Posted on the 21st August 2019

Comprehensive CWAC counts along the Cape Whale Coast estuaries were finally undertaken during July 2019 and the hope is expressed that these counts will be repeated on a regular quarterly basis. This will replace the quarterly Big Bird Counts undertaken by BirdLife Overberg members over the last three years. These counts are currently being coordinated by Carin Malan and the results are forwarded to Dr Giselle Murison, the Estuaries Manager at BirdLife South Africa and Pierre de Villiers of CapeNature for discussion at the meetings of the various Estuary Management Forums. The standardised protocols prescribed by the Animal Demography Unit at UCT and BirdLife South Africa are used for the counts. These counts should enable the Estuary Management Forums to make more meaningful decisions regarding the conservation of birds along these estuaries.
The various estuaries in the Overstrand being counted are:
# Palmiet river mouth
# Various sections of the Botrivervlei (These counts have been done for the last 21+ years by the Tygerberg Bird Club and partners)
• Botriver bridge to Benguela Cove
• Fisherhaven to Benguela Cove
• Fisherhaven to Meer-en-See
• Arabella Estate to Rooisand
• Rooisand area
• Kleinmond area
# Vermont salt pan and Onrus lagoon (Ad hoc counts from the past are available)
# Kleinriver estuary – the area around the mouth (Ad hoc counts from the past are available)
# Kleinriver estuary – the upper reaches at Stanford
# The Uilenkraals Estuary
Some of the organisations involved in these counts include the Tygerberg, Kleinmond, Hermanus and Stanford Bird Clubs, BirdLife Overberg, CapeNature and the Dyer Island Conservation Trust. 

The significance of this project initiated by BirdLife Overberg and co-ordinated by Carin Malal is aptly illustrated by Dr Giselle Murison's report to the Western Cape Birding Forum in July:

# We are hoping to expand CWAC within the Cape Whale Coast IBA, introducing newsites (upper Klein, Onrus & Uilkraals) and additional counts. By increasing the number of counts, we gain more information with regard to the seasonal movements of waterbirds, as well as their response to changing conditions at the estuaries e.g. breaching events
# The move to increase the number of counts has also partly come about at the request of CapeNature and Overstrand Municipality, who are looking to better understand the relationship between waterbird numbers and water quality at our estuaries (water quality monitoring is currently undertaken on a monthly basis), and thereby better inform estuary management (e.g. mouth management around breaching etc.).
# CapeNature is also developing research projects around this, building on the work done by Doug Harebottle in his PhD, a chapter of which I’m sure you’re familiar with, looked at waterbird responses to dynamic shifts between lake and estuarine conditions at the Bot.
# To this end, we are hoping to increase the number of counts at the Bot River-Kleinmond estuarine system from 2 to at least 4 (potentially 6).
# Carin Malan has volunteered to coordinate dates etc. of the various CWAC teams across the IBA by drawing up a simple schedule (attached here as a draft), based on Mariana’s spreadsheet. The goal is to gain a complete snapshot of bird numbers at all sites within the IBA, by coordinating CWAC dates etc., at least as much as possible. We are following TBC’s protocols on this and aiming for the first Saturdays in February and July.
# In addition, with regards to the data, we are looking to create a backup. As you know, with the current situation at the ADU/ Fitz, it’s not always easy to get access to the CWAC data. I have spoken to them, and they are happy for BirdLife SA to keep a copy of the data in order to be able to access the data more quickly for use in the above. With that in mind, we are asking compilers to please also send a copy of the count data to BirdLife SA; specifically to me, as Estuaries Conservation Project Manager: Thank you in advance, but more than happy to discuss if there are any issues.
# We are also encouraging the use of the BirdLasser app in counting CWAC and are producing guidelines for this purpose for anyone who might want to give it a try. I know people do use it for CWAC already and exporting the data e.g.: an excel/ CVS spreadsheet is such a simple process, it makes compiling the data so much easier.
# I think, in terms of the take home to the committee, is first to make everyone aware of the hope of increasing the number of counts/year.But please emphasise that no one, no one wants to take the Bot River-Kleinmond Estuary CWAC count away from Tygerberg Bird Club. We’re using the TBC protocols! But, if your CWAC team as a whole, or anyone from TBC is interested in getting involved in additional counts, likely in May and November, then please do get in touch with Carin Malan: and/ or myself. I know there are potential cost issues – again, I would be happy to discuss – see how we might help.

Dr Giselle Murison, the Estuaries Manager of BirdLife South Africa
Pierre de Villiers, the Estuaries Manager of CapeNature










The beautiful Onrus River estuary




BirdLife Overberg members birding at the Rooisand hide along the Bot River estuary


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