Posted on the 8th October 2010

Elaine and myself went on a mini-tour to present the “Flight for Birders” course at the Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve as a first stop on 30 September and 1 October 2001 and this gave us the opportunity to do a bit of birding in the area.

African Paradise Flycatcher

We traveled via Stanford, Riviersonderend, Stormsvlei and Bonnievale and this gave us the chance to do birding at relatively high speed through magnificent landscapes. As this on the day was a twitching exercise we departed via the Onrus “peninsula” and the Vermont salt pan and were able to get good sightings of southern African endemics such as African Black Oystercatchers, Cape Cormorants, the gulls and Cape Shoveler. The terns are also back and the coastal thickets produced Cape Batis, Sombre Greenbul, Southern Boubou and African Paradise Flycatchers. There are good numbers of Greater Flamingo at the salt pan. It is impossible (and I assume relatively boring) to give a blow by blow description as we went along, but we did pick up on species such as Blue Crane, Forest and Jackal buzzard, Capped Wheatear, and droves of SA Shelducks by the time we reached McGregor. In total we saw 61 species along the way. Interesting though that one would (from the past) had expected to find Secretarybirds and Black-shouldered Kites along this route, but these were not to be seen – maybe the SABAP2 preliminary information ominously do have a point.

McGregor and the Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve really represent a mixed bag as far as birding is concerned. In McGregor itself there were hundreds of mossies, together with the most Malachite Sunbirds that we had ever seen and Spotted Eagle-owl, African Fish-eagle, Fiery-necked Nightjar and several of the fynbos related Western Cape specials. We presented the course at Vrolijkheid and obviously we did not have time for serious birding. Casually though we were able to see (or hear) Acacia Pied Barbets, Klaas's and Diederiks cuckoos, Long-billed Crombec, both Olive and Karoo thrushes and all of the swifts to be found in this region. Elaine did slip away to visit one of the hides where our identification posters were put up and found African Fish-Eagle, African Black Duck and Three-banded Plover.

Part of group at Vrolijkheid

The participants in the course were very interesting though: it was the first pure “lily-white” course that we had ever presented and it makes one wonder ................ The enthusiasm though was stunning and many participants showed strong indications of wanting to get involved in birding tourism, conservation matters and the activities of BirdLife South Africa. Strange then that Route 62 with all its vast tourism potential, magnificent landscapes and individuals interested in birds and birding is still not recognized as a top birding destination.

The Robertson Bird Club has produced a brochure on birding (and wine tasting) in their area, but it appears to be an isolated little pocket of information surrounded by great birding potential in the surrounding areas. It makes one wonder what real BirdLife South Africa involvement would do to “give conservation wings” down here in the Little Karoo. There could be no doubt that Route 62 would be a far better alternative for birders to travel between Cape Town or the Overberg and the Garden Route. Ultimately one should assume that both the Winelands and Eden District municipalities need to get involved in the marketing of their areas as top birding destinations. We hope that there would be more political will, as well as more practical and demonstrable attempts to get the region going in terms of birds and birding when we visit Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn to do courses there. Route 62 has phenomenal birding potential and somehow we need to look at ways and means of getting the region going.

We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the management and staff of the Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve for allowing us to use their facilities and for the support that they had given us to present the course there.

Anton Odendal.




Black-shouldered Kite












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