WESTERN CAPE BIRDING FORUM CONFERENCE
EBB & FLOW, WILDERNESS - 11TH TO 13TH SEPTEMBER 2015
(This report first appeared in the December 2015 edition of “THE MALACHITE”, the official LAKES BIRD CLUB newsletter and is posted with the permission of the editor. - Ed.)
Since the beginning of 2014, the LBC has been part of the forum and Bill Naude has been our delegate to most of the meetings. The proposed conference in the Garden Route could not take place in February, as it was hoped, due to a lack of accommodation, but it finally took place at the Loerie’s Nest Conference Facility in the Ebb and Flow Campsite of the Wilderness Section of the Garden Route National Park in September.
I was appointed as Camp Leader, so I undertook to organise the birding programme for the weekend and Bill organised a finger lunch for Saturday and tea and coffee to be available all day.
The approximately 40 delegates and attendees started arriving early on Friday afternoon and I gave them a map so that they could find the Rondevlei and Malachite Bird Hides for an afternoon of birding. I had also arranged with Sue Millard of the nearby Kingfisher Country House that people could have access to her very bird friendly garden. Everyone gathered at the Loerie’s Nest at 18.00 to socialise and partake of the delicious meal prepared by Elaine Odendal and her team.
At 6.30 am. Saturday morning, John Bircher arrived from Knysna and took half of the delegates on a birding walk along the Half-collared Kingfisher Trail. Gail Hanekom, who had overnighted with me in a chalet at the camp, took the other half to the Woodville Big Tree and Forest with the assistance of Brian Vanderwalt’s vehicle. After torrential rain the week before, the weather was very pleasant, although quite cold that morning and some good bird sightings were recorded. Dale Wright was especially pleased to actually SEE his first Knysna Warbler.
The formal conference started after 10am with a presentation by Dr Alan Lee, from Uniondale, called “Birds that Rock and Jump in the Fynbos”, in which he disclosed his findings on his study of how climate change will affect five endemic birds of the fynbos biome. Dr Mark Brown, the Director of Nature’s Valley Trust then gave a very interesting talk on the Conservation Work being undertaken by the Birdlife Plettenberg Bay Partnership. This was followed by Dale Wright’s report on his work over the last few months and he showed off a copy of the recently published revised IBA Directory. All bird clubs will be given their own copy. I had to give a brief update on the Knysna Hope Spot, and it was very brief, as nothing specific has happened since the December launch. Other branches then gave their reports on conservation issues etc. and an interesting proposal to start LIRAs (Locally Important Bird Areas), a step down from IBAs. There was also quite a heated discussion on voting rights in the forum. We broke for the finger lunch, which Bill had organised from a Greek lady in George, which was really excellent.
At the conclusion of the business meeting, about 3.30pm. Gail and John, who had sat in on the meeting, gathered the delegates together for birding walks to the same two areas, as in the morning, people going to the alternate venue. Birding was not as good as in the morning. Everyone returned for the evening meal and drinks at the Lapa, while Gail and John returned to their spouses and their homes.
On Sunday morning I led a small group along the “back” road next to the lakes to look for the Black-collared Barbet, which the keen provincial listers, such as Vernon Head, wanted for their
Lists. Before we even left Ebb and Flow, we saw a Knysna Warbler near reception. Brian Vanderwalt had one stake out to look for the barbet and I had two others, but we just could not find it. We did however get stunning views of a Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk and a Grey Cuckooshrike. We then went back to the camp to check out by 10am. Vernon and Brian went back to look for the barbet again, and finally found a pair, which they think may be nesting in the area. This bird brought the species count for the weekend bird list up to 117. There were many special birds that we were able to find for our Cape visitors and everyone agreed that there were far more birds in the Garden Route than they had thought there would be, and quite a few were going to plan a return visit to Ebb and Flow.