Rarities seen in pairs


Story and images: Mike and Helen MacNaught

Last Wednesday Helen and I decided to go and look for Barbara Palmer’s Kestrels. (See story below.)

Hungry Jackal Buzzards

Mother Jackal Buzzard (Rooibors-jakkalsvoël) and hungry Junior

That morning it was very windy and overcast and we were in two minds about going – but fortunately we did.

Everything seemed to be in pairs on the Stanford / Akkedisbergpas road.

First a pair of Martial Eagles (Breëkop-arende). Next a pair of Jackal Buzzards (Rooibors-jakkalsvoëls), then European Rollers (Europese Troupante) and Lesser Kestrels (Kleinrooivalke).

White Stork

White Stork (Wit-ooievaar)

Although we looked carefully we missed out on seeing Noah’s Ark . . .

We watched the pair of Jackal Buzzards for about ten minutes. Junior was really annoyed with mother and kept on scolding her. She simply ignored him.

Once through the pass we saw a real feeding frenzy. Lots of Steppe Buzzards (Bruinjakkalsvoëls), Jackal Buzzards, Yellow-billed Kites (Geelbekwoue), a Lesser Kestrel and Rock Kestrel (Kransvalk). Also plenty of White Storks (Wit-ooievaars).

A really worthwhile morning’s birding.


Three rare species on first day


Story: Barbara Palmer      Images: Graham Palmer

Having been away for the first week of January, Graham and I were aware that we were far behind the leaders of the Challenge and on Thursday 14 January we decided to do the eastern side of the January Challenge route.

a European Roller sml

European Roller (Europese Troupant)

We had heard reports of a European Roller (Europese Troupant) that was seen about 3 km past Birkenhead Breweries and kept our eyes peeled.

We did not find the Roller on the way out, but did find about six Lesser Kestrels (Kleinrooivalke), which are not that common in our area. We photographed them and felt very chuffed with ourselves.

On the way back we found not one, but two European Rollers in the same spot.

a Lesser Kestrel male

Lesser Kestrel (Kleinrooivalk)

Knowing how competitive some of the participants are, I sent the photos of the Kestrels and Roller to a few people, including Mike Ford.

A few hours later I received an email from Mike saying that he was “worrying himself into a state of confusion” about the female Kestrel.

It turned out to be not a Kestrel at all, but an Amur Falcon (Oostelike Rooipootvalk)! Mike has subsequently posted it on SABAP2 and Trevor Hardaker reported it in his rare birds report.

Amur Falcon female (1)

Amur Falcon (Oostelike Rooipootvalk)

Hermanus Bird Club on the map again!

I do wish more members would enter the Challenge. The only thing that can happen to you is that you will learn an awful lot more about the birds and birding spots of our area – and that cannot be a bad thing, can it now?

Craig’s first Chirp of 2016


Why should you still join this year’s Club Bird Challenge three weeks after it started?

Which Committee member is stepping down at the next Annual General Meeting?

How will Club members get their Club and other birding news without the bi-monthly Oystercatcher?

How could you get involved with the Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary in Kleinbaai?

What new birding trips should be announced soon?

Find the answers in “Craig’s Chirp” by clicking on the menu above. That is where the Chairperson’s monthly comments will be published from now on.

‘Blood Lions’ in Hermanus

The 84 minute documentary “Blood Lions”, focussing on the multi-million dollar canned lion hunting industry in South Africa, will be screened in the Hermanus municipal auditorium tomorrow at 18:30.

The documentary tells the story of how lion breeding, canned trophy hunting and, increasingly, lion bone trade are intertwined, reports Hermanus Times.

The message of “Blood Lions” was instrumental in causing a worldwide uproar and leading to a banning or curbing of lion trophies in Australia and the USA.

Bookings at 083 390 5555.

Of birds, planes and a dog

If you want to know when planes are landing at or departing from Cape Town Airport, you just google it.

To find out about the activities of birds at the airport is not so easy. For that you need someone like Marius van Rooyen and his dog.

Marius will explain what he does as Senior Bird and Wildlife Officer at the first Club meeting of 2016 at Fernkloof Hall on Wednesday 20 January.

His main task is to keep birds and planes out of each other’s way by reducing birds and other wildlife on the airfield with the help of his trained Border collie. His duties include monitoring local bird life, conducting bird surveys, checking for termite nests and dealing with the occasional snake on the airfield.

The meeting begins at 19:00. 

Toxins killing Saltpan birds

A dramatic increase in what is commonly known as blue-green algae is causing the deaths of birds at the Vermont Saltpan.

At least 14 carcasses have been found and taken away to be destroyed – mainly shovelers, geese, teals and a couple of gulls, Club veteran Mike Ford said this week.

The death toll is expected to rise. “There are also several really sick looking birds resting on the rocks and I don’t think they’ll last much longer,” he said.

“The main problem is that the disease is spread by maggots from the carcasses, so it is very important to find and burn any dead birds – easier said than done as they tend to hide in the reeds to die.

“The problem is due to the rapid evaporation at the pan and dropping of levels at this time of year, plus heating of the water, especially round the edges. It’s not the first time this has happened. I remember around 2002 the pan was littered with dead waterfowl.”

‘Blue-green algae’ is the common name for cyanobacteria. They are so named because these organisms have characteristics of both algae and bacteria, although they are now classified as bacteria, according to the World Health Organization. The blue-green colour comes from their ability to photosynthesize, like plants.

Some species of cyanobacteria produce toxins that affect animals and humans. Under certain conditions, the cyanobacteria reproduce exponentially to form blooms. Blooming cyanobacteria can produce cyanotoxins in such concentrations that they poison and even kill animals and humans, according to Wikipedia.

The first published report that cyanobacteria could have lethal effects appeared in Nature in 1878. George Francis described the bloom he observed in the estuary of the Murray River in Australia, as “a thick scum like green oil paint, some two to six inches thick.” Wildlife which drank the water died rapidly and terribly.

The cyanobacteria have also been tremendously important in shaping the course of evolution and ecological change throughout earth’s history, says the University of California Museum of Paleontology on its website.

The oxygen atmosphere that we still depend on today was generated by numerous cyanobacteria during the Archaean and Proterozoic Eras. Before that time, the atmosphere had a very different chemistry, unsuitable for life as we know it today.

The cyanobacteria have the distinction of being the oldest known fossils, more than 3.5 billion years old. They are still around; they are one of the largest and most important groups of bacteria on earth.