Changing bird profiles in the Overberg Region – Part 1: Western Species

At a recent monthly BirdLife Overberg talk we gave an overview of interesting, rare and vagrant bird species that had been recorded in the Overberg region since the start of the pandemic. Several requests had been received for these lists to be published and this is the first in a series of five short articles. In this article we review relatively ‘new species’ for the region usually associated with the drier, arid western areas of South Africa. One would usually expect to find these species in the Karoo, Namaqualand and the Kalahari, or even closer in the Langeberg and Klein Karoo regions. 

BirdLife Overberg members and others had been reporting on birds recorded in the Overberg region on a monthly basis since April 2020 and here we discuss some interesting records of so-called western species. Increasing numbers of sightings are being reported of species such as the Karoo and Sickle-winged chats, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Grey-backed Sparrowlark and Grey Tit. These birds are mostly found in the Barrydale district and along the Breede River at destinations such as the Bontebok National Park and Malgas. 

Records of Black-headed Canaries have also been received from these areas even though the species was also photographed as far east as the Napier district. Very surprising single records of the Red-eyed Bulbul in the Agulhas village and the Dusky Sunbird at Vermont, west of Hermanus should also be noted. It seems as if the Fairy Flycatcher is also expanding its range in the region. It was located along riverine thickets in the past, but recently it had been recorded from locations such as the cliff path in Hermanus, Arrabella Estate and the Rooisand Nature Reserve. 

 Many theories are being bantered about to try and explain these interesting sightings and several members like to climb on the climate change and global warming bandwagons. Note should however be taken of the fact that some of these species had been described in historical records as will be described in future articles. The simple explanation might be that many of our members and friends are now involved in concerted efforts to record species on a regular monthly basis. More eyes and ears on the ground should in future produce many more interesting records and we would like to encourage all birders in the region to become involved in the project. Contact Anton at 082 550 3347 for more information.

It is ironic to note that most of the mentioned species (and others to follow) do not appear in the distribution maps for the Overberg in bird guides. This implies that very few birders in the region are contributing to SABAP2, the bird atlas project. We would like to encourage all birders in the region to start using the BirdLasser app as this is a relatively easy and effortless way of contributing to SABAP2.

The involvement of more birders in these monthly counts will certainly contribute significantly to our efforts to market the Overberg region as a top birding destination.

In the next article we will highlight surprising records of so-called forest species in the Overberg usually associated with areas such as the Garden Route, Eastern Cape and further north.

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