Posted on the 24th October 2020


Representatives of CapeNature requested BirdLife Overberg members to undertake regular quarterly CWACs (Co-ordinated WAterbird Counts) at the De Hoop Nature Reserve. The first official count was undertaken on Saturday 17 October and it was decided that we would drive through for the day. Carl, Chris, Klaas and Linda counted the northern section where the Soutrivier enters the De Hoopvlei. Johan and I counted the central section in the area around the tourist facilities and accommodation with Carin, Duncan and Gary covering the southern section closer to the ocean. It was decided to make the best of the day’s outing and also record all the species seen on the day – one passenger per vehicle logged the species encountered on BirdLasser. This report is a combination of all four BirdLasser lists received and I thank Carin, Linda, Carl and Johan for this.

We all left at 06h00 in fairly heavy misty conditions not optimal for birding. The weather improved after we had reached Bredasdorp with the gravel road to De Hoop producing of the best of Overberg Wheatbelt birding. The larks were out in force and we managed to record Agulhas Long-billed, Cape Clapper, Large-billed and Red-capped larks. I don’t think that I had ever seen so many Pied Starlings, African Stonechats and Capped Wheatears on a single day – they were everywhere. As could be expected large numbers of Blue Cranes were on view with the best sighting of the early morning certainly being a displaying Denham's Bustard flaunting its huge white “plastic bag” to the females. Birds of prey that were seen included Jackal and Common buzzards, Rock Kestrel and Yellow-billed Kite. Johan and I started wondering about the lack of Black-winged Kites – a species not recorded at all on the day. Maybe one should start worrying about the conservation status of this bird.

Capped Wheatear - Carl Swart
Bokmakierie - Carl Swart












We all got together at the bridge over the Soutrivier where the fruitless search for the key to the gate to gain access to the back section of the reserve at least produced some good birding. There were large numbers of Southern Red Bishops displaying in the reedbeds and as could be expected the calls of Levaillant's Cisticola, Little Rush Warbler and Lesser Swamp Warbler were prominent. Further away we could also hear the calls of Bokmakierie, Cape Canary and Cape Longclaw. The highlight however was Duncan spotting (sorry) a Spotted Eagle-Owl flying from a culvert underneath the road and settling in a nearby tree. By this time we were well behind our schedule and we were off to De Hoop for some serious CWACing. 

Massed birds at De Hoop - Carin Malan (2)








The hilly, fynbos dominated areas of the reserve produced several great endemic and near-endemic species such as Cape Bunting, White-throated Canary, Cape Grassbird, Karoo Scrub Robin, Cape Spurfowl and Cape Sugarbird. We were very pleased to also record Namaqua Dove, Grey-winged Francolin and Southern Black Korhaan. The more-well-wooded areas closer to the vlei produced Cape Batis, Southern Boubou, Olive Bushshrike, Fiscal Flycatcher and Cardinal Woodpecker. Species such as Cape Bulbul, African Hoopoe, Karoo Prinia and Southern Double-collared Sunbird were actively carrying food to nests. Johan and I also enjoyed the “one …….., two,three, one ………., two, three call” of the Common Quail at the Tierhoek picnic site.

The migrants were certainly back in town with us recording both Common Buzzard and Yellow-billed Kite. Up in the skies there were Barn, Greater Striped, Pearl-breasted and White-throated swallows, Banded Martin and White-rumped Swift. Waders scored included Common Greenshank, Common Ringed and Grey plovers, Ruff, Common, Curlew and Marsh sandpipers and Little Stint. The calls of the Diederik and Red-chested cuckoos and African Paradise Flycatcher were heard very often.

A vast herd of Eland - Carin Malan











The outing was however all about counting waterbirds. Vast numbers of Greater Flamingos were counted and we were surprised at the fair numbers of Lesser Flamingos also being present. There were many juveniles of both species on view. African Fish Eagles called continually and Caspian Terns patrolled the water on an ongoing basis. Duck species recorded included Yellow-billed Duck, Southern Pochard, Cape Shoveler and Cape and Red-billed teals. Some other species on view were Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Great Crested and Little grebes, Glossy Ibis, Giant Kingfisher and the usual plovers to be found in the region. Carin compiled the full list of species observed and the number of birds recorded and submitted this to CapeNature – this list is available from us upon request. It will be very interesting to see how these lists change as we continue doing these counts on a quarterly basis. 

Large numbers of juvenile Flamingos were seen on the day - Carin Malan











The return trip home was dominated by the sighting of many Cape Vultures feeding on a carcass in a fallow field. It is just so encouraging to know that the breeding colony at Potberg is doing well and the hope is expressed that this will remain the case for many years to come. In the end we managed to record an impressive 137 species on a “working day” pushing the BirdLife Overberg monthly count of species seen in the Overberg during October up to 189 species – not too shabby at all. Both of these lists are available from us.

Cape Vulture - Carin Malan
Puffy - Carin Malan








This brief report certainly illustrates that the Overberg Wheatfields in general and the De Hoop Nature Reserve in particular are hugely underrated as birding destinations and we are really looking forward to these counts in future. We thank Alexis Olds and Kevin Shaw of CapeNature for the opportunity of doing these counts on their behalf. I would personally like to thank Carin for putting this lot together and Carl, Chris, Duncan, Gary, Johan, Klaas and Linda for their support with the counts.
24 October 2020.

Pied Starling
Grey-winged Francolin











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