It was Monday morning and the cleaners came in, with the result that I decided to do birding for 60 minutes along my usual route. I normally drive a specific route past the Vermont Salt Pan, do a loop through Vermont, go around the Onrus peninsula and Harderbaai and end at the Onrus estuary along Lagoon Drive. There are several similar reports on this website – it is always interesting to compare these counts during different months. The December silly season has started, certainly not the best birding conditions with so many people around.
As usual the count started with Cape Sugarbirds feeding on a bottlebrushes across the road. At the Vermont salt pan Grey Herons, White-breasted Cormorants and Blacksmith Lapwings were active at nests. Good numbers of Yellow-billed Ducks, Egyptian Geese, Cape Shovelers and Cape Teals were on display, together with a small group of Greater Flamingos. I was pleased to find Maccoa Ducks and interestingly two Black-crowned Night-Herons were flying about over the reeds. The usual ralian-type species were on show and the two resident warbler species Lesser Swamp-Warbler and Little Rush-Warbler, as well as African Reed-Warbler were very vocal. Around the pan there were Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Batis, Cape Bulbul, Levaillant's Cisticola, Fiscal Flycatcher, Karoo Prinia, Common Waxbill and Cape Weaver. The water level is still very high and this probably explains why I did not find Pied Avocet, Kelp Gull, Kittlitz's Plover and Black-winged Stilt, all species that are fairly common at this time of year. My count stood on 38 species by the time I left the salt pan.
Vermont salt pan breeding island
I drove through Vermont on my way to Harderbaai and picked up most of the usual doves and sparrows and Bokmakierie, Fiscal Flycatcher, Common Fiscal, Cape Spurfowl, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Cape Robin-Chat and Sombre Greenbul. Little Egret, Kelp Gull and Common Whimbrel were seen at the lookout point. My count reached 49 species within 30 minutes. I dipped on Red Bishop, Southern Boubou, African Dusky-Flycatcher, Southern Tchagra, Spotted Thick-knee and Pin-tailed Whydah, all species that one would normally expect to find when driving through Vermont. The lookout point over the Onrus estuary has been overgrown by reeds, with the result that I did not add a single species here, not even African Darter, Cattle Egret, Sacred Ibis and Pied Kingfisher that one would normally be quarenteed to find here. Olive Thrush was seen at the caravan camp.
Many species hidden in those reeds
Harderbaai produced Common, Sandwich and Swift Terns and a few African Black Oystercatcher at the day roost. Also great to find two White-fronted Plovers actively breeding. There were no Cape or Crowned Cormorants about. There were good numbers of Rock Martins and Barn and White-throated Swallows flying about. Strange that I found no Helmeted Guineafowls, Greater Striped Swallows or any of the hawks this morning. One is always in with a chance of finding African Goshawk, African Harrier-Hawk and Black Sparrowhawk when driving this circle route. In the end I ended up with 69 species in the hour's birding, not too shabby with so many people about. Later on I did see African Harrier-Hawk, Speckled Mousebird, Streaky-headed Seedeater, Red-winged Starling and Greater Striped Swallow at home and heard Helmeted Guineafowl and Piet-my-Vrou in the distance. It once again shows that Onrus and Vermont are hugely underrated as bird-watching destinations.