The dedication of some birders often surprises me: Twenty BirdLife Overberg members arrived at Fernkloof Nature Reserve at 07h00 on Saturday morning despite the howling south-easter. We welcome Lidia Gouws and Keir and Alouise Lynch, together with four-year old Kier, who participated in club activities for the first time. Four teams, with Carin, Elaine, Frank and myself as leaders, participated in a fun birding competition between 07h00 and 12h00.
Cecilie & Vivie with score sheets (Carin)
Anton's team at Fernkloof (Carin)
Prizes were awarded for the following categories:
CATEGORY 1: Best Bird of Prey species identified.
CATEGORY 2: Best migratory species identified.
CATEGORY 3: The team that gets the most of the following target species:
African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)
CATEGORY 4: Most birds identified
CATEGORY 5: Best photo. (If pictures are taken).
Due to the price of fuel all teams were restricted to the following spots:
Fernkloof Nature Reserve
The Hermanus Cliffpath walk
Harderbaai at Onrus
Vermont salt pan
and everything in between.
No teams were allowed to go past the parking area at Prawn Flats, or go into the Hemel & Aarde Valley, or go past the Vermont turnoff along the R43.
Cape Teal (Carin)
Young Greater Flamingo (Ingrid)
Conditions were really bad for quality birding and all teams simply tried to make the best of it. It was interesting that many species were totally quiet and no teams heard Bokmakierie, Cape Grassbird or Sombre Greenbull throughout the morning despite these birds being very common in our area. Very few cuckoos were heard even though a few were seen. Our team first went to Onrus where there were very few terns at the day roost. We did manage to get the common cormorants, gulls and terns, together with African Black Oystercatcher and White-fronted Plover. The Vermont salt pan was very productive with good numbers of Pied Avocets, Greater Flamingos, Black-winged Stilts and Cape Shovelers on view. The fringes produced the normal species such as Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Bulbul, Levaillant's Cisticola, Karoo Prinia and Cape Spurfowl, but the warblers were completely silent. We did managed to get fleeting glimpses of Lesser Swamp Warbler and Elaine's team got Black-crowned Night-Heron – a real special to see here. Most teams added well over 30 species at this very underrated birding site.
Cape Sugarbird (Anton)
Jackal Buzzard (Carin)
From here we went up Rotary Drive that was wind-swept and terribly cold. We only added Jackal Buzzard, Rock Kestrel and a few crows. We then decided to tackle Fernkloof and hiked up to the waterfall. It was again very quiet, although we did get good views of Cape Sugarbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird along the trail. The area at the waterfall allowed Alouise to get good images of Cape Batis and African Paradise Flycatcher. The bottom gardens produced lots of flycatchers, mousebirds and the usual Cape Robin-Chat and Olive Thrush. All the teams reported some highlights in this general area: we watched a young Klaas's Cuckoo being fed by Cape White-eyes, Elaine got Verreaux's Eagle, Carin and Ingrid got good images of a female Cardinal Woodpecker and Frank's team Pearl-breasted Swallow. The Fernkloof Nature Reserve remains a top birding destination even in such trying conditions.
Female Cardinal Woodpecker (Ingrid)
Cape Batis (Anton)
The parking area at Prawn Flats was right in 'the teeth of the wind' and most participants complained that they were unable to keep their binoculars steady there. Most teams added species such as Common Sandpiper, Caspian Tern, Ruddy Turnstone and Common Whimbrel here.
In the end all of us together were able to positively identify just on 100 species – not too bad an effort given the monster wind. The prize for the best Bird Of Prey seen went to Elaine's team for their Verreaux's Eagle closely pipping Carin's team that found the Peregrine Falcons that are apparently breeding in an owl nesting box in Sandbaai. Frank's team won the prize for the best migrant for their Pearl-breasted Swallow as all the other migrants seen on the day were spotted by more than one team. The prize for the highest number of the target species seen was drawn as both Carin and Anton's teams managed to get seven of the ten species. Carin's team got 78 species in the five hours and walked away with the most species seen prize – well done to Carin, Aurial, Ingrid and Jenny. The photographic prize, which was awarded on novelty value and not artistic merit was won by Anton's team as the other teams submitted images that canceled similar entries out and Alouise's images of the Klaas's Cuckoo and African Paradise Flycatcher made the day.
Great fun was had by all and everyone agreed that this format for the competition worked very well as it basically gave all teams an equal chance of winning.