Birding Routes

INTRODUCTION TO BIRDING ALONG THE CAPE WHALE COAST Show details

ENDEMIC BIRD SPECIES OF THE CAPE WHALE COAST REGION Show details

PELAGIC ENCOUNTERS FROM KLEINBAAI IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE DYER ISLAND CONSERVATION TRUST Show details

THE ROOIELS SITE - IN SEARCH OF THE CAPE ROCK-JUMPER Show details

AFRICAN PENGUINS AND CORMORANTS AT STONY POINT Show details

THE HAROLD PORTER NATIONAL BOTANICAL GARDENS Show details

BIRDING AT THE KOGELBERG BIOSPHERE RESERVE AND KLEINMOND Show details

BIRDING AT ROOISAND ALONG THE BOT RIVER ESTUARY Show details

BIRDING AT FISHERHAVEN & THE HAWSTON SEWAGE WORKS Show details

THE VERMONT SALT PAN Show details

BIRDING AT ONRUS AND HARDERBAAI Show details


The Hermanus suburb of ONRUS RIVER, commonly referred to as ONRUS, offers excellent bird-watching opportunities. Many coastal species are readily available, extensive Milkwood groves bring a range of species associated with thickets and forest habitats into play and mature coastal Fynbos habitats add to the diversity of species in this popular seaside suburb. This description will focus on the Onrus lagoon, the caravan park, the Harderbaai Marine Reserve and the Vermont, Onrus and Sandbaai (VOS) coastal path. Also keep in mind that the Vermont Salt Pan also forms part of the Onrus birding experience – see detailed description elsewhere.

Stormy Onrus weather 1 (Ronel Botha)
Stormy Onrus weather 2 (MC Botha)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ONRUS LAGOON is best investigated from the grass embankment and picnic area along Lagoon Drive at 34° 24'51.93”S 19° 10'32.40”E. This is reached from Van Blommenstein Road at the art gallery. The lagoon has unfortunately been overgrown by reed beds over the last few years, limiting one's ability to visually identify species. At least 152 bird species have been identified over and on the Onrus lagoon over the last 15 years. These include 17 species that are endemic to South Africa, 7 that are near-endemic to southern Africa and 27 migratory species. The many eucalyptus trees and other exotics along the Onrus River are used for breeding by a variety of raptors that include at least the FOREST BUZZARD, AFRICAN GOSHAWK, AFRICAN HARRIER-HAWK and BLACK and RUFOUS-CHESTED SPARROWHAWKS. Species that are fairly difficult to find in many parts of the Overberg and that 'twitchers' come to find here include the secretive LITTLE BITTERN, PURPLE HERON, BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, AFRICAN PURPLE SWAMPHEN and SOUTHERN TCHAGRA. Also significant that large numbers of BARN SWALLOWS roost in the reed beds in summer. Most of the common waterbirds that are usually to be expected at these coastal water bodies are often on view. These include the REED and WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANTS, AFRICAN DARTER, YELLOW-BILLED DUCK, GIANT, MALACHITE and PIED KINGFISHERS and CAPE SHOVELER, together with the RED-KNOBBED COOT, CATTLE EGRET, AFRICAN SACRED IBIS and COMMON MOORHEN. The common garden birds of the region are also available in abundance in the gardens around the grass embankment. A wonderful spot for relaxed birding.

Onrus lagoon & mountain (Anton Odendal)
Immature Little Bittern (Anton Odendal)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ONRUS CARAVAN PARK in De Villiers Street (34° 24'52.25"S 19° 10'18.28"E) is an outstanding venue to look for those “thicket birds” that are often so difficult to find. There are huge Milkwood thickets right along the shoreline and this allows the best of both worlds as far as birding is concerned. Flycatchers, drongos, sunbirds and a variety of the usual garden birds of the region can be studied here. Very common species include the CAPE BATIS, KLAAS'S CUCKOO, AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER, SOMBRE GREENBUL, KAROO PRINIA, OLIVE THRUSH, SWEE WAXBILL and CAPE WHITE-EYE. The AFRICAN OLIVE PIGEON, SOUTHERN TCHAGRA and CARDINAL and OLIVE WOODPECKERS are also seen occasionally. The SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL, AFRICAN GOSHAWK and AFRICAN HARRIER-HAWK are also seen regularly. Expect to find the DIDERICK and RED-CHESTED CUCKOOS and AFRICAN PARADISE-FLYCATCHER and look carefully for the SPOTTED FLYCATCHER during summer months.

VOS coastal path poster
African Paradise-Flycatcher (Anton Odendal)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The HARDERBAAI MARINE RESERVE is best observed from the parking area at 34° 25'10.81”S 19° 10'24.97”E. Specials that are often present here include the CAPE CORMORANT, GIANT and PIED KINGFISHERS, AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS and WHITE-FRONTED PLOVER. The HARTLAUB'S and KELP GULLS are also numerous, with the GREY-HEADED GULL only being observed occasionally. The BANK and CROWNED CORMORANTS and KITTLITZ'S PLOVER are only seen occasionally. This spot is however best known for the vast numbers of terns that occur here during summer months. The SWIFT TERN is resident throughout the year, with large numbers of COMMON and SANDWICH TERNS being present in summer. These birds regularly adorn the rocks in day roosts to rest and preen, particularly early in the morning during low tide. This is a spectacular sight not to be missed as literally thousands of birds take to the skies in massive flocks, only to settle back again. The ARCTIC TERN add to the excitement seasonally and the ROSEATE TERN may be located rarely. The ANTARCTIC TERN, South Africa's only winter migrant, is fairly common between May and middle September. This is an ideal spot to hone one’s tern identification skills. 

A gentle stroll along Harderbaai during winter could show species not usually associated with rocky shores. Species such as the YELLOW-BILLED DUCK, CATTLE EGRET, EGYPTIAN GOOSE, LITTLE EGRET, PURPLE HERON, AFRICAN SACRED IBIS and BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON then forage successfully, particularly after heavy storms. Summer migrants that are regularly recorded are the COMMON SANDPIPER, COMMON GREENSHANK and COMMON WHIMBREL. Harderbaai has over the years developed a reputation for delivering on somewhat exotic vagrant species and here the WHITE-FRONTED BEE-EATER, LITTLE BLUE HERON, AFRICAN OPENBILL, NORTHERN ROCKHOPPER PENGUIN and RED-BILLED TROPICBIRD serve as prime examples. 

White-fronted Plover (Anton Odendal)
African Black Oystercatchers (Carin Malan)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Massed terns & gulls at Harderbaai, Onrus (Anton Odendal)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The VERMONT, ONRUS and SANDBAAI COASTAL PATH (VOS) runs all the way from Brekfisbaai to the west of Vermont to the eastern end of the Sandbaai beach. This walkway is paved for most of the way and wooden bridges cross little ravines and streams. Bird-watching can be exceptional as many of the coastal species discussed above, as well special terrestrial species are on view. To this should be added that pelagic species sometimes come towards shore during very stormy weather. Such species recorded from the VOS in the past include CAPE GANNET, SOUTHERN GIANT PETREL, WHITE-CHINNED PETREL, CORY'S and SOOTY SHEARWATERS and SUBANTARCTIC SKUA. Spotting scopes are understandably needed to watch and positively identify such species. 

Several parking areas along the Onrus and Vermont coastline enable less active birders to select shorter distances to walk and still enjoy outstanding birding opportunities. These spots are the lookout point at the end of Bitou Street in Vermont at 34° 25'16.87”S 19° 09'17.09”E, Jan Rabie se Gat along Marine Drive in Onrus at 34° 25'06.68”S 19° 09'46.07”E, Davie's Pool also along Marine Drive in Onrus at 34° 25'00.33”S 19° 09'59.20”E and the spot in Harderbaai mentioned earlier. The coastal Fynbos along the entire length of the VOS coastal path offer endemic species such as the CAPE GRASSBIRD, CAPE SPURFOWL, CAPE SUGARBIRD and ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD, as well as the much sought-after resident SOUTHERN TCHAGRA. Other endemic birds that occur abundantly are the BOKMAKIERIE, CAPE BULBUL, CAPE CANARY, FISCAL FLYCATCHER, KAROO PRINIA, CAPE SPARROW, SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRD, CAPE WEAVER and CAPE WHITE-EYE. Other common species include the BRIMSTONE CANARY, LONG-BILLED CROMBEC, CAPE ROBIN-CHAT, STREAKY-HEADED SEEDEATER, MALACHITE SUNBIRD and OLIVE THRUSH. 

Cape Spurfowl (Anton Odendal)
Onrus from drone (Storm van der Merwe)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The section of the path between Davie's Pool and Harderbaai takes one along the boundary on the Onrus caravan park and this well-wooded section can often produce species such as the BAR-THROATED APALIS, CAPE BATIS, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER, SOMBRE GREENBUL, AFRICAN OLIVE-PIGEON and CARDINAL WOODPECKER. The SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL, AFRICAN GOSHAWK, AFRICAN HARRIER-HAWK and BLACK and RUFOUS-CHESTED SPARROWHAWKS are also recorded regularly. In summer the DIDERICK and RED-CHESTED CUCKOOS, a well as the AFRICAN PARADISE-FLYCATCHER cause excitement. This clearly illustrates that Onrus should not be ignored when birders visit the Cape Whale Coast region. The diversity of waterbirds, coastal birds and birds associated with Fynbos, thicket and garden habitats represent an excellent summary of species to be found along the Overberg coastline.

(Note that there are links to more information, trip reports and the like below the photograph that may be used to further plan a visit to the area).

Aerial view of Onrus beach & lagoon (Image provided)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIRDING ALONG THE HEMEL & AARDE VALLEY AND ROTARY WAY SCENIC DRIVE Show details

BIRDING ALONG THE HERMANUS CLIFF PATHS AND THE KLEIN RIVER ESTUARY Show details

THE FERNKLOOF NATURE RESERVE AT HERMANUS Show details

BIRDING IN AND AROUND STANFORD Show details

FROM STANFORD TO THE UILENKRAALS ESTUARY AND BEYOND Show details

THE DANGER POINT PENINSULA Show details

DYER ISLAND AND SURROUNDS Show details

THE UILENKRAALS VALLEY TO BAARDSKEERDERSBOS AND BEYOND Show details

BIRDING IN THE OVERBERG WHEATBELT IMPORTANT BIRD AND BIODIVERSITY AREA - INTRODUCTORY OVERVIEW Show details

WHEATBELT BIRDING CIRCLE ROUTE 1: KARWYDERSKRAAL AND SWART RIVER ROADS Show details

WHEATBELT BIRDING CIRCLE ROUTE 2: THE OUDEKRAAL ROAD Show details

WHEATBELT BIRDING CIRCLE ROUTE 3: THE PAPIESVLEI AREA Show details

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Show details