Posted on the 2nd May 2014

Dr Schalk Burger, a Neurosurgeon from Johannesburg, called us earlier in the week and asked if we could take him around birding so that he could try to get some photographs of Cape endemics. Earlier in the week he had already gone to some of the birding hotspots such as De Hoop, Rooiels, Harold Porter and the Danger Point Peninsula. It was decided to go out this morning and Carin Malan and myself met him at the bird hide at Willem Appel se dam in Stanford. Stanford residents Peter Hochfelden and Richard Masson were already in the hide with Schalk by the time we arrived, all having a good time taking photographs.

Willem Appel se dam is certainly one of the best birding spots in our region and we rapidly found some 30 species on and around the dam. The weather was clear and windless and the light quality this early in the morning just perfect for photography. There were good numbers of WHITE-BACKED DUCKS on the dam, together with YELLOW-BILLED DUCKS and unfortunately Mallard. Interestingly no CAPE SHOVELERS. BLACK CRAKES, COMMON MOORHENS and AFRICAN PURPLE SWAMPHENS also showed well, but they were all being given a hard time by very aggressive RED-KNOBBEB COOTS – strange behaviour. The usual two cormorants, CATTLE EGRET and AFRICAN DARTER also showed well. The MALACHITE KINGFISHERS again posed beautifully and allowed great photographic opportunities. Unfortunately it seems as if the WHITE-THROATED SWALLOWS had left. No LITTLE BITTERN or BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON this morning either. The calls of LITTLE RUSH-WARBLERS and LESSER SWAMP-WARBLERS came from the reeds continually. Most of the usual terrestrial birds that one would expect in habitats like this were very active early on and these included CAPE BULBUL, FORK-TAILED DRONGO, CAPE LONGCLAW, SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED and MALACHITE SUNBIRDS, CAPE ROBIN-CHAT and CAPE WHITE-EYE. We rapidly managed to rack up more than 30 species.

Malachite Kindfisher
White-backed Duck









We then debated where we should take Schalk next. It was decided to do the OUDEKRAAL ROAD that starts close to the source of the Kleinrivier. It is a farm road that runs parallel to the R316 from the R326 close to Raka Winery to Teslaarsdal. We went there at speed as we had the sun in our faces and I wanted to get to the Oudekraal Road quickly so that Carin and Schalk could get good photographs with the sun behind us. We only stopped once as we picked up a small raptor in the top of a dead tree. I had to turn the vehicle around and battled a bit to allow them clean shots of the bird – a beautiful LITTLE SPARROWHAWK.

The lowwater bridge right at the beginning of the Oudekraal road again produced the goods. There must have been at least 50 YELLOW-BILLED DUCKS on the open water to the north of the bridge – none of us had ever seen so many of this species in one spot. To the south we could watch both BROWN-THROATED and ROCK MARTINS taking turns to perch on dry branches above the water. YELLOW CANARY, GREY-HEADED SPARROW, CAPE WEAVER, COMMON WAXBILLS and PIN-TAILED WHYDAH showed well in the vegetation along the water. Further on we had good sightings of species such as RED and YELLOW BISHOPS, GREY-BACKED, LEVAILLANT'S and ZITTING CISTICOLA, KAROO PRINIA, AFRICAN STONECHAT, MALACHITE SUNBIRD and CAPPED WHEATEAR. LARGE-BILLED and RED-CAPPED LARKS and AFRICAN PIPIT were also very prominent.

Little Sparrowhawk
Karoo Prinia










White Stork










But then, the experience of the morning, it not the year: a farmer was tilling a land and we noticed BLUE CRANES and BLACK-HEADED HERONS feeding frenetically against the horison. Then we started seeing various birds of prey running around on the ground joining in the bountiful food source. There were JACKAL BUZZARDS from youngster through “teenagers” to adults in a variety of colourations, ROCK KESTRELS and almost bizarly several LANNER and PEREGRINE FALCONS feeding within yards from each other. These graceful flyers seemed almost out of sorts and spastic hopping, skipping and jumping along the ground feeding on who knows what. What a spectacle and certainly one that I will remember fondly for a very long time.

Crazed Lanner
Young Jackal Buzzard









The largest dam along this road was also interesting. We added BLACKSMITH LAPWING and RED-BILLED TEAL here, but the sheer numbers of waterbirds were simple impressive. (In the past we also found MACCOA DUCK, SOUTHERN POCHARD and CAPE and HOTTENTOT TEALS at this dam). Further on we also added BOKMAKIERIE, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, BRIMSTONE CANARY, CAPE CROW, BLACK-SHOULDERED KITE and CAPE SPURFOWL.

We then decided to have lunch a Gabrielskloof and had a great time chatting about many birding delights of the Overberg (and Western Cape for that matter) and Schalk decided that he'll be back in October. Many birds will be breeding then and we will hopefully have more time to help him to chase many more of our specials. The wind had picked up strongly by the time we left the restaurant, making birding diffcult and photography just about impossible. The parting blow along the Swartrivier was however stunning: two WHITE STORKS and three DENHAM'S BUSTARDS together. How lekker is that?

Denham's Bustard
and two










In the end we managed to get more than 70 species on a morning of great birding experiences. Make a note of the OUDEKRAAL ROAD and keep in mind that there is a restaurant called KLIPDRIFT (seriously) along the way that comes highly recommended.
I had other commitments this afternoon and Carin took Schalk birding at the Vermont Salt Pan and Harderbaai in Onrus. She added the following images:

Red-knobbed Coots
Cape Shoveler










Swift Terns
New birding friends: Schalk & Carin












JILL MORTIMER (posted: 2014-07-05 09:01:12)
Sounds great - don't know Willem Appel in Stanford - will do this in spring.
ROYD FRITH (posted: 2014-05-06 18:55:21)
A great punt for the Overberg. Could Anton email me the article for putting on eagle eyes website.

Many thanks,

MARGARET (posted: 2014-05-02 18:52:18)
Great report - sounds like good road for Capetonians to try our luck as well!