Fynbos Fires and their Consequences for Birds

 

Positive benefits of fynbos fires are short-term food opportunities for some species

Raptors are often attracted to fire and its charred results, moving in from adjacent habitats. This is particularly evident where predatory birds may flush out injured birds and animals or find other carrion. Jackal Buzzards, Steppe Buzzards and Spotted Eagle Owls are known to visit burnt areas immediately after smoke dissipates. After a relatively short time they move on.

Other species which may take advantage of the aftermath of fynbos fires

The Fork Tailed Drongo, Fiscal Flycatcher, Fiscal Shrike and Cape Grassbird are known to take up the debris of insects, arthropods and the seeds of various plants such as P. falcifolia and L. eucalyptifolium which are exposed about 2 weeks post fire.

Genetic Diversity 

Nectivores such as the Cape Sugarbird, Orange Breasted Sunbird and Cape Bulbul will immediately move away to neighbouring areas, however, this may be advantageous to genetic diversity as they colonise with other groups, returning only once the area has recovered. They are significant pollinators, playing a vital role in continuing fynbos survival.

Negatives are longer-term!!!!!

Fynbos Recovery Periods or seasons required for the fynbos habitat to recover vary. Usually, fire patterns are such that most fynbos bird species are able to simply re-locate temporarily to unaffected areas of similar habitat, at least until the affected areas recover. Some fynbos species take longer to recover, hence food sources can be limited. Neighbouring suburban gardens often become a refuge for the nectivores immediately post fire.

Frequency of fire impacts on the recovery of certain fynbos plant species, which in turn impacts on suitable nesting sites, for example the upper branches of  Protea Neriifolia, preferred by the Orange Breasted Sunbird. This  plant species is slow maturing, taking about 6 years to reach maturity, and produce fruit. If the fruit is burnt before ripening, no seeds will be dispersed! Densely concentrated growth of Leucodendron salignum indicates where an area has been burnt too frequently, compromising non-sprouting fynbos species, thus minimising preferred nesting habitats for some fynbos bird species.

The intensity of fires can significantly alter the fynbos profile of an area. Whilst some plant species may benefit from low intensity fire heat to allow for seed dispersal, other plant species can be eliminated by hi intensity fire. Total destruction of the underground parts of the plant and buried seeds can occur. Again, this impacts on breeding, nesting and the food source of endemic birds and may also lead to fragmentation of breeding sites.

Breeding season versus Fire season.

At the moment, most fires occur during hot Summer and Autumn months, when breeding is finished. Most fynbos birds breed during late Winter and early Spring, so impact on breeding is generally confined to loss of suitable nesting sites. However, if fires occur earlier in the breeding season, fynbos bird species most affected would be those nesting in fynbos scrub, such as Cape Grassbird, Karoo Prinia, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Neddicky, Grey-backed Cisticola and Cape Sugarbird. Some such as the Victorin’s Warblers concentrate  into damp, south-facing stream-side kloofs, shielded from all but the fiercest fires.

Article submitted by Pat Redford

References:

  • Mike Ford (Hermanus Bird Club)
  • “Fynbos Ecology and Management” Karen Essler/Shirley Pierce/ Charl de Villiers
  • “Roberts Bird Guide” Hugh Chittenden
  • “Sasol Birds of Southern Africa” Ian Sinclair
  • “Birds Attracted to a fire in Mountain Fynbos” W.R.J. Dean, UCT
  • Fernkloof Nature Reserve website
  • “Vanishing Flora” Anneke Kearney
  • “Walking with Paul Grobler” website

 

The Challenge is getting Challenging!

 

One might think that, in one’s third month into our Annual Challenge, there would still be plenty of species to record, but this is not proving to be an easy task.  Today is the 28th January and I have so far only added 4 birds to my list.  I wonder whether I will get any in February!!  Out in the Overberg around Caledon there were plenty of Blue Cranes, many common raptors and hundreds of geese – Egyptian and Spur-winged.  We saw 54 species, but in the end I was even photographing sheep in my frustration!

Ronnie

Evening Cruise on the Lady Stanford

 

Upon checking the forecast I was worried that last evening’s cruise on the Lady Stanford was going to be a wind blown disaster. The members on the trip all arrived early and boarding was done very efficiently.  We had people requiring assistance and Peter Hochfelden – the Captain and ex Chair of the Stanford Bird Club – moved the boat to allow easy access. His helper, a very strong young man, physically carried one of our members on to the boat- he was amazing. Peter is an excellent birder and was very keen to spot and identify.

We set off on our cruise in the most ideal conditions – no wind – just utterly beautiful!

Everyone had a cruise on the river to be remembered. The Lady goes much further down the river than we have gone before and birding was brilliant. When we turned around we were close to a flock of hundreds of Flamingos.

We managed 50 species and the list below was compiled by John and Shelagh and the  pictures are courtesy of John Bowman.

This was a memorable and lovely trip for all or us from brilliant to social birders on a very fine vessel.

Craig Holmes


Roberts English Name
824 Red Bishop
149 Steppe Buzzard
228 Red-knobbed Coot
58   Reed Cormorant
55   White-breasted Cormorant
208 Blue Crane
60   African Darter
354 Cape Turtle Dove
541 Fork-tailed Drongo
104 Yellow-billed Duck
71  Cattle Egret
67  Little Egret
68  Yellow-billed Egret
96   Greater Flamingo
102 Egyptian Goose
116 Spur-Winged Goose
6    Great Crested Grebe
8    Little Grebe
270 Greenshank
203 Helmeted Guineafowl
316 Hartlaub’s Gull
312 Kelp Gull
165 African Marsh Harrier
63  Black-headed Heron
65  Purple Heron
91  Sacred Ibis
94  Hadeda  Ibis
429 Giant Kingfisher
431 Malachite Kingfisher
428 Pied Kingfisher
258 Blacksmith Plover
226 Common Moorhen
349 Rock Pigeon
112 Cape Shoveller
158 Black Sparrowhawk
95   African Spoonbill
757 Eurasian Starling
295 Blackwinged Stilt
518 Eurasian Swallow
520 White-throated Swallow
223 Purple Swamp Hen
106 Cape Teal
108 Red-billed Teal
322 Caspian Tern
327 Common Tern
326 Sandwich Tern
713 Cape Wagtail
635 Cape Reed Warbler
813 Cape Weaver
814 Masked Waver

Woodpeckers of the World

A pair of Cardinal Woodpeckers

Please note that the talk by Duncan Butchard this Wednesday evening has been amended and will now be on “Woodpeckers of the World”.  It promises to be interesting, so be sure to attend the meeting, which kicks off at 6:00 pm at the Fernkloof Hall.

The Christmas Party

 

Our Christmas party was held last evening.  It was a fun-filled affair and was enjoyed by 64 members who filled the Fernkloof Hall.  Craig kicked off the proceedings by announcing Honorary Life Memberships for the Palmers and the Bowmans, in recognition of the huge amount of work these two couples have put into the club.  It was a well-deserved accolade!

Then there was the annual photographic competition, with all participants invited to vote for the Best Bird Picture, Most Amusing Picture and Best Title. Jill Eckstein won the first category, and Winnie Pybus took both the other awards with her only entry!  Well done!  The competition attracted 29 entries in all!

Ronnie ran a short Anagram quiz.  With complicated anagrams of local bird names, it was good to see that our birders were quick off the mark in identifying the species listed, despite anagrams like Conspire Damn Mop (Common Sandpiper).

A good time was had by all!  We look forward to seeing you all next year.  Happy Birding!

Season’s Greetings

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The Hermanus Bird Club wishes all its members and readers a very happy and blessed holiday.  If you are on the road, travel safely and enjoy your time with friends and family.

Remember to keep your eyes peeled for those special birds which may occur in your area.

We look forward to seeing you again in 2019 and hope that somebody with some minimal accounting skills will step forward and take on the position of Club Treasurer. This is a serious request, as the club will be without a Treasurer next year.  Come on – do your bit for the HBC!!

Beach Clean-up

 

Birdlife Overberg will be conducting a beach clean-up at Onrus on Saturday 8 December and HBC members are welcome to join them.  Plastic bags and gloves will be provided and participants should meet at the Onrus beach parking lot at 7:00 am.