BIRDLIFE OVERBERG OUTING TO DE MOND NATURE RESERVEPosted on the 16th January 2018
BLO outing to De Mond, led by Chris Cheetham on Thursday 11 January 2018
Kindly note that a wonderful selection of images taken by members is available at the photo gallery at this link:
Route to De Mond - we took the quickest route: Fernkloof, R43 to Stanford, R316 to Napier& Bredasdorp, SE of Bredarsdorp we turned down to De Mond. On the way back from De Mond we meandered back on dirt roads where we cut through the Agulhas National Park and up to Elim then over the Koueberge and joined up with the R326 about 5 km outside of Stanford.
I left Pringle Bay at 5.30am sharp so that I would be on time to get to Fernkloof Nature Reserve in Hermanus at 6.30am. The day promised to be balmy and hopefully not to windy at De Mond. A group of 12 set off from Fernkloof past the Hermanus lagoon and towards Stanford. We saw several raptors - Common Buzzards, Yellow-billed Kites, a Black-winged Kite and White-necked Ravens plus on the telephone wires and fences Common Starlings, Fork-tailed Drongos, Common Fiscals and the usual mix of Doves (Laughing, Turtle, Red-eye) and Speckled Pigeons.
After turning onto the R316 we saw our first, of quite a few sightings, of White Storks. We also had a stunning sighting of a pair of Blue Cranes with 2 chicks! So far so good with the promise of good birding staying the course.
We had a stop at the Napier sewage works which was a hive of activity with the following water birds: Cape Shoveler, Yellow-billed Ducks, Cape and Red-billed Teals (with chicks), Little Grebe, Black-winged Stilts (with chicks). On the banks were the ever-present Egyptian Geese, Blacksmith Lapwings, Common Moorhen and in the distance, in a tree, a Grey Heron. The Stilts tried some aerial attacks to show their displeasure of our intrusion and the Shovelers make a quick departure just after we arrived.
After a quick coffee and petrol stop we headed off towards Bredarsdorp and down to De Mond. We slowed as we turned onto the dirt road that leads to De Mond. Near the grove of Bluegums and alien trees we saw Cape, Yellow and Brimstone Canaries. A Malachite and Southern Double-collared Sunbird added some colour while the Karoo Prinia and Cape Bulbul some noise!
Further down the road we spotted African Pipits, Red-capped Larks, Capped Wheatears and a few Crowned Lapwings. While we stopped to look at this a Bokmakierie was seen and heard but a lifer for a few members was just a couple of 100 meters down the drag – two Denham’s Bustards!
Driving into De Mond area we added Red-faced Mousebirds, Barn Swallows and a Fiscal Flycatcher. We were now excited to head into De Mond! Our two visitors (I met them at Rooisand the day before when Jill and I managed to see the VIB – White Wagtail and invited them to join us), David and Peter, from Gauteng had never visited De Mond. They and the rest of us were again blown away by the beauty of it all.
We paid our dues and headed off with spotter scopes and binoc’s and cameras at the ready. Walking down the boardwalk we had a brief sighting of a Black Harrier, Yellow-billed Kite with either a bird or a fish in it’s beak and a Rock Kestrel flew by within about 10m of us. We also saw a few waders – Common Greenshank, Grey Plovers and Common Ringed Plovers. A pair of Oystercatchers were on the far bank and Kelp plus Hartlaub"s Gulls flew overhead. A Caspian Tern was also patrolling the area.
As we left the board walk, we could see the terns roosting in the distance and every now and then they would all take off and “swarm” so these dark clouds would form and then they would descend back down onto the sand (I am not sure if you can call this a murmuration of terns, but it is apt!)
A few more waders were spotted – Little Stints, Common Whimbrel, Little Egret, White-fronted Plovers, Curlew Sandpipers and Sanderlings. The White-breasted and the Cape Cormorants were resting on the beach.
While all these sightings were happening, we were also trying to identify the Terns. The Caspian was easy as it’s the largest and has the unmistakable large red bill. The Swift Terns with their yellow bills in their thousands were a sight to behold. They flocked together with the Common Terns, who are slightly smaller in size. The Sandwich Terns were recognisable by their long yellow-tipped black bills. The Little Tern is tiny and similar to a Damara – so long discussions ensured! While the majority agreed that the Little Terns were present the jury was out on the Damaras!
Our last sighting was the highlight of the trip for myself and another tick for my list – 4 Eurasian Curlews! We managed to get to within about 60m meters. This is the largest wader and has a very long, decurved bill. Seeing these birds and the Common Whimbrel close together made for a clear understanding in the difference in the two species. The Eurasian Curlews are described by Sasol E-birds as Near-threatened and uncommon Palearctic migrant.
By now we were hot and thirsty and looking forward to our picnic lunches under the milkwood’s. A Southern Boubou was around and looking for lunch together with the Cape Spurfowls. A Cape Batis was also spotted. The new Warden asked to see Chris (who was worried we were in trouble 😊) but it turned out that it was to notify us of the Avian Flu outbreak affecting the terns. We all departed in different directions, with some members making it an overnight stay and without a doubt found other treasures in a truly special part of the Overberg!
Chris decided to take us back via the Agulhas National Park where we drove past the largest natural indurated freshwater wetland in SA). It was very dry and the drought was apparent. We picked up a few more birds – Black-headed Heron, Cattle Egret, Cape and Southern Grey-headed Sparrows and the common African Stonechat. The Cape and Pied Crows were out in numbers. We spotted some Kittlitz's Plovers at a farm dam where Brown-throated Martins were flying overhead.
A memorable spot, and lifer for some, was the Agulhas Long-billed Lark! The Large-billed Lark had been seen earlier. Hadeda and Sacred Ibis were seen along the route plus we could add the Common Ostrich to our list. Both the Cloud and Levaillant’s Cisticolas were seen during the course of the day. I am sure I have not mentioned all the birds – our final list was 97 for the day!
Thank you to Chris, fellow Bird Life Overberg birders and our two guests for a simply stunning outing. Good birding in a magical spot – De Mond…
Text by Jenny Parsons