BirdLife Overberg celebrated Heritage Day with a morning outing to the area between Stanford and the Danger Point peninsula. Conditions were unfortunately not good as the wind basically made it impossible to bird at Appel Dam in Stanford and along the peninsula. There were very few birds to be seen at these two sites and most of the gulls were even lying flat on their bellies in the sand to cope with the wind. We did have some good birding in the poplar plantation at Witkrans through and therefore this report will mostly focus on this.
APPEL DAM at STANFORD was fairly disappointing due to the conditions. We are used to this site having huge numbers of waterfowl. The coots, moorhens and Cape Shovelers were active and hadedas and a African Darter and a Purple Heron flew past. Lesser Swamp-Warblers and Little Rush-Warblers were also vocal in the reedbeds. The best bird seen here were Giant Kingfisher, White-backed Duck and a fleeting glimpse of a Little Bittern.
The poplar plantation at WITKRANS as one enters the FLOWER VALLEY area was well protected from the wind and allowed us to do some great birding. It started off with brilliant sightings of African Paradise Flycatchers soon to be followed by African Dusky and Fiscal Flycatchers. Klaas's Cuckoo, Sombre Greenbuls and Cape White-eyes were very active and vocal and gave good views. A Tambourine Dove flew past us, but unfortunately at breakneck speed only allowing a few of us to see it. In the distance we could here the calls of Southern Boubou, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Hoopoe, Cardinal Woodpecker, African Goshawk, canaries and very noisy peacocks at the homestead to the east the plantation. Also Cape Spurfowl and Helmeted Quineafowl. Up above there were real signs of the approaching summer as Black Saw-wings and Barn and Greater Striped Swallows were patrolling the skies.
Searching for that woodpecker
I started knocking on wood to try and lure some woodpeckers in as we had often found both the Knysna and Olive variations here before. Interestingly enough this brought in several other species that came in extremely close to see what the din was all about. Cape Batis and several others gave fantastic close-up views, but all of this was overshadowed by a brilliant Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher that allowed several in our group to add it to their lifelist. Soon after this Gawie Malan picked up a Knysna Woodpecker high in the treetops. (The image herewith was the best that I could due to the bird's distance and hight in the trees). Interesting that Sinclair & Ryan state that these birds don't knock as Gawie picked it up because of it's knocking and most of us heard this, all be this rather softly. We all agreed that the Witkrans site is really worth investigating and the Tambourine Dove, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher and Knysna Woodpecker certainly stood out as the sightings of the day.
African Black Oystercatcher
The area immediately around Witkrans is also very good for birding as there are good patches of fynbos giving access to most of the specials associated with this habitat type. At the bridge over the UIENKRAALS ESTUARY it was not possible to keep our binoculars still, not to even speak of cameras and lenses. We did find the usual cormorants and gulls, together with Pied Kingfisher, Little Egret and Caspian Tern though. We took in drinks I in the windless comfort of the the GREAT WHITE HOUSE in KLEINBAAI where we agreed with Brenda Walters that Wilfred Chivell and herself will do our monthly talk in November to highlight recent developments in the activities of the DYER ISLAND CONSERVATION TRUST. We will also go on an outing to STONY POINT where they are currently installing penguin nesting boxes. The DANGER POINT PENINSULA did not produce much either. We did though have good sightings of Swift Terns, African Black Oystercatchers and White-fronted Plover. As far as migrants are concerned we only found Common Greenshank and Common Whimbrel. Southern Tchagras were calling in the bushes.
We ended the outing with a picnic along the river at Stanford. In total we saw 77 species on a day that was not not even remotely ideal for birding. Of these though 24 were endemic or near-endemic to southern Africa. Imagine what one could do here in high summer in favorable conditions!