Happy New Year to all. (This again is for my friends Eddie Cassani, Jan Kuipers and Otto Nel who are all celebrating their birthdays today). I include some of my first pictures for the year.
I always try to bird on New Year's day in an attempt to get my year list of species seen off to a 'flyer'', if you'll excuse that one. I made a slow start at 06h00 and went out for an hour as Elaine still wanted to lie in. As last year my count started with Cape Sugarbirds feeding on a bottlebrush across the street. We are so blessed to have these birds visiting our gardens during the summer months.
Pied Avocets and others
I went to the Vermont salt pan first, where Grey Herons, Kelp Gulls and White-breasted Cormorants were active at nests. Good numbers of Yellow-billed Ducks, Cape Shovelers and Cape Teals were on display, together with many Greater Flamingos, Pied Avocets and Black-winged Stilts. The usual ralian-type species and the two resident warbler species were also present. Around the pan there were Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Bulbul, Karoo Prinia, Cape Spurfowl and Olive Thrush on display. I reached a count of thirty species within 16 minutes. This is certainly a top birding destination and we will continue marketing it as such. (This is why I keep on writing these reports).
I drove through Vermont on my way to the beach and picked up most of the usual doves and sparrows and thought that it was not to bad to find Cape Batis, African Paradise Flycatcher and Sombre Greenbul in close proximity to each other. The highlight of the day was a Southern Tchagra busily working through bushes. I have never been able to photograph this bird and this morning managed to sneak one shot. This is a photographic lifer for me and I therefore decided to load it despite the image being totally out of focus. Eendag as ek groot is............... (I reached 50 species within 40 minutes).
The beach was again in a shocking state after last night's reveling. Elaine and myself have been debating the possible re-launching of BirdLife Overberg's CleanMarine project for some time now and I believe that the state of the Onrus shoreline this morning was the final straw. Watch this space. The image below of Hadedas foraging must tell it all. (These guys will forage anywhere).
Harderbaai did not disappoint though: the terns were already present in large numbers at the day roost and I could pick up Common, Sandwich and Swift Terns easily. There were also the gulls, hadedas, Cape Cormorants and White-fronted Plovers present. Also great to find African Black Oystercatcher. Also African Purple Swamphen at the lagoon lookout, but nothing much else as the sun was reflecting directly off the water.
I was back at home by 07h00 having reached 59 species in 60 minutes (damn). We had breakfast and wished some friends and left for the Swartrivier road at 09h00. We should have left much earlier as by now the south-easter had come up badly and it clouded over. As good as the Swartrivier road was three days ago (read report elsewhere), so disappointing it was this morning. Conditions were just not favourable for birding or decent photography and our species count progressed in drips and drabs. There were vast numbers of Steppe Buzzards around, but the only other bird of prey that we saw was a Peregrine Falcon that flew past.
We did manage to see Brimstone, Cape and White-throated Canaries, Large-billed and Red-capped Larks and Grey-backed and Zitting Cisticolas. Swallows and martins were present in huge numbers at some spots and there were 24 Red-billed Teals at the dam close to the entrance to the Gabrielskloof Wine Estate. And many Blue Cranes as usual. Amazingly the poor weather conditions and possibly the fact that we left it so late meant that we missed out on 32 species that we saw along this road only three days earlier.
This left us on 80 species by 11h00, 23 species less than I found on the same day day last year. At closer inspection these included 6 near-endemics and 14 endemics to southern Africa, together with 9 migratory species. Not to shabby for 3 hour's birding in very poor conditions. As Elaine said: “oh well, this leaves us with many more species to find this year.”