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.
The Stanford Bird Club very kindly invited a representative of HBC to join them on their inaugural cruise down the Klein River in the newly launched ‘Lady Stanford’ and Renee and I were the lucky participants. We set off at 7:30 am this morning along with around 20 local birders and spent three and a half hours enjoying the wonderful birding along the river.
The Lady Stanford is a purpose built river boat and it provided a wonderful platform from which to enjoy the abundant birdlife that the region has to offer. We saw no less than 70 species. There were many Giant Kingfishers, abundant African Darters, all the Grebes, three Herons, Falmingos galore and much more. The juvenile African Harrier-Hawk was a highlight as it pecked at its branch, and we saw two Osprey, as well a s a number of Fish Eagles.
At one point, a Bontebok on the bank with a large piece of vegetation attached to its horns kept us entertained. Above it, a beautiful Common Buzzard looked down and wondered what all the fuss was about!
Thank you to Peter Hochfelden and the Stanford Club for an enthralling morning!!
A confused Bontebok
Juvenile African Harrier-Hawk
Giant Kingfisher and prey
The Lady Stanford
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.
Renee and I visited Rooisand yesterday afternoon and the White Wagtail was still showing well, just to the left of the hide. We also saw a Great Egret near the car park. We actually went to see if we could find the Sand Martin reported earlier, but without success. Ronnie
On Saturday morning Renee and I went to Rooisand to see if we could find the Pectoral Sandpiper that had been reported there. As we approached the hide, we met up with Lester and Cheryl van Groeningen, and entered the hide together, whence we searched the surrounding area. We could not locate the Sandpiper, but suddenly Lester drew our attention to a whiter than usual Wagtail and we all wondered about this unusual looking bird, thinking that it was an aberrant form of Cape Wagtail. Luckily Lester had his big lens with him and took a few photos, which he circulated to Trevor and Faansie. At first they were not to excited about the bird, but Lester pursued the issue with them and they asked for more images.
We were, therefore, delighted yesterday evening to see that both Faansie and Trevor had put out notes suggesting that this bird is, in fact, a White Wagtail, previously unseen in the Southern African region. By this morning, reports were coming in from other birders who are no doubt arriving on the scene in large numbers to record this Mega-tick, now definitely confirmed as a White Wagtail. Well done Lester!! You have put us on the map!! Rooisand really has delivered this summer!
Lester took this photograph today.
The fynbos gamebirds have enjoyed good conditions this season, producing large clutches of healthy chicks. Our concern, however, is that the attrition rate is very high and the question is why? One proud Guineafowl mother arrived out of the Fernkloof fynbos in Voelklip with 12 gorgeous, fluffy little chicks. Next day there was only one left and the following day she came alone!
Cape Spur fowl seem to be a bit more successful at rearing their chicks. Early in the season we had five families with an average of six babies on arrival here and they have raised on average, three to juvenile stage. In January two new families arrived in our garden, possibly second breedings for the season? This week we witnessed a very dramatic exchange with a traumatised, frantic Spur fowl mother and a Slender mongoose, who had nipped in and grabbed one of her chicks. Enraged and quite fearless she attacked the mongoose, chased it off, but not without losing her baby. She then tried to call off the mongoose, from going for her other chicks who had hidden themselves away, with alarm calls and a ‘wounded bird act’. A very brave and an interesting incident of nature and bird behaviour!
Ground birds like Guineafowl and Spurfowl are vulnerable to mongoose and genets, which have also been seen in the Voelklip fynbos area. Other predators which are active and a threat to birds are the African Goshawk and Sparrowhawk, which favour doves , but will also prey on young gamebirds, given the right opportunity. With all the threats, our gamebirds are lucky if they can raise even half their chicks!
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!!)
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!