Posted on the 20th August 2018

Members of BirdLife Overberg undertook the seventh quarterly Big Bird Count over the weekend of 18 August 2018. 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 various media. The full list of species seen is available upon request from Here is our report:

I started with coffee on a very chilly morning and birded around the house at Onrus and was able to quickly pick up on the usual suspects such as the BOKMAKIERIE, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, CAPE BULBUL, CAPE CANARY, FISCAL FLYCATCHER, STREAKY-HEADED SEED-EATER, CAPE SUGARBIRD, as well as the common doves, sparrows and starlings.

I then did the usual beat through Vermont and Onrus. An adult AFRICAN HARRIER-HAWK drifted casually over the OK shopping centre. The VERMONT SALT PAN produced the PIED AVOCET, BLACK-WINGED STILT, REED and WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANTS and GREY HERON. The LITTLE GREBE, CAPE SHOVELER and CAPE TEAL were also seen, together with KITTLITZ’S and THREE-BANDED PLOVERS. There were no FLAMINGOS on show. Around the edges of the pan species such as the LEVAILLANT'S CISTICOLA, KAROO PRINIA, CAPE SPURFOWL, MALACHITE SUNBIRD and COMMON WAXBILL were seen. The calls of the BAR-THROATED APALIS, SOMBRE GREENBUL, LITTLE RUSH-WARBLER and LESSER SWAMP-WARBLER were added to the list. I ended up with 43 species by the time I left the salt pan. I then drove through Vermont and found BRIMSTONE CANARY and, most excitingly, SOUTHERN TCHAGRA at the Bitou lookout point.

Pied Avocet - Image by Carl Swart
Red-knobbed Coot - Image by Richard Masson










From here I went to the ONRUS LAGOON where I added AFRICAN DARTER, WESTERN CATTLE EGRET, PIED KINGFISHERS and OLIVE THRUSH. Amazingly a PEREGRINE FALCON was seen flying over Onrus beach. At HARDERBAAI I was able to find the CAPE CORMORANT, SWIFT TERN, LITTLE EGRET, AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER and WHITE-FRONTED PLOVER. HARTLAUB’S and KELP GULLS were also present. This left me on 69 species logged in a matter of two hours! Birding is actually excellent in Onrus and Vermont.

I then moved onto the Karwyderskraal road and travelled via the shores of Botvlei at Fisherhaven. Disappointingly only the RED-BILLED TEAL was added at the Hawston sewage works. The road between here and the Fisherhaven slipway produced CAPE BATIS, SOUTHERN RED BISHOP, YELLOW CANARY, ROCK KESTREL and excitingly a single male NAMAQUA DOVE. From the slipway area I managed to add GREATER FLAMINGO, GREAT CRESTED GREBE, GLOSSY IBIS, AFRICAN SPOONBILL and CASPIAN TERN.

White-fronted Plover - Image by Anton



Cape Teals - Image by Riaan Jacobs









The Karwyderskraal section produced birds such as the CAPE CROW, droves of SPUR-WINGED GEESE and CROWNED LAPWING and the road’s “specials” in DENHAM'S BUSTARD and BLUE CRANE. I really worked hard to get the Maribou Stork that has been around this area for some months now, but with no luck. As can be expected this road delivered on common LBJs such as LARGE-BILLED and RED-CAPPED LARKS, AFRICAN PIPIT, PIED STARLING, AFRICAN STONECHAT and CAPPED WHEATEAR. A magnificent JACKAL BUZZARD was also found, but surprisingly no Back-shouldered Kite. I also did not get the Secretarybirds. It was getting close to kick-off for the rugby and I decided to give the old metal bridge over the Bot River and the Swartrivier road a miss and headed back home. In the end I managed to log 102 species on the morning which I thought was not too shabby – once again great Overberg birding!

The next report to come in was from Jenny Parsons. She submitted a combined list with Jill Shapland-Smit, Julia Smith, Alex Boonzaaier and Carl Swart and this was for the area between Rooiels and the Rooisand Nature Reserve. Their list pushed our combined list up to 123 species and there were some really cracking birds seen. Some of their highlights include VERREAUX’S EAGLE, CAPE ROCK-JUMPER, CAPE and SENTINEL ROCK-THRUSHES and GROUND WOODPECKER at Rooiels, as well as LITTLE STINT at Rooisand, together with the coastal cormorants and AFRICAN PENGUINS at Stony Point. See Jenny’s report of their morning’s outing at this link:

Ground Woodpeckers - Images by Jenny Parsons
Cape Cormorant nest study at Stony Point









Then we received Richard Masson’s count from the Stanford region. He had to work on his own as Peter was not well. Richard scored a whopping 111 species, pushing our overall count up to 138 species. His highlight was undoubtedly a TAMBOURINE DOVE in Stanford, where he also added CAPE SISKIN and a WHITE-THROATED SWALLOW as the first summer migrant seen on the day. 

The beautiful Danger Point peninsula - Image by Richard Masson














Then we received Steve Peck’s report from the Napier district. He could only bird on Sunday when the weather was dreadful and very windy as it was his birthday on Saturday – many more Steve. The additions from his list pushed our total up to 146 species, but the quality added really makes some reading: AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER and BROWN-HOODED KINGFISHER, with two cracking endemics in AGULHAS LONG-BILLED LARK and KAROO SCRUB-ROBIN. And some exciting raptors such as LANNER FALCON, AFRICAN GOSHAWK, BLACK SPARROWHAWK and BLACK HARRIER. This amount is now more than the 139 species seen during the count of August 2017, with some reports still to come. Watch out for the announcement of a morning outing to Napier soon, as this place is hot!

Riaan Jacobs did a circular route around Danger Point, Rietfontein, Elim, Baardskeerdersbos and back to Gansbaai and logged 71 species. Great additions to our list include AFRICAN BLACK DUCK, AFRICAN FISH-EAGLE, MARSH SANDPIPER and SANDWICH TERN (the latter two probably overwintering). This took our total of birds seen from dry land to a wonderful 150 species. I believe that this is truly a brilliant total given the time of year and just again shows the marvellous birding potential of our region.

Cape Batis - Image by Jenny Parsons
Crowned Lapwing - Image by Riaan Jacobs









Hennie Otto of Marine Dynamics also sent us a list of pelagic species seen during whale watching excursions on Saturday and Sunday and these included BLACK-BROWED and SHY ALBATROSSES, CAPE GANNET, SUBANTARCTIC SKUA, SOOTY SHEARWATER, COMMON and ROSEATE TERN and RUDDY TURNSTONE. It is also very interesting that they found CASPIAN TERNS flying about around Dyer Island – a species normally only associated with estuaries.

Ultimately we were able to record 158 species, a really excellent count for this time of year. This is very impressive if one considers that counts were not done at Arabella Estate, the Swartrivier road, Elgin/ Grabouw, Villiersdorp and Cape Agulhas regions. Hopefully we will be able to get some people to assist us there in November. Also consider that most of the migrants are yet to arrive – at least 14 more of these species were scored in May.

The vast bird-watching potential of the Overberg region is clearly illustrated with this report. This is certainly a very interesting exercise and it is believed in the medium to long term it should generate some compelling reads. We would like to thank all members and friends who had participated and encourage others to contribute next time around. This will be on Saturday 24 November and will coincide with BirdLife South Africa’s annual Birding Big Day - it is believed that we will be able to record well over 200 species in November.
20 August 2018.

Brimstone Canary - Images by Riaan Jacobs
Cape Canary










Image by Richard Masson




























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