NOW THAT THE MIGRANTS ARE GONE – VERMONT, HARDERBAAI AND SWARTRIVIER ROAD
Posted on the 10th April 2016
This morning Elaine and me decided to use the brilliant weather that we had been experiencing over the last few days to bird our usual summer circuit along parts of the Cape Whale Coast. We were interested in comparing our summer counts to this autumn morning now that the migrants are gone. In summer we often find more than 100 species along this route.
We started at the VERMONT SALT PAN where the water had receded dramatically over the last few weeks. There were many White-breasted Cormorants, Egyptian Geese, Greater Flamingos and Black-winged Stilts on display, but surprisingly Maccoa Ducks were the only ducks to be seen. The usual ralian-type species and the two resident warbler species were also present. Around the pan Bar-throated Apalis, Bokmakierie, Southern Boubou, Cape Bulbul, Levaillant's Cisticola, Fiscal Flycatcher, Karoo Prinia, Cape Spurfowl, Common Waxbill and Cape Weavers were prominent, either though sightings or by call. We reached a count of thirty-five species in a short space of time. This is certainly one of the top birding destinations in our area.
From here we drove through VERMONT where a single Rock Kesterl and then a Black-shouldered Kite showed well. We also picked up most of the usual doves, mousebirds and sparrows along the way, as well as Cape Batis and Sombre Greenbul at the ONRUS CARAVAN CAMP.
Immature Black-winged Stilt
HARDERBAAI was again very good with Hartlaub's and Kelp Gulls, African Black Oystercatchers, White-fronted Plovers and Swift Terns being plentiful. It is clear that winter is approaching as Cattle and Little Egret and Sacred Ibis were present in good numbers. These three species are usually not around at Harderbaai during summer months. We also found a single Grey Heron and Cape Cormorant, the latter somewhat surprising on its own. The highlight here however was a Grey-headed Gull – the first time that we had ever seen this species at Harderbaai.
African Black Oystercatchers
From here we moved to the KARWYDERSKRAAL and SWARTRIVIER roads. These do represent high quality wheatfield birding in close proximity to Hermanus and Cape Town. The Karwyderskraal road can be reached from two points (S34° 15'47.14” E19° 10'54.65”) and (S34° 21'35.10” E19° 08'35.87”) along the R43 and can give comfortable access to larger birds such as Denham’s Bustard, Blue Crane and even Secretarybird.
The Swartrivier road (S34° 17'02.64” E19° 11'09.72”) is a dirt road that stretches between the farmstead on the Karwyderskraal road and the N2 by the Gabriëlskloof wine estate close to Botriver town. This is a fairly quiet road and one can really bird at leisure. This affords locals the opportunity to compare the difficult LBJ’s of the region and visitors to get several of the region’s specials and endemics.
Vast numbers Spur-winged Geese were present along the Karwyderskraal road. The Swartrivier road again produced the goods as far as LBJ's are concerned we racked up all of the cisticolas, except Cloud, as well as Large-billed and Red-capped Larks and African and Plain-backed Pipits. There were African Stonechats all over the show. A Hamerkop and a pair of South African Shelduck were present at a dam with very little water. It is just so wonderful to travel slowly down a quiet country road and be able to compare the differences between these cryptically coloured birds.
Female African Stonechar
And the male
The area around the low water bridge also did not disappoint as a Purple Heron was feeding there, a bird that we had not seen here for a very long time. Black Crakes and Commong Moorhens were also on view. Large flocks of Pied Starlings were present around Gabrielskloof.
In total we managed to identify 82 species in the three hours that we spent driving around – not too shabby if one considers that the migrants have left. This central section of the Overstrand municipal region is to be regarded as a must for serious birders when visiting Hermanus, Botriver or Caledon, or when just passing through the area.