Magpies myth busted

Magpies, black-and-white birds which for generations have been known as jewellery thieves, are in fact wary of shiny objects, a myth-busting study has claimed.

In a series of experiments, British animal behaviourists found that, far from being kleptomaniacs, the birds were in fact fearful of unknown objects, AFP reports from Paris.

The team had arranged a selection of objects, shiny and dull, at different sites on the University of Exeter campus and observed the reaction of wild and captive magpies. Items included metal screws and foil rings – half of them painted blue with matt paint and the rest left shiny – and a piece of aluminium foil, with piles of nuts in between.

“Magpies only made contact with a shiny object twice in 64 tests,” a university statement said of the study, published in the journal Animal Cognition. “Both times a silver ring was picked up and immediately discarded.”


How long do birds live?

Veteran member and bird ringer Mike Ford did some research on the most frequent question being asked: How long do birds live?

He looked up the longevity records for a few species in the SAFRING database for birds ringed and re-captured later. This does not fully represent the actual life-span of the bird – as it is released again after re-capture to continue on for how many more days, months or years, and as very few birds live to their full age potential, due to predation, disease, parasites etc.  But it does illustrate the longest intervals between first capture and last re-capture. To make things a bit less open-ended he searched for longevity records for birds first ringed as juveniles.

The initial samples revealed the following: Southern Double-collared Sunbird 9.9 years; Cape Sparrow 10.67 years; Cape Sugarbird 14.63 years; Common Thick-knee 21.67 years; Cape Gannet 33.23 years

There appears to be a correlation between size and longevity, and Mike intends to draw some more samples to see if this is valid across the board.

River Rat early next year

 Earlier this year we had a very popular outing to Stanford to bird watch on the river. We have decided to do it again next year. There will be a morning cruise and an afternoon cruise, both on Wednesday 28 Januaryand here are the details – we will cruise on the River Rat. 

Cruise 1 – Depart Stanford on the River Rat at 07h00 for 2/3 hours good birding. Bring along your tea and coffee and croissants and enjoy time with skipper Ernie Blommaert. We are limiting each “sailing “ to 12 places so that everyone is comfortable on the boat and getting around and ensuring all get a fair chance. Early morning birding is always rewarding so this should be loads of fun.

Cruise 2 – Depart Stanford at 17h00 for 2/3 hours on the River Rat. Bring along your wine and supper and enjoy thecruise. We can arrange a braai on board – please advise if you wish to braai – otherwise a nice cold meal on the river with a glass or two of wine will be great. Birding is rewarding along the river at this time of day so we should have a good outing.

The price for either cruise is R110 per head – when confirming I will advise when payment is due.

 If the response is as good as this year I will book the following day for an extra cruise or two.

First come first served!!

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Swarovskis for sale

A pair of 10×42 Swarovskis has become available. They are 14  years old but are in mint condition – the new price is around R24000 but these are available at R9500 ono. If you are interested please contact me on and I will put buyer and seller in touch.

Bird of the Year

Wicus Leeuwner, renowned Overberg photographer, conservationist and former dairy farmer, will address the Club on one of his passions, the Blue Crane, at the monthly meeting this evening.

The Blue Crane, South Africa’s national bird, is also BirdLife South Africa’s Bird of the Year for 2015.

The meeting, at Fernkloof Nature Reserve Hall, starts at 19:00. Coffee, tea and biscuits afterwards.

Projects needs a new committee member

John Saunders is returning to the UK and is leaving a big gap for us to fill. We need a volunteer to take on this role and that includes getting the bird hide built, the bench at Salt Pan finalised and we are always on the lookout for things to do and new ideas to follow. Added to that is that this portfolio looks after the Thursday walks and then particpates in all the meetings and helps the others on the committee to make the club run smoothly.

If you would like to join the HBC committee please contact me and we can have a chat – Craig Holmes on 0283132458 or


Joyful birding in Elgin area

The August monthly walk on Jessie Walton’s farm and Iona Wine Estate near Elgin on Thursday was a joy.

The group of 27 birders was met by Jessie at the dams on the farm and spent a couple of hours in perfect weather scouring the dams and garden. They identified 44 species, among them Black Crake, Hamerkop, African Harrier Hawk (formerly Gymnogene), Purple Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron and Southern Pochard.

At Iona the group met owner Andrew Gunn, who will be joining our club. At his request we helped him to begin a bird list, spotting 24 species in a short time. The most notable was the Western Osprey. This was followed by a wine tasting in the cellar of the beautifully restored farm. 

For those interested Jessie will be having on open day on 24 September where one can walk around the farm and bird, buy some plants or enjoy the food and drinks they will be selling. If you wish to visit please email our chairman, Craig Holmes, at for details on how to get there.

Wilderness and Nature’s Valley


We have another outing to look forward to. The numbers are limited to 20 participants. We will visit Nature’s Valley – accommodation without private facilities – and Wilderness – accommodation at Ebb and Flow.

The dates are: Ebb and Flow 17 – 19 Nov and Nature’s Valley 19 – 21 Nov. That’s 4 nights and the cost is R710.00 per person.

The braai facilities at Ebb and Flow are excellent and they have given us the use of the braai are and kitchen for those two nights. Nature’s Valley is a little more rustic and we will have to take our cutlery and crockery from the chalets to the lapa area in the evenings when we braai.

 There is a catch – to get the pensioners rate we all have to be over 60 so I will need ID numbers at the time of booking. Conservation fees will be payable if you don’t have a Wild Card. Anyone under 60 can come along with pleasure but the cost will increase by 40%!

Birding in this part of the world is really a delight and I am sure that there will be many of us who will be happy to try to hunt down the elusive Narina Trogon and the other wonderful birds in the area.

First come first served – deposit of 50% at the time of booking please.

Contact Craig on