK, BLACK SAWWING, AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER, CAPE SUGARBIRD and AFRICAN PARADISE FLYCATCHER.”

Brian Vanderwalt took clients to the same area in August and again came up trumps with many endemics: “Rooiels: When we arrived, after seeing CAPE SUGARBIRD and ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD, the next bird was VICTORIN'S WARBLER! This was just after 08h30 and it was singing it’s heart out on the top of a dry stick! The rest of the walk produced CAPE ROCK-JUMPERS, CAPE SISKIN, SENTINAL ROCK-THRUSH and GROUND WOODPECKER. The whole gang of specials in the first half hour of our walk. That does not happen every day. BLACK EAGLES were also at their nest above the aloes and I am sure the one was carrying something when it landed on the nest. ROCK KESTRELS gave them a hard time once they took flight, as did the WHITE-NECKED RAVENS. A FAMILIAR CHAT followed us all down the road, maybe we were disturbing insects? KAROO PRINIA and CAPE GRASSBIRD were very active in the fynbos, maybe already breeding. YELLOW BISHOP was still trying to get his breeding dress on for the coming spring, but had some way to go as he was still brownish! Stoney Point: Many AFRICAN PENGUINS were moulting and others breeding in their little “sponsored” fibreglass burrows. All the 4 Cormorants were there. WHITE-BREASTED, REED and CROWNED were still breeding, CAPE were roosting on the rocks, but no Cape Gannets or Skuas were seen out at sea. AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS were patrolling the open rocks as were some SACRED IBIS and LITTLE EGRETS. Great that the Oyster-catchers have recovered so well since we banned 4X4 vehicles on our beaches! Harold Porter Botanical Gardens: SPECKLED MOUSEBIRDS were quite numerous and SOMBRE GREENBUL and SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRDS were very active and vocal. BRIMSTONE CANARY called from one of the taller shrubs and CAPE SISKIN did a flypast towards the mountains. CAPE ROBIN-CHAT and SWEE WAXBILL were seen hopping around and feeding on the lawns. The forest walk produced OLIVE SHRIKE, CAPE BATIS and SOUTHERN BOUBOU and of course the little CAPE WHITE-EYES.”

Anne Gray visited Danger Point during September: “Approximately 180 to 200 ANTARCTIC TERNS plus 15 to 20 ROSEATE TERNS, and a few SWIFT TERNS were seen at a roost on a stretch of very rocky shore near the Danger Point Lighthouse at Gansbaai this past weekend. The Antarctic Terns in their dark grey breeding plumage with black caps, prominent white cheek-stripe and their robust coral red bills are stunning birds.

On 10 September Emmerentia de Kock of the Agulhas National Park reported that a KORI BUSTARD was seen at the southern most tip of Africa. Some of these birds have apparently been observed several times over the last few months at the Bosheuwel environmental education facility in the park. Just check how far this bird is beyond its reported distribution range. Some weeks later, not too far east of here, the Bontebok National Park has also turned up a pair of KORI BUSTARDS.

LARK-LIKE BUNTINGS were also reported from several places in the Overberg during the beginning of summer.

The pair of LESSER STRIPED SWALLOWS first reported from De Hoop Nature Reserve on 16 September are still present and giving provincial twitchers more than ample opportunity to get down to the reserve and add them to their provincial lists. The birds are hanging around alongside the vlei and are most often seen in the vicinity of the rondavels or at the pool area. A pair of these birds were also found at the derelict bridge near the source of the Klein River on the Oudekraal Road (very close to van Brakel se stoor) in November. Equally of interest at De Hoop nature reserve is what seems to be an influx of NAMAQUA SANDGROUSE into the area with a number of recent sightings.

Brummer, Dave, Frank and myself did our normal BLSA Birding Big Day during November. We decided to give feedback on some great experiences and a few fantastic birding destinations: THE MILKWOOD GROVES ALONG THE OVERSTRAND COAST: We started the day at Brummer's place in Kleinbaai and decided to first do our coffee in the garden and down the road. The name “CAPE” was operational as batis, wagtail, robin-chat, turtle dove, bulbul, weaver and several other dominated early morning proceedings. A CAPE LONGCLAW seemed strangely out of place in this habitat and a SOUTHERN TCHAGRA, together with a pair of SPOTTED EAGLE-OWLS got the day off to a flying start. These habitats are available all along the Overstrand seashore. THE DANGER POINT COASTLINE: All cormorants, but BANK, the gulls, thousands of swirling terns and a variety of fairly common waders are available here, but the highlight was certainly droves of AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER nests all long the shore. Such a pity that despite signs erected by the Overstrand municipality to request people to stay clear of the nests, there were local people gathering bait right at some of these nests – we still have a long way to go as far as environmental education is concerned. THE POPLAR GROVE AT THE ENTRANCE TO FLOWER VALLEY: Brummer was knocking on wood and soon three woodpeckers appeared within a minute of each other: CARDINAL, OLIVE and KNYSNA showed themselves perfectly, not to mention most local canaries, flycatchers and buzzards. What an experience – this spot remains one of my first choices for birding in southern Africa! THE VAN BRAKEL'S STORE INTERSECTION AND THE FIRST FOUR KILOMETERS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE OUDEKRAAL ROAD: I have to drive to Bredasdorp for work purposes at least once a week and the R326 affords one the quickest summery of Overberg's LBG's and many other avian delights. Within an absolute maximum of ten kilometers driven yesterday we found (inter alia) all of our region's cisticolas, RED-CAPPED and LARGE-BILLED LARK, our local bishops, AFRICAN and LONG-BILLED PIPITS, CAPPED WHEATEAR, PIED STARLING, several chats and most of our local swallows, swifts and martins. Highlight: a pair of LESSER STRIPED SWALLOWS, previously considered not to be an Overberg bird. Not to mention the BLUE CRANES and a wide selection of waterbirds. An total hotbed of Western Cape endemics. The influx of NAMAQUA DOVES southwards is also continuing with large numbers of birds reported all along the coastal strip from Rooiels through to the Uilenkraal estuary with the most southerly record being of 2 birds sitting on the beach at Danger Point!

In December, one of BirdLife Overberg's members, Carin Malan, reported that an Openbill Stork has been roosting on the roofs of houses on the Arabella Estate near Kleinmond. Trevor and Margaret Hardaker and Elaine and myself went along on the Saturday afternoon and found the birds. The southern movement of this species therefore continues.

Finally, Jimmie Potgieter who resides in Greyton forwarded some amazing images taken in his garden. It seems that BLACK-HEADED HERONS are really innovative and have very diversified diets and have now also taken to catching and eating moles!




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