OVERSTRAND BIRDING: COMPARING WINTER AND SUMMER COUNTS
Posted on the 29th June 2013
The prospect of a sunny Saturday after all the recent rains got me out on a very cold and cloudy morning today. I decided to do precisely the same trip that we did on New Year's Day to see how the bird count on a day in the middle of winter would compare with high summer.
I started at 08h00 and went to the Vermont salt pan first. Good numbers of Yellow-billed Ducks, Cape Shovelers and Cape Teals were on display, together with large numbers of Kittlitz's and Three-banded Plovers and White-breasted Cormorants. There were many Greater Flamingos and strangely a single Pied Avocet and no Black-winged Stilts. The usual ralian-type species and the two resident warbler species were also present. Around the pan Cape Batis, Cape Bulbul, Levaillant's Cisticola, Karoo Prinia and Cape Spurfowl were fairly active in the cold. I reached a count of thirty species within 19 minutes. This is certainly a top birding destination and I found it fascinating that the count compared very well with the January count.
A few Egyptian Geese
I drove through Vermont on my way to Harderbaai and picked up most of the usual doves and sparrows and Fiscal Flycatcher, Common Fiscal, Cape Robin-Chat and Sombre Greenbul. Harderbaai did once again not disappoint: the Swift Terns were present and there were the gulls, hadedas, Cape Cormorants and White-fronted Plovers present. Also great to find African Black Oystercatchers. Birds that were not present here in January included Little Egret and Sacred Ibis – these two species converge on this stretch of coastline in vast numbers during winter and we have never found them here in summer. Also interesting that I again found an overwintering Common Whimbrel.
The lagoon lookout produced coot, moorhens, many Cattle and Little Egrets, Black Crowned Night-Heron and disappointingly Mallards. I reached 49 species after one hour and headed to the Karwyderskraal and Swartrivier roads. The first species that I added along the Karwyderskloof road was Denham's Bustard, unfortunately too far from the road for photographs. It is always special to find this bird.
The African Fish-Eagles were active at the nest near the metal bridge – there are at least three pairs breeding around the Botriver estuary at this stage. A Jackal Buzzard and a Black-shouldered Kite were also present in this general area, but these were the only raptors that I saw all morning.
Along the Swartrivier road I managed to see Cape Canaries, Large-billed and Red-capped Larks and Levaillant's, Grey-backed and Zitting Cisticolas and Capped Wheatear. There were good numbers of Blue Cranes in the area around the Gabrielskloof Wine Estate and vast numbers of Pied Starlings.
This left me on 81 species by 11h00. This is surprisingly one species more than I found along the same route and in the same time compared to 1 January. The Western Cape “green season” should certainly not be underestimated and this can be used very effectively when marketing the province as a birding destination during winter.
For interest sake, here is the list of species that I found in January and not today (excluding 9 migrants): Black-winged Stilt, Bar-throated Apalis, Olive Thrush, Southern Tchagra, African Purple Swamphen, Little Grebe, and Brimstone and White-throated Canaries.
It seems that birding in our area is excellent throughout the year!