REPORT ON A BIRDING HIKE ALONG THE ONRUS AND VERMONT SHORELINE
Posted on the 30th September 2017
We went on a slow birding hike along the coastal path at Onrus and Vermont this morning. We started at the parking area of the Harderbaai Marine Reserve and immediately picked up at least 12 Whimbrels right in front of us. I have never seen so many of these birds here. We then spent a lot of time studying the small stretch of sand where we found the White-fronted Plover chicks last week. Sadly it seems as if they are no more – Elaine reckons they were probably taken by Kelp Gulls. A pair of very raucous African Oystercatchers was yelling their heads off, hopefully a sign of the breeding season approaching. These two species have now become BirdLife Overberg’s conservation priorities and we again urge everyone to report nests and breeding records to us, together with GPS co-ordinates. Hartlaub’s Gulls, African Sacred Ibis and wagtails were foraging along the shoreline.
We then turned our attention to the terns and I was able to point out the key identification features of the three common species. The resident Swift Terns are easy to identify by pure yellow bills. The smaller Common Tern with its characteristic black shoulder patch and Sandwich Terns that feature black bills with yellow tips are already present in good numbers. There was a single Cape Cormorant between the usual White-breasted Cormorants on the rocks behind the terns and strangely enough an African Darter – not often that I see them along the seashore.
We then hiked the section of the coastal path along the fence of the Onrus caravan park between Atlantic Drive and Davies Pool. It offers the viewing of coastal birds together with species associated with the well-wooded habitats of the caravan park. The calls of the Bar-throated Apalis, Sombre Greenbul and Cape Robin-Chat were heard from the milkwood trees, together with the common sparrows and doves. Species such as Egyptian Goose, Little Egret and Grey and Purple Herons were foraging along the rocks.
Resident Swift Tern
Migratory Sandwich & Common Terns
The short section of the coastal path between Davies Pool and the Jan Rabie tidal pool is excellent for the observation of species along the coastal fynbos and thickets. We easily picked up Olive Thrush, Cape Robin-Chat and Malachite and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds fairly soon. I was able to point out the difference in calls of noisy pairs of Bar-throated Apalis and Karoo Prinia– the prinia with its surprising loud and rapid ‘kli-kli-kli’ call and the male apalis with its slower, but harsh ‘tillup-tillup-tillup’ notes, with the female responding with her high-pitched ‘ti-ti-ti’. What a privilege to observe this from such close quarters. We were delighted to see several endemic species such as Fiscal Flycatcher and Cape Weaver in quick succession. Pied Kingfishers were plunging into the water thus utilizing prey in deeper waters.
Southern Double-collared Sunbird
The longer sections of coastal path between the tidal pool and the Bitou Street lookout point, offered alternative birding experiences. The vegetation along here is rank and dense and the thickets significantly taller than that of the previous section of the coastal path. We added species such as Streaky-headed Seedeater, Speckled Mousebird and Brown-throated and Rock Martins along here. Excitingly a Common Fiscal feeding the female allowed us to come within about two feet from him and just sat there. These simple little things make slow birding such a pleasure. Unfortunately we dipped on specials such as the Burchell’s Coucal, Long-billed Crombec, Southern Tchagra and Bokmakierie that one would normally expect to find along this section of the coastal trail.
In the end we managed to identify 43 species in about two hours and this on foot. Keep in mind that this compares well with what one would expect to count in a rest camp in the Kruger National Park – scoring on foot that is. My appreciation goes to Carl for submitting a BirdLasser report card. A detailed description of birding opportunities along these wonderful coastal trails in Onrus and Vermont can be studied at this link: