A public holiday and the first clear and windless morning in about two weeks forced me out of doors. Elaine is working on their 'Bird Bouquets' and I decided to see how many species I could twitch in 90 minutes along the normal circle route that I do on Monday mornings when the cleaners are here. Also try for a few pics. To start off with the CAPE SUGARBIRDS in the bottle-brushes that they visit on a daily basis during summer is simply special. I went to the Vermont salt pan first and managed to rack up 40 species in the 30 minutes that I spent there. For the last few weeks I got woken by BLUE CRANES flying over the house and it was really great finding them on the side of the pan. They fly off in a westerly direction at about 07h30 each morning – one must assume that they are beginning to look for breeding spots and this is why they are traveling around.
Blue Cranes in Vermont suburbia
Species that I have not seen at the pan for a while included PIED AVOCET, GREATER FLAMINGO and RED-BILLED TEAL. Besides these most of the water associated species that one would normally expect here were present. The mind boggles at the huge number of GREY HERON nests on the rocks in the pan – there must surely be at least 40 chicks at this point. A YELLOW-BILLED KITE also drifted by causing large-scaled consternation from the EGYPTIAN GEESE, KELP GULLS and particularly BLACKSMITH LAPWINGS that also have chicks at the moment. Certainly not a safe space for a YBK!
I then drove through Vermont to the lookout point along the coast. Here I managed to add good garden birds that included personal favorites such as SOUTHERN BOUBOU, AFRICAN PARADISE- and FISCAL FLYCATCHERS, as well as CAPE ROBIN-CHAT. There was not much happening at the lookout point, except for my first COMMON WHIMBREL here for the season and about 20 CAPE CORMORANTS passing through. This left me on 55 species after 45 minutes.
The big problem trying to bird at Onrus on the 16th of December on a beautiful day like today is that the people are out in force walking their dogs, chatting with all and sundry and the new fad of slim and attractive mothers (sorry some not so slim) running racing prams around the peninsula. There must have been at least 50 crafts in the bay – it is crayfish season and kids and parents were all over the rocks. Silly season. The Onrus caravan park is approaching bursting at the seams levels, but still I could hear BAR-THROATED APALIS, CAPE BATIS, CAPE CANARIES, SOMBRE GREENBULS, KAROO PRINIAS, MALACHITE SUNBIRDS and OLIVE THRUSHES leaving me on 60 species after an hour.
The holiday vibe got worse as I approached the beach as Atlantic Drive has already been closed off there, thus not allowing me to check out the Onrus lagoon and losing out on a further 10 or so probables. The tern day roost at Harderbaai had at least 500 birds despite 4X4's, boats and loads of people in very close proximity. There was just to much traffic to check out the roost properly, but I could at least pick COMMON, SANDWICH and SWIFT TERNS. There were also REED- and (surprisingly) two CROWNED CORMORANTS, a LITTLE EGRET, AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER and KITTLITZ'S and WHITE-FRONTED PLOVERS in this area. This left me on 77 species after 90 minutes with just under 4 km traveled.
Add to this the fact that I missed out on several species that I would normally expect to find on any given day. These include ROCK DOVE, CATTLE EGRET, AFRICAN HOOPOE, AFRICAN SACRED IBIS, ROCK KESTREL, PIED KINGFISHER and some crows and woodpeckers. It also seems as if the cuckoos have already gone silent. I still maintain that the Onrus/ Vermont area must be seen as one of the top birding destinations in the Overberg. A quick count revealed that I saw 19 southern African endemics and 5 migratory birds this morning. Not to shabby for difficult birding conditions!
(Our local pair of AFRICAN HARRIER-HAWKS just past overhead and a BOKMAKIERIE came to the feeder).
Our list of birds seen along this circular route now stands on 199 species. Quietly waiting for some or other vagrant to pull through this summer.