December 2016 Newsletter
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CAPE BIRD CLUB NEWSLETTER                               December 2016


Flufftail Festival
Club Activities 
Bird Counts and Hacks
Outing Report - Botterkloof Camp
Kirstenbosch Bird Walk
Weekday Outing to Clovelly
Odonata Course

Thank you to everyone who contributed items for the newsletter and especially for the lovely photographs.
I hope you all enjoy this bumper edition.


Books make lovely Christmas presents.
We have a good selection of Bird Books and Nature Books, all at discounted prices.  Come and support your Bird Club and Conservation.
We are eagerly awaiting copies of Faansie Peacock`s new book “Chamberlain`s Waders” and have many other interesting titles in stock. 
These include the new “Guide to Birds of the Kruger National Park” by Warwick Tarboton & Peter Ryan, “The 2015 Eskom Red Data Book of Birds”, Levaillant`s Legacy” by Roy Siegfried and “Dragonflies & Damselflies of South Africa” by Warwick &Michele Tarboton. 
On the lighter side, we have copies of the latest “Dr Jack`s   Third Illustrated South African Byrd Book”. 
Also we still have copies of Vernon Head`s book, “The Search for the Rarest Bird in the World” and his book of Poems, “The Laughing Dove and other Poems”.
Please contact Gavin and Anne Greig on 021 794 7791 to make enquiries or to order books.


BirdLasser is fun for Birders and good for birds. For both beginners and twitchers, BirdLasser is a fun way to record your sightings and share with friends, your community and contribute to conservation.

Plot your sightings with GPS precision, instantly update your lifelist and share it with friends. At the same time give SABAP2, Southern Africa’s bird-atlas authority, a better picture of what’s happening to our bird and wild life. We call it social conservation! So, while you have fun spotting and plotting birds you automatically play a part in helping the thing you love. Double win!

For more information, click on this link

Please save the date for an exciting new event, the Dullstroom Flufftail Festival to take place 24 to 26 February 2017.  
The announcement of the programme of events as well as registration details will follow soon.


Saturday 3 December  OUTING
Rondevlei Nature Reserve

Leader: Merle Chalton ☎ 079 343 1047 
Meet at 08h00. These regular monthly outings are for all Rondevlei enthusiasts and beginners are especially welcome. Duration 2½ hrs.
There is a small entrance fee.
Remember to bring a warm jacket or anorak - it can be freezing in the hides, even on the hottest days!
Directions: Travel down the M5 (Prince George Drive) towards Grassy Park and look out for Nando’s at the 5th Avenue traffic light. Turn left here into 5th Avenue and at the first set of traffic lights turn right into Perth Road and continue to Rondevlei at the end of the road.


Sunday 4 December: Kirstenbosch BIRP Count. 
Meet at 08h00
Leader: John Magner (082 881 3845)

Thursday 8 December: Wildevoelvlei Count
Meet at 08h30
Leader: Eric Barnes (021 782 5429)

Saturday 10 December: Zandvlei Hack
Meet at 14h00
Leader: Gavin Lawson (021 705 5224)

Sunday 11 December:   Strandfontein Count 
Meet at 08h00 
Leader: Dick Barnes (021 689 1106)

Thursday 15 December:  Athlone WWTW Count
Meet at 13h00
Leader: Dick Bos (021 423 2546)
These counts will take place weather permitting

Saturday 17 December: Paarl Bird Sanctuary CWAC
Meet at 09h00
Leader: Yvonne Weiss (021 872 4972)


Saturday 10 December 2016

These bird walks led by members of the Cape and Tygerberg Bird Clubs have been so popular over the past 2 years that it has been decided to continue them into 2016.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about our Kirstenbosch birds is welcome to join the walks.
The walks are free of charge but the entrance fee for Kirstenbosch is payable if you do not have a BotSoc Card.
This month the walk will take place on Saturday 10 December.
The walk usually lasts around 2 hours, please wear suitable clothing for the weather.

Meet at 4.00 pm at the Information Desk at Gate One.

Leader: Cheryl Faull
Please contact Linda Hibbin on 021 788 1528, or e-mail if you have any questions

Botterkloof Camp, Stilbaai – 29th October to 1st November 2016

By Kaye Foskett and Fazlyn Fester

33 bird watchers congregated at Botterkloof Resort in Stilbaai for a memorable 3 day camp. The self-catering accommodation was situated in comfy leafy grounds which had several ponds and lots of trees in which to do some warm up birding before camp proper began. A Greater Honeyguide flew in and out of the trees.
The Knysna Woodpecker was known to habituate in the camp and several of us were lucky enough to spot a pair of them on the first evening, along with an Olive Woodpecker which gave a fantastic display as to how to climb an almost vertical tree with just feet and tail. The ponds also gave up weavers and bishops, a host of wagtails, a Common Moorhen, even a Malachite Kingfisher. There is a heronry at the back of the coffee shop and several Common Peacocks roamed the grounds and jumped up on the roof at night to make sure that everyone knew they were there and to ensure that no-one overslept. 
We gathered at the pool house which had been given over to the club for the duration and we were divided amongst our 3 guides: Simon Fogarty, Vernon Head and Mel Tripp. Roger Cope kindly volunteered to be braai master for the camp and promptly set to work whilst Priscilla and Mel introduced the plan for the next 3 days. Fazlyn was particularly keen to hear that we would be looking for the Cape Crapper Lark and wondered what it had done to earn that name. She was somewhat disappointed when I explained that it was actually a Clapper Lark.
Day 1 saw us up early and on the road by 6.30. We drove along Melkhout Road, stopping along the way  for canaries (Brimstone, Cape, White throated and Yellow), Brown-hooded, Giant and Pied Kingfishers, and a host of swallows (Greater-striped, Pearl-breasted, White-throated), an African Spoonbill, Large-billed and Red-capped Larks, Olive Bush Shrike, Streaky-headed Seedeater, a Bar-throated Apalis and a Booted Eagle and an African Fish Eagle amongst many. A shallow river provided a perfect spot for coffee and sandwich and the surroundings were beautiful, even if the Black Cuckoo, spotted the previous week, failed to appear.
We continued along the gravel road which continued to get steeper and passed several small farms and a stud farm. Some of the local farmers were very interested to find out what this convoy of 9 cars was up to. Vernon had a chat with one farmer in Afrikaans who invited him to look at his garden. Vernon thought the farmer was going to show him some birds but there had been a miscommunication; what he actually wanted to show him was some strawberries! Having ticked strawberries off our list we continued down the winding round ending up at the coast. Here the wind had picked up a bit and there were hopes of perhaps seeing a Shy Albatross but no such luck. We did however manage a White-Chinned Petrel, oystercatchers, cormorants, terns and gulls and a Grey Plover. Making our way back to camp we spotted a lone whimbrel and a common sandpiper.
The evening saw Roger banking the fire and everyone swapped lists of who had seen what, wanted to see what, or had not seen what.
Day 2 saw us all up bright and early again and setting off at 6.30 to look for the much heralded ‘Crapper’, sorry, Clapper, Lark. The route meandered along a gravel road more or less parallel with the coast and several attempts were made to connect with the Clapper Lark. A Denham’s Bustard duly appeared which was a very satisfying tick for everyone, especially as they are often seen too far from the road to notice all the markings of this splendid bird.  At this point Vernon seemed to be offering a free iPad to the first Clapper Lark to respond to the call on his tablet. Still no takers appeared. Back in the car and down the hill a lark could be heard but not seen until eventually we struck lucky.  A Zitting Cisticola also decided to join in the party. A walk down a path yielded Cape Robin Chat, Karoo Scrub Robins, Karoo Prinia, a Jackal Buzzard and Cape Bulbuls. Larks and pipits were surprisingly thin on the ground though eventually an African Pipit popped up. A Southern Black Korhaan was heard but sadly not seen somewhere in the fields. Out came the coffee and sandwiches for a quick snack then were back on the road driving through some pristine fynbos. Alison James is an expert on fynbos plants and readily answered all sorts of questions as we went along. There was also a honey farm along the way with an honesty box (and security cameras) and we soon depleted their stock.
We carried on along the road to a bridge where the team was confident that Knysna Warbler and Jacobin Cuckoo would be found. Simon got his scope out and we all listened in frustration to the call of a bird that simply refused to be seen. The Jacobin Cuckoo also decided that today was his day off and so we ticked off some mousebirds and bulbuls before heading on again. After a while we came upon a bridge over the Gouritz River. The setting was absolutely beautiful and it was good to see so much water in the river when the drought has been going on for so long. Saw-wings and swallows dipped in and out and some Horus Swift were lifers for some. Pied Starlings abounded on the bank and flew in and out of the many holes in the bank and a Pied Kingfisher tried his luck in the river. After appreciating the surrounds we drove off to the coast in the hope of Shy Albatross. No albatross despite the presence of a trawler but an Osprey flew in and out of the waves. On the way back to the camp we stopped at the riverside and some did a quick tour of the sewage works.
In the evening Alison gave a short talk about some fynbos she had found along the roadside, as summarised here: An amazing sight greeted us on our way to the Gouritz River mouth on Monday - hillsides and roadside adorned by an enigmatic pin cushion (L. praecox). New flowers are yellow, changing to a burnt orange as they age; very beautiful to see. A slight puzzle had us wondering if it really was praecox as the flowers were late, the plants small and the flower heads undersized. A quick call to a local botanist confirmed that it was indeed praecox - a fire had raged through the area about 4 years ago, hence their small size. She explained that the rain had been intermittent and somewhat late, which may explain their late flowering. These plants are under threat from agricultural development and it was a reminder to us that our Cape flora is close to a precipice; any over-exploitation will send some species over the edge and into oblivion.
After Alison’s talk we compiled a composite tick list.  A very pleasing 146 birds were seen in total. The Knysna Woodpecker was voted the ‘bird of the camp’ though some was would have liked it to have been the Common Peacock, someone else a Yellow-billed Duck and there was even one vote for the Clapper Lark (can’t guess who voted for that one!). 
On the Tuesday morning some headed home early in the day whilst others went for a short walk along one of the coastal trails before repairing to the local museum and to watch local eels being fed.
The camp was extremely well organized, very enjoyable, set in beautiful surroundings and a huge vote of thanks to Priscilla, Simon, Mel and Vernon for organizing it all.

 Additional note from Priscilla
On the Tuesday morning I was part of the much smaller group of those who met at the Palinggat homestead, now the ‘home’ of the Blombos Archaelogical Museum and the Stilbaai Tourism Bureau. Near the start of the short trail leading from there down to the river mouth we heard the call of the elusive Knysna Warbler ( a call I don’t think I will ever forget!) and after much patient waiting and watching, we SAW it flitting across the path right in front of us from one bush to another and back again!  It was a lifer for me and for some of the others there as well.  
Thank you again, Vernon, Mel and Simon, for a wonderful and satisfying weekend.  Thank you also for arranging the ‘surprise’ at the start of the camp.  Everyone was mystified by the instruction that they had to be at Botterkloof by 13:45, but must not check-in.  Our leaders had organised a gin tasting at Inveroche next door – so the camp got off to quite a ‘merry’ start!
Sally, Mel and Alison 'honestly' purchasing their honey from the wayside honey stall.
Photo by Helga Hill
Birders scanning the Gouritz River from the bridge
Photo by Frank Hallet
Birders watching Bustard
Photo by Frank Hallet
Horus Swift
Photo by Graham Pringle
Puffadder - Sadly no-one would hold the tape measure!
Photo by Graham Pringle
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Photo by Frank Hallet

Cape Sugarbird on Leucospermum praecox
Photo by Frank Hallet
Common Greenshank
Photo by Frank Hallet.
Pearl breasted Swallow
Photo by Frank Hallet
Male Knysna Woodpecker
Photo by Frank Hallet
Female Knysna Woodpecker
Photo by Frank Hallet
African Pipit
Photo by Janet Hallet


On an absolutely perfect morning, with clear skies and no wind, 21 arrived ready for the walk. Many were birders but a couple had come along to see what birding was about and as one lady said “ just to get a taste of birding “. We also had a lady visitor from Germany who was brought along by two of our club members.
Soon after starting we of course heard the “Kirstenbosch Bird” – the Sombre Greenbul and we were to hear many more during the morning ! First good sighting was of an Olive Thrush followed by a very confiding African Dusky Flycatcher. Swooping above were a number of African Black Swifts, later to be joined by a couple of Alpine Swifts (Birds we have not seen on the monthly counts for a long while).
Further up the path, just beyond the Boomslang entrance, we had great sightings of a Lemon Dove which caused some excitement and which was a first for a number of the group. Thereafter we encountered a number of the regular bird species and then had our second bit of excitement – a Southern Boubou sitting on the path. It was then joined by its mate and the two of them hopped into a tree within a few meters of us and started “dueting”. Then strangely, one of the birds moved next to the other and fed an insect to it. They both appeared to be adult birds and had been calling to each other so perhaps this could be part of a courtship ritual ? For whatever reason, it was very interesting to observe.
The last bit of excitement came with the discovery of the two Spotted Eagle-Owl chicks sitting quite low in the fork of a large tree with one of the parent birds in a nearby tree. This was just before the area that has been cleared near the grove of Silvertrees so they had come some way from the Rock nesting site which had been vacated.
We saw a number of Cape Sugarbirds and Olive Thrushes and finally a little group of very noisy Karoo Prinias. The only Raptor seen was a Yellow-billed Kite which glided low over our group.
All in all it was a most enjoyable outing with perfect weather, great company, and the final species tally being 26 and a Common Chaffinch heard calling but not seen.
Graham Pringle  
Scanning for Cape Sugarbirds
Photo by Graham Pringle
Checking out the Owlets
Photo by Graham Pringle
Spotted Eagle-Owl Owlets
Photo by John Rogers
Lemon Dove
Photo by Robin Palmer
African Dusky Flycatcher
Photo by Robin Palmer
Cape Spurfowl Family
Photo by John Rogers
Karoo Prinia
Photo by John Rogers

Weekday outing to Clovelly Wetland - 15th November 2016

By Gillian Barnes

After several days of strong south-easter winds Tuesday dawned calm and warm. Eleven avid birders joined me for the gentle stroll around, or rather up, the wetland, which is unfortunately very overgrown with reeds (Phragmites) and bulrushes (Typha capensis) leaving two small patches of open water below the first and second gabions.

The bird life along the river is currently not as prolific as in past years but the vegetation provides cover for Cape and Southern Masked Weaver, Little Bittern, Little Rush and Lesser Swamp Warbler, Levaillant's Cisticola and Common Moorhen. The Moorhens at both gabions have managed to raise one chick each and good views were had whilst they were enjoying the calm weather. Unfortunately the Little Bitterns were not seen or heard during the walk.

We left the wetland area to walk around the houses in the hope of seeing the pair of Common Chaffinch. They eluded us but whilst we were looking in the trees to find the African Paradise Flycatcher that was calling Benjamin spotted the male Amethyst Sunbird that has been in the area for the last year with his mate. They have a nest in a garden close to where we first spotted the male and during the walk we saw both birds several times. We did eventually see the male African Paradise Flycatcher who perched on a branch in full view so that all could enjoy his magnificent colours.

Overhead a small party of African Black and White-rumped Swifts were seen as well as a distant view of a Jackal Buzzard soaring along the ridge of Kleintuin mountain.

During the meander up the river we saw or heard no less than 30 different species and added a further 15 in and around the gardens in the lower section of Clovelly closest to the golf course. We did not see or hear all the birds that do occur in the area but certainly 45 is not bad for two hours and I trust that everyone enjoyed themselves as much as I did.

The full list is as follows:

1.    Pied Kingfisher,
2.    Kelp Gull,
3.    Common Moorhen,
4.    Little Rush Warbler,
5.    Karoo Prinia,
6.    Le Vaillant's Cisticola,
7.    Cape Spurfowl,
8.    Common Starling,
9.    Red Winged Starling,
10.    Bokmakirie,
11.    Red Eyed Dove,
12.    Laughing Dove,
13.    Speckled Pigeon,
14.    Cape Weaver,
15.    Southern Masked Weaver,
16.    Black Headed Heron,
17.    Pied Crow,
18.    Southern Fiscal,
19.    Southern Boubou,
20.    Common Waxbill,
21.    Pintailed Whydah,
22.    Reed Cormorant,
23.    African Darter,
24.    Greater Striped Swallow,
25.    Cape Robin-Chat,
26.    Cape Bulbul,
27.    Red-faced Mousebird,
28.    Cape Sugarbird,
29.    Cape Sparrow,
30.    Malachite Sunbird,
31.    Southern Double-collared Sunbird,
32.    Amethyst Sunbird,
33.    Fiscal Flycatcher,
34.    African Paradise Flycatcher,
35.    White-rumped Swift,
36.    African Black Swift,
37.    Jackal Buzzard,
38.    Cape White-eye,
39.    Cape Canary,
40.    Helmeted Guineafowl,
41.    Cape Wagtail,
42.    Klaas's Cuckoo
43.    Hadeda Ibis,
44.    Egyptian Goose, and
45.    Common Peacock.

Dragonflies & Damselflies of the Western Cape… the course.

To be honest, I could not tell the difference between a Dragonfly and a Damselfly, before this course… and this is from someone that can separate Lesser Swamp and Little Rush Warblers quite well!
Felicity Grundlingh started with this vital point. From then on we were ‘flying’.

Did you know Dragonflies have compound eyes with 30 000 lenses and 360 degree vision?

The life-cycle and reproduction is quite fascinating with some nymphs staying under water for several years before emerging into adults and only living several months… Many people think they only live for a day.
Other Dragonfly myths were debunked “Use bad words and Dragonflies will come to sew up your lips”. Parents often subdued fearful children by this in days gone by.

Felicity’s beautifully illustrated presentation then led us through different habitats;  ‘Where and when to look for Dragonflies’.  Some species one will never find over water… look into nearby vegetation, and some species can only be found in two locations.

Then we got down to the hard stuff… identifying Dragonflies and Damselflies.
Fortunately this only covered the Western Cape, so the task was somewhat easier. 32 Dragonfly and 25 Damselfly species. 
Emperors are easy… they are the largest. Six different Skimmers took some sorting out, with the ‘Elusive Skimmer’ as its name implies being quite rare.
Post Ocular spots became an important part of the anatomy to understand and separate some species.
Threadtails, Hooktails, Sprites, Bluets, Cruisers, Cascaders, Dropwings and Gliders… the very names are wonderful and evocative.

The Clubs philosophy of embracing all that is in the natural world, not just the birds, was firmly reiterated once again with a thoroughly enjoyable course, delivered by a thoroughly enjoyable presenter, passionate about Odonata.

Thanks Felicity.

Mel Tripp

The day after the course several participants attended a field trip to the Kogelberg.
(see attached photo)

List of Dragonflies and Damselflies seen:
Boulder Jewel 
White Malachite
Sooty Threadtail 
Common Citril
Mountain Sprite
Palmiet Sprite
Blue Emperor
Stream Hawker
Common Thorntail
Rock Hooktail
Yellow Presba
Cape Skimmer
Eastern Blacktail
Little Scarlet
Red-veined Dropwing
Jaunty Dropwing
Navy Dropwing
Blue Cascader
Boulder Jewel
Photo by Felicity Grundlingh
White Malachite
Photo by Felicity Grundlingh
Jaunty Dropwing
Photo by Felicity Grundlingh
Rock Hooktail
Photo by Felicity Grundlingh
Navy Dropwing
Photo by Felicity Grundlingh
Membership of the Cape Bird Club
Please note that receipt of this newsletter or membership of the Facebook page does not imply that you are a member of the Cape Bird Club.

If you would like to become a member of the Cape Bird Club, please go to our website to download the
application form or contact Joan Ackroyd on or call 021 530 4435 for for more information

Contributions for the Newsletter

Please send any contributions for the newsletter (interesting sightings, photographs or any interesting news items)  to Cheryl Leslie at
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