Birders: What birds are you likely to see on a trip through the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area?
(In other words: What are some of the really special bird species that make use of our conservation area?)
A year-long bird monitoring study has highlighted some interesting results of the birds you could see in the Nuwejaars area. And some worrying trends on those we AREN’T seeing.
Here’s how we went about the study:
- We chose 26 of the most threatened birds in the Heuningnes-Agulhas Plain Important Bird Area (remember: we’re part of the IBA).
- We would then ‘atlas pentads’, in other words, map the bird species we see in a particular area.
- We’d capture all our ad-hoc sightings.
- And through the Overberg Challenge on Birdlasser, sightings were recorded by all birders across the greater Overberg.
At the end of the year, more than 3000 sightings had been logged of the target species.
Here are the 5 top bird species we recorded (and that you’re likely to see) in our area (of the threatened species):
1. BLUE CRANE
The national bird is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Redlist – and while the population is considered stable, it’s believed only around 25,500 mature individuals remain (around 12,000 are in the Western Cape, according to the Eskom Red Data Book of Birds). Image: LoveGreen
2. DENHAM’S BUSTARD
There are fewer than 5,000 breeding pairs of Denham’s Bustards in Southern Africa (and ONLY around 500 in the Western Cape). AND their population is believed to be decreasing by around 30% over a 50 year-period. This Bustard is IN TROUBLE. That’s why they’re regionally listed as Vulnerable (Red Data Book of Birds). And why our Nuwejaars area is an important area for this species. Image: Pierre Hensburg
3. AFRICAN MARSH HARRIER
These harriers are regionally endangered (hence our decision to include them as a target species). The main threats? The loss of wetlands (from development and drainage). So we’re thrilled that we’re seeing good Marsh Harrier numbers. Could it be our wetland rehabilitation work and invasive plant clearing is helping (where they find most of their food)? Image: Heyne Brink
4. SOUTHERN BLACK KORHAAN
Classified as Vulnerable, and endemic to the region, the Korhaan is not easy to see. But if you’re lucky, you could see them in the Nuwejaars. In fact, our SMA seems to provide a stronghold for the species. They make use of our natural landscapes (especially Elim Fynbos) and productive lands. Image: LoveGreen
5. AGULHAS LONG-BILLED LARK
This is Western Cape’s ONLY endemic bird species – and is only found on the Agulhas Plains near Bredasdorp (which mostly includes the Nuwejaars). It’s listed as regionally Near Threatened. And that makes the Nuwejaars an important home for this species. Research shows that these birds benefit from agricultural land to feed on. But they still require natural patches for roosting and breeding. Image: Pierre Hensburg
And those we aren’t seeing?
The team remains worried about certain key species that we simply aren’t seeing in sufficient numbers (species that are threatened). Those we’re still keeping an eye on include:
- The Hottentot Buttonquail
- The Black Harrier
The information we’re collecting is vital. It helps us understand long-term population trends. And develop conservation action to support species that find themselves in trouble.
A quick note: We’re so grateful to the Tygerberg Bird Club and Birdlife South Africa for supporting this project in various ways. And to our partners: The Overberg Crane Group, the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust, and the Bionerds.