Had the privilege of birding at Vogelgezang (www.vogelgezang.co.za) few days ago. This is a birding paradise available to those making use of their accomodation (Close to De Mond NR). Although some of it is visible from the road, the best spots are along the vlei area on the farm both above and below the gravel road.
The owner is doing a great job of alien clearing and it revealed ideal Hottentot Buttonquail habitat! We identified a list of 70 species in 3 hrs which included Agulhas Long-billed Lark, SA Shelduck, Southern Tchagra, Sombre Greenbul, White-faced Duck, Diederik Cuckoo, Common Ringed Plover, Black-shouldered Kite, Spoonbill, Little Stint, Ruff, African Snipe, Glossy Ibis, Hundreds of G Flamingo, Whiskered Tern and African Marsh-Harrier.
Agulhas Long-billed Lark
Southern Black Korhaan
The most exciting ID was 6 Yellow-billed Egrets which is only the 2nd record in 6 years of the Agulhas birding project. Could it be due to the drought?
Another positive during the holidays was the increase in numbers of African Marsh-Harriers, mostly juveniles. This I believe is due to the clearing of aliens and the staff of the AGNP needs to be commended for their role in it. Aliens formed a thick canopy of three meters over their previous habitat which made it impossible to feed in their usual low flight hunting method. Also exciting was the first recording of Southern Black Korhaan in the Rietfontein area of the AGNP(on neighbouring farm). This species which previously was quite common according to locals. It prefers the renosterveld and farming destroyed some of their habitat and then the alien invasion did the rest. Now with the clearing of aliens it appears as if they might be on the return. Well done to the management of Nuwejaars SMA and AGNP!
Young African Marsh-Harrier
Other specials of this holidays birding included the first record for Agulhas BP of Tambourine and Lemon Dove (both only heard not seen). The second recording of Greater Honeyguide near Ratelrivier. Already mentioned was the first recording Spotted Flycatcher for the project.
For the past 6 years of the Agulhas BP I have struggled with the Neddicky. Neddicky was reported left right and centre but having spent many hrs in the field I just could not find proof of Neddicky. I requested pictures from fellow birders as proof but no-one could produce so far. Then in Dec the Buttonquail survey visited the area and Neddicky was discussed(discussed!!!!!!!) again. While out on a trip, 2 of the most experienced birders stopped and said: There! Neddicky! I went to the vehicle and played both Neddicky and Karoo Prinia calls to those with me. They agreed it was Prinia(habitat coastal fynbos)! The Prinia (in this area at least) have many variations and one of them is very similar to Neddicky but not the same. Then I wake up 03h00 one night and hear Neddicky! At night???? Am I going bonkers? Early morning it is still drizzling and overcast and still I hear the call although much shorter repetitions. Similar bicycle pump call. I start looking for it. Frog! I wonder whether someone could help with the ID of this frog! By now the heckling is the rule rather than exception! (Another Nediprinia!) Then day 5 of B. survey, once again someone calls: Neddicky! (Not again! ) But somehow this call is different. I follow the call and this really sound like Neddicky to me! The habitat, although next to a dam, seems right: Against the mountain, among the debris of alien clearing. But still no Neddicky! Then I seriously start looking for Neddicky and 2 weeks later find myself against the Bredasdorp mountains again where alien clearing was done. At last I get a clear call and get a (not so clear) picture. Tick! Relief.
For those interested in visiting the area, the next month will be ideal as the Agulhas Plains had lots of rain and with the drought in the rest of SA good sightings can be expected.
May you have a happy and prosperous 2016!
Dr Wim de Klerk