Cheryl and Lester will be doing regular atlassing in the Overberg area and kicked off on Thursday 18th April doing the 4 pentads that the Koppies road loop incorporates, just north of Villiersdorp. We were able to put together a wonderful list of birds that we typically do not easily find around Hermanus. The habitat on this loop includes general farm lands, a section of very good Karoo type vegetation, riverine areas, farm dams, the wide shallow, flat drainage area of Moddergat (mostly dry at the moment) and the surrounding rocky hills and Mountains. We were very excited to find lots of Cape Penduline tits, a number of Fairy Flycatchers, Long-billed Crombecs, Rufous-vented Tit-babblers, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Grey Tit, Layards Tit-babbler, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Black Harrier, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, and many other species – and only about 60 Km from Hermanus. Our total list for the 4 pentads was 76 species – this place will be great in Spring!!
Our plan is to attempt to go out once a week (except the week of scheduled HBC outings) – and over time, to atlas as many pentads as possible in the Overberg area (from Rooi-els to Die-Dam) and to possibly also go as far inland as Vrolijkheid. We would welcome anyone who would like to join us. The outings will unfortunately? be long – typically 4 to 5 hours excluding travel time so if you think you are tough and can withstand really focused birding then please consider joining us. (Of-course anyone can peel off at any time). You do not need to be an expert birder – in fact these outings will be a great chance to learn and improve your birding skills in a small group environment. You also do not need to know anything about atlassing – it’s just about recording species seen in each pentad (I use the Birdlasser App which gives all the info we need). A lot of the outings will take the format of driving various dirt road loops stopping frequently, birding a small area and then moving on. We will also focus on checking out new areas and on finding the ‘specials’ in the Overberg.
If you are interested, send me an email so I can include you on details where to meet etc prior to each outing.
My e-mail address is email@example.com (note it is jvg not ivg) and cell number 0785938977.
Mike Kokot sent me this image of the Cormorant trying to devour its prey – snake or eel?
Immature Cape Cormorant with prey at Bot river lagoon
Lester and Ian Glenn led a very enjoyable outing to Meerensee and the surrounding estates this morning. There were no less than 30 members present and the parking lot reflected this, with 11 vehicles taking up all the space!
We walked around the western edges of the Bot river lagoon and adjacent gardens and managed to record no less than 66 species, despite the cool, windy and sometimes rainy weather. Perhaps our most interesting sighting was of an immature Cape Cormorant attempting to devour what looked like a snake, but could have been an eel. It really struggled to swallow the c. 60 cm reptile and even regurgitated it at least once, before making off into the deeper water with its catch. We never did see how the episode ended.
Our list, which includes birds seen at the Hawston Settling Ponds on the way home, comprised;
African Oystercatcher; African Pipit; African Sacred Ibis; Bar-throated Apalis; Bokmakerie; Southern Boubou; Cape Bulbul; Brimstone Canary; Cape Cormorant; White-breasted Cormorant; Long-billed Crombec; Laughing Dove; Fork-tailed Drongo; Little Egret; Peregrine Falcon; Southern Fiscal; Greater Flamingo; Fiscal Flycather; Cape Gannet; Sombre Greenbul; Common Greenshank; Helmeted Guineafowl; Hartlaub’s Gull; Kelp Gull; Black-headed Heron; Grey Heron; Hadeda Ibis; Sacred Ibis; Rock Kestrel; Pied Kingfisher; Blacksmith Lapwing; Brown-throated Martin; Red-faced Mousebird; Speckled Mousebird; Speckled Pigeon; Common Ringed Plover; Three Banded Plover; Kittlitz’s Plover; White-fronted Plover; Karoo Prinia; Cape Robin-Chat; Cape Sparrow; Grey-headed Sparrow; Common Starling; Black-winged Stilt; Southern Double-collared Sunbird; Malachite Sunbird; Barn Swallow; Greater Striped Swallow; Little Swift; White-rumped Swift; Olive Thrush; Cape Wagtail; Common Waxbill; Cape Weaver; Cape White-eye; African Spoonbill; Cape Spurfowl; Cape Teal; Caspian Tern; Sandwich Tern; Swift Tern; Purple Swamphen; Common Moorhen; Yellow-billed Duck; Cape Shoveller.
The outing provided a good opportunity for Challengers to add a few birds to their lists.
Four couples, the Maphams, Meyers, Planes and the Turners set off from the New Harbour at 03h30 on Friday 30th January for the pelagic fishing grounds 50kms off Cape Point. Our small unique tailor made trip arranged by Walter Mapham on the “Majestic” was an unforgetable birding experience.
Once the fishing trawlers were located we were able to get up close to view these beautiful pelagic seabirds. Gavin and Cynthia were able to capture the most amazing photographs, which we hope he will soon be able to share with our HBC club members. A few of us were privileged to have a preview presentation after our fish braai at the Boat Club on Thursday 7th.
Gavin was able to identify, aided by his photos 4 species of Albatross, two Giant Petrels , four other Petrels including two small Storm Petrels, three species of Shearwaters and the Subantartic Skua. A few more familiar seabirds like the Cape Gannet, Cape Cormarant, Cape Gull and Artic Tern were also seen.
We eventually returned safely to Hermanus after 20h00, after a magical sunset at sea, a very tired, but happy bunch with some memorable birding experiences. Our thanks to Walter for selecting a perfect day and doing all the planning for our full day at sea.
In case you are not aware, BirdLife SA’s Birding Big Day event takes place on Saturday 24 November. Teams from all around South Africa will be taking part in this exciting event. For details of how it works and registration, please see http://www.birdlife.org.za/events/birding-big-day
Participants who take part in our own MBBD will have a head start as they will have sussed out the best birding spots and should know where to spend their time.
HBC will support any teams made up of our members by paying the registration fee of R300 per team. Let’s put HBC on the map this year by doing well!
This year’s MBBD will take place over 12 hours (5:30 am to 5:30 pm) on Sunday 4 November, within a 40 km radius of Central Hermanus. Teams will comprise 4 members and the usual rules will apply; at least three members of each team must confirm each species identified and identification can be by sight or call. You can only use bird calls if you have the relevant bird on your life list, i.e. you cannot use a bird call for something you have never seen.
Please submit your team name and members to me at firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of October.
All participants (who by now will be thoroughly exhausted!) should meet at Fernkloof at 5:30 pm to compare notes and celebrate the winning team. Bring along a drink or two as you are likely to be thirsty!
MBBD 2018 Competition Area
Sixteen HBC members enjoyed a great three day outing to the Robertson area in early October, an ideal time of the year with the fresh green in the vineyards and fruit orchards and the birds chirping happily with the joys of spring. This also meant that most of the males were in their most colourful breeding plumage. We were based at Tierhoek Cottages on an organic fruit farm, surrounded by majestic mountains and with great views down the beautiful Tierhoek Valley. Our birding around the cottages and on the farm yielded some 35 or more species on the first day. Birding specials were the Verreaux’s Eagle, Jackal Buzzard and Pale Chanting Goshawk, White-backed Mousebird, and the sunbirds and more common flycatchers and Robin Chats.
On Day 2 we moved down to a privately owned wine and fruit farm on the banks of the Breede River. We enjoyed the privacy of a lovely grassed picnic site and were able to bird in the vineyards, where we were lucky to see the fairly rare Cinnamon- breasted Bunting, African Stonechats, White -browed Robin chats, sunbirds and other Karoo species. On the Breede river banks there were a variety of waterbirds, Swee and Common Waxbills and a Lesser Honeyguide. Many colourful birds were enjoyed, but without doubt the most colourful and unusual sighting we had was of a swimming ‘Puffadder’, which swam across the wide river and came ashore at our picnic site! By the end of the second day our bird count had increased to 76 and it was a contented bunch of birders who enjoyed their sundowners and braai in a great and tranquil setting at Fig Tree Cottage.
Day 3 we left the comfortable Tierhoek cottages a bit reluctantly to get down to the Cape Nature Reserve ‘Vrolijkheid’ near Mc Gregor to do some birding in the Karoo and Renosterveld habitat, which was very colourful and supported a number of different bird species. We walked along the ‘Agama trail’ to the two bird hides and two separate dams, seeing many challenging LBJ species, which taxed our identification skills! Specials that we saw here were displaying Clapper Larks, Fairy Flycatcher, Grey- backed Cisticola and the spectacular Red Bishops and Weavers at the dams. Most of us returned to Hermanus via Stormsvlei where the count cut-off. We ended the three day outing with a fairly respectable count of 99! Thanks to Anne Philip for keeping the record.
Many thanks also to all the ladies for their contributions to the evening meals, to the men who braaied and to our two main photographers John Bowman and Jill Eckstein, whose excellent images accompany this report.
Saying ‘Hi’ to a donkey
On the banks of the Breede
The swimming Puffadder
Southern Double-collared Sunbird
What a battle to get members to participate and educate themselves!
Graham and I went out this afternoon and thought maybe the following short account of our birding might enthuse one or two more members.
Day 1 of the HBC Challenge
Graham and I decided to kick off the 2018/19 Challenge with an afternoon’s birding on day 1.
Our first stop was the Vermont Salt Pan, which has quite a lot of water in at present.
Apart from all the usual species, we ticked off Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Greater Flamingo, Moorhen, Little, as well as Great Crested Grebe.
We then spent a leisurely 2.5hours along the Swart Rivier Road where specials identified included Burchell’s Coucal, Namaqua Dove and White-faced Duck.
Our total came to a respectable 54 species identified.
We are not participating in the Challenge to win, but to keep our eyes and ears tuned to the birds in our area, to enjoy the beautiful Overberg in its green and gold splendour and to support a club initiative.
The committee arranges these activities to help members to learn about our feathered friends.
Why don’t you challenge yourself and at the same time improve your birding knowledge?
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.
Pelicans flying over Fernkloof
Despite the threatening clouds on Wednesday 24th January, a congenial group of 12 club members and a few friends enjoyed a wonderful sunset cruise on the Kleinriver Lagoon. Some 45 bird species were seen, although we were unable to match the numbers seen by the morning cruise! Water birds abounded, but some of the highlights were the good sightings of Purple Swamphen, Malachite and Giant Kingfisher and 5 raptor species, including an African Marsh Harrier. Sadly, the Martial Eagle did not oblige again, but well done to Ronnie for his photo of the Martial and his excellent photos of the birds seen on the early morning cruise.