It was an incredibly beautiful, still day down here in the Western Cape following the cold front. It is interesting that in the Overberg the Blue Cranes were more evenly dispersed than usual in winter, with many routes having counts of between 300 and 400+ birds. Possibly the regular rains meant that conditions were more favourable over a larger area. There is usually a much higher concentration of Blue Cranes on the routes near Heidelberg where the Landcover maps show a high concentration of wetlands. The Moodie’s, who cycle their route near Heidelberg, noted that there was not as much feeding of ostriches at feedlots due to the rain and more favourable feeding conditions. Thank you to Duncan and Inés Cooke for their comprehensive report below:
OVERBERG CAR SUMMARY 30th JULY 2011
“Everyone we have spoken to after the count remarked on the exceptionally lovely day weather-wise, and when we arrived home from our route we were delighted to find not only the first Count Form waiting in our e-mail In-box but also a most beautiful photograph that so perfectly described the day in the Overberg. Thank-you,Wicus Leeuwnerfor them both, and for letting us distribute the photo to our other team leaders. The picture shows not only the wonderful weather but also something that was remarked upon by most reports, and that was the advanced state of the crops. This was very noticeable and we wonder whether it had a significant bearing on the count in many areas and on the distribution of the target birds. Perhaps the Bustards were difficult to see in the high crop areas; we estimated that the crops along our route were standing at a good 60cms high, much higher than on previous July counts. Enough to hide a ground-bird and enough to encourage the BCs to look elsewhere for feed?
The majority of BCs were recorded in either fallow land or near feedlots, and the routes covering Protem, Riviersonderend, Napier and the Bredasdorp area had the most BCs.Ken Pricerecorded the biggest total of 509 while other routes in the area had tallies of 300 to 465. Henry and Marion Naude,Jill Mortimer, Ann Price and John Carter enthused over their best counts ever! Looking at the map, one notes that the concentration was highest in the area bounded by Bredasdorp, Napier, Rietpoel, Riviersonderend, Stormsvlei and Protem.
In theHeidelbergarea our stalwart cyclists, the Moodies, saw far fewer than usual at 412, while east of HeidelbergPierre van den Bergsaw 314 BCs. Further east in theMosselBayarea there were 2 high counts withSally Adamsat 396 and the Terblanches at 257.
The counts of Denham’s Bustards were also down, (crops?), with the biggest number, 25, recorded by the Terblanches in theMossel Bay area and 20 by John Jones in the Riviersonderend area.
In contrast, the Karoo Korhaan count was a little up on last year with Stuart counting 16 in the Riviersonderend area.
The Secretary Birds were well spread and the numbers up on last year, while the Southern Black Korhaans were predominantly in the Bredasdorp Arniston area.
Back to crops; not only were they higher but there were also reports of increased spread of crop land-use and, as along our route, significant crop-spraying activity that left the still air with the awful ‘pong’ of the insecticide. We suspect the birds would have liked it as little as we did!