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. In this article we review species that have been described in old historical records and now confirmed since the start of the pandemic. Some of these records are from previous BirdLife Overberg outings and tours, but more particularly from documents of the late Rob Martin that has done extensive research in the Overberg region since the 1960’s.
A surprising selection of raptors has been confirmed in the Overberg region over the last three years. In the past Amur Falcons were sometimes located along the Breede River, but during the last summer this species was recorded along the Swartrivier road outside Bot River, as well as at Baardskeerdersbos. This might suggest that the distribution of this migrant is moving further west. Both the European Honey Buzzard and the Eurasian Hobby are recorded fairly often during summer months. The Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk is generally regarded as a so-called ‘western species’ and it is interesting to note that this resident bird is being recorded fairly regularly from various locations throughout the Overberg. Both the African Grass Owl and the Marsh Owl have been confirmed as resident breeding species in the region. Sightings of Black-chested Snake-Eagles are being received, the most recent being from the De Hoop Nature Reserve. Several photographs of Brown Snake-Eagles (particularly young birds) have been taken along the van der Stel Pass in recent years. Many people believe that the Little Sparrowhawk does not occur in the Overberg and this myth has been dispelled through photographs of the species being taken at both Stanford and Elgin recently.
A selection of waterbirds recorded in the Overberg since the start of the pandemic is equally impressive. Several species are on record from the Klein River and its estuary at Stanford even though most of these have also been recorded from other sites such as the Nuwejaars SMA. These are the Fulvous Whistling Duck, Knob-billed Duck, Great Egret, Goliath Heron, Squacco Heron and African Jacana. Other interesting records include the Baillon’s Crake from the Hawston area, the Striated Heron having been recorded at Betty’s Bay several times and a Greater Painted Snipe found at a pan outside Pearly Beach.
Other exciting species to take note of include small flocks of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters that are sometimes seen at the Lamloch Swamps near Kleinmond and in the Gansbaai area during summer months. White-fronted Bee-eaters are also being recorded increasingly. Other migrants include the Eurasian Golden Oriole and the Red-backed Shrike. Lesser Striped Swallows are also interesting with regular sightings particularly from the De Hoop Nature Reserve. Staff members there suggest that the birds might be breeding in the area. Records of African Palm Swifts are on the increase in the Western Cape Province and the same applies to the Overberg region. Regular sightings are being reported from Onrus and Vermont.
Very few of the mentioned species (and those mentioned in the previous articles and others to follow) appears 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 and often very exciting records of rare and vagrant species located in the Overberg since the start of the pandemic.