Trip report: Birding at the Nuwejaarsrivier Wetland Special Management Area

This trip report has been provided by Kobus du Pisanie

Twenty enthusiastic birders set out on the first BirdLife Overberg club outing of 2024, a specially arranged visit to the Nuwejaarsrivier Wetlands SMA. Our guide for the trip was Eugene Hahndiek, the Conservation Manager of the Area. It was a beautiful sunny, windless and hot Saturday. Naturally, the day’s mission was focused on water birds. After the extraordinary rainfall events of 2023 there was much water around and we stopped at several large expanses of water. 

We recorded many waders and water bird species, including Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Common Greenshank, Ruff, Little Stint, African Snipe, Curlew Sandpiper, and several types of plovers (Grey, White-fronted, Common Ringed, Three-banded and Kittlitz’s). There was quite a discussion on the identification of one little fellow on the water’s edge, which was first thought to be a Ruddy Turnstone. It remained unidentified on site, leaving it to photographers to later identify it on computer screens. Experts can still not decide whether it was a very dirty Little Stint or a Common Sandpiper.

We saw the ever-present Egyptian Geese and several species of ducks (Cape Shovelers, Southern Pochard, Cape and Red-billed Teals and White-faced Whistling, Yellow-billed and South African Shelducks). We also saw Grey and Black-headed Herons, Western Cattle Egrets and African Spoonbills. Other water birds included Greater and Lesser flamingos, Common Moorhen, Red-Knobbed Coot, African Darter, African Swamphen, White-Breasted and Reed Cormorants, Little Grebe and Pied Kingfisher.

There were quite a few exceptional highlights at the water bodies. Firstly, we saw around a hundred Great White Pelicans. Photographers had a field day photographing these huge birds on the water and in flight. The amazing number of Spur-winged Geese, literally hundreds of them, was amazing. Whiskered Terns entertained us with their acrobatics. The rather scarce Intermediate (Yellow-billed) Egret also showed up. Furthermore, we had relatively close-up views of several African Fish Eagles with their iconic calls. The big highlight was certainly the sighting of three Black Herons, far out of range. 

We saw the common raptors of the area: Jackal and Common buzzards, Yellow-Billed and Black-Winged kites and Rock Kestrels. Also, several swallow, swift, dove/pigeon, lark, pipit, shrike, starling, guineafowl, crow/raven, spurfowl, lapwing, bustard, ibis, mousebird, bishop, weaver, cisticola and other species. 

In total I recorded 96 species during the whole trip from Hermanus and back, but when all the lists are compiled, it will come to more than 100 species for the day. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day of birding for all concerned and a good start to the new year. Thank you to Steve Peck and Johan van der Westhuizen who made all the arrangements. The next guided tour to the Nuwejaars SMA will be on Saturday 24 February, but unfortunately this trip is fully booked.

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