Thick with Thick-Knees

 

A vacant plot in Eastcliff must have something going for it, at least as far as the world of Spotted Thick-Knees is concerned.  This morning, whilst out walking, I spotted no less than 12 of these birds sunning themselves in an area no bigger than 40m x 40m.  There may have been more – I only saw the ones that were standing and I did not get too close for fear of disturbing them.  I read that out of breeding season they form roosts of up to 70 birds, but this my first experience of this habit.               R Hazell.

Sp Thick_knee

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.

Ronnie

Birding at Vrolijkheid Reserve

 

The club’s 2017 Challenge is not a competition, unless you are RH or MF!

Mike Ford, the forerunner at the end of February, left on Sunday for 3 months to man the Aras bird ringing station in Turkey for the 3rd time.  In a last minute effort to get as many species as possible for his challenge list, Graham and I were invited to join him and Valerie on an overnight trip to Vrolijkheid Reserve near McGregor. The aim was to get as many Karoo habitat species as possible.

We knew we were in the Karoo when we saw our first Pale Chanting Goshawk.  We stopped along the road, picking up good species like Cape Long-billed Lark and Karoo Chat and arrived at the reserve just before 10:00.  The day was warming up and we immediately set off to the hides, being greeted by an Acacia Pied Barbet. Along the way we picked up Dusky Sunbird, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler and White-backed Mousebird.  The waterhole at the first hide was pretty empty but there were a couple of waders about, including Black-winged Stilts and Little Stints.  This was also where we saw our first Fairy Flycatcher, one of my favourite little birds.

The day was getting unbearably hot so we checked into our chalet, Jakkalskuil, and tried to keep cool. This proved just about impossible and the ceiling-fans did little to help. A cold shower was the answer.  Eventually we could bear it no more and opted to go for a drive so that we could use the car’s air-conditioner.  The next day we heard that the temperature was 42°!  A huge fire in the Langeberg did not help.

At the Robertson water purification plant we saw a number of ducks, including a pair of South African Shelduck, Cape and Red-billed Teals and Lesser Swamp-Warbler. Next on our list was a spot under a bridge where we had previously seen Barn Owls. We made a hasty retreat as we encountered first a group of guys loitering and then a group seeking respite from the heat, including a stark naked man!

Back at Vrolijkheid we drove to the dam at the left of the main entrance but there wasn’t much of interest, except a pair of Water Thick-knees.  Home for a rest and a braai.

Thursday morning was very overcast with bad light but we were up at dawn and went for a long walk, first to the dam on the left, then to the first hide by which time it started to warm up. Karoo Scrub-Robins were everywhere.  Highlights of the morning were Pearl-breasted Swallow, Rufous-Eared Warbler, a Layard’s Tit-Babbler identified on call and a Klaas’ Cuckoo. While looking at the Cuckoo, a Spotted Eagle-Owl flew by!

Mike added 12 species to his challenge list and Graham and I double that to ours.

The dip of the trip was a Namaqua Dove and I have a feeling Mike boarded the plane on Sunday still moaning “I want a Namaqua Dove”!   Mike, I hope you see many beautiful Lifers at Aras to make up for the dip.

In conclusion I would like to have a word with the newer, less experienced birding members of our club. The only way you will learn about birds and birding spots around you is to go out there and find them!  Join the club’s First Thursday outings. Enter the challenge for your own enjoyment. Enter Mini Birding Big Day, go out and have fun with a friend or two and train yourself in identifying the species.  No, you probably won’t win, but you would have learnt an awful lot.  Truth: when I went on my first ever MBBD, I was lucky to be in Mike’s team, but when he called a ‘crow’ a White-Necked Raven I thought he was bonkers.  I’ve learnt a lot since then.  See you on the 2nd at the MBBD braai!!

Barbara Palmer

An Appeal to Club Members

Those of you who attended the Flower Festival last spring will recall the very successful stand mounted by the Hermanus Bird Club.  Pat Redford put it together and she has once again volunteered her services to design and build our 2017 stand.  This year’s theme will be nests and members are asked to assist in this regard

Pat asks that you should look out for abandoned or fallen nests (please do not touch active ones!)  Her advice is:

  • Shake them off a bit,
  • Spray with a little bit of insect spray to rid nest of mites etc,
  • Store in a ventilated cardboard box in their garage until September.
  • If you know for sure which bird species the nest belonged to, can you label the box accordingly.
  • If you are not sure, perhaps you can do research themselves to establish the most likely species, a good learning experience?
  • Alternatively we will get the nests all lined up and ask our experts to ID them, so we can label and display.

She would love to have about 100 nests, even if there are several the same, it would make an awesome display! We have at least 100 active members, so she am sure 1 per member or per couple could be achieved? Specially in the windy stormy winter ahead. She would also like to have photographs of nests or birds nesting.  These should be emailed to her at patred@iafrica.com so that she can start compiling the information and plan the display.

Glenda Furst recently took the photograph below.  Mike Ford has identified it as a Little Swift, and it is the sort of image that is needed, so lets get cracking!

Swallows

Little Swift and nest

A Change at the Editor’s Desk

By now you will all be familiar with your new committee, however, there will be more about the new members, once I get my act together.  In the meantime, I am the new editor of the Club’s blog, and I approach this task with some trepidation, having large boots to fill.  Charles has done the job so well over the past couple of years that he will be a hard act to follow, especially as he is a journalist by profession, and I barely passed Matric English!!

We will need to keep abreast of all the club’s activities and, in this regard, I need the assistance of all members.  Will all leaders of outings, walks, etc., please provide me with appropriate reports and photographs so that I can post them on the blog.  It is not always possible to attend all functions, so your co-operation is all that I can depend upon.  I hope to get many articles and anecdotes, so that we can ensure that the site is current and relevant.

I will also be starting a new page on the blog called ‘Recent Sightings’ and expect members to contribute by going to this page and adding sighting reports by way of comments.  This should keep all members abreast of what is happening, birdwise, in our area.  Once again, please use this facility, as it will not be viable unless people contribute regularly. Remember that what you may regard as a common sighting may well be of interest to other members

Keep on birding!    Ronnie Hazell

The Elegant Tern is back

An Elegant Tern (Elegante Sterretjie) was spotted in the tern roost at Gearing’s Point in Hermanus yesterday.

Elegant Tern

An Elegant Tern. Image by Brian E Small, published on Audubon website.

Trevor Hardaker, calling it a “mega alert”, announced the sighting by Ian Luyt in his South African Rare Bird News report this morning. He said the bird was photographed.

The bird was still present this morning, as confirmed by Keir Lynch, providing the GPS position as  34 25 20.12517 S 19 14 29.64721 E.

“It is the same site where a bird, possibly the same individual, was hanging around earlier this year”, Hardaker wrote in his report.

 

Sharing some sightings at Strandfontein

 

Story Anne Philip      Images Jill Eckstein

I thought I would share with members of the Hermanus Bird Club some photographs Jill Eckstein took when she, her husband, Paul, and I – all Club members- went birding at Strandfontein last weekend.

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Swift Terns (Geelbek-sterretjies)

We passed the picnic sites in Strandfontein where those of us who had been on the HBC outing last month had found the rare Rufous-tailed Scrub-robin (Rooistert-wipstert).

As there was not a car or another person in sight, we drove on to the conservation area.

It wasn’t long before we had notched up a fair list of birds, including the Swift Tern (Geelbek-sterretjie) in flocks on the sandy shores in a relatively sheltered area.

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Grey Heron (Bloureier)

That is where Jill took the picture of them taking off in a mass flight into the blue. What a tremendous sight it was.  The pic almost looks like a water-colour painting.

We watched the Grey Heron (Bloureier) stalking along the shoreline in the same area, ignoring the swifts and taking aim with his beak at any moving prey in the water.

There are, as one knows, many Glossy Ibis (Glans-ibisse) to be found at Strandfontein.

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Glossy Ibis (Glansibis)

It was a question of catching that bird just as the sun caught its feathers on take-off  to get a glimpse of the green in the dark wine colours of the majority of its body.

And just as we were about to leave, we saw three cars parked on the side of a mass of water.

One of the drivers said she had just spotted a Common Whimbrel (Kleinwulp), walking on the road, of all places, that was at 90 degrees to the one we were on.

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Common Whimbrel (Kleinwulp)

A man in another car said the whimbrel was now in the grass higher up on our road.

At a snail’s pace we edged along the road and suddenly I saw this long neck and unusually curved long beak just under the line of the waiving grasses.

As soon as we pulled up to try to take photos it sped away on foot, keeping to the edge of the road where grass was a cover.

We spent about 25 minutes following it. It was obviously making for a beachy area well ahead of us.

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Kittlitz’s Plover (Geelbors-strandkiewiet

Jill managed two great shots of it at the water’s edge just as it was about to lift off for a more distant spot away from determined birdwatchers.

The whimbrel was a lifer for her and Paul.

The Kittlitz’s Plover (Geelbors-strandkiewiet) was one of three running in and out of stunted reeds also on the shoreline. We were quite excited to be shown them by another birder as we haven’t seen this species for a very long time.

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Cape Longclaw (Oranjekeel-kalkoentjie

The Cape Longclaw (Oranjebors-kalkoentjie) happened to be flushed out of the green vegetation in the same area, but on the opposite side of the road.

With its back to us most of the time, Jill waited patiently until it half turned to reveal that lovely coral bib.

In two hours of great viewing we recorded 44 species.

Rare fynbos bird sighting on eve of Fernkloof Flower Festival

A rare sighting of a pair of fynbos birds – Sentinel Rock Thrushes (Langtoon-kliplysters) – was recorded by Ronnie  Hazell in Fernkloof on the eve of the annual Flower Show in the reserve.

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The male of a pair of Sentinel Rock Thrushes (Langtoon-kliplysters) photographed in Fernkloof last week by Ronnie Hazell.

The Hermanus Bird Club is taking part in the festival, organized by the Hermanus Botanical Society. The theme of this year’s festival is Fynbos and Fire, chosen after a fire had burnt a large area of the Reserve in late December 2015.

The floral regrowth in the Reserve promises to be spectacular, and plants flowering after the fire will be a prominent feature of the festival. The fire also affected birds, mammals, reptiles and insects in the fynbos area.

Bird Club member Ronnie reported seeing the pair of Sentinel Rock Thrushes high up in Fernkloof last week.

“According to Lee Burman (member of both the Bird Club and the Botanical Society) they have never before been recorded in Fernkloof, though I did see a couple at Mosselnook Hut in Vogelgat a few years ago,” Ronnie said.

“On the same outing I saw a pair of Verreaux’s Eagles and an African Fish-Eagle.”

The festival is open from 09:00 to 17:00 from today (22 September) to Sunday (25 September). Entry is R20:00. Pensioners get a discount today.

Brave birders help break twitching record

 

The group of 14 birders who braved the rain to take part in the Club outing to Strandfontein on Thursday 1 September, were rewarded with a good sighting of the local rare bird – thus helping to break a Southern African twitching record.

Wipstert, rooistert- (Scrub-robin, rufous-tailed) 160901 Zeekoevlei 672A0622

Rufous-tailed Scrub-robin at Zeekoevlei. Image by Charles Naudé.

Mike Ford, leading the group, and helped by Sheelagh Bowman, was quick to spot the Rufous-tailed Scrub-robin soon after our arrival at the  Zeekoevlei pinic area.

Trevor Hardaker announced on his SA Rare Birds News report the previous day that the record of 1 110 sightings of the Snowy Egret along the Black River in Cape Town just over a year ago, had just been equalled by twitchers spotting the Scrub-robin over the last month.

For the rest of the day the birding was good, considering that not many migrants had returned. Two exceptions were Yellow-billed Kites and White-throated Swallows. All in all 84 species were identified.

There was no rain, little wind and even some sunshine when the group arrived.

After the Strandfontein water purification dams, we went to Rondevlei, where we were met by more water and more birds than on a previous visit.

You can become a twitcher on Thursday

 

By John Bowman

Just over a month ago, a story was posted to our website about a Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Rooistert-wipstert), seen at Zeekoevlei, the first time this bird has ever been seen in South Africa.

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The Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Rooistert-wipstert) at Zeekoevlei, photographed by John Bowman.

Are we twitchers? Well, sort of. Sheelagh and I don’t travel vast distances to tick off new birds, but if we’re in the area where a rarity has been seen, we’ll have a good go at trying to find it.

Luckily we were in Cape Town for a function a few weeks ago, and managed to find the bird quite easily. However, the first time we saw it, in my excitement my photos were terrible. The next day we got it again, but my camera battery was flat.

We were in Cape Town again this last weekend, and I was determined to get a decent photo. This time we had to hunt for about an hour, only being rewarded with brief glimpses of the bird as it flew from tree to tree.

Time was running out to get back to Vermont, so we started leaving. And, lo and behold, quite close to our car, the Scrub Robin suddenly popped up on a low wall next to the road. For a few minutes it hopped between the wall and a bollard, affording decent photo opportunities. What a treat.

Just as a reminder, this bird is a Palearctic migrant. A native of Mediterranean Europe and Asia, it spends its winters in North Africa. This bird, after its holiday there, turned South instead of North, and ended up at Zeekoevlei.

According to SA Rare Birds News, over a thousand birders have visited the Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, a couple of hundred from outside the Western Cape, including several Southern African countries. I chatted to folk from Knysna, Limpopo, Durban and Johannesburg on my visits there.

It will probably be around for a few more weeks before it decides to return to North Africa. So those members going on the Strandfontein outing on Thursday 1 September have a very good chance of seeing it. Good luck, hope this whets your appetite.

  • If you want to go on the day outing to Strandfontein and Rondevlei, and stand a chance of becoming a twitcher, be at the Onrust Trading Post on Thursday 1 September for departure at 08:00. Bring your own snacks, drinks and lunch.
  • The Club’s September monthly meeting at the Fernkloof Reserve Hall will be on Wednesday 14 September. That is a week earlier than usual, to avoid clashing with the Hermanus Botanical Society’s annual flower festival the following week. The speaker will be Frank Woodvine of the Botanical Society.