Mini Big Birding Day


MBBDay is always one of the fun days in our Club’s calendar, an event looked forward to with eager anticipation by a number of members. This year it was held on Sunday 2 April.

Half an hour later than usual, from 6.30am to 6.30pm.

Only five teams of four entered (more on this later). Out team, The Twitching Darters, comprised of John and Sheelagh Bowman, and Peter and Marie Dagg.

Last year the winning total of birds identified, by sight or sound, was 135. We knew this would be very difficult to achieve this year, as the event was held much later in the year than previously, so several migrants had departed. And on the day, wintry conditions were starting to set in, making birding quite challenging.

We had done some recce-ing beforehand and decided on a strategy of concentrating in a limited area between the Hemel and Aarde Valley and Rooiels. So, we never travelled East of H. and A. i.e. we didn’t get to Hermanus, as such, at all. But within this limited area, we had identified 14 different birding spots. This proved to be quite a successful strategy. It meant that as soon as the count started slowing down at any of these spots, we moved on to the next one. And believe me, often we were disappointed that birds we expected to see just weren’t there. But there was always the next spot!

A few birds/incidents:

Our top bird of the day was a Grey-winged Francolin, a pretty uncommon bird in our region.

We were travelling on one of the gravel back roads between the N2 and Shaw’s Pass – feeling a bit down as the birding had got really slow – when suddenly we saw this little Francolin scuttling down the road ahead of us. Obligingly, it stayed in sight long enough for all of us to get a good look and an ID.

Next best was a Little Bittern. We were birding early at Jessie Walton’s farm dam. Suddenly, from the reeds virtually at Peter’s feet, this bird erupted, and flew across the dam, giving us all a chance to have a good look. A Little Bittern is always a great sighting!

We had debated whether, with the recent fire damage, it was worth going to Rooiels. Eventually we decided to go. But when we got there, there was a freezing cold wind, which together with the damage, severely restricted birding. So we only got a handful of birds there, and none of the ‘specials’ which were so evident on our Club walk early in March.

We stopped at Harold Porter for lunch in the parking area. While eating, Peter caught sight of a Brimstone Canary. It went behind a bush, so we all went forward to get a look. Afterwards I turned, and there at the open boot of our car was a small troop of baboons, led by an enormous male. I ran at it shouting. The other members of the troop shot off, but this male just stood there challenging me. Eventually, with Peter joining the fray, it got the message, and made tracks. And our lunch was still intact!

What could have been a major embarrassment was that at 5.45pm our team still had not seen a single Cape Sparrow, or Cape Bulbul. Unbelievable! Fortunately, honour was restored, when we saw both before 6pm at Vermont Pan.

All these little incidents contributed to a most enjoyable and memorable day, notwithstanding disappointments from time to time. But it was successful, as The Twitching Darters ended up being the winning team, with 121 birds! We were closely followed by The Rocky Jumpers (Ronnie and Renee Hazell, and Graham and Barbara Palmer), with 117 birds.

In conclusion, I’d just like to repeat what a great day MBBDay always is. It is a competition, and some teams do go all out to win. But it is also a fun day, and several teams just go along for the fun of it, to see what they can achieve, and enjoy the birding -some starting quite late in the morning. The day is always followed by a convivial braai at Fernkloof, where participants exchange tales of the day’s highs and lows. The day certainly hones up your ID-ing skills, and leads you to find new birding spots. On one of our recces we found a new spot which we first explored during the Club’s Challenge last year, and it was really productive on Sunday.

It really is a pity that of over 200 members in the Club, only 5 teams of 4 each entered. It really would be great if we could get a lot more entries in future.

Thanks to Craig for organising such a great day.

John Bowman