WAKKERSTROOM EXPERT COMMENTS ON BLUE CRANES & OTHER THINGS IN THE OVERBERG
Posted on the 22nd June 2015
(This letter/ report first appeared in the June edition of the Wakkerstroom Bird Club's newsletter. - Ed.)
Hi Wakkerstroomers –it is hard to believe that it is six weeks since I left Wakkers for the great, new adventure. It took a while but now I am feeling as though this is “home” and I am loving it. Have done a bit of getting to know this very vast area but still a long way to go – and now discovered where South is so that’s a help - a step forward! Two weeks ago the first rain fell – 130+mm in 2.5 days and what a difference that made to the landscape which changed within a short time from endless rolling grey/white hills and dales to refreshing green as the shoots popped through that unlikely looking ground!
A friend of long standing who lives in Somerset West, spent a few days with me last week and she, like Ann Cleal, LOVES every bird and doing this sort of monitoring and observing – it was great to have Ally with me and I know she will spend a lot more time helping. The first evening she was here, we went to a roost site called Soutpan where hundreds or cranes roost. Close by en route, is another pan and there were already a few cranes and around 200 Flamingos there and although we went to the other one I had a gut feeling about the first one so we went back and as the sun set over the mountains we managed to count 160 Blue Cranes although we felt there were more but it got too dark to count. We also saw some flying in the direction of the other pan - a lovely way to spend a few hours. People ask about this project so here is a brief outline to put you in the picture:
The Blue Crane, Anthropoides paradiseus, is well-known as South Africa’s national bird. Found only in southern Africa, this iconic species faces an uncertain future. The population’s stability is undermined by threats including development (wind farms, power lines and urbanisation), habitat loss due to climate change and human alteration of the landscape (e.g. through mining) and destructive human activities (poisoning and illegal trade). Historically Blue Crane numbers and distribution patterns have changed with time. Recently the agricultural activities and the resultant landscape mosaic of agricultural patches in the Overberg Region of the Western Cape have benefited Blue Cranes and the area has become a stronghold for the species. Looking forward, changes to the socio-economic environment and climate in the area could alter farming practices to the detriment of the cranes. In addition, fatal collisions with power lines in the area currently kill 12 % of the Blue Crane population annually. The Overberg Region is a hotspot for wind farm developments and, together with the associated increase in power line instalment; these most likely will impact the Blue Crane population and exacerbate the negative effect of unnatural Blue Crane fatalities in the area. In response to these threats the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s objective is to identify the habitats these birds require for foraging, roosting and breeding and to ensure the continued existence of these birds. We aim to identify and describe important Blue Crane sites and their flight patterns in the Overberg region in order to gain information crucial for advising developers prior to construction. Importantly the project will allow us to address threats to Blue Cranes and develop relationships with local farming communities in the Western Cape thereby increasing awareness of biodiversity and Blue Crane conservation. (In a nutshell)
My Garden “neighbours” Although around my house there is exotic stuff, some HUGE Blue Gums and other, there are other nice trees and shrubs and a lovely water section and in the short time we were at home between outings, Ally saw from the verandah – All Cape – Batis, Bulbul, Canary, Crow, Wagtail, Weaver and White-eye also, Bokmakierie. Levaillant’s Cisticola, Reed Cormorant, Red-eyed dove, Fork-tailed Drongo, Common Fiscal, Guinea Fowl, Lesser Honeyguide, Speckled Mousebird, Streaky-headed seedeater; Common Starling; Malachite Sunbird; Southern Double-collared Sunbird;, Hadeda – by the hundred and I hear the Eagle Owl quite often. There is a lot of cheerful noise and action around – lovely, and when out counting cranes, I am amazed at the large number of Denham’s I see.
The Sea and Me ….Although I have never regarded myself as a great fan of the ocean, I am SO enjoying nipping down to the lovely, quiet beaches and popping in for a wonderful bit of freshly caught and cooked "fis n tjips”! This weekend I ate this treat at the southernmost point of our continent –Agulhus with a little White Fronted Plover close by, waves rolling into a little bay, and rugged rocks that must have a million tales to tell – such as the ship-wreck close by.
Until another time – Glenn Ramke