CELEBRATING BIRDING AT ROOIELS AND HAROLD PORTER IN POOR WEATHERPosted on the 23rd February 2020
BirdLife Overberg’s annual morning outing to Rooiels and the Harold Porter Botanical Garden was postponed in January due to gale force winds and yesterday was not much better. Twenty-four club members and guests joined us in cloudy weather that threatened to drizzle several times with the wind picking up throughout the morning. It started raining by the time we left Harold Porter, but despite all of this we yet again enjoyed excellent birding.
We welcomed special guests Sam from Wales and Pierre and his wife from Canada and locals who joined us included Veronica, Ian and Lynette, Rhea and Pierre and Lester and Cheryl. Lester arrived early at Rooiels and started the day off well by spotting a Giant Petrel (probably Southern), WHITE-CHINNED PETRELS, SOOTY SHEARWATERS and several CAPE GANNETS out to sea – stormy weather can also produce interesting sightings of pelagic species at this site renowned for its sightings of the Cape Rock-jumper.
|Sooty Shearwater - Both images by Lester|
Birding started slowly as could be expected in such conditions with a CAPE ROCK THRUSH causing initial excitement. The CAPE BUNTINGS and ROCK MARTINS were on show throughout and GREY-BACKED CISTICOLA, FAMILIAR CHAT, CAPE GRASSBIRD, NEDDICKY, CAPE SUGARBIRD and large numbers of ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRDS kept the interest going. A magnificent PEREGRINE FALCON also staged a flypast. Most of the visitors were however fascinated by the beautiful Fynbos – it’s the first time that I have seen a camera being set up on a tripod to photograph ”sewejaartjies”. We don’t realise how spoilt we are to live in the Cape Floral Kingdom. Species that we often find at Rooiels, but not yesterday included VERREAUX’S EAGLE, ROCK KESTREL, CAPE SISKIN, VICTORIN'S WARBLER and GROUND WOODPECKER.
|Cape Rock Thrush|
We eventually found the target species as CAPE ROCK-JUMPERS gradually worked their way towards us. It was a hide-and-seek waiting game initially as the birds showed briefly on the rocks just to disappear into the restios and other vegetation for extended periods. I am always amazed to see the reaction of people when they spot this special endemic for the first time. Sam nearly blew a lid and Ian was particularly overjoyed – he claims to have been the Rooiels site some twenty times without ever spotting the bird. We spent a long time enjoying this spectacle with the birds eventually coming very close to us. Little wonder that the Cape Rock-jumper is BirdLife Overberg’s logo bird!
I personally believe that the Rooiels site remains a TOP BIRDING DESTINATION. We left there having seen 29 species and if one considers the species 'name-dropped' above (and the endemic status of many of them) one realises that many birders from elsewhere would jump at the opportunity to bird there. Maybe we are just spoilt?
|Working on the bird|
The Harold Porter Botanical Garden was very quiet with the weather and wind taking a turn for the worse. Most members of the group hiked up Diza Kloof in search of the Red Dizas that are in bloom up at the waterfall at this time of year. Unfortunately one can still not reach the waterfall due to the damage to the infrastructure caused by the devastating fire last year. We spent a long time watching a pair of SWEE WAXBILLS feeding on the seeds of tall grasses – awesome little birds. We heard the calls of the CAPE BATIS, SOUTHERN BOUBOU and KAROO PRINIA and saw the BLACK SAWWING, BARN and GREATER STRIPED SWALLOWS and LITTLE and WHITE-RUMPED SWIFTS patrolling the skies. Most of the group were disappointed missing out on the two special flycatchers, AFRICAN BLACK DUCK and OLIVE WOODPECKER.
The heath garden on the eastern end of the bottom garden is however something to behold at this time of year. The Ericas are blooming en mass with green, white, orange, red and yellow variations causing a stir. Birds seen here included CAPE CANARY, SOMBRE GREENBUL, CAPE ROBIN-CHAT, SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRD and CAPE WHITE-EYE. The highlight however: large numbers of ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRDS chasing each other around in the area – Interesting that several of them were carrying nesting material. This was certainly the most birds of this species that I had seen congregated in such a small area.
|African Dusky Flycatcher|
We then enjoyed a picnic lunch – the restaurant still being out of action. In the end we recorded 60 species (the list is available from us) on a day when conditions were not really conducive for great birding. These two sites remain of the best that the Western Cape has to offer. We thank all participants for contributing to making this outing such a success. We hope that we can continue with this quality of outings and that all the new participants and members will gain much enjoyment out of future events.
Keep in mind that the Cape Whale Coast bird finder web page where detailed information on all our top birding destinations can be obtained has been totally updated before the December holiday period. Visit this link:
The next BirdLife Overberg outing will be next Saturday, the 29th, when we will do our monthly coastal clean-up along the second section of the beautiful Hoek van de Berg Nature Reserve. Equipment and refreshments sponsored by Plasticsǀ SA and the People n Planet campaign of Pick n Pay will be provided. Join us for another excellent morning on this special date. We will meet at the parking area of the OK in Onrus at 08h00 where transport will be arranged. Confirm your participation, or get more detail from Elaine at email@example.com or sms/ WhatsApp at 082 455 8402.
|Please take note of this important sign at Rooiels|
|Common River Frog|