Agulhas Plains Birding

We spent three nights in the Agulhas National Park close to the southern tip of Africa. This afforded us the opportunity to explore the region thoroughly and, at the same time, do some good birding.

We were not disappointed in the results, picking up 118 bird species. Included in our list were a couple of rare vagrants; (two) European Rollers and (eight) Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters.

At De Mond Nature Reserve we were surprised by the paucity of birds around the lagoon. Normally there are hundreds of terns – we only saw one Caspian Tern and no others. It was the same with many of the other waders that normally frequent the area, however, we did see three Black Tailed Godwits and a single Bar Tailed Godwit, along with a Eurasian Curlew.

Driving around the National Park is not easy as the only roads are from the main road in to the various accommodation units, which are widespread.  Poor road maintenance means a bumpy ride and the authorities should carry it some urgent repair work. The fynbos along some of these roads is, however, good and we saw a variety of wild flowers and many small antelope on the adjoining farms.

All in all it was an excellent break and served to remind us of the wonderful nature available in this unsung part of South Africa.

A Good Day’s Birding

We visited four localities today, starting at Stony Point, where we saw African Penguins and the principal cormorants of the region.  From there we went to Rooi Els, for Cape Rock Jumpers.  We saw one, as well as a good selection of fynbos birds, despite a stiff breeze.

Next stop was Strandfontein, which proved very good with an excellent array of water birds.  We had hoped to see Teminck’s Stint and Red Necked Phalarope, but did not manage these two.  We did, however, see Intermediate Egret, Booted Eagle, African Marsh Harrier, as well as many waders and ducks.

At Rondevlei we hoped to find Baillon’s Crake, but saw no sign of this rare bird.  The area is very dry with bird hides stranded on dry ground.

The whole trip yielded no less than 106 species and, as we are all participants in the local bird club challenge, we were able to add many new names to our lists.  It was an excellent day out, improved with a Black Harrier on the way home!


An Endless Flight of Cormorants .. and some other birds!

Our walk along the coast from Kleinbaai to Danger Point was fairly uneventful on the way out, however, by the time we returned The Cape Cormorants (presumably from Dyer Island) started a fly past which totally defied description.  We estimated that the main squadron of birds was at least five km long and must have numbered in excess of 20 000 birds.  Then, as we approached Kleinbaai, there were also thousands sitting on the rocks. The collective noun for cormorants is a ‘flight’, but this word did not do justice to what we saw.  Perhaps we should coin another term for this species; something that will convey the sheer numbers which cannot be described in pictures or words!  We were all quite amazed by what we saw and when I close my eyes, I just see birds everywhere.

Sadly, on a visit to the Seabird Rehabilitation Centre after our walk, we were told that many of the roosting birds (from the 37 000 pair colony on Dyer Island) take refuge on the shore when they cannot find sufficient food stocks in the ocean.  This was distressing news indeed.

Apart from cormorants, we also saw many African Oystercatchers and Common Whimbrels, and I was completely blown away when Mike spotted a single Ruddy Turnstone amongst the thousands of cormorants on the rocks.  How he did it I will never know as it was a fair distance away and very hard to see!

Birding at De Mond

During a birding trip to De Mond Reserve today, we were somewhat disappointed to see far fewer birds than anticipated.  Where we had expected to see many Larks and Pipits, there were hardly any, and the large flocks of waders that normally characterise the lagoon edge at De Mond were down in numbers.  Along the road in to the reserve, however, we were very lucky to see a Red Backed Shrike and a European Honey Buzzard.  These are rarities in this part of the world.

Then on the edge of the lagoon we were very interested to see large groups of Hermit Crabs in absolute feeding frenzies, but we could not determine what was attracting them.  A photo showing such a group is appended below.

Aristeas on Lemoenkop

A walk up Lemoenkop revealed a showcase of Aristea oligocephala in the burnt section on the north facing slope.  They have replaced the good showing of Wachendorfia that was flowering a week or two ago.  It is wonderful to see how nature replaces one massed flowering with another, thereby keeping us interested all the year round!


Cormorants Galore!

A call from a friend alerted me yesterday to the presence of huge numbers of Cape Cormorants on the rocks at Platbank, Hermanus.  I rushed down and was blown away by the literally thousands of birds that had gathered on the rocky shoreline!  It was a really amazing sight and one that will always be remembered, especially since this is not a normal roosting spot for them.  Presumably they had been feeding and were resting up before their next foray into the ocean. I searched for other species amongst them, but to no avail – they were all Cape Cormorants!