THE WHALE COAST ROCK-JUMPERS REPORT ON BIRDING BIG DAY 2016Posted on the 27th November 2016
Carin Malan, Ilse Bigalke, Chris Cheetham and myself, with Charles Naude as back-up participated in BirdLife South Africa's BIRDING BIG DAY by visiting some of the top birding destinations in the beautiful Overstrand local municipal region. Ilse had to leave at 11h00 and Charles came along in his own vehicle to take photographs. He replaced Ilse when she left. We initially set ourselves the target of trying to get the highly unlikely target of 200 species on the day. We participated in the national BirdLasser category and it was very stimulating following the progress of all the other teams. This app is fantastic and we would like to encourage all members to start using this – it's fun and you will be contributing to the conservation of our birds and their habitats.
|Chris's logoded vehicle|
|In the beginning|
We set off at 04h30 and went to WITKRANS in the Uilenkraal's Valley. The river was unfortunately merely a trickle – probably explaining why we did not hear the haunting call of the BUFF-SPOTTED FLUFFTAIL this time around. We did however quickly pick up the calls of BAR-THROATED APALIS, OLIVE BUSH-SHRIKE, BLUE-MANTLED CRESTED-FLYCATCHER, AFRICAN PARADISE FLYCATCHER and TAMBOURINE DOVES. As the light improved we found the FOREST BUZZARD, AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER and CARDINAL and OLIVE WOODPECKERS within the grove of poplar trees. We also took a hike along the Fynbos dominated surrounds of the well-wooded area and added the BOKMAKIERIE, DIDERICK and KLAAS'S CUCKOO, CAPE GRASSBIRD, CAPE BULBUL and AFRICAN OLIVE PIGEON. The SOUTHERN RED and YELLOW BISHOPS, KAROO PRINIA, CAPE SUGARBIRDand COMMON and SWEE WAXBILLS were also prominent. An exciting addition just before we left the “forest” was the KNYSNA WOODPECKER – always a good bird for our area. Other great birds spotted along the rest of the Uilenkraal's Valley were the BLUE CRANE, LESSER HONEYGUIDE and a rufous-phased juvenile BLACK SPARROWHAWK. By the time we left the valley we were already on a whopping 77 species! This area must certainly count as one of the most underrated birding areas along the entire Cape Whale Coast.
The small sewage works outside FRANSKRAAL was really productive as it produced the YELLOW-BILLED DUCK, CAPE SHOVELER, AFRICAN SPOONBILL, CAPE TEAL, WATER THICK-KNEE, and unfortunately MALLARDS and hybrids. At the UILENKRAAL ESTUARY we added COMMON, SANDWICH and SWIFT TERNS, together with REED and WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANTS, GREATER FLAMINGOS, AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER and WHITE-FRONTED PLOVER. The waders were out in force as we found COMMON GREENSHANK, COMMON RINGED PLOVER, COMMON, CURLEW and MARSH SANDPIPERS, COMMON WHIMBREL and several others. Excitingly Carin picked up a VERREAUX'S EAGLE being chased by WHITE-NECKED RAVENS over the Gansbaai mountain. By 08h00 we had reached an impressive 100 species and we were convinced that we would be in with a chance to reach 200 species on the day.
On our way back to Franskraal we found a magnificent AFRICAN MARSH-HARRIER quartering over the FYNBOS. The coastal strip between FRANSKRAAL and KLEINBAAI produced the usual gulls, BANK, CAPE and CROWNED CORMORANTS and RUDDY TURNSTONE. The sighting of the day however was a large brown seabird that landed behind a fishing boat. With the help of the spotting scope and after some heavy contemplation and debate the bird's pale head resulted in us confirming that it was an adult SOUTHERN GIANT-PETREL! A wonderful sighting from land. We then popped into the GREAT HOUSE for a cup of coffee and a quick chat with Wilfred Chivell and Hennie Otto of the DYER ISLAND CONSERVATION TRUST. They are taking a group out on a pelagic cruise on Sunday. Such a pity that they could not do it on BBD as this would have added several species to the total count of South African birds on the day.
|Red-knobbed Coot on nest, Appel se Dam|
|Little Egret, Uilenkraals Estuary|
From here we left for STANFORD and thought that one of the strangest sightings of the the day was the HADEDA IBIS – only the 111'th bird seen. This must surely be some sort of record to see this common species so late in the day. WILLEM APPEL SE DAM at STANFORD was disappointingly quite. No WHITE-BACKED DUCKS or MALACHITE KINGFISHERS that one would expect to find on any given day. We did however add species such as BLACK CRAKE, AFRICAN DARTER, AFRICAN REED-WARBLER, AFRICAN PURPLE SWAMPHEN, LESSER SWAMP-WARBLER and LITTLE RUSH-WARBLER. Elsewhere in Stanford we had AMETHYST SUNBIRD and outside town CAPE SISKIN was easy to get at the usual stake-out.
The KLEIN RIVER ESTUARY produced BLACK-NECKED, GREAT CRESTED and LITTLE GREBES and SOUTHERN POCHARD. In HERMANUS we found AFRICAN HARRIER-HAWK before Charles replaced Ilse. The VERMONT SALT PAN again came up trumps as we were able to add PIED AVOCET, LEVAILLANT'S CISTICOLA, MACCOA DUCK, HOTTENTOT TEAL and CAPE SPURFOWL, as well as breeding BLACK-HEADED and GREY HERONS and BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS.
|Team Rock-jumper at Witkrans|
Then we visited Jessie Walton and Rob Martin at one of their fieldwork sites in the VAN DER STEL PASS and got AFRICAN FISH-EAGLE along the way. We were only able to add STEPPE BUZZARD, BROWN-BACKED HONEYBIRDS and COMMON HOUSE-MARTIN in more than an hour spent here and this probably let our last chance of getting to our 200 species go out the window. The SWARTRIVIER ROAD really delivered on LBJ's as we found CLOUD and ZITTING CISTICOLAS, LARGE-BILLED and RED-CAPPED LARKS, and AFRICAN, LONG-BILLED and PLAIN-BACKED PIPITS and CAPPED WHEATEAR along here. We were still on track with our projected targets when we reached 150 species just after 13h00. Unfortunately we were not able to get any waterbirds along here and we feel that the very dry conditions contributed significantly to us not getting to our target. We did get WHITE-FACED DUCK and SOUTH AFRICAN SHELDUCK at the area around the metal bridge along the KARWYDERSKRAAL ROAD. Sightings now really slowed down, although we added BLACK-SHOULDERED KITE and RUFOUS-CHESTED SPARROWHAWK later upon our return to Hermanus.
|Steppe Buzzard, Van Der Stel Pass|
|Greater Flamingos, Vermont Salt Pan|
Along the access road to the ROOISAND NATURE RESERVE along the Botriviervlei we added GREY-BACKED CISTICOLA, ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD and COMMON SWIFT, and along the vlei KITTLITZ'S PLOVER, SOUTHERN TCHAGRA and CASPIAN TERN and LITTLE STINT. No WESTERN OSPREY as last time around. In Betty's Bay we located the CAPE BUNTING and CAPE ROCK-THRUSH. At STONY POINT we added FAMILIAR CHAT, AFRICAN PENGUIN and ROCK KESTREL. The second highlight of the day was that Team Rock-jumper added the CAPE ROCK-JUMPER as the final bird seen on the day!!!!!!!!!! It was now 17h30 and as we now definitely had no chance of getting to 200 species before dark we decided to throw in the towel – we'll again give it our best shot next year.
We were very pleased with the 178 species that we found on the day – not too shabby for the Western Cape Province. My sincere appreciation goes to Carin, Ilse, Charles and Chris for sharing this wonderful experience, and particularly to Chris for doing the driving. Brilliant day's birding, confirming the Overstrand's status as one of the top places to go bird-watching. We are very excited about the launching of the newly upgraded Cape Whale Coast birdfinder web page on 1 December. The members of BirdLife Overberg would like to thank and congratulate the AGULHAS BIODIVERSITY INITIATIVE (ABI) SMALL GRANTS FACILITY for supporting the development of these birdfinder web pages through sponsorship obtained from the TABLE MOUNTAIN FUND (an associated trust of WWF South Africa). The announcement of the link to club members will be done on Tuesday afternoon.
And the big dippers? Species that we found regularly on previous BBD trips, but not this year include Acacia Pied Barbet, Yellow Canary, Long-billed Crombec, Spotted Flycatcher, African Goshawk, Cape Clapper and Agulhas Long-billed Larks, Piet-my-Vrou, Ruff, Red-billed Teal, White Stork and Victorin's Warbler.
|At the Uilenkraal's estuary bridge (without wind)|
|On Rotary Way Scenic Drive|
(Images by Carin Malan and Charles Naude (birds) of BirdLife Overberg).