Posted on the 8th November 2021

Recently, 25 – 28 October I spent 4 days birding the Agulhas Plains with some birding mates.
It was several years since I was last there and generally quite dry back then, Soetendalsvlei was very low then, but this time, what a transition… water everywhere!

Ephemeral pans and some quite large, inundated farmlands and coastal fynbos alike. Much of the Agulhas National Park section along the Struisbaai/Elim road was waterlogged and marshy on both sides.
This attracted many waterfowl and some migrant waders, but the waders were not in the numbers I would have hoped, although Glossy Ibis were more abundant than I had ever seen them here before.
Blue Cranes took advantage of small islands in the flooded pans to nest. We saw three pairs with birds sitting, presumably on eggs?

In the past, the old salt works pans at Springfontein have been good for a selection of birds including waders. We could hardly believe our eyes, the closer we got… literally fuller than I have ever seen it and overflowing across the road, with the road closed- off, unable to pass, coots and moorhens swimming in the road.

At one ephemeral pan on a dirt road off the Bredasdorp/Struisbaai road there were 15 Knobbed-billed Duck, rare in the Western Cape and certainly exceptional in these numbers.

Perhaps due to the wet conditions, larks were few and far between with only two sightings of Agulhas Long-billed Lark.

One of the most extraordinary sightings was down at the coast before Struisbaai. To my amazement, just off-shore, swimming and diving, none other than a Great- crested Grebe, and seemingly quite happy in the waves and the salty environment.

The other was at De Mond Nature Reserve, at the mouth of the Heuningnes River, we had timed the tide for low to check for migrant waders, which again were sadly low too. Only 1 Ruddy Turnstone, 2 Grey Plover, 1 Whimbrel, 2 Greenshank of the medium sized waders. Small waders were in better numbers with Common Ringed Plover being most abundant.

But the number of terns was staggering! Thousands and thousands of terns, impossible to estimate in either the roosting birds in long white lines on the sandy banks or when most spectacularly they all took to the air. Scoped views showed mostly Common Tern, with Great Crested and Sandwich Tern present in much lower numbers +-5%.

Report by Mel Tripp.

Images by BirdLife Overberg members.

























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