Room for two more in Botterkloof

 

By Barbara Palmer

Two places have become available for the Club’s outing to Botterkloof near Stilbaai, due to a cancellation.

Botterkloof

Botterkloof. Image from website.

The dates are 18-20 April, and 21 members will be accommodated in three houses with shared bathrooms (about four people per bathroom). The cost is R315.00 per person for the two nights.

The price will indicate that the accommodation is comfortable rather than luxurious. Linen and bedding will be provided, but you do have to take your own towels. We will have our communal braai, with shared catering, as usual – this time in the Pool Room.

This will be the club’s fourth visit to Botterkloof, where we’ve always been made to feel very welcome and the staff has been very accommodating.

Our programme usually includes a walk around the farm, a drive to Stilbaai and environs, a trip to Voëlvlei near Mossel Bay and a bit of Karoo birding. During our last visit to the area we identified 119 species.

If you would like to participate in this outing, please contact me at barbarapalmer@telkomsa.net or on 083 659 3303.

Feeding garden birds – good or bad?

 

Most people derive immense pleasure from watching birds devour food they have supplied. Feeding birds also has the undeniably positive spin-off that it may start many people on a life-long interest in birds.

But, in reality, is feeding birds doing them a favour or does it merely serve to gratify our own human pleasure?

This question is asked and dealt with in an article by Charles and Julia Botha which was first published in Africa Birds and Birding seven years ago, but recently re-published in adapted form in a number of South African magazines.

There are many overseas studies regarding the consequences of feeding birds, the authors state.

One concern raised by a research study is that regular bird feeding may create a population level that cannot be sustained by the natural food supply in the area. Thus birds are encouraged to settle where they cannot support themselves once feeding stops.

Supplementary feeding often improves breeding results and causes earlier egg laying, which is of benefit to some species. However, in others, breeding too early brings negative results, because chicks are in the nest before the period when the maximum natural food becomes available. As a result, extra food supplements on offer during times less favourable for raising chicks can lead to a decrease, rather than an increase, in the survival rate of offspring.

With some surveys estimating that as many as 75% of UK households provide food for birds, this human influence on the ecology of birds is undeniable and is more than likely causing considerable disruption of the natural selection process.

To read the full article, including the authors’ suggested solution, click on this link: Feeding garden birds

Game birds having a good season

 

Story and images: Ed Meyer

The upland game birds in the mountain fynbos above Voëlklip have had a very successful breeding season in 2015-’16.

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Cape Spurfowl with youngsters.

Four or five pairs of Cape Spurfowl regularly visit our garden on the edge of the Fernkloof Reserve and have all produced at least two clutches of chicks from August through to January.

Initial clutch size has been on average five, however, the chicks seem to be most vulnerable to predators in the first few weeks before they can “flutter fly”. Clutch numbers raised to maturity average between two and three.

We recently witnessed, sadly, a mature young spurfowl being spectacularly caught by an African Goshawk, taken up into our red gum tree and devoured in our full view – a special sighting.

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Pair of Helmeted Guineafowl with second clutch of chicks.

Helmeted Guineafowl have also bred successfully this past season. A very relaxed pair arrived in January with six juveniles, who were around with one parent bird for a few weeks.

Next thing was the mother arriving proudly with sixteen day-old chicks, her second clutch for the season. The juveniles disappeared and both parents then took care of the large brood of chicks.

We have had fun watching the development of the youngsters, but again sadly, predators have taken their toll and after two weeks their numbers are down to ten. They can now scurry for cover and dart away when there is any risk, so we watch with interest to see how many will survive.

Concern for hawk visiting local gardens

 

By Mike Ford

An interesting story has unfolded about a Black Sparrowhawk that was spotted in various Hermanus gardens over the last four years. But there is concern about its health.

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The Black Sparrowhawk, photographed by Mike Sander in his garden in May 2015.

I was contacted by Peter and Alison Eustace on 11 March to tell me that there was a ringed Black Sparrowhawk on the roof of their house in Prestwick Village, Eastcliff. Brian Taylor had taken some good photographs which allowed the rings to be read – in this case a metal ring on the right leg and green over red anodised rings on the left.

I immediately suspected that this was one of Ann Koeslag’s birds. Ann is a friend of mine who lives in Cape Town and has been studying Black Sparrowhawks for many years. I followed the protocols and contacted her via Safring at UCT, and it was confirmed that this was indeed one of her birds, with an interesting history.

Black Sparrowhawk (1)

The bird in worrying condition, photographed by Brian Taylor on a roof in March 2016.

It was ringed as a nestling at the nest at Sunnycroft, near Kommetjie (3408S 1824E), on 4 October 2010, and sexed as a male.

It was re-sighted in August 2012 in the garden of Walter Mapham in Westcliff Road, Hermanus, and again in the same garden in November 2012.

Walter Mapham contacted me again to say that “that sparrowhawk” had been sighted again in May 2015 in the garden of well-known local photographer Mike Sander in Rocklands Road, Westcliff, who took a nice photograph of it having a meal.

Black Spar nestling

The sparrowhawk when it was ringed as a nestling near Kommetjie in October 2010. Image by Ann Koeslag.

Now, about this re-sighting in Eastcliff: Young sparrowhawks are often forced out of their natal territories by their parents, and roam around looking for a territory not defended by another male sparrowhawk, who would defend that territory to death.

It looks like this fellow finally found a suitable site in Hermanus, and has settled here. We should now all keep an eye out for him and possibly track his progress as he looks for a mate and an opportunity to breed.

Unfortunately the worrying thing is that the bird has obviously dropped condition since being photographed by Mike Sander, and has clear signs of feather mite infestation behind its eyes in the latest photographs.

Maxi fun and scores on Mini birding day

 

By Ronnie Hazell

On Sunday 13 March, six teams, made up of Hermanus Bird Club members, took part in the annual Mini Big Birding Day.

MBBD Cranes & Verreaux's 3a

One of the most dramatic sights of the day was this of a young Verreaux’s Eagle diving down several times to grab a Blue Crane chick. However, the chick was successfully protected by the group of adults, forming a circle around it. Image: Barbara Palmer

Although light rain had been forecast for the morning, most of us managed to keep dry as the showers were pretty scattered.

To start at 6:00 a.m. was somewhat challenging as the overcast conditions did not allow any light through. Even so, two teams managed to find a Fiery-necked Nightjar, and most others saw Spotted Eagle-Owls.

Thereafter the teams set forth on their various routes. While some had more success than others, the general consensus was that everybody had a good time. It was hard to believe that 12 hours of concentrated searching could pass so quickly.

Meals were gobbled down at roadblocks, shortcuts were taken to arrive at special locations and, by the end of the day, speed limits were probably stretched somewhat in order to squeeze in one more bird.

At the ensuing prize-giving and braai, each team reported on the highlights of the day. It was interesting to hear what other twitchers had seen or missed.

Scores were varied, but one thing was certain – the winners were the Hermanus Harriers, comprising Graham and Barbara Palmer, Mike Ford, and Lee Burman. They came home with a record 135 species, followed closely by the Naughty Terns made up of Mike and Helen MacNaught and Gavin and Cynthia Turner with a very respectable 128.

For me it was a wonderful day – my first in this competition, but certainly not my last. This is what birding is about. The event provides a wonderful opportunity for people to get to know one another as well as to share their birding prowess and learn from the members of their team.

Let’s hope that more teams enter in future.

Catching a dream cruise to Dyer Island

 

By Machteld Horsten

A group of 17 Club members met at the Great White House in Kleinbaai to get ready for the boat trip to Dyer Island. After coffee and muffins we set off on the Dream Catcher.

Dyer Island cruise

Club members and others, fitted with life jackets and ready to board. Image Machteld Horsten

The cruise had been scheduled for Thursday morning, 10 March, but low tide was so low that it had to be postponed to the afternoon.

The weather was great, the sea calm, the red tide very visible.

We had some fantastic marine sightings – a Great White Shark (Witdood-haai), called Rosie, engaging with the shark cage divers.

We were also lucky to see a number of Indian Humpback Dolphins (Bultrug-dolfyne) swimming around the boat.

In Shark Alley we saw hundreds of Cape Fur Seals (Kaapse Pelsrobbe), some sunning themselves on the rocks, others frolicking in the water to cool down.

There was also a  large female Elephant Seal (See-olifant), dozing on the rocks.

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The Southern Giant Petrel (Reuse-nellie). Image Charles Naudé

On the way back we encountered a large school of Common Dolphins (Gewone Dolfyne), some swimming with their little ones.

We saw the normal marine birds along the way such as the Kelp Gull (Kelpmeeu), Hartlaub’s Gull (Hartlaub-meeu), Swift Terns (Geelbek-sterretjies), Cape, White-breasted and Bank Cormorants (Trek-, Witbors- en Bank-duikers) and African Penguins (Brilpikkewyne).

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Common Dolphins (Gewone Dolfyne). Image Charles Naudé.

The highlight was a beautiful sighting of a Southern Giant Petrel (Reuse-nellie), which I’m sure was a lifer for many of us. It was very close to the boat, but apparently too well-fed and heavy to give us a show of running on the water for take-off.

Back at the Great White House we were treated to soup and sandwiches.

The tour leader was Mike Ford.

A visit to colourful birds, happy people

 

Club members have been looking forward to this presentation for more than a year. It is going to happen on Wednesday 16 March.

Blood Pheasant

A Blood Pheasant, one of the colourful birds of Bhutan. Image by Francis Yap Photography.

Alan and Carol McLennan-Smith visited Bhutan – a well-preserved country of colourful birds and happy people – at the end of 2014. But then Alan fell ill.

He has recovered sufficiently to show and tell, with some help from Carol.

Bhutan is a landlocked country between India and China at the eastern end of the Himalayas. According to Wikipedia it has made the transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy. In 2006, based on a global survey, Business Week rated Bhutan the happiest country in Asia and the eighth-happiest in the world.

The meeting, in the Fernkloof Reserve Hall, will begin at 19:00.

Glorious morning of birding in Onrus

 

By Mike and Helen MacNaught

A group of 27 birders gathered at The Milkwood car park on Thursday 3 March for the morning walk around the Onrus Peninsula, past the caravan park and on to the Onrus Lagoon.

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Mike MacNaught leading the way. Images: Charles Naudé

The weather was glorious – mild and windless, in fact perfect for birding. The walk started with great sightings of hundreds of Cape Gannets (Witmalgasse) and other sea birds actively feeding just off the rocks at the entrance to the Onrus River.

Walking along Atlantic Drive towards the Tern Roost we saw White Fronted Plovers (Vaalstrandkiewiete), Sacred Ibises (Skoorsteenveërs) and African Black Oystercatchers (Swarttobies) among others. There were very few terns (sterretjies) – clearly everyone was offshore feeding on the shoals of fish that were passing by.  But we did see a few Swift Terns (Geelbeksterretjies) and a couple of Sandwich Terns (Grootsterretjies) as well as an assortment of cormorants (duikers).

Walking past the caravan park we saw an old favourite, the African Hoopoe (Hoephoep). Later on our way home the two of us saw three Spotted Thick-knees (Gewone dikkoppe) in the same spot.

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A Cape Gannet (Witmalgas) flying low over the water some distance from the Onrus Peninsula

We walked along the small lane leading to the lagoon and were rewarded with a trio of Fork-tailed Drongos (Mikstertbyvangers) hawking insects. Also seen was a Sombre Greenbul (Gewone Willie).

The reeds had been cut on one section of the lagoon and among the marshy stubble we had sightings of a Common Moorhen (Grootwaterhoender), African Swamphen (Grootkoningriethaan) and a Lesser Swamp Warbler (Kaapse Rietsanger). Across the lagoon we saw Reed Cormorants (Rietduikers), an African Darter (Slanghalsvoël), Cape Weavers (Kaapse Wewers) and a Pied Kingfisher (Bontvisvanger).

On the way back to the car park we deviated slightly past the little private Greek Orthodox Church, where we saw Red-faced Mousebirds (Rooiwangmuisvoëls).

All in all a very pleasant and productive outing, with a count of 54 bird species.

2016 Committee ready to fly

 

Craig Holmes was re-elected Chairman of Hermanus Bird Club for a third term, and veteran Mike Ford was elected to fill the vacant position of Vice-chairman.

The new Committee, at its first meeting on Monday 7 March, also supported the appointment of newcomer Roy Moulton to the vacant position of Treasurer, and some changes and adjustments of other portfolios.

Mike took over from Margie Ogston, who served as Vice-chair for two terms. He will also organize Walks, Talks and Events. Roy took over from David Watson, who, together with Margie, resigned from the Committee.

Contact details of the 2016 Committee members can be found by clicking “Contact us” above.