Migrants of the Agulhas Plain - Dr W. De Klerk
(This short article first appeared in the November 2015 E-Bulletin of the Agulhas National Park and is posted with the permission of the Editor. - Ed.)
October and November are exciting months for avid birders. This year will be no different after very good rains in the area. Why? Because every year for the past hundreds of years, something extraordinary has evolved. Birds from the northern hemisphere decide to leave for the warmer Southern hemisphere and for some reason decide to fly thousands of kilometres to the Southernmost tip of Africa! Some do it non-stop, others stop at feeding grounds along the way to stock up on body fat and energy for the journey. Incredible! The Agulhas Plain have 33 Palaearctic Migrants visiting the area. Of these Palearctic migrants about 24 are regular visitors and fairly common. The more common species are Yellow-billed Kite, Steppe Buzzard, Common Quail, Barn Swallow, White Stork, Grey Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Little Stint, Common Whimbrel, Common Greenshank, Eurasian Curlew, Ruddy Turnstone, Ruff, Sanderling, Sandwich Tern and Common Tern. The majority of Palearctic migrants seem to appear quite late in October, the exception being Yellow-billed Kite which appears in September. The Booted Eagle seen in July, more than likely is from the local breeding population and seems to stay in the area. Many of the migrant waders seem to reach the Southern tip of Africa only in November. Barn Swallows interestingly are seen for almost eight months of the year. The Common Whimbrel seems to have a local population that stays throughout the winter.
The Agulhas Plain also have 15 Intra-African migrants. About 14 of these are fairly common. Of these Lanner Falcon, Forest Buzzard, Namaqua Dove and Acacia Pied Barbet would not normally be considered migrants, but it certainly seems to be the case from the records. Most of the swallows considered to be Intra-African migrants appear relatively early in September. These include White-throated, Greater Striped and Pearl-breasted Swallow. Do not miss the elegant African Paradise Flycatcher which will soon begin to appear in the Plain!