SUNDAY MORNING TWITCH IN THE OVERSTRAND – 22 DECEMBER 2013
Dawid and Carin Malan and myself decided to explore the Overstrand during the holiday season and to do it over three mornings: from Pearly Beach to Fernkloof, Onrus to the Swartrivier road and from Arabella to Rooiels. It was decided to do a cumalative count and to see what this area can produce. This morning we did the central region and got together at the Vermont Salt Pan.
As usual the count started with Cape Sugarbirds feeding on a bottlebrushes across the road. We are so blessed to have these birds visiting our gardens during the summer months. At the pan Grey Herons, Kelp Gulls and White-breasted Cormorants were active at nests. Good numbers of Yellow-billed Ducks, Cape Shovelers and Egyptian Geese were on display, together with many Greater Flamingos and Black-winged Stilts. Unfortunately there was a Mallard present, but we were pleased to find Macoa Ducks and Malachite Kingfishers, birds that are not regularly available here. The usual ralian-type species and the two resident warbler species were also present. Around the pan there were Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Bulbul, Levaillant's Cisticola, Fiscal Flycatchers (with chicks), Karoo Prinia, and Cape Weavers on display. We reached a count of thirty species in a short period of time. This is certainly a top birding destination and we will continue marketing it as such. (This is why I keep on writing these reports).
Cape Wagtail with prey
We went to the Onrus beach and picked up most of the usual doves and sparrows along the way and thought that it was not to bad to find Cape Batis and Sombre Greenbul in close proximity to each other.
Harderbaai was again very good: the terns were already present in large numbers at the day roost and we managed to pick up the usual Common, Sandwich and Swift Terns easily. There were also the gulls, hadedas, Cape and Crowned Cormorants and White-fronted Plovers present. Also great to find several African Black Oystercatchers.
Oystercatcher with Swift Terns
From here we moved to the KARWYDERSKRAAL and SWARTRIVIER loop roads. These do represent high quality wheatfield birding in close proximity to Hermanus and Cape Town. The Karwyderskraal road can be reached from two points (S34° 15'47.14” E19° 10'54.65”) and (S34° 21'35.10” E19° 08'35.87”) along the R43 and can give comfortable access to larger birds such as Denham’s Bustard, Blue Crane, White Pelican and even Secretarybird. Most of the area’s LBJ’s could be studied along this road and the three buzzards, African Marsh-Harrier and Black Harrier, the two kites and a variety of accipiters, together with African Fish-Eagle and Osprey have been observed here.
The Swartrivier road (S34° 17'02.64” E19° 11'09.72”) is a dirt road that stretches between the farmstead on the Karwyderskraal road and the N2 by the Gabriëlskloof wine estate close to Botriver town. This is a fairly quiet road and one can really bird at leisure. This affords locals the opportunity to compare the difficult LBJ’s of the region and visitors to get several of the region’s specials and endemics.
The Swartrivier road is well known for its birds of prey in summer and we managed to locate Jackal and Steppe Buzzards, Black-shouldered and Yellow-billed Kites. As far as LBJ's are concerned we racked up all of the cisticolas, larks and pipits that the region normally has on offer. Breeding birds that were carrying food included Large-billed Larks, Cloud and Grey-backed Cisticolas and African Pipits. It is just so wonderful to travel slowly down a quiet country road at this time of year and be able to compare the differences between these cryptically coloured birds.
The area around the low water bridge also did not disappoint as it produced many Barn, Greater Striped and White-throated Swallows, Rock Martins and White-rumped Swifts. We were fascinated to find a Purple Heron building a nest and marked the spot for future reference. We picked up the calls of three warblers and the usual Sacred Ibises and Cattle Egrets were on show. Other interesting birds in this general area included Malachite Kingfisher, Red-billed Teal and Spotted Thick-knee.
In total we managed to identify 76 species in the four hours that we spent driving around. Coffee beckoned and we spent some time at the restaurant at the Gabrielskloof wine estate. This comes highly recommended - an ideal stop-over after some casual birding.
This central section of the Overstrand municipal region is to be regarded as a must for serious birders when visiting Hermanus, Botriver or Caledon, or when just passing through the area. Tomorrow morning we will do the eastern sections of the Cape Whale Coast and bird at great birding destinations such as Stanford, Witkrans, the Uilenkrans estuary and the Danger Point peninsula. Watch this space!