Birding Big Day 2021

I received this nice article from John Bowman;

Saturday  27 November was BirdLife SA’s  Big Birding Day. Participants could choose to bird in either a circle with a 50km radius, or one of 5kms. And you had 24 hours in which to do it.

Sadly, only one team from Hermanus Bird Club entered the event. The ‘White-headed HBCs’-Sheelagh Bowman, Barbara Palmer and myself. And what a great day we had!

We went for the 5km radius option, with an area which included parts of Onrus and Vermont, to Bot River Lagoon edge, and part of Kaarwyderskraal road. So we had a nice range of habitats.

The forecast weather was for plenty of rain, and strong winds. But fortunately, the heavens opened overnight with a vengeance, so there was nothing left to pour on us that day, and it was dry. And only some wind at Die Eiland. Near perfect birding conditions.

Just to comment on a few of the day’s highlights:

We got off to a good start with birds in the milkwoods, and on the shore, in front of our house., followed by terns at the Onrus tern roost. Water levels at Vermont Pan are exceptionally high at present. So no waders. But plenty of ducks, and three herons (Black-headed, Black-crowned Night, and Grey). The last mentioned, in particular, were really numerous, plus chicks.

Then Hawston Settling Ponds, where we had a great, short distance opportunity to ID a Grey-headed Gull, and distinguish it readily from the many Hartlaubs.  Among other species there, we watched a Levaillant’s Cisticola enjoying a worm for breakfast. Next was Die Eiland where we met the only other birders (from BLO) we saw doing BBDay. A nice selection of waders to make up for their absence at Vermont Pan. And also great close up views of the striking Caspian Terns.

Plus Flamingoes, which are not at Vermont Pan at present. The wind was a bit of a challenge there, and we didn’t see the Pectoral Sandpiper, or Ruffs which had been there earlier in the week.

Meerensee was a bit dissappointing and we didn’t add much there, but it was a nice spot to enjoy mid-morning coffee and snacks before going on to Fisherhaven. The suprise at Fisherhaven, was that we got two birds which one would normally associate with dry country, inland birding, namely Grey-backed Cisticola, and Plain-backed Pipit. And also a Pin-tailed Whydah, one of those hit and miss species.

And finally, our most rewarding part, the Kaarwyderskraal area. First up, a couple of White-faced Ducks on a pond we’d never seen before. Then, thanks to Barbara pinning down the call, a Common Quail. Then Blue Cranes, and so on. A Common Buzzard – the only one of the day – a White Stork, and our Bird of the Day, a Denham’s Bustard!  A great conclusion to what had been a most enjoyable and rewarding day.  So after birding for ‘only’ 6 hours, we called it a day. We finished with a total of 84 species, which we felt  was pretty good. Entries to the event only close on 5 December, so we’ll only know then how we rated.

And we got back in plenty of time to see the Blitsboks thrash the USA in the Dubai Rugby Sevens final!

Come on Hermanus Bird Club members, lets have lots more entries next year! Not only was it fun , but a great way of re-inforcing your birding skills.

John Bowman

28 November 2021

Certificate of Support for Mouse-Free Marion Island

Barbara received this from BLSA;

Thank you very much for your kind donation to the Mouse-Free Marion project. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps to progress this important endeavour. The project will make a real difference to the seabirds and ecology of Marion Island, and leave a lasting conservation legacy.

We look forward to your continued interest in the project, and will keep you posted.

Thanks again and kind regards,

Dr Anton Wolfaardt
Project Manager

Help Save Our Penguins

Anton Odendal of OB received this letter and forwarded it. The club has recently donated R5000 but they need more.

Hi Anton

We need whatever support people can provide from old towels, newspapers, and of course donations. Thank you for sharing this!

We don’t often ask loudly.

We have at last count 165 penguin chicks besides our other penguins.

The below info also on our blog and you tube:

Remember the APSS is open daily from 9am to 4pm and all support of our coffee and curio shop supports our funding model.


We need your support. The African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary has admitted a large number of young African penguins from Dyer Island.

The outbreak of Avian Influenza amongst wild seabirds in the Western Cape has seen an estimated 21172 dead birds with 13195 birds dying on Dyer Island off Gansbaai. The Cape Cormorant remains most affected with 20558 dead Cape Cormorants recorded to date.

The current Avian Influenza outbreak has hit Dyer Island hard and 102 African penguins have been reported dead in the Western Cape, the majority on Dyer Island. The island is in “Dyer straits” Help us re-build, please.  CapeNature – the management authority for Dyer Island has worked tirelessly with the APSS to ensure that all compromised penguins have been removed. We need your help to care for these chicks. Due to the extra quarantine requirements and additional precautions the cost of rehabilitating the chicks have increased. In the past the APSS relied on donations from tourists and visitors to the sanctuary. We have now been impacted by two pandemics, one bringing the world to a standstill and one decimating our seabird population.

Daily food – R2400 = R16 800 per week for next 6 weeks = R100 800.00…/african-penguin-seabird-sanctuary/

An avian influenza outbreak amongst wild birds is a devastating wave that you unfortunately must ride out. There is no cure or intervention to treat affected birds. The best action is to lower the viral load in the environment by removing sick birds and carcasses from the environment.

CapeNature staff on Dyer Island is working around the clock to ensure that carcasses are removed as swiftly as possible. Slowly but surely the tide is turning. The number of carcasses removed has dropped from a high of over 500 per day to roughly 65 per day. We thank every CapeNature staff member who has been part of this effort.

So why on earth would we remove African Penguin chicks from Dyer Island?

It is not because African Penguins are bad parents, in actual fact they do a really good job to raise and feed their young in spite of some challenging circumstances. October-November is the end of the breeding season, chicks are suppose to be fat & healthy and ready to be kicked out of the nest to start fending for themselves.

The parents are faced with a dilemma, not only do they have to feed their young, they also need to undergo a full feather change. This means that they have to build up enough fat reserves (about 3 times their normal body weight) to stay on land for their entire moult because they are not waterproof and therefore they cannot hunt. Due to a variety of circumstance, some parents start their moult before their offspring has reached the fledgling stage. These chicks will either starve to death on the island or venture into the ocean without the required amount of fat reserves to allow them to survive the challenges of the wild.

In a perfect world one could argue that this is a natural process of selection, but then in a perfect world man would not have removed millions of penguin eggs to be consumed as a delicacy, or scraped tons of guano off the penguin nesting islands. Removing the guano robbed the penguins of their insulated, protected burrows. They were forced to nest on the surface, exposing both their eggs & chicks to opportunistic predators like sea gulls. They also did not ask to be covered in toxic oil.

So we do not reside in a perfect world and therefore we need to take some active conservation measures to try and prevent the possible extinction of one of South Africa’s most iconic animals. The predicted date for extinction from the wild is 2026. At the moment #EveryPenguinCounts. With less than 1% of the original African Penguin population left in the wild we need to act. Removing underweight chicks & chicks of moulting parents and hand raising them is but one part of the bigger African Penguin Biodiversity Management Plan.

One donation from you, is one small step towards preventing the extinction of the African penguin.

South African, UK, And US donors can receive tax benefits

Kind regards

Brenda Walters
Project Support

cellIcon.jpg+27 (0)76 061 3114Description:  
homeIcon.jpg5 Geelbek Street, Gansbaai, Western Cape, South Africa, 7220   DICT 10 Year Report DICT 2017-2019 Report NPO 052-024  / PBO 930032314 / BBBEE Level 1


Migrant Bird Challenge

Remember that you still have 5 days to complete this exciting challenge. Some of you will no doubt have seen the Eurasian Oystercatcher which is present on the lagoon near Grotto beach. I saw it this afternoon, but could not get a picture, unfortunately, as the wind was howling and it flew over me. I did not see it on the ground. This is, of course, a rare Palearctic migrant, so it can be added to your list if you see it.

Good hunting!

More Migrants


A trip to De Mond this morning was incredibly rewarding. We were not looking for anything but migrant birds, but the birding is so good on the Agulhas Plain that we managed to get 89 species without even trying. Included in this list were 6 more migrant birds for our Challenge list. Fortunately the weather was near perfect for birding, and we were the only visitors at De Mond! Of course, we went there for migrant waders, but were pleasantly surprised to get a Booted Eagle flying over the lagoon whilst being attacked by a Rock Kestrel. We also saw our first Common Buzzards of the season, after having thought we might not see one before the close of the Challenge.

There was plenty of water in pans along the roads and at one we must have seen close to 60 Glossy Ibises, along with many Whiskered Terns. We also…

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The Challenges of the Migrant Challenge!

Renee and I have just returned from an outing to Rooisand and the Swartrivier Road. We were trying to increase our Migrant Bird List and were reasonably successful at Rooisand, despite the strong wind. Luckily one can seek refuge behind bushes and in the hide and can, therefore hold one’s binoculars reasonable steady. We added three birds there, Common Sandpiper, Little Stint and Bar-tailed Godwit.

We then thought to drive along the Swartrivier road to look for what is probably the most commonly seen migrant bird, the Common Buzzard. If, in a normal year someone had asked me when one might see these birds, I would have said, “Anytime from mid-October” but this is not a normal year. It is the year of the Migrant Challenge, and for once we are taking note of when the migrants arrive. Lo and behold, the Common Buzzards are not yet here!! We searched high and low, but could not find one! Had I not seen a White Stork, I would not have been surprised, but we did see a couple of them.

I guess I will just have to go out again on the last day of the challenge to see if I can find a Common Buzzard, but I am not expecting anything. We live and learn!!



Barbara Palmer sent this in;

Apologies for putting this out so late, but as BirdLife SA members know, next Saturday 27th November, is the date of BLSA’s annual Birding Big Day.

This year they have added a new category where teams of 2-4 people identify as many species as possible in an area within a radius of 5 km.

Why not make up a team, choose your favourite area in the Overberg and have a good day’s birding with like-minded folks? It is optional to do it via the BirdLife blog, or merely for fun wearing your HBC hat.

If you do decide to join the fun, send me an email, or comment on our Club’s blog, telling us your team name and participants. (

One team entered so far: John & Sheelagh Bowman and yours truly.

BirdLife Overberg will be fielding many teams and have asked us to share our sightings with them afterwards so that they can compile a list of birds in the Overberg.

See you on the road!


Cruising on the Lady Stanford

Around 20 lucky birders enjoyed a wonderful cruise on the Lady Stanford this morning. The weather was as perfect as any birder could wish for and we had some wonderful sightings, thanks to the sharp eyes of those on board and our skipper and guide, Peter Hochfelder. Imagine goind aboard and the first things you hear are a Knysna Woodpecker and a Black Cuckoo!! It heralded great things to come and we ended up with 61 species on our list, despite the fact that for some unknown reason most of the more common wading birds were absent. So, for instance, we saw no Crakes, Moorhens, Swamphens, Coots or Grey Herons!

Our list comprised: Bar-throated Apalis, Pied Avocet, S Red Bishop, Yellow Bishop, Bokmakerie, Cape Bulbul, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Canary, Grey-backed Cisticola, Levaillant’s Cisticola, White-breasted Cormorant, Black Cuckoo, African Darter, Cape Turtle Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Laughing Dove, Fork-tailed Drongo, Yellow-billed Duck, African Fish Eagle, Martial Eagle, Common Fiscal, Greater Flamingo, African Paradise Flycatcher, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, Cape Grassbird, Sombre Greenbul, Helmeted Guineafowl, Black-crowned Night Heron, Black-headed Heron, African Hoopoe, African Sacred Ibis, Hadeda Ibis, Giant Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Kite, Blacksmith Lapwing, Brown-throated Martin, Speckled Mousebird, Speckled Pigeon, Three-banded Plover, Cape Robin-Chat, Black Sparrowhawk, African Spoonbill, Cape Spurfowl, Common Starling, Malachite Sunbird, Barn Swallow, Greater Striped Swallow, White-throated Swallow, Red-billed Teal, Olive Thrush, Cape Wagtail, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Little Rush Warbler, Common Waxbill, Cape Weaver, Southern Masked Weaver, Cape White-eye, and Knysna Woodpecker.

For those of you competing in the Migrant Birds Challenge, you will be pleased to be able to add a number of birds from this morning’s list.

Chasing Migrants


Yesterday Renee and I went out to try to get a few migrant birds on our Challenge list. We found it was not all that easy! Firstly we went to Rooisand, hoping to pick up the Bar-tailed Godwit spotted recently by John and Sheelagh, but it was nowhere to be seen. We did, however, get a Common Greenshank, a few Common Ringed Plovers and some Barn Swallows. The Pectoral Sandpiper was present somewhere as others there had seen it, but we had no luck. Where the Common Buzzards are this year is anybody’s guess!

From there we traipsed over to Danger Point, where we immediately picked up a Sandwich Tern and some Common Whimbrels, along with more Common Greenshanks. After some considerable searching we also found a pair of Ruddy Turnstones. The rocks close to the road on the way to the lighthouse are always rewarding and we had a…

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