Challenge Results


After six months there is a clear leader in the Southern African Birding Big Year Challenge and that is Peter Dagg with 438 species.  Well done Peter!  He is followed by Ed Meyer and then John and Irene Saunders.  See all the results at August Combined Challenge Results

An impressive total of 670 species has been seen by the combined Challengers so far. Perhaps we can exceed 700 by the end of the event.  What a team!!


Ten birders set off along Hawston View Road for a most productive and pleasant drive. The Overberg was at its best  −  rolling green hills and fields of bright yellow canola. We made a number of stops along the road and were rewarded by Karoo Scrub-Robin chasing each other, and some very energetic and loud Cape Clapper Larks. After coffee and rusks at the little bridge over the Bot River, we traveled along the van der Stel Pass for more good sightings, including a Booted Eagle, and flying Secretary Bird. Oh, and a pride of lions. Yes, really!

We had a brief stop at Beaumont farm, but by then the wind was producing some very strange hairstyles among our intrepid group and we decided to retreat gracefully and drive back home.

The list of bird species seen or heard by all, or some, in the group:

Bar-throated Apalis, Red Bishop, Yellow Bishop, Cape Bulbul, Cape Bunting, Denham’s Bustard, Jackal Buzzard, Brimstone Canary, Cape Canary, Yellow Canary, Cloud Cisticola, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Grey-backed Cisticola, Blue Crane, Cape Crow, Pied Crow, Klaas’s Cuckoo. 

Cape Turtle Dove, Laughing Dove, Yellow-billed Duck, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cattle Egret, Little Egret,

African Fish Eagle, Booted Eagle, Dusky Flycatcher, Fiscal Flycatcher, Common Fiscal, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, Little Grebe, Helmeted Guineafowl, Kelp Gull.

Black-headed Heron, African Hoopoe, Hadeda Ibis, Sacred Ibis, Yellow-billed Kite, Red-capped Lark, Cape Clapper Lark, Crowned Lapwing, Cape Longclaw, Speckled Mousebird, African Pipit, Karoo Prinia, White-necked Raven, Cape Robin-Chat, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Cape Sparrow, Common Starling, Streaky-headed Seedeater, Malachite Sunbird, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Barn Swallow, White-throated Swallow, Secretary Bird.

Cape Weaver, Masked Weaver, Common Waxbill, Swee Waxbill, Capped Wheatear, Cape Wagtail, Cape White-eye, Little Rush Warbler.

TOTAL 64   

Submitted by Barbara Swart

PLUS – Seen by Ed Meyers group on the Steenbras Road I think its called – Blue Crane, Pied Starling, Greater Striped Swallow, Red Capped lark and Black Headed Heron

Black Sparrowhawk in Voelklip


On a quiet, peaceful afternoon in early August the cooing of the doves and happy chirping of the sparrows in our garden was shattered by a frantic panic as they all took flight!  This was a typical reaction when our fairly regular visitor, an African Goshawk made a raid for an easy meal.   I went out expecting to see the goshawk, but in the Keurboom opposite our bedroom was a pleasant surprise, a very relaxed Black Sparrowhawk!  He seemed to be inspecting the garden and surrounding trees for a dove or other prey, which gave us 20 minutes of spectacular viewing and photographic opportunities.  A few images are attached to share our enjoyment.

This was our first sighting of a Black Sparrowhawk in Voelklip!

Ed Meyer.

Mike Kokot in Natal

Mike wrote,

“Hi Ron and Lester,

Shirley, Kerrin (our daughter) and I spent a very exciting day birding in the Dlinza Forest, Ongoye Forest and Mtunzini in KZN  on Wednesday 12 June 2019 and I’d like to share some rather poor quality pictures of “specials” we picked up.  We had a wonderful guide, Abednego Dube, whom I would happily recommend. The so-called roads in Ongoye are shocking (almost non-existent in places) but luckily we had the use of a sturdy Toyota Forester Diesel which served us well (Shirley doing all the driving). In spite of June being probably the worst birding month, we were very happy with the results.

“Lifers” for me included Green Barbet, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon (spotted by Shirley), Black-rumped Buttonquail, Croaking Cisticola, Olive Sunbird, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird and Palm-nut Vulture. We were hoping for Twinspots in Dlinza but no luck this time.

A HBC tour to that part of the world might be well received, don’t you think? Especially in Spring – the birding will be amazing!

Warm regards

Mike Kokot”

Marsh Owl at Rietvlei


Some of you will have seen the article in the newspaper about a Marsh Owl at Rietvlei.  Well, Jill Ekstein went to see it and sent me these wonderful images.  Many thanks!  I am sure that you will all enjoy seeing them.  It is being harassed by a Marsh Harrier.

Atlassing at Rooi Els and Harold Porter


Lester and Cheryl sent in these pictures and said the following,

‘At Rooi-Els there were at least 4 Shy Albatross gliding over the large swells from the Cold front as well as close views of a Southern Giant Petrel. Between the houses we found a Male Sentinel Rock-thrush sitting on a pole.

At Harold Porter we quickly located the White-fronted Bee-eater – seems quite settled there with all the insects around!’

Pelagic Birds at New Harbour


A quick visit to the New Harbour this morning revealed a number of pelagic species foraging nar the Abalone Factory water outlet.  These included Shy Albatross, White-chinned Petrel, Southern Giant Petrel and some unidentified Shearwaters.  It seems these birds come closer inshore during stormy periods, so one could do worse than to spend a while there on days like today.   Ronnie



John may not be able to pronounce the name of this delightful Karoo farm, but he was there, along with eighteen other HBC members enjoying a day and a half of excellent birding, despite the recent drought and our expectation of relatively few birds.  We arrived on Monday afternoon and birded on the farm, around the gardens and camp site, and on to the nearby dam.  We saw very little on the day, but the presence of a Goliath Heron on the dam in front of our accommodation more than made up for this!

Well, after a good dinner and a comfortable night (the new owners have expanded considerably and there was plenty of accommodation, with more on the way, judging by the amount of building in progress) we set out on Tuesday to drive the Bloutoring route.  Graham advised that this should take around four hours, but we took no less than eight!  Birding along this route was excellent with literally hundreds of birds at most locations.  Perhaps there were fewer species than usual, but the sheer numbers of some species, such as Black-headed and Yellow Canaries was exceptional!  Of course, we also recorded some good Karoo birds, enhancing our combined list and no doubt pushing up the numbers for the Challengers who were present!

Barbara regaled us with stories of past achievements at this location and we once again enjoyed good food and company before settling in for our last night.  A slow puncture saw yours truly departing early today, avoiding the possibility of having to change a wheel and also getting home to vote.

By the close of play on Wednesday evening our combined list totaled 77 species:

Bar-throated Apalis;  Acacia Pied Barbet;  Southern Red Bishop;  Yellow Bishop;  Bokmakerie;  Southern Boubou;  Cape Bulbul;  Cape Bunting;  Black-headed Canary;  Brimstone Canary;  Cape Canary;  White-throated Canary;  Yellow Canary;  Ant-eating Chat;  Familiar Chat;  Karoo Chat;  Grey-backed Cisticola;  Levaillant’s Cisticola;  Blue Crane;  Long-billed Crombec;  Cape Crow;  Pied Crow;  Cape Turtle Dove;  Red-eyed Dove;  Yellow-billed Duck;  Karoo Eremomela;  Common Fiscal;  Fairy Flycatcher;  Egytian Goose;  Spur-wingd Goose;  Pale Chanting Goshawk;  Black-headed Heron;  Goliath Heron;  Hadeda Ibis;  Rock Kestrel;  Black-shouldered Kite;  Karoo Korhaan;  Blacksmith Lapwing;  Cape Clapper Lark;  Karoo Lark;  Karoo Long-billed Lark;  Large-billed Lark;  Red-capped Lark;  Spike-heeled Lark;  Mallard;  Rock Martin;  White-backed Mousebird;  Speckled Pigeon;  Three-banded Plover;  Karoo Prinia;  White-necked Raven;  Karoo Scrub Robin;  Cape Robin-Chat;  South African Shellduck;  Cape Sparrow;  House Sparrow;  Southern Grey-headed Sparrow;  African Spoonbill;  Common Starling;  Pale-winged Starling;  Pied Starling;  African Stonechat;  White Stork;  Malachite Sunbird;  Southern Double-collared Sunbird;  Barn Swallow;  White-rumped Swift;  Cape Penduline Tit;  Layard’s Tit-Babbler;  Cape Wagtial;  Rufous-eared Warbler;  Common Waxbill;  Cape Weaver;  Southern Masked Weaver;  Capped Wheatear;  Mountain Wheatear;  Cape White-eye.