Posted on the 22nd October 2017

Ten members of BirdLife Overberg and four committee members of the Groenberg branch of the DA participated in the first monthly coastal cleanup along the eastern shoreline of the Hoek van de Berg Nature Reserve. This is certainly one of the most stunning stretches of coastline along the Cape Whale Coast shoreline and needs to be experienced. We started from Brekvisbaai and worked westwards towards the first bay that we quickly named “Tern Bay” and for obvious reasons.

Let us just give context: This is being done in collaboration with and in support of Antonio De Silva-Swart’s work with Coastal Cleanup Conservation. We also thank Whale Coast Conservation for providing the bags sponsored by Plastics SA. This monthly cleanup forms part of BirdLife Overberg’s broader campaign on the conservation of the Overstrand coastline and estuaries. The other projects are the identification of key breeding sites for African Black Oystercatchers and White-fronted Plovers and regular bird counts along the three main estuaries in the region. Fishing line and cigarette butt bins will also be installed at key spots along our coast. Several environmental education initiatives are also being planned.









It was a beautiful clear and windless morning and the birds were very active. Species heard calling continually from the coastal thickets included Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Boubou, Cape Bulbul, Sombre Greenbul and Karoo Prinia. There were coastal birds flying all over the place and pairs of oystercatchers were noisy and very active – clearly ready to breed. The “discovery” of what we dubbed Tern Bay was however the highlight. A huge flock of mixed terns and many Cape Cormorants and other seabirds provided great entertainment. We all agreed that a morning outing to Tern Bay is on the cards. In the end I managed to count 47 species, even though this was not the purpose of the day.

The cleanup was interesting and very rewarding. We worked in twos or threes with one marking off the litter items collected. This is done on the standard form developed by the Oceans Conservancy, an international agency based in America. The information will be forwarded to them, as well as Plastics SA. This is done to gain a better world-wide understanding of the negative impact of plastics on our oceans. 









An Excel spreadsheet of the littler collected is available from us, but we hereby merely highlight a few findings. We estimate that just less than 500 meters of fishing line was removed from the rocks. Other prominent items included plastic bottle caps (105), plastic straws and stirrers (86), plastic beverage bottles (87) and small pieces of plastic (262). This is consistent with findings from other parts of the world and these items appear to be a problem everywhere. 

We speculated that several other items collected could be related directly to abalone poaching. Three “dikidiki lights” that are used to dive at night, flippers and a wet suite and an astonishing 101 condom wrappers were picked up. The poachers apparently use condoms to protect their cell phones when they enter the sea.









We eventually took all the bags of litter to the recycling plant where it will be sorted and processed. We all agreed that this is a very satisfactory and rewarding exercise and we are looking forward to repeating it on a monthly basis. It will be interesting to see how the contents of the bags change in time (or not) as we do the cleanup on a regular basis. My appreciation goes to everyone who had participated and we are looking forward to welcoming those members who could not make it yesterday to next month’s cleanup. News just in is that 10 children who had assisted Antonio in the past had now also volunteered to help us with our cleanups. We appeal to all members to become involved in this campaign and see how many friends and other interested parties you can involve. The next cleanup will be on Saturday 25 November and will coincide with BirdLife South Africa’s Birding Big Day. Contact Elaine at or 082 455 8402 to volunteer your support.
Thank you to Carin for providing the majority of these images taken with her cell.









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