March walk around Onrus Peninsula


The Club monthly walk on Thursday 3 March will be around the Onrus Peninsula, including the lagoon. It will be led by Mike and Helen MacNaught.

All participants meet at the Onrus River mouth on the open area near The Milkwood Restaurant. Mike says there is parking for about eight cars, more parking along the street leading to the area, and a large parking area a little higher up.

To get there, turn off the R43 onto Main Road, then left onto Van Blommestein Road, which becomes Beach Road and eventually Atlantic Drive.

The walk will be along Atlantic Drive around the Peninsula, past the caravan park and then to the beginning of the Onrus River lagoon. We will start at 07:30 while it is still cool.

Target birds would include various terns (sterretjies), gulls (meeue), African Black Oystercatcher (Swarttobie), Common Whimbrel (Kleinwulp), Little Egret (Kleinwitreier), White-fronted Plover (Vaalstrandkiewiet) and various herons (reiers) and ducks (eende).

Bring your own snacks and drinks.


Founder member passed away


By Vanessa Ovenstone

Michael Ward was a founder member of the Hermanus Bird Club. He loved being out in Nature and spent many hours in the Kruger Park, identifying and learning more about various birds.

Michael and Chloe Ward

Michael and Chloe Ward at the 10th birthday of the Club in 2007, where they received founder member certificates.

He said that the pleasure of birding added a whole new dimension to his visits.

The Club was started in 1997, soon after Michael and his wife, Chloe, had moved to Hermanus, adding  lots of great birding experiences and friends to his life.

Right to the end, he would sit on his patio with a copy of The Birds of Walker Bay handy, so he could identify and study birds and their habits.

This kind, interesting, interested and intellectual man will be sorely missed.

He died peacefully on 9 February, less than a month before he would have turned 85.

He is survived by Chloe, four children and three stepchildren.

Good and bad news from Crane Count


By Lee Burman

The latest Crane Count near Hermanus seems to indicate an increase in the number of Steppe Buzzards and Spur-winged Geese. That is the good news. But the number of Blue Cranes seems to be in decline. That is the bad news.

The twice-yearly Crane Count, a project of the Animal Demography Unit of the University of Cape Town, must be one of the longest ongoing birding projects in the country. It was started in 1993.

At first  only counted Blue Cranes and Denham’s Bustards were counted, but gradually other birds have been added and we now count 13 species found in this area plus a number of buck species.

My route, OV17, starts on the Swartrivier Road at Gabriëlskloof, continues along the Karwyderskraal Road and then up the Hemel en Aarde valley to just outside Caledon.

What has been very noticable over the years is the change in farming practices along large parts of this route. Even the Swartrivier Road, which used to wind through mainly wheatlands, so ideal for Blue Cranes, has largely changed to vineyards and Canola. Hemel en Aarde has become almost devoid of cranes until one gets close to Caledon. Even there, on farms where one could count on seeing fair numbers, there seems to be fewer every year.

For example in January 2012 we counted 166 Blue Cranes against 68 counted in January 2016 by Margie Ogston and Barbara Swart, who stood in for me. On the other hand, they counted 32 Steppe Buzzards, which is a record, and 26 Spur-winged Geese, also higher than usual.

I was delighted to see that they only spotted one Pied Crow. So far these scavengers seem not to have invaded the Overberg as much as they have further west.

The list for the Count in January 2016:

Blue Crane 68
Black-shouldered Kite 3
Steppe Buzzard 32
Cape Crow 4
Denham’s Bustard 6
Spur-winged Goose 26
Pied Crow 1
White Stork 1
Black-headed Heron 1
Jackal Buzzard 6
Grey Rhebuck 10

HBC Challenge hits rare birds


By Graham Palmer

Some really interesting rare birds were reported by Club members taking part in the January round of the Hermanus Bird Club 2016 Overberg Challenge. Among them were European Roller, Abdim’s Stork and Amur Falcon.

Altogether 16 single sightings were recorded and 15 birds were seen by all participants.

Total numbers of bird species reported are quite a bit better than January 2015. Mike Ford, who is the top scorer at this stage, recorded 151 species, compared to 118 for the frontrunner after the first month of last year.

Mike is followed by Ronnie Hazell, then there is a bit of a gap with the following pack comprising the Palmers, the Bowmans, Margie Ogston and Barbara Swart, and Chris Cheetham.

The designated area for January had as its western boundary the Swartdam Road at Gateway Centre and Rotary Drive. The area then included all of Hermanus to the east, including Fernkloof, contour and coastal paths, parks etc. and continued to the Kleinrivier lagoon (both sides), Stanford and Appel se Dam, and along the Kleinrivier all the way to the Van Brakels Store at the crossroad of the R326 and R316.

The February round started off with a good drive along the Swartrivier Road, across the N2, along Hawston View Drive and back through Bot River village.

Find the latest summarised results at HBC Challenge 1601

So long, sugarbirds


By Mike Ford

Those of you who have nectar feeders in your gardens will probably be noticing a drop-off in sugarbird numbers over the past few days.

Suikervoël, Kaapse (Sugarbird, Cape), 130921 Hermanus 0316

A Cape Sugarbird (Kaapse Suikervoël) in a Hermanus garden. Image: Charles Naudé.

This is almost the end of the “scavenging” season for these birds and it is time for them to start returning to their proper habitat in the protea fynbos.

Before the advent of feeders these birds would leave their beloved proteas around September or October and go hunting for any other species of trees and bushes for alternative supplies of nectar, returning in late February or March to resume their more normal feeding patterns and also to moult in preparation for their winter breeding period.

If there are considerably fewer sugarbirds in your garden, you can either reduce the nectar you feed them to just enough for the smaller sunbirds and white-eyes, or take the feeder down and store it for the winter. Either way, make sure you give it a good clean, and disinfect it with something like Dettol before storing.

Mike Ford makes a comeback


Mike Ford and Wolfgang Schenk 141106 De Mond 672A0890-3

Mike Ford and Wolfgang Schenk at a Club outing to De Mond. Mike rejoined the Committee after ten years, while Wolfgang talked about his life as a taxidermist at the Annual General Meeting on Wednesday. All images by Charles Naudé

Mike Ford, birding guru, bird ringer and past chairperson of Hermanus Bird Club, joined the Club Committee together with newcomer Roy Moulton.

Roy Moulton 151208

Roy Moulton, new Committee member.

They were elected unopposed at the Annual General Meeting in the Fernkloof Hall on Wednesday 10 February, replacing Margie Ogston and David Watson, who both retired.

Chairperson Craig Holmes thanked Margie for her wonderful work editing the Oystercatcher newsletter and as Vice Chairperson, and David for his work as Treasurer, Membership Secretary and unofficial entertainer at various Club functions.

Mike was Chairperson from 2003 to 2006. He joined the Club in 1999 and joined the Committee as Secretary at his first meeting.

That was soon after he and his wife, Valerie, had moved to Hermanus.

Margie Watson 150413 Fernkloof Hermanus 9634

Margie Ogston and David Watson, retired Committee members.

He was trained as a bird ringer after retiring as Executive Director of Liner Services at Unicorn Shipping.

His interest in wildlife and birding began when he spent many hours as a boy in New Forest, Hampshire, England, where he was born 74 years ago.

He came to South Africa in 1965 after marrying Valerie, a South African.

In announcing the two nominations Craig described Roy as eminently qualified to take over David’s role.

002 Cormorant

A young Wolfgang Schenk with one of his first “stuffed” birds, a European Cormorant.

“Roy had a senior role at Consol Glass for many years and after retiring helped La Vierge with their financials. He is also a Director and Treasurer of Whale Coast Conservation.”

He is married to Dawn.

The portfolios wil be finalised at the first Committee meeting, in March.

The evening began with a talk by Club member Wolfgang Schenk on his experiences as a taxidermist.

His interest in that field was stimulated by his visits as a schoolboy to the museum in the German town of Kassel, where he grew up.

The meeting was attended by about 80 members, including all four past chairpersons of the Club.

HBC Presidents 160210

All the Presidents . . .  Club Chairperson Craig Holmes (centre) flanked by predecessors John Bowman, Mike Ford, Barbara Palmer and Alan McLennan-Smith at the Annual General Meeting.