GREAT TIPS ON BIRDING IN THE STILBAAI AREA OF THE SOUTHERN CAPEPosted on the 2nd January 2011
Going to Stilbaai for a few days & would appreciate any info & pointers on birding around the following areas: Stilbaai, Jongensfontein, Vermaaklikheid (I'll bet not too many of you even know of the existence of a place by this name!), Riversdal, Albertinia, Witsand, Reins Coastal Nature Reserve, Gourits River Mouth and Vleesbaai
082 455 6186
My thanks to all who responded to my RFI. Here are all the responses I got, for general info.
Of immediate interest to all who may currently be in the vicinity or going there soon, Voelvlei (see John Carter's input below) was in fact inundated (flooded), apparently an unusual state of affairs in recent years due to the prolonged drought along the southern Cape & garden route. I was there on 20 Dec 2010 & since they've apparently had further good rains since, it should be in a good state right now. Make no mistake, it's a HUGE area of water, albeit quite shallow throughout (about knee high to an Ibis at the time - a specie that of course was plentiful there). I'm sure there must be lots of waders, terns & other waterfowl out there by now.
Of particular interest & beauty is the river that feed the pan at the north-eastern corner. Very scenic gorge. Frankly, I'm surprised I'd never heard of it before. The Stilbaai sewage works wasn't too exciting. I didn't get around to doing the palingat kloof or Bottergat, due to less than ideal weather.
I'll be happy to translate the Afrikaans ones for anyone interested, just feel free to ask.
Cheers, have a brilliant 2011.
012 455 6186
Stilbaai langs die rivier, veral na die see se kant is daar nogal veel om te sien. Dit hang af van die gety. Stap die wandelpad waar die palings gevoed word, af tot by die rivier, ek het al die Knysna Warbler en Greyheaded Sparrow daar gekry. Die rioolwerke het 'n Rednecked Phalarope op gehad in 2005. Stap om die punt na Jongensfontein daar is altyd verskillende soort Terns.
Reins Natuur Reservaat, is dit goed om n 4trek voertuig te gebruik, daar was so drie jaar gelede n groot brand daar.
Gouritz, by die riviermond is niks nie. Gaan oor die brug verder binneland op op pad na die N2, na die brug volg die teerpad na regs, die eerste grondpad links, daar is n verslete blou en wit bordjie, met n huisie verder in en n het, volg die pad na "Voelvlei". Dit is n openbare pad. Wonderlik met waadvoels met goeie reens, Pieter le Grange van Stellenbosch doen voeltellings daar. Die pad na die N2 lewer ook intressante voels met goeie reens.
Dis my bydrae, lekker voeltjies kyk.
The big attraction there is of course Voelvlei. I enquired the other day as to whether there is any water in the vlei just now - as in dry years it is dried up by Christmas - and was told that there is water in the one end only. This can be very interesting sometimes as the waterbirds crowd into the remaining wet areas in big numbers.
Our club will be having its January outing to Botterkloof, just outside Stilbaai, and its usually good there, but if this drought keeps up could be very dry all round.
Voëlvlei is a floodplain west of Mosselbay, and is surrounded by farmed lands with small pockets of renosterveld. The floodplain supports a large number of waterbirds, waders and other birds dependent on the system, but in years of low rainfall the water dries up and all the birds disappear. These may include in summer hundreds of Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Kittlitz's Plover and Common Ringed Plover, Pied Avocet feed here, Whiskered Tern, White-winged Tern, African Fish-Eagle, Booted Eagle and Lanner Falcon may be present. In years of good rain Black-necked Grebe and Whiskered Tern breed here.
On the road to Voëlvlei from the N2 look for Capped Wheatear, Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Large-billed Lark, Red-capped Lark, Agulhas Clapper Lark, White-throated Canary, Yellow Canary, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Blue Crane, White Stork, Denham's Bustard and Verreauxs' Eagle. 19 kilometres from Mosselbay turn off the N2 at the Vleesbaai/Gourits turn off. The road passes Boggomsbaai, Vleesbaai and just before the turn off to Gourits River Mouth turn right on to a sand road, which will take you to the vlei. As this is farmland there are gates to be opened and closed and care should be taken.
No birding info but I did spend about 4 days at Vermaaklikheid many years ago and it was wonderful - lovely river and so peaceful so enjoy the area. I can also recommend the Sunday buffet at the Albertinia Hotel
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw 10 days ago that Voëlvlei had received water. Last year this time it was bone dry. But, to put things in perspective, at the end of 2008 it was full for the third consecutive year and overflowing, after a long period prior to that during which it never filled up completely. It is difficult to guess how much water it has: probably in the region of 10% of its capacity, but nevertheless it has a good amount of water,
probably stretching for about 2 kilometers. The area had good rains in October and it would seem from the vegetation that it had its inflow in October. The rains of the past week did not produce any run-off; the inflow
is less than what one would expect the evaporation to be in these windy conditions.
This morning the following birds could be seen: hundreds of red-knobbed coot, scores of Eyptian Geese, some 400 Pied Avocet, scores of Black-winged stilts (some breeding), at least 100 or more Red-billed teal, more than 50 S
A Shelduck, Yellow-billed duck, CapeTeal, Little stint, scores of Ruff, Common ringed plover, Kittlitz plover, Greater Flamingo’s, Grey Heron, Glossy ibis, Cape Shoveler, Spoonbill, Whiskered terns, Little Grebe, lots
of Sacred Ibis, Glossy Ibis, thousands of Barn Swallows with Brown-throated martins amongst them, plus other more common species such as Cape Wagtail, Blacksmith Plover and others.
Raptors seen in the immediate vicinity of the water over the past week include the following: Martial Eagle, African Fish Eagle, Booted Eagle, Rock Kestrel, Jackal Buzzard & Steppe Buzzard.
As mentioned by Johan, the water is shallow and the good numbers of Great Crested Grebe which were breeding 2 years ago, are absent, so are the Southern Pochard and Grey-headed Gulls.
This morning I saw 3 African Black Duck on the water in the valley, which might be a first for the pentad.
Voelvlei is at the moment by far one of the best birding spots in the area (mainly for water birds). Second on the list is a small valley next to the tar road between Albertinia and Gouritsmond (a stretch of approx 30 m) where
I recorded the following species yesterday morning and this morning: Fork-tailed drongo, Tambourine Dove, Terrestrail Brownbul, Olive Bush-shrike, Knysna Warbler, Buff-spotted Flufftail (calling), Klaas’s Cuckoo, Cardinal Woodpecker, African Paradise-flycatcher, Cape Batis and a number of more common species. All while standing on the verge of a tar road with cars passing at 90 km/h. Knysna and Olive Woodpeckers, African Olive Pigeon and African Black Duck have also been seen from the same spot.
Any-one in the area can feel free to contact me for more info. Happy birding! (There is still plenty to see and hear even in the windy conditions here at Vleesbaai)
Pieter la Grange
082 466 7330