Posted on the 20th August 2017

Members of BirdLife Overberg decided to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day on Saturday 13 May by participating informally in the Global Big Day count co-ordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Teams of members birding in their “home patches” contributed from several areas of the Overberg and interest grew as people started giving feedback through the club's WhatsApp group. We decided to do this on a quarterly basis and here is our report of yesterday’s trip from birding at Vermont, Onrus and the Swartrivier road.

I did the usual beat through Vermont and Onrus with Louis Alberts. The VERMONT SALT PAN produced the usual suspects such as the BLACK-WINGED STILT, REED and WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANTS and GREY HERON. HARTLAUB’S and KELP GULLS were also present. The LITTLE GREBE, CAPE SHOVELER and CAPE TEAL were also seen, together with droves of THREE-BANDED PLOVERS. Surprisingly there were no FLAMINGOS on show, after we found hundreds there 10 days ago. Maybe this is as a result of the good recent rains?

Immature Little Bittern
Cape Shoveler (Both images taken previously)









Around the edges of the pan species such as the CAPE BULBUL, LEVAILLANT'S CISTICOLA, FISCAL FLYCATCHER, KAROO PRINIA, CAPE SPURFOWL and COMMON WAXBILL were seen. The calls of the BAR-THROATED APALIS, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, SOMBRE GREENBUL and LESSER SWAMP-WARBLER added to our list. We ended up with 40 species by the time we left the salt pan.

From here we went to the ONRUS LAGOON where we added PIED KINGFISHERS and OLIVE THRUSH. We were very excited to find an immature LITTLE BITTERN, not a species to be seen easily given the dense cover of reeds at the lagoon. The tide was VERY low at HARDERBAAI and we were only able to find the CAPE CANARY, CAPE CORMORANT, SWIFT TERN and LITTLE EGRET. Strangely we missed out on the AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER and WHITE-FRONTED PLOVER. Thobe Kuipers also called and reported a SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL sitting on his patio in Onrus.

Botriver village from the Swartrivier road
Along the Swartrivier road












Carin and Dawid Malan are in the Kalahari at present with the result that we then did the Karwyderskraal and Swartrivier loop roads, Carin’s usual beat. The Karwyderskraal section produced birds such as the BRIMSTONE CANARY, CAPE CROW, WESTERN CATTLE EGRET and RED-CAPPED LARK. The highlight of the day was undoubtedly a DENHAM'S BUSTARD displaying his ridiculous “white plastic bag” to females that did not seem impressed. The area around the old metal bridge over the Bot River is somewhat flooded and very productive. We were able to add great species such as the SOUTHERN RED BISHOP, BOKMAKIERIE, GREY-BACKED CISTICOLA, AFRICAN BLACK, YELLOW-BILLED and WHITE-FACED DUCKS, CAPE GRASSBIRD, CROWNED LAPWING and RED-BILLED TEAL.

African Stonechat male
Moulting Red Bishop with canola backdrop









Every available piece of land along the Swartrivier road is awash in yellow and green at the moment – it is beautiful, but this “mono-culture effect” makes birding almost impossible. We were only able to add the YELLOW CANARY, LARGE-BILLED LARK, AFRICAN and PLAIN-BACKED PIPITS, PIED STARLING, AFRICAN STONECHAT and CAPPED WHEATEAR along here. One might ask what the biggest shock of the day was: For the first time ever we did not see Blue Cranes along either the Karwyderskraal or the Swartrivier roads. In the end we were able to record 80 species during just over three hour’s birding. This is not too bad given all the other birds that one would expect to find on any other day of the year – we did not see a single Blue Crane, bird of prey, or swallow, swift and martin!!!!!!!!!! Most of the migrants are also yet to arrive. Stiil wonderful birding!

Grey-backed Cisticola
Capped Wheatear (Both images taken earlier)










(Images by Anton)


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