A WEEKEND AT BIRDERS SELF-CATERING BFE AT VELDDRIF
Posted on the 15th February 2015
We were invited to spend a few days at BIRDERS self-catering Birder Friendly Establishment in Velddrif. It is right on the Lower Berg River Wetlands and we experienced great bird-watching over the three days, despite strong winds making birding fairly difficult. The house is wonderfully well equiped, very practically planned and beautifully appointed. We decided to post a photo article to give birders a feeling of what to expect.
Early morning views from the stoep
Sunset from the kitchen
Marlien, Charel & Elaine on the patio
Excellent birding is to be had at various spots along the river. The estuary is saline and tidal, and interesting at all tidal stages. Between October and April many migratory waders visit the area. It has been shown that the mud banks along the river support the highest diversity of waders along the Atlantic seaboard.
Exciting birds observed from the patio included LITTLE BITTERN and BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, with AFRICAN MARSH-HARRIER quartering over the reed beds continually. A lone BLACK HARRIER also made an appearance late on Saturday afternoon. More common species were AFRICAN DARTER, CATTLE and LITTLE EGRETS, BLACK-HEADED, GREY and PURPLE HERONS, AFRICAN SPOONBILL, BLACK-WINGED STILT. Good numbers of REED and WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANTS, AFRICAN SACRED IBIS, PIED KINGFISHER, BLACKSMITH LAPWING and CAPE TEAL were seen throughout our stay. Many waders were also observed and these will be mentioned later.
Many garden birds were also present: Besides the usual doves, sparrows and starlings, species seen around the house were BOKMAKIERIE, GREY-BACKED and LEVAILLANT'S CISTICOLAS in the reed beds, AFRICAN HOOPOE, NEDDICKY, KAROO PRINIA, MALACHITE and SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRDS.
SWARTJIESBAAI (S32º 48’10.35” E18º 11’40.30”) on the road towards Hopefield offers great birding and Friday morning turned out to be no exception: Look out for BLUE CRANE, LANNER FALCON, SOUTHERN BLACK KORHAAN, LARGE-BILLED LARK, and BARN OWL along the access road. We encountered ACACIA PIED BARBET, JACKAL and STEPPE BUZZARDS, SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL, KAROO SCRUB-ROBIN, AFRICAN STONECHAT and CHESTNUT-VENTED TIT-BABBLER on the farm.
Resident waders along the salt pans included KITTLITZ'S, THREE-BANDED, CHESTNUT-BANDED and WHITE-FRONTED PLOVERS, while migrants included COMMON GREENSHANK, COMMON RINGED and GREY PLOVERS, RUFF, COMMON, CURLEW and MARSH SANDPIPERS, LITTLE STINT, RUDDY TURNSTONE and COMMON WHIMBREL. CASPIAN and SWIFT TERNS were patrolling the channels and vast numbers of GREATER and LESSER FLAMINGOS and BLACK-NECKED GREBES were everywhere. We were very excited about a small flock of LITTLE TERNS – such a pity that I had to take photographs through the car's windscreen.
Vagrants seen here and on neighbouring farms in the past include GOLIATH and SQUACCO HERONS, SAND MARTIN, RED-NECKED PHALAROPE, BLACK-TAILED and HUDSONIAN GODWITS, LITTLE BLUE HERON, COMMON REDSHANK and LESSER YELLOWLEGS. The highlight of our visit was undoubtedly ten CASPIAN PLOVERS – unfortunately they flew straight over our vehicle and we were unable to turn around on the narrow track between the salt pans to try to get images.
Kindly keep in mind that permission for entry should be obtained from the owner. (Contact Jan Kotze at +27 022 783 0818).
A stopover at the traditional fishing businesses at Bokkom Alley is also worthwhile. It was my birthday of Friday and we had lunch at 'MY & DJOU RESTAURANT' and supper at 'DIE VISHUIS'. Both these establishments are well worth supporting as these are very entertaining and affordable. Birding here can be superb, and birds seen regularly include HARTLAUB'S and KELP GULLS, GREY HERON, GIANT and MALACHITE KINGFISHERS and GREAT WHITE PELICAN. Birds can be viewed throughout the year from the area which overlooks the inter-tidal mud flats and salt marshes from Bokkom Alley towards the Riviera Hotel and this should also be investigated.
Velddrif serves as a wonderful base for birding in this central part of the Cape West Coast throughout the year. It lies central to the West Coast National Park, the West Coast Fossil Park, St Helena Bay, Rocherpan, Verlorenvlei, Aurora and Piketberg. The diversity of species to be found at these different birding destinations makes a visit to Velddrif and environs a priority for visiting birders. This is often a real hot spot for vagrant species and a birding destination not to be underestimated. 'BIRDERS' is the ideal base to explore Velddrif and the Lower Berg River Wetlands, as well as the the other destinations in the region. Visit www.birders.co.za
(We submitted a Birds In Reserves Project (BIRP) card and recorded 112 species, of which 84 were observed from 'BIRDERS').