ONE YEAR OF COVID19 RESTRICTED BIRDING IN THE OVERBERGPosted on the 4th May 2021
Report on the Year 1 April 2020 – 31 March 2021
Bird Sightings in the Overberg Region of the Western Cape, South Africa
Report compiled by Steve Peck
Since the country was gripped by the Covid19 pandemic over a year ago, and the country went into a hard lockdown in April 2020, the activities of the Overberg Bird Club based in Hermanus have been severely curtailed.
This has sparked numerous initiatives to keep members involved with the birding world. One of these projects was to ask members to record the different birds seen in the Overberg region each month. The region’s boundaries are the Hottentots-Holland Mountains to the west, the Riviersonderend Mountains to the north, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans to the south and the Breede River in the east.
This report details a summary of the year’s sightings.
A total of 327 different species were seen throughout the year, making up 33% of South Africa’s current total of 984 birds.
Of the 327 species recorded, 29% (99) were seen every month of the year. Birds in this category include Bar-Throated Apalis, Cape Batis, Red and Yellow bishops, Cape & Brimstone canaries, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Blue Crane, Pied Crow, Fork-Tailed Drongo, African Black Duck, Sombre Greenbul, Speckled & Red-Faced mousebirds, Cape Sugarbird, Amethyst Sunbird, Swee Waxbill and Cardinal Woodpecker. A report analysing these resident birds will be drafted in due course.
|Blue Cranes with chick - Image by Steve Peck|
|Fork-tailed Drongo & Olive Woodpecker - Image by Chris Neethling|
Of the 327 species recorded, 14% (46) are endemic, meaning they can be found nowhere else on earth other than in Southern Africa. Birds in this category include Cape Batis, Southern Boubou, Cape Bulbul, Fynbos Buttonquail, Forest and Jackal buzzards, Blue Crane, Black Harrier, Southern and Karoo korhaans, Agulhas, Cape Clapper and Large Billed larks, Cape Rockjumper, Cape Rock Thrush, Protea Seedeater and Victorin’s Warbler. (The full list of birds in this category is available upon request).
|Cape Rockjumper: The 2021 Bird of the Year & BLO logo bird - Image by James Luckhoff|
Of the 327 species recorded, 5% (16) are near-endemic, meaning birds that are only marginally shared across neighbouring countries. Birds in this category are Acacia Pied Barbet, Bokmakierie, Cape Bunting, White-throated & Yellow canaries, Cloud & Grey-backed cisticolas, Cape Cormorant, Burchell’s Coucal, Southern Pale-Chanting Goshawk, Cape Penduline-Tit, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Cape Sparrow and Dusky Sunbird.
|Cloud Cisticola - Image by Steve Peck|
|Massed Cape Cormorants - Image by Anton Odendal|
Of the 327 species recorded, 8% (27) were considered by the co-ordinators as being very rare for this region. Birds in this category are Grey-headed Albatross, Blue-cheeked Bee-Eater, Cinnamon Breasted Bunting, European Honey Buzzard, Temminck’s Courser, Brown Snake, Lesser Spotted and Long Crested eagles, Great Egret, Sabine’s Gull, Goliath and Squacco herons, Eurasian Hobby, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Great-Winged and Soft-Plumaged petrels, Greater and Lesser Sand plovers, Antarctic Prion, European Roller, Great Shearwater, European and Wilson’s storm petrels, Dusky Sunbird, Red-Tailed Tropicbird, Western Yellow Wagtail and Garden Warbler.
|Blue-cheeked Bee-eater - Image by Riaan Jacobs|
|European Roller - Image by Anton Odendal|
Of the 327 species recorded, 11% (35) were raptors. Birds in this category are Cape, Common, Forest and Jackal buzzards, European Honey Buzzard, African Fish, Lesser Spotted, Booted, Long Crested, Martial and Verreaux’s eagles, Black-chested and Brown snake eagles, African Cuckoo Hawk, Lanner and Peregrine falcons, African and Southern Pale Chanting goshawks, African Marsh and Black harriers, African Harrier Hawk, Eurasian Hobby, Rock Kestrel, Black Winged and Yellow Billed kites, Western Osprey, African Grass, Barn and Marsh owls, Cape and Spotted eagle owls, Secretarybird, Black and Rufous-chested sparrowhawks and Cape Vulture.
Of the 327 species recorded, 6% (18) were pelagic birds (observed from land-based locations) Birds in this category are Indian Yellow-nosed, Black-browed, Shy and Grey-headed albatrosses, Northern and Southern giant petrels, Sabine’s Gull, Soft-plumaged and White-chinned petrels, Antarctic Prion, Cory’s, Sooty and Great shearwaters, European and Wilson’s storm petrels, Cape Gannet, Parasitic and Pomerine jaegers and Brown Skua.
|Shy Albatrosses - Image by Lester van Groeningen|
|Cape Gannet - Image by Riaan Jacobs|
Birding in the Overberg
All the bird species mentioned in this summary have been seen from land-based observations. This is especially impressive for the pelagic species recorded. It must be noted that if you take one of the pelagic boat trips from the harbour in Kleinbaai you will see even more species of seabirds. (The full list of birds in this category is available upon request).
It is also worth noting that for the month of April 2020 (the first month of this survey) recorded numbers were the lowest of the year. This is a reflection of the country being in lockdown and birding was only possible from your garden or house. 125 recorded species is impressive, bearing in mind most of the shore-based, forest and estuary birds would have been out of sight.
However, 220 different species have been seen in April 2021 (95 more species recorded in April this year). These extra sightings, undoubtedly, would have been seen if you had been able to travel. So, lockdown restricted the recording of some very common birds found in the Overberg region all year round.
Birds seen in April 2021, missing from the April 2020 list (20), and listed for the whole year are: Denham’s Bustard, Crowned Cormorant, Martial Eagle, Grey-winged Francolin, Great Crested and Little grebes, Agulhas Long-Billed Lark, Red Capped and Large-Billed larks, White-Chinned Petrel, African and plain-Backed Pipits, Kittlitz’s, Three-Banded Plover and White-fronted plovers, Karoo Scrub Robin, Cape Shoveler, Pied Starling, Black-winged Stilt, Cape Teal, Common Tern, Capped Wheatear, Common Whimbrel, Lesser Swamp Warbler and Little Rush Warbler.
|Large-billed Lark - Image by Steve Peck|
|Common Whimbrel & Eurasian Curlew - Pieter Verster|
If you look at the locations of where certain birds have been seen, (refer to the Western Cape Birding website), you will find each month’s records also show the first location that a particular bird was seen each month. Many varieties are seen repeatedly in one small area, e.g. Brown Snake Eagle, Agulhas Long-Billed Lark and Grey Cuckoo Shrike. This information is useful for giving birders the best chance of locating and seeing these special birds.
The information gleaned from the monthly sightings also indicates that, although birders may be restricted to their own patches they, themselves, are the best people to ask about what can be seen in certain areas of the Overberg. It also shows how many other birds can be seen outside of ‘your patch’. Hopefully, we can encourage birders to push out further and add to the Overberg’s impressive bird list.
As 33% of all the birds found in Southern Africa can be found in the Overberg region, this makes the area, potentially, one of the top destinations for local and visiting birders.
(I would like to acknowledge and thank all birders, who have made this report possible with their sightings. Lastly, I would like to thank and acknowledge Anton Odendal for compiling and updating the monthly records, without which this report could not have been written - Steve).
|Olive Woodpecker & Fork-tailed Drongo confrontation - Image by Johan van der Westhuizen|