Posted on the 7th March 2019

Members of BirdLife Overberg participated in the ninth quarterly Big Bird Count during February 2019. Teams of members birding in their “home patches” contributed from several areas of the Overberg and interest grew as people start giving feedback through the various media. The full list of species seen is available upon request at Here is our report:
I started with coffee on a beautiful, clear and windless morning and birded around the house at Onrus and was able to quickly pick up on the usual suspects such as the CAPE BULBUL, CAPE CANARY, COMMON FISCAL, FISCAL FLYCATCHER, CAPE SUGARBIRD, as well as some of the common doves, sparrows and starlings. Manie, Daniël, Rynhard and I started at the Vermont salt pan (now literal). There is not a drop of water in the pan, even though there were many WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANTS and KELP GULLS loafing around on the sand. GREY and BLACK-HEADED HERONS were tending to their young, but that was it! The shockingly dry conditions are really sad. Around the edges of the pan species such as the LEVAILLANT'S CISTICOLA, SOMBRE GREENBUL, CAPE SPURFOWL, MALACHITE SUNBIRD, LESSER SWAMP-WARBLER and COMMON WAXBILL were added to the list. We ended up with 26 species by the time we left the salt pan, compared to the 48 species recorded in February 2018 – say no more. 

Cape Spurfowl
Cape Bulbul








Our drive through Vermont produced an adult AFRICAN HARRIER-HAWK perched on a roof, but then a magnificent BLACK SPARROWHAWK caused a sensation. We also added HARTLAUB’S GULL, KAROO PRINIA and WHIMBREL at the Bitou lookout point. From here we were off to the ONRUS LAGOON where we added AFRICAN DARTER, WESTERN CATTLE and LITTLE EGRETS, PIED KINGFISHER and OLIVE THRUSH. BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON was the best sighting here. Amazingly there were NO terns or oystercatchers at HARDERBAAI and we only added COMMON SANDPIPER, WHITE-FRONTED PLOVER and a few others. This left us with 49 species by the time we left ONRUS, compared to 69 species a year ago. 

The HAWSTON SEWAGE WORKS produced LITTLE GREBE, CAPE LONGCLAW, CAPE SHOVELER and AFRICAN SWAMPHEN, with HOTTENTOT TEAL stealing the show. Thanks to Nida for again organising access to MEER-EN-SEE where the action started picking up at last! The three common terns were added together with PIED AVOCET, GREATER FLAMINGO, GLOSSY IBIS, the oystercatcher, KITTLITZ’S PLOVER, BLACK-WINGED STILT, CAPE TEAL, CASPIAN TERN and several others. We only added JACKAL BUZZARD and BLACK-NECKED GREBE at FISHERHAVEN.

Swift Tern
African Black Oystercatchers










The KARWYDERSKRAAL section produced birds such as the BLUE CRANE, CAPE CROW, ROCK KESTREL, AFRICAN PIPIT, AFRICAN STONECHAT and lots of COMMON BUZZARDS and YELLOW-BILLED KITES. By the time we reached the SWARTRIVIER ROAD it was extremely hot with many birds resting in the shade of poles. We were however able to study the differences between all four common cisticolas of our region and added ALPINE SWIFT, RED-CAPPED LARK, BANDED MARTIN, PLAIN-BACKED PIPIT and CAPPED WHEATEAR. 

In the end we managed to log precisely 100 species on the morning, compared to the 102 species recorded last year. My highlight of the morning was undoubtedly a thank you card and drawing given to me by Daniël, at 11 years of age our youngest active member. He produced both the photograph of Blue Cranes and the drawing of a Southern Double-collared Sunbird himself. He also showed me his field notebook in which he makes lovely pencil drawings and notes of birds that he observes. In one case I could easily confirm that he watched an immature Black Harrier. Here comes a great birder and wildlife artist – watch this space!

Capped Wheatear
Zitting Cisticola










The next report in was from Riaan Jacobs and two friends who worked the area from Gansbaai eastwards and in these cases we only report on species not mentioned before. They added ACACIA PIED BARBET, DENHAM’S BUSTARD, BRIMSTONE and YELLOW CANARIES, BROWN-HOODED KINGFISHER, AGULHAS LONG-BILLED and LARGE-BILLED LARKS and BLACK SAWWING to our list. They also added COMMON RINGED PLOVER and CURLEW SANDPIPER at the UILENKRAAL ESTUARY. They managed to log 103 species on the morning!

Common Ringed Plover
Agulhas Long-billed Lark










Carin Malan hosted birders from Pretoria at FRANSKRAAL. Along the coast they picked up on BANK CORMORANT, GREY-HEADED GULL, AFRICAN PENGUIN and SANDERLING. The UILENKRAAL ESTUARY area produced RED KNOT, MARSH SANDPIPER and WATER THICK-KNEE and most excitingly the EURASIAN CURLEW, a species that they see quite regularly during summer months. Well wooded areas delivered on CAPE BATIS and RUFOUS-BREASTED SPARROWHAWK, and pair of KNYSNA WOODPECKERS is inspecting a nesting log in their garden – watch this space. They recorded 80 species on a morning of casual birding with lots of photography being done.

Eurasian Curlew - Image by Carin
Western Osprey - Image by Carin









Steve Peck’s report from the Napier area added WHITE-THROATED CANARY, AFRICAN PARADISE FLYCATCHER, CAPE GRASSBIRD, KAROO SCRUB-ROBIN and WHITE STORK. As usual Steve delivered big on birds of prey with BOOTED EAGLE, LANNER and PEREGRINE FALCONS, AFRICAN GOSHAWK, BLACK HARRIER and BLACK SPARROWHAWK being found. The SECRETARYBIRD, the bird of the year, was a wonderful addition and the KAROO KORHAAN was yet another lovely sighting. Steve’s morning produced a whopping 105 species!

Secretarybird - Image by Steve
Little Rush-warbler - Image by Steve









Jenny Parson’s report from the PRINGLE BAY area was reported on separately with her usual great photographs. Species she added to our list were CAPE BUNTING, VERREAUX’S EAGLE, CAPE SISKIN, ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD, PEARL-BREASTED SWALLOW, CAPE ROCK-JUMPER and CAPE ROCK-THRUSH. The ROOIELS site always comes up trumps. She also added SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL at her house that evening. Jenny added a commendable 66 species birding in a fairly restricted area.

Cape Siskin - Image by Jenny
Cape Rock-jumper - Image by Jenny









In the end we scored a total of 194 species which is 16 short of the 210 that we counted in February 2018. Two occurrences could possibly explain most of this: 1. The Vermont salt pan is completely dry at the moment and we missed out on 17 species that we got last year. 2. We received no lists from Stanford this time around and here we missed out on at least 4 species. I am convinced that we should get 250 species on a day during February in our region if the conditions are favourable and if members from all areas participate. Sadly, we are still not able to get people to help us in central Hermanus to do Fernkloof, Prawn Flats, the cliff path, etc. Please assist us with this on our next count that will take place on Saturday 11 May.

Need one say more? The Overstrand region is hugely underrated as a top bird-watching destination, with the amount of endemic species found making it a MUST DO for both domestic and international birders. 

7 March 2019. 

African Penguin - Image by Jenny
Little Egret - Image by Jenny










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