The Challenge goes from a Gallop to a Canter


It was easy to accumulate birds for the Challenge in months one and two, however, the strain is starting to tell and it is getting more and more difficult, if the numbers are anything to go by.  Good news is that we have a new leader, the Lester and Cheryl van Groeningen team, who have 613 species worth 785 points, closely followed by Ronnie Hazell with 626 species worth 772 points.  Then comes Ed Meyer with 411 birds worth 482 points, so there is some scope for catching up.  Lets hope that the final two months see a rush for the finishing line!

Two Months into the Challenge


Well, the first two months of the Challenge are over and there have been some good sightings by the participants.  These include Buff-spotted Flufftail (a very rare bird, seldom seen, but sometimes heard) Eurasian Hobby,  Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, and a number of rarities, such as Elegant Tern, Blue-cheeked Bee-Eater, Western Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Common Cuckoo and Sand Martin. Needless to say, this has taken many hours of patient searching by some members!

Leading the pack is Ronnie Hazell (693 points) followed closely by Lester and Cheryl van Groeningen (612 points) and Ed Meyer (462 points).  No doubt the March results will see a closing of the gap between the leaders and the rest of the field as it is becoming increasingly difficult to add new birds, once one has seen the more common ones.  One thing is certain and this is that the Challenge stimulates the participants to spend more time searching for birds in the Hermanus area, something that can only improve our local knowledge and add to our life lists.

Fernkloof pelicans

Pelicans flying over Fernkloof

December Challenge Results


At the end of the year, the Challenge is headed by Ronnie Hazell with 458 birds and 525 points; in second place are Lester and Cheryl van Groeningen with 362 birds and 430 points, whilst in third place Ed Meyer has 339 birds and 418 points.  Watch out Ronnie, this looks like a hare and tortoise affair, where too much haste at the beginning can often turn into being dropped at the end.  No doubt the participants who took it easy in December will come charging through as they still have lots of birds to see, whereas the leaders will find it more difficult to find new species.

One thing is for sure – the people taking part are being stimulated to go birding and they are coming up with some really interesting results and some very rare species!  Lifers will be amongst the birds seen – I have had one already with the White Wagtail at Rooisand!

It is good to see that newcomers to the club, Lester and Cheryl, are certainly making their presence felt.

Why the Challenge Works



At Rooisand

This morning Barbara, Margie, Renee and I went birding in area three (for those who don’t know, there are 5 separate areas around Hermanus).  It was the first foray into the area for Barbara and Margie in terms of their challenge list and boy, was it a great one!  We saw no less than 90 species, mainly at Rooisand, with some good birds added at Harold Porter Reserve.

Rooisand was amazing with very large numbers of waders and, I think I can say with confidence, that it must currently rank as the best birding location in the Overstrand area.  We saw a flock of Glossy Ibises numbering around 45 birds and no less than 7 Hottentot Teals, along with many others too numerous to mention, including Cape Longclaws, a Ruff, many Grey Plovers, Little Stints, Black-winged Stilts, Curlew Sandpipers, etc., etc.

We probably would not have undertaken this trip if it were not for the Challenge, so we are very pleased to be involved and really enjoying experiences like this!  I did not carry my camera with me when we walked the area, possibly explaining the good sightings we had. (When I have a camera handy the birds always fly away!!)



Christmas Party


Around 70 club members attended the Christmas party held last evening at Fernkloof.  It was a fun-filled affair, starting with the photographic competition, in which members were asked to judge images submitted in the categories of Best Picture, Best Caption and Best Fun Photo.  No less than 42 images were submitted – all of a very high standard and the crowd had their work cut out trying to decide which were the best.  In the end Frank Hallett got the award for Best Picture, with his wonderful action shot showing a Jackal trying to make a meal of a pair of Namaqua Sand Grouse.


Outfoxed by Frank Hallett


Margie Ogston won the Best Caption with her image of two very different looking Guineafowl, with the title as below.



The Best Fun Photo award went to Ed Meyer, with his great image of interaction between a Little Egret and a Black Heron.

What's under there?  - Kwetsani, Okavango

What ya hiding under your umbrella?

The ‘Bring and Braai’ went well with much jostling around the fire – and the unusual interruption caused by the gas running out and some frantic scrabbling in order to eventually find a bottle which was not empty.  Then there was an interlude of Anagram solving – trying to identify the bird names.  Mariette Pitlo was the star of the show, achieving a good number of answers in quick time.

It was good to see many new members participating and we were all blown away when Wolfgang and Gertrude stood up and gave us an impromptu song in Austrian!  What a surprise and what a great way to introduce yourselves to the club!  I just wish I had had my camera with me to record all the festivities.

The New Challenge Kicks Off


Yesterday saw the start of the new HBC Challenge.  This requires participants to identify as many bird species as they can in five different areas around Hermanus over a period of five months.  No doubt there are many excited birders starting to tick off everything they see in the hope of achieving a good total and learning about their local birds at the same time.

Remember, five months is a long time and it is never too late to join in the fun, so if you have not yet entered, there is still plenty of time and the birds are waiting out there for you!  I started yesterday and managed to see many common birds, but also some that are not that common.  Graham will be collating the results at the end of each month, and if you are not taking part, then you will not be included in the listing, so come on, GIVE IT A GO!


African Hoopoe


Big Birding Day 2017


Our team, comprising Ronnie (Captain), Renee, Barbara and Ed, competed in the 2017 BBD yesterday.  This is the national competition in which teams must see how many bird species they can identify in a circular area of their choice with a 50 km radius.  303 teams took part (and recorded 659 unique species) and the winner notched up an incredible 302 species in the Polokwane area.  We managed to get 135 species which put us in the top 100, so we were well pleased with our day.

It started at 4:30 am and we birded from Stanford to Strandfontein, clocking just on 400 kms before we ended up at 7:30 pm, having concentrated on nothing but birds for 15 hours!  Needless to say we were pretty tired by then, having achieved our last bird, a Spotted Eagle Owl, outside Craig’s home, 10 minutes earlier.

Photo Competition at the Christmas Party


Part of the fun at the Christmas Function on 13 December, will be a Bird Photo Competition, where members will be free to take part as contestants and as judges.

The meeting will be at the Fernkloof Reserve Hall. It will start at 18:00, and will be a ‘bring and braai’ evening where members are required to bring everything  including food, drink, crockery, glasses and cutlery.  Fires and a limited amount of wine will be provided.

Club members wishing to attend must please book with Chairman Craig Holmes (028 313 2458 or 083 227 9003 or for catering purposes.  Numbers will be limited by the size of the venue, so it will be a matter of first come, first served.

In the competition, photos will be judged in three categories – Best Bird Photo, Best Fun Photo and Catchiest Caption. The rules are simple.

Each member may enter up to three bird photos in each category. The bird or birds in the photo must have been wild. No chickens, captured birds or escapee exotics.

Each photo must be mounted on or printed on an A4-size sheet, with a caption written or typed on the same side as the photo, and the member’s name and telephone number on the back.

Entries must be handed in at the Fernkloof Hall by 17:30 on the 13th. Judging will be from 18:00 to 18:30. Each member attending the meeting will have one vote in each category.


Challenge 2017/18


I have just spent the last two weeks up at Wilderness. When we got there I set myself a personal challenge – I didn’t achieve it, but was 5 species short of my target.

What’s that got to do with our CHALLENGE. The challenge is not set up so intimidate anyone. It’s a chance to hone your own birding skills in areas close by over a few months. The challenge is for your knowledge to be improved by you challenging yourself. Graham puts the numbers together each month, but where you are on the list is really not the point. Wherever you are on the list means that you are out there, exploring areas where birding is known to exist and learning.

So please consider joining the challenge – it costs R25.00 to enter. And yes, I will be entering and I know that I will be nowhere near the really good birders in the club – but after the challenge I will know a heap more!!

Best wishes