REPORT ON OUTING TO VERMONT SALT PAN, HARDERBAAI AND THE SWARTRIVIER ROAD
Posted on the 16th March 2017
An enthusiastic group of BirdLife Overberg members got together at the OK in Onrus at 07:30 this morning. We welcomed newcomers Barbara and Keith, Betsie, Diane (tied to me with a rope), Jenny, Louise, Marie and René to the outing. We started at the Vermont salt pan and were delighted to find three LESSER FLAMINGOS in among about 40 GREATER FLAMINGOS – not often that these birds are seen here. There were lots of PIED AVOCETS, together with the usual suspects such as the WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANT, LITTLE GREBE, GREY HERON, BLACKSMITH LAPWING and BLACK-WINGED STILT.
The water level is very low at the moment and very few ducks were present – we only saw a single CAPE SHOVELER and a small group of CAPE TEALS. A very agitated THREE-RINGED PLOVER gave great views. BARN and WHITE-THROATED SWALLOWS and LITTLE and WHITE-RUMPED SWIFTS were flying around all over the place.
Flamingos - Riaan
Avocets & flamingos - Riaan
The reed beds and other habitats around the pan hosted the CAPE BULBUL, LEVAILLANT'S CISTICOLA, CAPE ROBIN-CHAT, MALACHITE SUNBIRD, COMMON WAXBILL and CAPE WHITE-EYE. Other species included AFRICAN PARADISE-FLYCATCHER, SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRD, CAPE WAGTAIL and CAPE WEAVER. We also heard the calls of SOUTHERN BOUBOU and SOMBRE GREENBUL. The local pair of CAPE SPURFOWL still had eight youngsters with them, now nearly full adult birds. A very good success rate given that they had eleven chicks in October.
We then went to Onrus and Harderbaai and along the way found most of the doves, SPECKLED MOUSEBIRD and most excitingly heard a SOUTHERN TCHAGRA. These birds seem suprisingly plentiful in the coastal brush these days as Elaine and Helé find them fairly regularly on their early morning hikes and Duncan has produced great images of it in his garden in Vermont. Harderbaai also delivered with a group of COMMON WHIMBRELS working the rocks. We further added the LITTLE EGRET, WHITE-FRONTED PLOVER and AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER. The COMMON, SANDWICH and SWIFT TERNS were also present and I was able to point out the key identification features of the various species to those that attended the F4B course ten days ago.
Barn Swallow - Riaan
Three-banded Plover - Riaan
The trip along the Karwyderskraal road immediately produced DENHAM'S BUSTARD and JACKAL BUZZARD – not too shabby. We further added the CATTLE EGRET, COMMON FISCAL, FISCAL FLYCATCHER, HELMETED GUINEAFOWL, BLACK-HEADED HERON, as well as huge numbers of WHITE-NECKED RAVENS. They were sitting feeding on something in a field, the most I had ever seen together. The radios really came in handy along here with us spread over several vehicles. In the area around the metal bridge we found the BAR-THROATED APALIS, SOUTHERN RED BISHOP, FORK-TAILED DRONGO, LESSER SWAMP-WARBLER and GREATER STRIPED SWALLOW. Marie spotted a large group of BLUE CRANES up against a hill and we estimated that there were about 40 of them
The area around the Swartrivier road is shockingly dry at the moment and the birding was actually very disappointing. We did hower spot CAPE CANARIES, LARGE-BILLED and RED-CAPPED LARKS, AFRICAN PIPIT, KAROO PRINIA and droves of AFRICAN STONECHATS. We were very surprised to get COMMON SANDPIPER and a THREE-BANDED PLOVER at a small dam in the middle of nowhere. We only saw a COMMON MOORHEN at the low-water bridge. Later on we found ROCK KESTREL, SPOTTED THICK-KNEE and CAPPED WHEATEAR. We then enjoyed coffee and snacks at the Gabrielskloof Wine Estate.
Red-capped Lark - Anton
Large-billed Lark - Anton
On our way back we decided to check out the waterbirds along the "honeymoon bridge" over the Bot River estuary. This is not something I recommend at all as vehicles speed seriously along here – scary stuff. We added the AFRICAN SPOONBILL and CASPIAN TERN and some coots here, with a NEDDICKY calling from the bushes. The cherry on top however was when two BLACK-SHOULDERED KITES took on a LANNER FALCON carrying prey and chased it across the skies eventually driving it off towards Karwyderskraal. Aerial manoeuvres that one simply can't believe – how blessed we are to have witnessed something like this to end off a fantastic outing. See Riaan's brilliant set of images of this dramatic event below - it has already achieved more than 2,500 views on Facebook within 8 hours and that overnight.
Bridge over the River Bot - Riaan
African Spoonbills - Riaan
In the end we found 85 species and Betsie will submit her BirdLasser list. I thought we did rather well given that lack of water (and most ducks) at the salt pan, the very dry conditions along Swartrivier and the fact that many of the migrants had already left.
The next outing will be on Thursday 23 March when Chris Cheetham will lead a hike in the Agulhas National Park to celebrate World Water Day. Get details at this link: