BirdLife Overberg's morning outing on 23 November was to Ian and Jessie Walton's Keurbos farm along the Highlands road in the beautiful Elgin Valley. Several participants spent a lot of time in Jessie’s wonderful hide with Tristan immediately picking up on BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS in trees on the island in the middle of the dam. Some of the species recorded included the BLACK CRAKE, YELLOW-BILLED DUCK, LESSER SWAMP-WARBLER, with CAPE BULBUL and AFRICAN PARADISE-FLYCATCHER prominent in the vegetation around the dam.
View of Jessie's hide
A closer view
Breeding season is in full swing – a pair of WHITE-THROATED SWALLOWS carried insects to a nest underneath the hide. The weeping willows featured species on nests or feeding chicks and these included the REED and WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANTS, AFRICAN DARTER, CATTLE EGRET, BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS (at least eight birds present), AFRICAN SACRED IBIS and CAPE WEAVER. Species recorded that were feeding youngsters included RED-KNOBBED COOT, BLACK CRAKE, LITTLE GREBE and COMMON MOORHEN. Calls heard during the morning included those of the BAR-THROATED APALIS, CAPE BATIS, BOKMAKIERIE, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, BLUE CRANE, CAPE LONGCLAW and AFRICAN REED WARBLER.
African Darter with chick - Image by Tristan
Black-crowned Night-Heron - Image by Tristan
A walk around the fringes of the dam produced good sightings of WHITE-BACKED DUCKS, PURPLE HERON, KAROO PRINIA, CAPE SISKIN and COMMON WAXBILL. A CATTLE EGRET trying to fly off with a massive stick caused great entertainment and a LITTLE BITTERN staged a magnificent fly-past. Elaine pointed out the distinctive call of a LITTLE RUSH-WARBLER in the distance. The action overhead also impressed with various swallows, martins and ALPINE, LITTLE and WHITE-RUMPED SWIFTS patrolling the skies.
Cattle Egret - Image by Tristan
Malachite Sunbird - Image by Tristan
Jessie kindly offered that we enjoy our picnic up at the log house and this again produced some excellent birding. The highlight was undoubtedly two noisy juvenile JACKAL BUZZARDS creating great photographic opportunities for the participants with those shutters. The proteas and pincussions behind the house featured CAPE SUGARBIRDS, SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRDS, CAPE WEAVERS and CAPE WHITE-EYES, with CAPE GRASSBIRDS calling from the slopes. Many BLACK SAWWINGS and BARN SWALLOWS operated over the water. We unfortunately upset a pair of GREATER STRIPED SWALLOWS that had a nest on the stoep where we were relaxing. Other species recorded here included the FISCAL FLYCATCHER, CAPE ROBIN-CHAT, MALACHITE SUNBIRD, OLIVE THRUSH and COMMON WAXBILL. An AFRICAN HARRIER-HAWK also flew past.
Juvenile Jackal Buzzard - Image by Tristan
Juvenile Fiscal Flycatcher - Image by Tristan
In the end we managed to log 71 species on the property – not too bad for a fairly casual morning’s birding. The full list of species recorded is available from us. The joke (or sad irony) on the day occurred when we stopped for a drink on our way back home. When we tried to place our orders the waitress wrote ”WINE LIST” on her paper prompting Frank and Francois to jump up to place the orders at the bar.
This was a truly enjoyable morning's birding and we thank Jessie for all the trouble she had gone through to host us. We will certainly be back. Many thanks Jess – much appreciated.
We have two busy Saturday mornings ahead of us: On Saturday 30 November we will do our fun birding big day competition. The outing on Saturday 7 December will be all about water birds and LBJs on back roads that very few of us know about: Riaan Jacobs has kindly agreed to lead a trip to the Baardskeerdersbos area. The official announcements on both these events will follow soon.
(The bird images in this article are by 12-year old honorary BLO member Tristan Pearson - Ed.)