BIRDING IN THE OVERBERG ON A DAY IN WINTERPosted on the 27th June 2022
Our initial planning for the BirdLife Overberg morning outing on 25 June was to bird along a circle route and taking in the Karwyderskraal-, Swartrivier- and Hawston View roads and then return via the Van Der Stel Pass. Things didn’t work out that way largely due to water everywhere as you will see later on. Unfortunately many members could not make it and several withdrew at the last minute due to a variety of reasons. In the end Kobus Esterhuizen, Graeme Hatley and I travelled with Kobus du Pisani and Ingrid and Danny followed in their vehicle.
We started at the VERMONT SALT PAN in chilly, but clear weather. The pan is once again filled to the brim after the recent heavy rains as was the Botvlei – no space for waders. The usual species were on view with the Black Crakes, African Swamphens, Cape Teals, Cape Shovelers and Little Grebes showing in good numbers. A Black Sparrowhawk staged a spectacular flypast causing great excitement. It was very interesting to hear of the first record of an African Rail at the pan as far as we know and this morning Johan Olivier got some great photographs of it. By the time we left the pan we were already on 30 species being recorded.
|Cape Teal - Riël Tredoux|
|Crowned Cormorants at fresh water - Riël Tredoux|
From here we went to the HAWSTON SEWAGE WORKS, but unfortunately the gate was padlocked and we could only bird from the road. The reed beds did however produce sightings of the Grey-headed Gull, Blue-billed Teal, with amazing numbers of swamphens on view. At the FISHERHAVEN slipway we managed to add Black-necked Grebes and some Cape Sugarbirds. It was wet, wet, wet wherever we went and none of us had ever seen the Botvlei this full with not a single flamingo on view at all, another first.
Along the KARWYDERSKRAAL ROAD I was introduced to a very exciting form of slow birding: Kobus du Pisani style. Kobus travelled very slowly and literally stopped for every feathered thing that moved allowing for detailed and stimulating bird-watching. The small bridge over the Afdaksrivier produced a diversity of species, the most exciting being two Cape Robin-Chats chasing a Cardinal Woodpecker around. The first of many African Stonechats and Capped Wheatears seen throughout the morning were recorded as we continued along the Karwyderskraal road and we added the Rock Kestrel, Jackal Buzzard and Blue Crane. A pair of Klaas’s Cuckoos was located in a flooded area along the Bot River in amongst vast number of water birds. A Secretarybird was also photographed by Somerset West Bird Club members in this general area later on in the day.
The area around the old METAL BRIDGE across the Bot River was however somewhat insane. We have never seen the area this flooded making for outstanding birding. A Burchell’s Coucal was out in the open while we added several great species to our list for the day: Red-billed Teal, African Black Duck, African Snipe and White-faced Whistling Duck. Bokmakieries were calling around us, but probably the find of the day was a magnificent Greater Double-collared Sunbird. This is the closest that we had ever seen this species to Hermanus as our previous records were at Greyton. This therefore represents the furthest south and west that we had recorded this species in the Overberg.
|Black-winged Kite - Ingrid Grundlingh|
|Very vocal pipit - Ingrid Grundlingh|
Then it was onto the SWARTRIVIER ROAD despite an ominous “Road closed” sign and they were actually serious. The usual cisticolas, larks and pipits that one would expect to find in the area were on show together with species such as the Pied Starling and the two resident martins. Ingrid and Danny picked up both African Harrier-Hawk and Black Harrier, but the other great find of the day was a Pale Chanting Goshawk gliding through the sky with its wonderful black and white underwing patterns. But this is where our planned trip ended. The causeway across the river was totally flooded and we were forced to turn around.
We went to the Botriver Hotel for a cup of coffee and a wonderful chat about how we all started getting involved in birding. It was decided to investigate the Van Der Stel Pass, but it was beyond 13h00 with not much happening as far as birding was concerned. We decided to return home due to family commitments and the Currie Cup final. On our return we recorded a lovely Forest Buzzard and an awesome African Fish-Eagle gliding along the Botvlei. This was a wonderful outing with Kobus’ approach to slow birding, great companionship and without much twitching racking up an impressive 100 species. As far as I am concerned this is what birding should be all about and I thank the participants for a great day’s birding.
We also thank Johan van der Westhuizen for agreeing to guide a small group of Somerset West Bird Club members to the Vermont Salt Pan and Rotary Way. See a lovely photographic report of their sightings on their Facebook page. Interesting species that they recorded at the pan included the Black-crowned Night-Heron and a pair of Crowned Cormorants (at fresh water nogal). I was really chuffed with them recording the Malachite Kingfisher and African Fish-Eagle at the Onrus River estuary. These species would not have been recorded here before the ongoing removal of reed from the estuary. It certainly seems as if many bird species will return to the estuary in future and we commend all parties involved in this project. Refer to my earlier report on this on our website or Facebook page.
|Secretarybird - Riël Tredoux|
|Familiar Chat & Sentinel Rock-Thrush confrontation - Johan van der Westhuizen|
Johan was able to give his guests close-up views of Cape Rockjumpers up on ROTARY WAY and they were able to add Orange-breasted Sunbird, Neddicky, Jackal Buzzard, Sentinel Rock-Thrush, Nicholson’s (Long-billed) Pipit and Familiar Chat to the impressive list of birds already recorded on the day. Warren McClelland also recorded Black-necked Grebes and African Marsh-Harrier from Rooisand on the day, making for a list of more than 120 species reported on the day.
The greater Hermanus region truly has great birding potential if one considers that more than a third of the species recorded on the day are endemic or near-endemic to Southern Africa. It is really encouraging that such wonderful bird-watching can be had in such a relatively small area in winter and despite many areas being flooded and gates being locked.
(More images will be added as these are received)
|Cape Rockjumper - Johan van der Westhuizen (2)|
|Displaying Blue Cranes|