Prepare for the unexpected and the exotic in May

A morning walk at a place where you could expect to see the unexpected, and the story of an exotic birding trip, should offer some excitement for Club members during May.

The morning walk, on Thursday 5 May, will be at the Strandfontein water purification dams, and Rondevlei Bird Sanctuary, both near Muizenberg. Especially Standfontein is almost regularly visited by unusual birds. Even if no unexpected bird should turn up, Strandfontein usually offers a good variety of more regular local water birds.


A Toucan, one of the colourful birds of Costa Rica. Source unknown.

The convoy, led by Barbara and Graham Palmer, will depart from the Onrust Trading Post at 07:30. Bring your own refreshments for the day.

The story of the exotic birding trip will be presented by John and Sheelagh Bowman at the Club monthly meeting on Wednesday 18 May. The title will be “Costa Rica Birding Adventure 2016”.

Among the more than 850 species in this tiny Central American country are some of the most colourful birds imagineable. The species total is not far from that of Southern Africa, but more than that of the United States and Canada combined.

The meeting, in the Fernkloof Reserve Hall, will be the first of the year to begin at 18:00 – an hour earlier than the meetings in summer time.

Four Black Storks and a Martial Eagle


By Margie Ogston

The HBC trip to Botterkloof during April was most enjoyable, with the group of 19 members compiling a list of 126 species. Barbara Palmer organised and led the outing and was ably assisted by various senior birders.


Birding near Stilbaai. Image by Ronnie Hazell.

Having met mid-morning we enjoyed a walk through the riverine area to the lagoon, adding various species to our lists, including hearing the Knysna Warbler.

The trip to the Sewage Works of Stilbaai is always productive and we enjoyed seeing the juvenile Great Crested Grebes and many Water Thick-knees. We watched in amazement as a Pied Kingfisher silenced her ‘catch of the day’ with a determined slapping action.

Tuesday promised to be the highlight of the trip, and Voëlvlei lived up to its reputation. We left in five cars at 08:00, and through thick mist slowly made our way through the fynbos and agricultural fields.

Our major sightings of the morning, en route to the vlei, were a Jacobin Cuckoo, a Southern Tchagra and many African Hoopoe at one venue.

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Juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons at Botterkloof. Image by Margie Ogston.

With the mist finally lifting, we reached Voëlvlei, where we finally had the pleasure of viewing hundreds of birds and waders in one section of the vlei. There was an abundance of Grey Herons, South African Shelducks, Black-winged Stilts, Black-headed Heron, Yellow-billed Duck, Blacksmith Lapwings and Lesser and Greater Flamingoes.

Glossy Ibises were also spotted, but our special sighting was of four Black Storks on the vlei and a Martial Eagle gliding overhead.

On our final day we were treated to the special sight of two juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons at Botterkloof.

Our evenings were, as always, well organised, with good food and with Graham providing fires for braaiing. Barbara encouraged members to share their time with different members each evening, which was a huge success.

51 Birds on a windy day’s walking


An enthusiastic group of members, led by Peter and Marie Dagg, tackled the main birding spots in and near Betty’s Bay despite a strong wind on the Club monthly walk on Thursday 7 April.

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A Familiar Chat (Gewone Spekvreter) on a rock at Rooi-els. Image by Charles Naudé.

A decent total of 51 species, including a Secretarybird (Sekretarisvoël), was identified.

At Rooi-els, the first stop, the wind subsided for a while. During that time the highlight probably was a Peregrind Falcon (Swerfvalk) flying over. On the way back to the parked vehicles some members saw the elusive Cape Rock-jumper (Kaapse Berglyster) quite far away.

A full-force wind almost blew the birders off their feet at Stoney Point, but fortunately a group of Cape Penguins (Brilpikkewyne) posed nicely ouside the entrance to the sanctuary.

For the complete bird list, click on April Walk list

Two top dogs still lead Challenge, but . . .


By Graham Palmer

The two top dogs, Mike Ford and Ronnie Hazell, were still leading the pack after March, the third month of the Hermanus Bird Club Challenge.

But that will change during April, the fourth and final month, as Mike has gone to the United States for three months of bird ringing.

There are three newcomers in third, fourth and fifth spot – the team of Mike and Helen MacNaught shot up from ninth to third, while Sheelagh and John Bowman each moved up one spot, displacing the Palmers to sixth and seventh spot. Our only excuse is two weeks of intensive grandparenting, which was lovely.

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Willow Warbler – image by Alan Spellman, from Mullbirds Photo Gallery.

The month did end on a high birding note. After our guests had gone, we had a final outing on the afternoon of 31 March and were surprised to find a Willow Warbler in the little alley leading to the Vermont pan. That was a first for us in Hermanus.

Peter Dagg got the most sightings in March, followed by Ronnie and Mike Ford.

During the previous month Mike stayed ahead with the most sightings, while Lee Burman shot into second place and Peter Dagg, back from Australia, into third.

The number of sightings in February was down from January, probably because the area was away from the sea and there was a lack of larks and pipits. Overall, the first five stayed the same. The team of Margie Ogston and Barbara Swart lost out on sixth place as they were away for a lot of the month enjoying Barbara’s retirement.

Find the latest summarised results at HBC Challenge 1603

Hot stuff on Wednesday


“Some like it hot” is the title of a show and tell that Charles Naudé will be doing at the Club monthly meeting on Wednesday 20 April.

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One of the birds that seemed to be fine in the heat of Pafuri.

It is based on bird photography trips to the Okavango River in Botswana and the Pafuri area in the very north of the Kruger National Park, with nature photographer Albert Froneman.

It was very hot and very dry.

But there were still some interesting birds around that did not seem to mind the heat too much.

The event, in the Fernkloof Reserve Hall, will begin at 19:00. Wine, at R10 a glass, will be available before the meeting.

In search of the Rockjumper on Thursday


The Club monthly walk will be at Rooi-els, home of the elusive Cape Rockjumper (Kaapse Berglyster), on Thursday 7 April, and other favourite birding spots in that area. It will be led by Peter and Marie Dagg.


Cape Rockjumper (Kaapse Berglyster. Image by Trevor Hardaker.

Other target birds at Rooi-els will include the Ground Woodpecker (Grondspeg), Sentinel Rock-Thrush (Langtoon-kliplyster), Orange-breasted Sunbird (Oranjebors-suikerbekkie), Cape Rock-Thrush (Kaapse Kliplyster), Cape Grassbird (Grasvoël) and Verreaux’s Eagle (Witkruis-arend).

Other spots included in the outing will be Stony Point, famous for its Cape Penguins (Brilpikkewyne), Harold Porter Botanical Garden in Bettysbaai, and/or Rooisand bird hide, overlooking the Botrivier lagoon.

There is a R10 conservation fee to enter Stony Point, and a fee of R18 for adults and R10 for seniors (over 60) to enter Harold Porter.

We will depart from the parking area of the Onrust Trading Post at the turn-off to Vermont at 07:30. Bring your own refreshments.