Posted on the 30th August 2021

DWARF BITTERN AT A SMALL WETLAND IN SANDBAAI, HERMANUS: Little doubt that this hugely out-of-range bird located by Theresa Milne was the star of the show this month. Hundreds of birders from far and wide came to see and photograph this bird and social media were overrun with images and reports of this special bird. The bird disappeared from the site, but was later recorded along the Onrus River by Mienie Heymans and vanished again.

Dwarf Bittern at Sandbaai, Hermanus. Image by Brian Taylor
















Image by Theresa Milne
Image by Johan van der Westhuizen
















Unfortunately several bird-watchers caused serious problems at the site as these reports illustrate:

Theresa Milne: “I was so fortunate to see that little Dwarf Bittern, not even knowing it is something special. I shared it on this page because of all the experts here. I am however quite sorry I actually did share it. I have watched over the last three days how people would chase the bird around just to get a photo. Not to see it, but to get “that” photo. Putting the bird through so much stress. I feel rather sad and disappointed. Is this wat normally happens when there is a rare sighting? If i am ever fortunate to see something rare and special, I don’t think i would want to share that again.”

Charles Britz: “The lady from the adjacent property was helpful, and upset by the volume of Birders stalking the Bittern, causing it to continuously move if feeling threatened."

Trevor Hardaker: “Just also as a general request for all birders going to see this bird, please keep a respectable distance from it and don’t try and push too close to it to get better photos. I have been sent some photos of this happening, so it’s not just hearsay. There is no need to unnecessarily stress this bird by flushing it because you are too close as it will fly away like it did yesterday afternoon which meant that a lot of people subsequently missed it later on. Fortunately, it came back to the original spot this morning, so all is good for now. Let’s just keep the bird’s best interests at heart when viewing it and also keep consideration for all our fellow birders that are still planning on coming to look for it.”

I forwarded an email to Mark Anderson requesting BirdLife South Africa to review their Code of Ethics particularly as far as the behaviour of photographers is concerned. They responded by stating that similar complaints have been received from other areas and that they will look into this matter soon. We appeal to all members to take this into consideration when photographing birds and to respect other birders by not stressing birds photographed.

Birders enjoying the Dwarf Bittern at a reasonable distance
Birder approaching too close. Image provided










These two birds are not reported regularly during our monthly bird counts. Lester van Groeningen however located both during August: The GREAT EGRET at Nuwejaarsrivier area and the INTERMEDIATE (Yellow-billed) EGRET at the Bontebok National Park. The Intermediate Egret is slightly taller than the Little Egret, with a yellow bill and two-toned legs with the upper legs being yellow with the lower legs and feet being black. It is considerably smaller that the Great Egret that has all-black legs and a yellow bill in non-breeding season, but a black bill in breeding season. As often happens in birding there is a curveball however. The Intermediate Egret photographed by Lester has all-black legs as illustrated below and this does happen, but rarely. How does one then tell the difference between the two species? Besides size one should note that the Intermediate Egret has a gape that ends below the eye and the Great Egret has a gape that extends beyond the eye. Look carefully for this as illustrated in the images below.

Graphics by Michael Bridgeford














Intermediate Egret with black upper legs. Image by Lester van Groeningen


















Great Egret image illustrating the gape extending beyond the eye and long neck. Image by Anton



















Steve Peck forwarded these remarkable images of this pair-bonding behaviour of Blue Cranes:























PELAGIC SPECIES: Some special pelagic species were located this month. Sandra reported BLACK-BROWED, INDIAN YELLOW-NOSED and SHY ALBATROSSES, WHITE-CHINNED PETREL and SOOTY SHEARWATER observed during a DICT cruise around Dyer Island. Lester reported seeing both NORTHERN and SOUTHERN GIANT PETRELS from Pringle Bay and BROWN SKUA from Vermont.

Black-browed Albatross. Image by Riaan Jacobs
White-chinned Petrel. Image by Riaan Jacobs










OVERWINTERING BIRDS: An interesting selection of overwintering migrants was reported this month: COMMON BUZZARD and COMMON SANDPIPER (Coerie at Arabella Estate), COMMON GREENSHANK, TEREK SANDPIPER and LITTLE STINT (Johan at Fisherhaven), SANDWICH TERN and COMMON WHIMBREL (Carin at Franskraal), RUDDY TURNSTONE (Hennie @ Kleinbaai) and BAR-TAILED GODWIT and GREY PLOVER (Jason @ Breede River).

Common Sandpiper. Image by Carin Malan
Bar-tailed Godwits. Image by Riaan Jacobs









RETURNING INTRA-AFRICAN MIGRANTS: There is a promise of spring being in the air (despite the current cold weather) with several intra-African migrants already making their appearance – some even very early in August: Carin located a YELLOW-BILLED KITE at Botriver and a BLACK SAWWING at Kleinmond (although some birds overwintered), Riёl recorded GREATER STRIPED SWALLOWS in the Van der Stel Pass and Steve saw both WHITE-THROATED SWALLOWS and WHITE-RUMPED SWIFTS at Napier.

White-throated Swallow. Image by Anton
White-rumped Swift. Image by Carin Malan









SPECIES RECORDED IN THE OVERBERG DURING AUGUST 2021: The link to the complete list of 210 species recorded in the Overberg during August is available elsewhere in this newsletter, on our website and Facebook page. Let us see whether we can improve on this during September as many birds are actively displaying during the breeding season and the migrants are arriving continually. Kindly report all species observed to Anton at or WhatsApp at 082 550 3347.


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