Posted on the 2nd January 2017

Happy New Year to all.
Elaine and myself have not done our New Year's day birding outing for a few years and we did not have guests overnight. This gave us the opportunity to bird on New Year's day in an attempt to get our year's list of species seen off to a 'flyer'. We wanted to get ourselves fully acquainted with the BirdLasser methodology and decided not to take photographs. BirdLasser is brilliant and it enables birders to become involved in atlasing with ease. We would like to encourage all members to become involved in this.

Our first bird for the year was a CAPE SUGARBIRD feeding on a bottle-brush across the road!!!!!!!!! We are so blessed to have these birds visiting our garden during summer months. We started at the Vermont salt pan where there was large-scaled activity. The BLACK-HEADED and GREY HERONS, BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS and WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANTS were active at nests and there were large numbers of the YELLOW-BILLED DUCK, CAPE SHOVELER and CAPE and RED-BILLED TEALS all over the place. Interestingly no Maccoa Ducks, Black-necked Grebes or Hottentot Teals that were fairly prominent in recent months. PIED AVOCETS, GREATER FLAMINGOS and BLACK-WINGED STILTS were present in large numbers and the RED-KNOBBED COOT, LITTLE GREBE and COMMON MOORHEN were numerous.

Grey Heron at Harderbaai
Black-headed Heron at Vermon salt pan











The reed beds and other vegetation around the pan also produced interesting birding. Abundant endemic species included the CAPE BULBUL, CAPE CANARY, FISCAL FLYCATCHER, KAROO PRINIA, CAPE SPURFOWL, SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRD, CAPE WEAVER and CAPE WHITE-EYE. Other common species included the CAPE ROBIN-CHAT, MALACHITE SUNBIRD, OLIVE THRUSH and COMMON WAXBILL. The large stand of Milkwood trees on the eastern side of the pan hosted species such as the BAR-THROATED APALIS, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, SOMBRE GREENBUL and AFRICAN PARADISE FLYCATCHER. The highlight at the salt pan was undoubtedly several pairs of LEVAILLANT'S CISTICOLAS feeding fledglings. This has been the first time that we were able to observe this behaviour – interesting that the feeding mostly occurred on the ground. Within 60 minutes we recorded a whopping 41 species at the Vermont salt pan. This destination is hugely underrated.

The Onrus peninsula and Harderbaai did not disappoint either. COMMON, SANDWICH and SWIFT TERNS were out in force and we were delighted to find both the AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER and WHITE-FRONTED PLOVER easily. Large numbers of BARN, GREATER STRIPED and WHITE-THROATED SWALLOWS were also present. Amazingly we were unable to find a single Kelp Gull throughout the day. We then went home for a bit of breakfast before going to the Karwyderskraal and Swartrivier roads. At this stage we were already on 56 species for the morning.

Three-banded Plover at Vermont salt pan
White-fronted Plover at Onrus








Then onto the Karwyderskraal road where we added ALL THREE BUZZARDS, as well as BLACK-SHOULDERED and YELLOW-BILLED KITES. The CAPE and PIED CROWS and WHITE-NECKED RAVEN were also recorded together with WHITE-FACED DUCKS and a single THREE-BANDED PLOVER. From here we worked our way along the Swartrivier road. BLUE CRANES were abundant and we were able to find many pairs with their chicks close to the road. Unfortunately we did not think of counting the number of fledglings seen. The CAPE CANARY was abundant and we were very pleased to add the CLOUD, GREY-BACKED and ZITTING CISTICOLAS, as well as NEDDICKY along the road. We also found the LARGE-BILLED and RED-CAPPED LARKS and AFRICAN PIPIT, LONG-BILLED and PLAIN-BACKED PIPITS. KAROO PRINIA, AFRICAN STONECHAT and CAPPED WHEATEAR were very common. We were on 82 species by the time we reached the N2. This is probably the best area in the Western Cape Province where visitors can systematically observe and learn to identify the LBJs of the region and birding here is recommended strongly.

African Pipit along Swartrivier
Large-billed Lark along Swartrivier










Elaine has never been to Tesselaarsdal and we decided to go there and return to Hermanus along the newly completed road between Caledon and Hermanus. We decided to go along the gravel road between Dassiesfontein and Caledon as we had not birded along there for some time. Good numbers of PIED STARLINGS were found. Again there were many BLUE CRANES with chicks and a very small stream surprisingly produced a MALACHITE KINGFISHER and a pair of GIANT KINGFISHERS. The large dam in close proximity to Caledon hosted hundreds of EGYPTIAN and SPUR-WINGED GEESE with vast numbers of young, as well as good numbers of AFRICAN DARTERS and AFRICAN SPOONBILLS and LITTLE GREBES on nests.

We then went some distance along the Oudekraal road to the Jacobsdal dam where we were only able to add HOTTENTOT TEAL. No Maccoa Duck or Common Quail this time. Upon our return we only found one WHITE STORK in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. It was now very hot after the middle of the day and birding slowed down significantly. Big dippers on the day besides the Kelp Gull? We did not see or hear Fork-tailed Drongo, Pin-tailed Whydah or any of the cuckoos or mousebirds. To record 101 species without much fuss within 5 hours on a very hot day clearly illustrates the vast birding potential in and around Hermanus. Keep in mind that detailed descriptions of all the top bird-watching destinations along the Cape Whale Coast are available at this link:

African Stonechat at Karwyderskraal road
Jackal Buzzard along the Oudekraal road













The next official BirdLife Overberg outing will be to the De Mond Nature Reserve on Thursday 12 January. RSVP Anton at or sms at 082 550 3347 if you want to come along. Details here:

(The images used herewith were taken previously along the roads described).

Blue Crane pair with chicks along the Swartrivier road









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