By Graham Palmer
For three months Mike Ford looked like the clear winner of the Hermanus Bird Club annual Challenge. Then he went to the United States, and could collect no more bird species.
So, during the fourth and last month, Ronnie Hazell surged past to take the honours.
Mike had gathered enough points to take second place, followed by Sheelagh and John Bowman, who have been climbing steadily to third and fourth place, despite being out of town for quite a bit over the four months.
It was an interesting Challenge, and the results could be used to give us a better idea of the bird distribution in the Overstrand.
John had two tales to tell about the Challenge. The first was of golf and birdies.
“I was playing at the Hermanus Golf Club and discussing our Bird Club Challenge with my playing partner, also a Club member. He casually asked if I’d seen the African Harrier Hawk flying over us on the previous hole. I hadn’t, and was a bit grumpy as I needed this bird for the Challenge.
“However, I was soon very cheerful again. On the dam next to the 8th green, I spotted a Black Crake. In many years of playing there, this was my first sighting of this bird on the course.
“And the birding gods weren’t finished with me. On the second nine, from the 22nd green, looking at the same dam, there was the Black Crake, and, unbelievably, next to it a Little Bittern. Again, a bird I’d never seen on the course before.
“I needed both birds for the Challenge.
“I went back a few days later to see if I could show Sheelagh the birds. We got the Crake, and a photo of it, but no Bittern.
“I do think that these observations re-enforce just how good the Challenge is, in making one that much more aware, and birding-focussed, even in a familiar environment.
“On to another Challenge story: We’ve read on the Club’s website how the Mac Naughts and the Palmers, separately, picked up a number of uncommon birds along the R326 east of Stanford. We’d tried our luck there a couple of times, picking up a few ‘useful’ birds.
“We pottered along there again before the River Rat cruise, and were pleasantly surprised to pick up an interesting-looking juvenile Cuckoo flying around the Klein River cheese farm parking area. I took some photos, and Anne Philip got some photos the next day.
“Mike Ford confirmed that it was a juvenile Common Cuckoo – a good bird for the Challenge, and a ‘lifer’ for all of us.”
To see the final summarised Challenge results, click on HBC Challenge 1604