The BirdLife Overberg morning outing on 31 January 2015 was originally planned for the Rooisand Nature Reserve along the shores of the Botriviervlei. It was was then decided to also visit Meer-en-See at the mouth and Nida Potgieter kindly got us a permit to enter the area. On the Friday afternoon it was also decided to quickly pop into the Hawston sewage works, as we had not been to the latter two venues for some time. Well, the birding at the sewage works and Meer-en-See turned out to be so good that we never got to Rooisand.
The group met at the Hawston sewage works and within an hour we were able to record 25 species. These included a stand of about 30 GREATER FLAMINGOS, ducks such as YELLOW-BILLED DUCKS, CAPE SHOVELERS and many CAPE TEALS, BLACK-WINGED STILTS with their young and THREE-BANDED PLOVERS. The reedbeds were also interesting and produced LEVAILLANT'S CISTICOLA, LITTLE RUSH-WARBLER and LESSER SWAMP-WARBLER.
From here we went to Meer-en-See and picked up STEPPE BUZZARD, BLACK-SHOULDERED KITE and excitingly SOUTHERN TCHAGRA along the access road. The estuary close to the mouth was busy, busy, busy. Large stands of flamingos could be seen in the distance and a sand bank some 300 meters away had thousands of terns, together with cormorants and oystercatchers. The usual CASPIAN, COMMON, SANDWICH and SWIFT TERNS worked the channels for food and we had great fun watching CASPIAN TERNS plunging into the water at breakneck speeds in search of prey, mostly unsuccessfully I might add.
Waders were well represented with COMMON GREENSHANK, MARSH SANDPIPER and COMMON WHIMBREL fairly numerous. The smaller ones included KITTLITZ'S, LITTLE RINGED, THREE-BANDED and WHITE-FRONTED PLOVERS and from the thickets along the shore BAR-THROATED APALIS, BOKMAKIERIE, SOUTHERN BOUBOU and CAPE ROBIN-CHAT were calling continually. BARN, GREATER STRIPED and WHITE-THROATED SWALLOWS and WHITE-RUMPED SWIFTS patrolled the skies. The highlight of the morning however was finding a BAR-TAILED GODWIT along the shoreline.
Frank then suggested that we investigate the thickets and Milkwood groves in the area around the tennis courts. Someone said that these old stands of forest trees remind one somewhat of Nature's Valley. We stumbled upon several bird parties and were able to get good sightings of species such as BAR-THROATED APALIS, CAPE BATIS, FORK-TAILED DRONGO, BRIMSTONE CANARY, SOMBRE GREENBUL, KAROO PRINIA, STREAKY-HEADED SEEDEATER and many mousebirds, sunbirds, waxbills and white-eyes. HELMETED GUINEAFOWL and CAPE SPURFOWL were particularly numerous. Also of interest was that we found KAROO SCRUB-ROBIN at the gate just as we left Meer-en-See.
It is amazing that we were able to identify more than 50 species at Meer-en-See in less than three hours and all of this on foot!!!! This area certainly has vast birding potential, just such a pity that the area is not accessible for the general public (and ordinary birders). Frank felt that we should do this area again later on in the year, but that we do the forest areas first thing early in the morning to get optimal pleasure from the forest species. And the big dippers? When last did you hear of a group of people returning from a birding outing without seeing RED-KNOBBED COOT, HADAHA or HOUSE SPARROW all morning?
We are submitting a Birds In Reserves Project (BIRP) card. Our next outing will be a day outing on Thursday 19 February to the Agulhas National Park. This promises to be a ripper, so try your best to attend. Details will follow shortly.
(Images by Carin, Charles, Anton and Riaan).