HOTTENTOT BUTTONQUAIL ENCOUNTERSPosted on the 9th November 2014
Saturday 8 November saw us do another Birds In Reserves Project count as part of the MOU signed with CapeNature ¬ this time to Kleynhagelkraal, a new Stewardship site just west of Pearly Beach. Keir Lynch initially gave us an excellent background to conservation issues in the area, the significance of the site itself and the potential dangers posed by the proposed Bantamsklip nuclear site in this area.
The count started off with a bang. As we were passing through the gate, a pair of VERREAUX'S EAGLES came drifting over the hill, with a pair of JACKAL BUZZARDS and WHITE-NECKED RAVENS immediately in hot pursuit. The buzzards had bred successfully on the cliffs and had two juveniles in noisy attendance. Their 'jackal-like barks' entertained us for most of the morning. We also found CAPE BULBUL, NEDDICKY, CAPE SUGARBIRD and CAPE WHITE-EYE in the mature fynbos in the area around the gate. We then parked the vehicles at one of the houses and here we enjoyed the beautiful song of a CAPE ROCK-THRUSH.
We then headed off for a hike through the property. The weather was not good for birding or photography, but the fynbos fantastic and Keir and Alouise's interpretation of the veld and its many little creatures inspiring. GREY-BACKED CISITICOLAS and CAPE CLAPPER LARKS showed of well , but the beauty of the fynbos overshadowed everything. The wetland are along the eastern edge of the property produced BRIMSTONE CANARY, YELLOW BISHOP, KAROO PRINIA, CAPE ROBIN-CHAT and STREAKY-HEADED SEEDEATER, amongst others. Keir attempted to call up Red-chested Flufftails, but with no luck.
Keir describes the fynbos at the bottom of the property as typical Agulhas Sand Fynbos, with shorter, sparse restio and grass cover - ideal HOTTENTOT BUTTONQUAIL habitat. We therefore fanned out into a straight line in the hope of flushing one of these little known fynbos endemics. And soon the first one took to the air. Not a strong flyer at all and it disappeared into the vegetation some 50 yards further away. This created great excitement as it was a lifer for several members of the group. This very fleeting encounter is probably most people's best chance of seeing this very elusive species however. And then another, this time a shorter distance away. And again …........ By now members could described critical features observed. The fourth time a bird broke cover was however most spectacular: it did not fly away from us, but went diagonally across the front of those at the left of the line. Chris was able to describe the key identification features of this species properly, the yellowish-orange legs (or the other way around?) making this the female. This experience overshadowed the days birding by far. Photographs? Forget it.
The members of BirdLife Overberg have decided to come out in support of the proposed HBQ research project by Dr Alan Lee and Dale Wright and have launched a fundraising effort in this regard. Members have already contributed R 28,000.00 in the first month and are now challenging other members, bird clubs and individuals who have been taken out to find these elusive birds to contribute as well. Read more about this exciting fundraising effort and Carin's challenge in the user comments at the following link:
|Hottentot Buttonquail Image: Dr Alan Lee|
An extreme encounter like this usually takes the motivation to do bird counts away, but we now continued further through ranker and higher fynbos dominated to proteas. This is closer to the mountain and Keir once again delivered by describing the reasons for this change in vegetation. GREY-BACKED CISTICOLA, CAPE CLAPPER LARK, KAROO PRINIA, CAPE SUGARBIRD and ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD were particularly active. Dams close to another house featured ROCK MARTIN, BLACK SAWWING, BARN, PEARL-BREASTED and WHITE-THOATED SWALLOWS and LITTLE RUSH-WARBLER.
Keir then led us on a trail along the base of the cliffs back to the vehicles. Very old stands of milkwoods dominate the area here. BAR-THROATED APALIS, CAPE BATIS, BOKMAKIERIE, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, FISCAL FLYCATCHER and CAPE SISKIN were some of the species added along this stretch. It was then time for a well-deserved picnic lunch and we wondered what Kleynhagelkraal can produce a next time when we hopefully will have better weather for birding. Later we stopped over at the Uilenkraal estuary and went to look at progress with the development of buildings for the Dyer Island Conservation Trust's African Penguin and Seabirds Rehabilitation Centre to be officially opened in February. Very impressive indeed, but we will report on this at a later stage.
The BIRP counts with CapeNature being done as club outings are becoming increasingly exciting and valuable. It allows us access to fantastic birding hotspots that we would not have been able to visit otherwise and we are building up datasets that could in future contribute to the conservation and management of critical conservation areas. Members are encouraged to participate in these important outings in larger numbers.
The next scheduled outings are:
SATURDAY 22 NOVEMBER: We are going to do a 'dawn chorus BIRP count' at Platbos Forest - we'll depart at 04h00.
WEDNESDAY 3 DECEMBER: BIRP count at Kleiheuwel (a new stewardship site in close proximity to De Mond) and De Mond Nature Reserve.
SATURDAY 6 DECEMBER: BIRP count at Fernkloof Nature Reserve to be followed by our year-end function that evening ¬ details of these outings to be released soon.
(Images by Carin Malan, Craig Adam and Anton)
|Cape River Frog|
|Dawid in deep concentration|
|Raven & buzzard 'dogfight' Image: Riaan|