BIRDLIFE OVERBERG OUTING TO HAROLD PORTER BOTANICAL GARDENS
Posted on the 13th October 2019
We enjoyed a fairly successful outing to the Harold Porter gardens on Saturday 12 October. Misty clouds covered the skies initially and we were surprised to find a parking area filled with cars. Keep in mind that there is a Park Run at the gardens on Saturday mornings and that birding can only realistically start after 09h30 on such mornings. The negative impact of the devastating Betty’s Bay fires is still very obvious also affecting birding negatively. We had the enthusiastic teenagers Tristan, Aiden and Daniel in the group making for an interesting outing.
The main mission of the day was to look for the AFRICAN EMERALD CUCKOO that had been heard in the area over the last ten days. This caused interesting debates as both the cuckoo and the host that it parasitises, the GREEN-BACKED CAMEROPTERA are ridiculously out of range for the Overstrand region. We did however chat to several others birders who also tried to find this hugely sought-after cuckoo – all of us with no luck.
Harold Porter did not disappoint however as WHITE-NECKED RAVENS circled the skies when we arrived. BRIMSTONE CANARY, FAMILIAR CHAT, SOMBRE GREENBUL, CAPE ROBIN-CHAT, SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRD and CAPE WHITE-EYE were all fairly prominent in the bottom section of the gardens. (It should just be mentioned that the restaurant has been closed with the result that picnic baskets should be the order of the day when visiting the gardens). We spent a lot of time on the grass banks along the river where the stage is and found species such as the YELLOW BISHOP, CAPE CANARY, AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER, NEDDICKY, CAPE SISKIN, CAPE SUGARBIRD and SWEE WAXBILL.
The resulting impacts of the fires were particularly clear in the first section of the trail leading to the waterfall. The mountain slopes are essentially devoid of vegetation resulting in us missing out on species that we would usually expect to spot or hear along here. These included the CAPE BUNTING, CAPE GRASSBIRD, VICTORIN’S WARBLER and GROUND WOODPECKER. We spent a lot of time along the top section of the forested trail and had the privilege of watching nesting activities of CAPE BATIS, AFRICAN PARADISE-FLYCATCHER and CAPE WHITE-EYES. We found the AFRICAN OLIVE PIGEON, CAPE ROCK-THRUSH and MALACHITE SUNBIRD high up against the cliffs, with ROCK MARTIN, BLACK SAWWING, BARN and GREATER STRIPED SWALLOWS and AFRICAN BLACK and LITTLE and WHITE-RUMPED SWIFTS patrolling the sky. The boys tried very hard to locate a few target species such as the AFRICAN BLACK DUCK, BLUE-MANTLED CRESTED-FLYCATCHER and OLIVE WOODPECKER, but we unfortunately dipped on them.
After a few hours of neck-hurting forest birding it was time to return to the deserted restaurant area for a picnic lunch and lots of chatter. We all agreed that the morning turned out very enjoyable despite the Park Run and the effects of the fire. These gardens are hugely underrated as a top birding destination and needs all of our support. The hope is expressed that the infrastructural damage will be repaired before the onset of the summer holiday season. This applies particularly to the wooden boardwalk up at the waterfall.
A stimulating discussion revolved around the possible presentation of a bird identification course for juniors focusing exclusively on the common birds of the Cape Whale Coast region. We will consider this seriously and approach the schools in the region about it. Watch this space.
We post some bird images here and will post others on the Facebook page as we receive it from the various participants.
(Bird images by Brian Taylor).