Posted on the 29th November 2013

Peter Hochfelden, Chris Cheetham, Elaine and myself planned to make a 05h00 start to our Birding Big Day effort in the Cape Whale Coast area. Driving with Chris we found a SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL on a pole just outside Stanford. Birding was excellent in Stanford and we managed to get to 50 species within an hour. We found ROCK MARTIN and GREATER STRIPED SWALLOW nests at Peter's house and he took us to an AFRICAN PARADISE FLYCATCHER nest with chicks close by. The common martins, swifts and swallows were plentiful on a (at this stage) perfect morning and most of the usual garden birds were found easily amongst the houses and along the 'wandelpad' along the river. The damage caused by the previous weekend's floods just can not be believed and it was decided not to report on this – too depressing anyway.

Appel se dam produced most of the normal water birds, but we missed out on Little Bittern and White-backed and White-faced Ducks that one would expect to find here fairly easily these days. We were pleased to find a very white BLACK SPARROW-HAWK, but the highlight here certainly was a dead old tree in which CARDINAL WOODPECKER and LESSER HONEYGUIDE, as well as CAPE WEAVER and DIDERICK CUCKOO were all perched – the brood parasite war is certainly on in Stanford.

Cape Weaver - Vermont
Diderick Cuckoo - Botrivier










From here we went to Witkrans and to our amazement BUFF-SPOTTED FLUFFTAIL and TAMBOURINE DOVES were calling continually. We also used Chris's IPad to confirm calls of BLUE-MANTLED CRESTED FLYCATCHER and OLIVE BUSH-SHRIKE. We again found AFRICAN PARADISE FLYCATCHERS, together with BAR-THROATED APALIS, CAPE BATIS, KAROO PRINIA, AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER and many more. I tried my best to 'knock-up' the woodpeckers, but the Cardinal, Olive and Knysna variations that we find here regularly did not want cooperate today. This remains one of our favourite birding destinations in the Overstrand. Also interesting that we found a LARGE flock of AFRICAN OLIVE-PIGEONS in the trees at the homestead at the entrance to Flower Valley.

Karoo Prinia - Onrus
African Dusky Flycatcher - Witkrans








Our next stop was at the bridge over the Uilenkraals estuary. A spotting scope is essential here and we were able to pick up on most of the terns and waders that one would expect here. There were huge numbers of COMMON WHIMBRELS, together with other migrants such as GREY PLOVER, SANDERLING, COMMON, CURLEW and MARSH SANDPIPERS. Resident species included AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS, WHITE-FRONTED and THREE-BANDED PLOVER, CASPIAN and SWIFT TERNS, PIED KINGFISHER and many more. We were really having a brilliant morning as we reached 100 species positively identified by 08h30 – a great achievement by Western Cape standards!

By now the South-Easterly wind started showing its teeth and the bird count started slowing down dramatically. The result is that we can only report on a few species that we were fortunate to find as the day progressed: SOUTHERN TCHAGRA and ROCK KESTREL along the Danger Point Peninsula (surprisingly not a single Ruddy Turnstone to be seen), CAPE SISKIN at the stake-out outside Stanford, GREATER FLAMINGOS at Kleinrivier estuary, CAPE SUGARBIRDS and ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRDS at Fernkloof and a few ARCTIC TERNS in front of the Windsor Hotel. Onrus and the Vermont Salt Pan also did not produce much as by now the 'Kaapse dokter' had become a gale of note.

Cape Sugarbird - Fernkloof
Orange-breasted Sunbird - Fernkloof












We did have a few highlights along the Karwyderskraal and Swartrivier roads: a SECRETARYBIRD caused great excitement (a pair of these birds are once again being seen regularly along the R43 on the Hermanus side of Honeymoon Bridge these days) , we found all four cisticolas, lots of RED-CAPPED LARKS, AFRICAN PIPIT, many AFRICAN STONE CHATS, but strangely and a first ever for me, not a single Large-billed Lark along the Swartrivier road. Also lots of BLUE CRANES. As far as other raptors go we found FOREST, JACKAL and STEPPE BUZZARDS, AFRICAN FISH-EAGLE and YBK's. The Harold Porter Botanical Gardens once again took a hammering through the floods and astonishingly we could not add one species here despite walking around for about an hour. Visit the SANBI website to witness the devastation here.

Grey-backed Cisticola - Swartrivier road
Blue Cranes - Karwyderskraal road











By the time we got to Rooiels the wind had become a nightmare. We found Cecilie sheltering from the wind behind a rock and Elaine decided to join her. The three of us decided to continue, but again no birds added. No rock-jumpers, no Victorin's Warbler, no Familiar Chat, no sugarbirds or sunbirds, no Verreaux's Eagle, no rock-thrush, no bunting, no absolutely nothing. Just wind, wind and more wind. And sand and dust and thirst. We decided to head back to Kleinmond for a drink and then throw in the towel. We did stop over at Stony Point to get the AFRICAN PENGUIN and BANK and CROWNED CORMORANTS, at least giving us all five cormorants on the day.

Sentinel Rock-Thrush (Rooiels)
Swee Waxbill - Harold Porter









So, after having been on 100 species by 08h30, we only managed to end with a total of 147 species by 17h30. 'n Mens moet maar jou pak vat soos 'n man. At least we can claim that we saw 24 southern African endemics and 9 near-endemics on the day – a very high proportion of special endemics seen. When I checked my lists on Sunday I realised that the species not seen make for very interesting reading and therefore decided to just draw up a list for the hell of it:

Species that we would have expected to find in our region on any given day, with the area(s) where they would normally be found indicated in brackets:
Acacia Pied Barbet (Stanford and Danger Point Peninsula)
Cape Bunting (Rooiels)
Familiar Chat (Just about anywhere)
African Darter (Appel se dam, Stanford)
Cattle Egret (Just about anywhere)
Cape Rock-Thrush (Fernkloof and Rooiels)
South African Shelduck (Karwyderskraal and Swartrivier roads)
Cape Sparrow (Just about anywhere – this must be the dip of the day)
African Spoonbill (Most places at water)
Swee Waxbill (Harold Porter)
Olive Woodpecker (Hermanus, Fernkloof and Witkrans)

Denham's Bustards - Karwyderskraal road
Purple Heron - Onrus








Species that are found regularly, but not on this outing:
Denham's Bustard (Karwyderskraal and Swartrivier roads)
Verreaux's Eagle (Fernkloof, Harold Porter and Rooiels)
Peregrine Falcon (Karwyderskraal and Swartrivier roads)
Hamerkop (Just about anywhere)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (Appel se dam and Onrus)
Purple Heron (Appel se dam and Onrus)
Glossy Ibis (Anywhere near water)
Brown-hooded Kingfisher (Stanford and Danger Point Peninsula)
Giant Kingfisher (Stanford and Onrus)
Malachite Kingfisher (Stanford and Onrus)
Cape Longclaw (Karwyderskraal and Swartrivier roads)
Neddicky (Karwyderskraal and Swartrivier roads)
Great White Pelican (Karwyderskraal, Swartrivier roads and Botriviervlei)
Plain-backed Pipit (Karwyderskraal and Swartrivier roads)
Cape Rock-jumper (Rooiels)
White Stork (Karwyderskraal road)
Amethyst Sunbird (Stanford)
Greater Double-collared Sunbird (Just about anywhere)
Hottentot Teal (Just about anywhere)
Water Thick-knee (Onrus)
Victorin's Warbler (Harold Porter and Rooiels)
Knysna Woodpecker (Witkrans)

Ruddy Turnstones - Danger Point peninsula
Common Ringed Plover - Vermont Salt Pan








Migrants that we would expect to find fairly easily during summer:
Spotted Flycatcher (Harold Porter)
Banded Martin (Karwyderskraal and Swartrivier roads)
Common House-Martin (Karwyderskraal and Swartrivier roads)
Osprey (Botriviervlei)
Common Ringed Plover (Botriviervlei and Uilenkraals estuary)
Common Quail (Just about anywhere)
Ruff (Botriviervlei and Uilenkraals estuary)
Wood Sandpiper (Just about anywhere at fresh water)
Little Stint (Botriviervlei and Uilenkraals estuary)
Ruddy Turnstone (Danger Point Peninsula)

It was decided that we will watch the weather predictions over the holiday period and target a day to go out again in (hopefully) perfect conditions (if that is possible in these parts). It would be interesting to see what we can manage in optimal conditions. Let us know if you want to join us.

(It was not a day for photography, with the result that I added images that I had taken previously at places along our route).

African Black Oystercatcher - Franskraal
African Penguin - Stony Point












ROYD FRITH (posted: 2013-11-29 14:34:30)
I think a sterling effort under the circumstances. Well done!