Posted on the 23rd May 2011

Ten members braved relatively poor weather on Saturday morning to do some birding in the Onrus pentad (3420_1905). The idea was to do an atlasing demonstration in order to get more club members involved in this important project. We started out at the Vermont salt pan that has very little water at this point in time. This aptly illustrated how desperately our region needs good rain. The flamingos had gone a long time ago, probably due to the low water levels. There were still a few PIED AVOCETS around and good numbers of BLACK-WINGED STILTS. The only other waders observed were resident THREE-BANDED and KITTLITZ'S PLOVERS, together with BLACKSMITH LAPWINGS. Good numbers of CAPE, REED and WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANTS were seen, but there were no significant numbers of ducks and surprisingly no RED-KNOBBED COOTS. The vegetation around the pan produced the normal terrestrial species such as LESSER SWAMP-WARBLER, CAPE BULBUL, CAPE BATIS and FISCAL FLYCATCHER. Besides this there were canaries, doves, sparrows and sunbirds. A few small groups of CAPE SPURFOWLS were also present. In total we saw 30 species at the pan – not to bad for such poor conditions.

From here we moved to the mouth of the Botriver estuary, thanks to access being organized by club member Nida Potgieter. Birds added here were GREATER FLAMINGO, many SWIFT TERNS, AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER, AFRICAN SPOONBILL, the expected herons and gulls and an AFRICAN FISH-EAGLE flying in the distance. The surprise of the morning though were quite a few COMMON WHIMBRELS still working the water's edges at this late stage of the year. One wonders if these birds will overwinter.

The Hawston sewerage works again proved to be a winner as large numbers of YELLOW-BILLED DUCKS, CAPE SHOVELLERS and CAPE TEALS were present, many of them with good clutches of young. We were able to get good sightings of LEVAILLANT'S CISTICOLA and most of us were able to compare the identification features of LESSER SWAMP-WARBLERS with LITTLE RUSH-WARBLERS. The highlights here were undoubtedly a few GREY-HEADED GULLS in full breeding plumage and a good sighting of a MALACHITE KINGFISHER.

We also patrolled the Karwyderskraal road up the municipal dump in the hope of finding some of this road's regional specials such DENHAM'S BUSTARD, BLUE CRANE and SECRETARYBIRD, but this was not to be, probably due to the weather conditions. Some of saw a lone WHITE STORK in the distance and fortunately only Carin and myself witnessed WHITE-NECKED RAVENS feeding on newborn lambs.

We then went to What the Dickens for me to do a demonstration of how the species seen should be recorded for SABAP2 purposes, but true to form I somehow managed to have no battery life on my laptop. We will have to try again next time. I did manage to submit a card later in the day once I reached home (and electricity) and forwarded the list to all participants. In total we managed to see 67 species in the four hours that we were out there - not to shabby, if one considers that the weather was bad and that most of the migrants have gone. In total we saw 18 species that are endemic or near- endemic to southern Africa and this just once again shows what great birding potential our local area has.


(Pics to follow later)



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