Dawid and Caren Malan visited the De Mond Nature Reserve outside Agulhas in December and came away with some amazing photographs of massed terns:
The BirdLife Overberg committee decided to organise a morning club outing to De Mond on Sunday 23 February. This would also serve as the first BIRP count of the reserve done in line with the MOU that was signed with CapeNature. We presented the Flight for Birders course at Hermanus on Friday and Saturday. It was a vey large group that included 21 representatives of SANBI and I was beginning to think of ways of getting out of this one as I was dead tired. On Saturday afternoon however Trevor Hardaker sent out a SA Rare Bird News report that read as follows: “WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER – a single bird located at De Mond Nature Reserve near Arniston this morning. I am still trying to work out how many records there are of this species, but it is certainly less than 25 for Southern Africa ever! The last record of this species in the subregion was in Walvis Bay back in December 2007! Added distractions included 4 (!!) GOLDEN PLOVERS thought to be made up to 2 AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVERS and 2 PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVERS as well as at least one GREATER SAND PLOVER. More details on the golden plovers once photos have been properly assessed. – reported by Ethan Kistler, Billi Krochuk, Seth Musker and Campbell Flemming.” No question, we were off to De Mond on Sunday morning.
Upon our arrival we immediately set off towards the mouth. Along the way we found a variety of cormorants, gulls and waders, but were very pleased to find a single DAMARA TERN in flight. We studied our first “different” wader in amongst three COMMON WHIMBRELS and were delighted to figure that we got our first AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER. Some distance further we joined Wilfred and Marcia Crous, John and Greta Graham and two birders that drove all the way from PE to witness this spectacle. There were huge numbers of COMMON RINGED PLOVERS, whimbrels, AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER and several other cormorants and waders. The stars of the show however were PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVERS and John painstakingly and patiently pointed out the differences betreen these and an AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER close by. LITTLE TERNS also showed well making for wader birding at it's very best.
Earlier, and closer to the mouth John also found GREATER SAND PLOVER and BROAD-BILLED SANDPIPER, but no sign of the the WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER that was reported the previous day. We thought that it would be interesting to just name-drop the other, more common species that were found along the estuary: LITTLE EGRET, GREATER FLAMINGO, KITTLITZ'S, THREE-BANDED and WHITE-FRONTED PLOVERS, COMMON GREENSHANK, RED KNOT, GREY PLOVER, SANDERLING, COMMON and CURLEW SANDPIPER, LITTLE STINT and CASPIAN, COMMON, SANDWICH and SWIFT TERNS. Need one say more? Brilliant birding!
Pacific & American Golden Plover
Some of us also spent some time in amongst the bushes and found a variety of common species that one would normally expect to find in these coastal thickets. We then settled for a picnic lunch along the water and were entertained by “springers” leaping out of the water, and kingfishers and several swallows, martins and swifts. We enjoyed a number of very confiding species in the area around the benches where we were eating. CAPE SPURFOWL, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, COMMON FISCAL, FISCAL FLYCATCHER, CAPE WEAVER, interestingly moulting into breeding plumage (the Hermaus bunch aren't yet) and CAPE BULBULS all allowed good images. The prize sighting however was a SOUTHERN TCHAGRA working the leaf litter under the milkwoods. Really outstanding birding illustrating why De Mond should be regarded as one of the most underrated birding destinations in the Western Cape Province.
We travelled to and from De Mond in different vehicles and the some good species were seen along the way. These included DENHAM'S BUSTARD, SOUTHERN BLACK KORHAAN, BLACK HARRIER, AFRICAN MARSH HARRIER, all three common buzzards and many BLUE CRANES - Overberg birding at its very best. All in all we together managed to find more than a hundred species on this day outing, but the quality of vagrants blows one's mind.