It is once more that time of year when scheduled morning outings in the Overberg could easily be bedeviled by bad weather. Several BirdLife Overberg members who had confirmed participation in today's outing did not pitch as the weather was really not ideal for a morning's birding. Twelve members did however brave the elements and we actually had a brilliant outing. Frank Spratt, our day outing secretary, was late as he had to first remove a Large-spotted Genet from the kitchen of the Hermanus Golf Club. This beautiful animal was to be released somewhere along the way.
Greater Flamingos at Meer-en-See
The plannning was that we would visit Meer-en-See and Rooisand, both on the shores of the Botriver estuary. Frank suggested that we go to the Hawston sewerage works first and this turned out to be a good call as we rapidly picked up 30 species. The municipality had unfortunately removed all of the reedbeds with the result that there weren't many warblers around. We were able to study the differences between immature Reed and White-breasted Cormorant up close, together with some immature 'grey-headed' Hartlaub's Gulls. The most popular sightings here included Hamerkop, African Purple Swamphen and Lesser Swamp Warbler.
Frank releasing the Genet
Club member Nida Potgieter assisted us to get entry into Meer-en-See and this was a great experience. Dankie Nida. There were hundreds of Greater Flamingos with a few youngsters, but first there was the small matter of Frank releasing the Genet. It was very interesting to watch it moving out of the cage and into the safety of the bushes – not to good on the nose though. Of immediate interest was a sighting of a Great Egret – we found one at Rooisand as well. There were large numbers of Swift Terns in various stages of maturity and it was astonishing to see how many of them were flying around with fish in their beaks. We spent a lot of time working through the terns sitting on a sandbank in the hope of finding some of the migrants, but we only came up with one Caspian Tern. Great White Pelicans, African Black Oystercatchers and African Spoonbills further added to the excitement. We were on 50 species for the morning by the time we left for Rooisand.
Kleinmond's famous wild horses were right in front of us when stopped at Rooisand – a first for several participants. The weather was still very gloomy and misty with some suggestion of drizzle, but we were able to find good birds. All three teals were on show with particularly large numbers of the red-billed variation all over the place. This, together with masses of Kittlitz's Plovers made the day as none of us had ever seen such large numbers of these two species. As far as terrestrial species go we found many endemics or near-endemics: Cape Batis, Bokmakierie, Southern Boubou, Cape Bulbul, Grey-backed Cisticola, Blue Crane, Fiscal Flycatcher, Karoo Prinia, Cape Sparrow, Cape Spurfowl, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Weaver and so on. Die Kaap bly 'n lekker plek!
The only migrants left at the birdhide were Common Ringed Plovers, Curlew Sandpipers (many of them in brilliant breeding color), Little Stints, Barn Swallows and Greater Striped Swallows. The action though was very good. There were lots of Red-capped Larks in front of the hide – our birds are significantly darker than the ones I saw in the Tanqua Karoo last weekend. Also interesting that we now take White-faced Ducks for granted in the Western Cape. We were keeping a keen lookout for the Ospreys as Nida and Marthinus are convinced that there is a young bird in the area, no luck however. On our way back home we found African Fish-Eagle and African Harrier-Hawk.
All in all it was a wonderful morning's birding despite weather that should have kept one in bed and we were able to record 77 species. The lesson learnt? There is fantastic birding to be had very close to home and we are looking forward to many more great discoveries on our morning outings. Frank has (given the price of fuel) focused strongly on outings close to Hermanus for the rest of the year and the hope is expressed that more members will join us on these. (Despite the weather, as they say). Typically, the sun was out and there was no wind by the time we got back home- Frank even went fishing.
In news received later the afternoon Dawid and Carin found a well-camouflaged, sleeping Barn Owl on the road out of Rooisand - see her pic below.
The next one will be on 12 May when we will hike the coastal path between the Vermont Nature Reserve and Harderbaai in Onrus – don't miss it.