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



Challenge area 2

Challenge Areas

Here are the rules for 2017/8 Challenge. Enjoy the challenge to yourself to see what you can see and identify in the five months from the 1st December 2107 to 30th April 2018


The Challenge is to be run within the boundaries set out in the map.

All five areas are active from December to April and participants must see or hear as many birds in each area.

There are five spreadsheets – one for each area.

The maps are considered sufficient for participants to be able to identify the area boundaries without any further description.

The club outings will be in the area so it’s in your interest to participate if you can

As many species of wild birds as possible must be positively identified by sight or sound by individual members.

Species have been given different values to encourage members to look for the more elusive species. Where a sighting is a vagrant or out of range bird please try to photograph when possible and submit these with your monthly lists. Any ID problems should be referred to Mike for verification.

Birds seen from the shore are eligible – no offshore or pelagic boat trip sightings are eligible.

Each month end you need to submit your lists to Graham Palmer at who will complete the score sheets.

There will be an overall winner announced at the end but there are no prizes, just the “brag factor”.

Thank You


The members who attended the Annual Quiz last night were treated to some great entertainment. Mike conducted a really first class quiz with stimulating and varied questions. He had put a huge amount of work into it and we all appreciated his excellent effort.

Then at half time we were provided with some really tasty soups to warm us on what must have been one of he coldest and wettest nights of the year.  Well done and thanks to all the members who put out to make the evening a great success and well done to the winners!


Quiz Night


Don’t forget the Quiz tonight when Mike Ford will be testing us on our birding knowledge.  The doors open at 5:30pm for wine and the quiz will start at 6:00.  Soup and sherry (or wine at R10) will be served at half time.  Come along and test yourself and stand a chance to win a prize!

A Frustrating Day

Renee and I spent a few hours at Strandfontein yesterday morning, hoping to see a Sand Martin.  We did not, but we saw plenty of other birds, none of which added anything to my challenge list!  Then, when we arrived home in Hermanus, I opened my mail to see a notice from Trevor Hardaker advising of a Western Yellow Wagtail at Strandfontein. Then a Squacco Heron and, this morning, a Lesser Crested Tern!!  Talk about bad luck – the Tern would have been a lifer for me.  Pity Strandfontein is so far away.


Challenge News (better late than never)

The results of the Challenge at the end of March were pretty much unchanged.  Mike still led the way with 205 birds worth 468 points, followed by Ronnie on 201 birds worth 456 points.  In third place is Sheelagh on 183 birds worth 391.  Sadly for Mike, he has temporarily dropped out, as he is in Turkey, but when he returns he will no doubt make a run for the line!  It is getting hard to add birds now that all the easy ones have been seen, so let’s see how we go from here.

2017  Mini Birding Big Day (MBBD) – 2nd April


This year’s MBBD was a bit later in the year, so the start time was a bit later; 12hrs from 06:30 to 18:30, with a 40km radius in which to do the searching.

5 teams of 4 birders entered, plus an extra pair too busy to spend the full day!

We had good weather to start and not too hot through the day, but the wind came up a bit in the afternoon, which kept the birds under cover.  Most teams reported many more sightings in the morning than the afternoon.

These are the teams with results.

The Twitching Darters:  Bowmans & Daggs; 121 birds – winners

The Rocky Jumpers: Hazells & Palmers: 117

The Lazy Birds: Saunders, Ann Philip and Lee Burman; 93

 The Bird Brains: Francks & Southworths; 93

The Stoopers: Sterns & Hoopers;  75

The Pair:  Margie Ogston and Barbara Swart. 91


The wining total is the lowest since 2006 ( 121 three times since then) and 15 less than 2016 which was the highest since 2006.  The 10 year average is 131 birds.

Total species seen was 158 (2016 – 179, 10yr avg  – 168)

Species seen by all were 48 and single sightings 32. The drought conditions, windy afternoon and later time of year were probably the reason for the low numbers – it could not have been poor birders!

We met at the Fernkloof hall for a braai after sunset and many stories of the day were exchanged.  The incident of the day was seen by the Stoopers who watched two Secretary birds fighting a long shiny snake. At the end of fight one bird swallowed the snake whole “going down like a cold beer on a hot afternoon”.

All in all a good birding day and looking forward to next year!  Hope to see many more club members involved.

Graham Palmer

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