The Gul­lable Tourist


It’s a Heuglin’s Gull that no other twitcher had ever seen on our soil. Ex­cept for Anne Wil­liams

Ev­ery twitcher dreams of spot­ting a bird no one else has seen. Anne Wil­liams’ megat­ick at sleepy Kleinemonde on the

Sun­shine Coast changed her life

The bird­ing ex­perts were ini­tially dis­mis­sive when Anne Wil­liams re­ported a for­eign gull feed­ing on the edge of the la­goon at Kleinemonde, a small set­tle­ment on the Sun­shine Coast, east of Port Al­fred.

A fa­nat­i­cal birder, who had honed her twitch­ing skills on an over­land ad­ven­ture from Knysna to Malawi with hubby Clive, Anne nev­er­the­less was un­able to iden­tify the stranger

À '' , % for­ag­ing in the tran­quil East­ern Cape es­tu­ary.

She backed up her sight­ing with photos

¿ Roberts Birds of South­ern Africa co-au­thor Tony Tree ven­tured , * ¿

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Siberia, it set the bird­ing world atwit­ter.

& % ! ! seen south of Tan­za­nia, where they mi­grate to es­cape the harsh Rus­sian win­ters.

The Rar­i­ties Com­mit­tee ar­rived from Cape Town to test the ve­rac­ity of her sight­ing one week­end, while she was away vis­it­ing fam­ily, and searched fruit­lessly for the stray gull. “I got back the night be­fore they left and met them at the la­goon early the next morn­ing.

3 ¿ not see it, but thank­fully the gull ap­peared and I pointed it out as ca­su­ally as I could.

“It was a case of re­verse mi­gra­tion. It kept go­ing south and ended up here,” says Anne, who was kept busy tak­ing vis­i­tors to see the Siberian gull dur­ing its four-month so­journ

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“I could’ve made a for­tune if I charged them,” she re­marked to a friend one day – and

¿ pas­sion for the avian crea­tures in the coastal par­adise at Kleinemonde where she lives could

¿ ! this hobby late in life.

Anne started bird­ing af­ter a trip to Kruger Na­tional Park, and taught her­self to iden­tify

¿ pi­anist and music teacher, as well as in med­i­cal tech­nol­ogy, had pre­pared her well to pay

¿ ! iden­ti­fy­ing birds.

To be­come a pro­fes­sional guide, she


4%- - 54 % She - 6 now reg­u­larly takes vis­i­tors to see the

334 species she’s recorded in the area stretch­ing from the Fish River Mouth to Port Al­fred and in­land to Bathurst and lo­cal game farms. “You can spot a fair num­ber of birds in this area quite eas­ily,” Anne ad­vises bird­ers want­ing to build their list of lif­ers.

And if you add in the rest of the Sun­shine Coast west to Alexan­dria, more than 400 species have been recorded, in­clud­ing many

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South Africa’s seven biomes in this area and ten river es­tu­ar­ies,” points out Sandy Birch of Sun­shine Coast Tourism.

The area around Port Al­fred is be­com­ing a favoured bird­ing desti­na­tion, where bird­watch­ers have the chance of see­ing many

¿ else­where, thanks to the var­ied habi­tats – coast, es­tu­ar­ies, wet­lands, river­ine and dune forests, val­ley thicket, grass­lands and East­ern Cape fyn­bos. “The coast, es­tu­ar­ies and wet­lands pro­vide ex­cel­lent feed­ing grounds for waders, but the rich­est habi­tats are sa­van­nah and grass­land,” says Sandy.

Among the sought-af­ter birds found in the East­ern Cape fyn­bos are the Black Har­rier and the African Marsh Har­rier, as well as the Jackal Buz­zard, Mala­chite Sun­bird, Grey­backed Cis­ti­cola and Den­ham’s Bus­tard. In other habi­tats, Brown Scrub Robin,

Bar­ratt’s War­bler, Dark-backed Weaver,

Grey Sun­bird, Black-bel­lied Star­ling, Black­crowned Tcha­gra, South­ern Dou­ble-col­lared Sun­bird, Swee Wax­bill with its dis­tinc­tive red rump, Or­ange-breasted Bush Shrike and For­est Canary are also favourites with twitch­ers.

A pair of Knysna Wood­peck­ers are reg­u­lars in Anne’s gar­den, where a Cho­ris­ter RobinChat pro­vides a happy sound­track in con­trast to the harsh croak of Knysna Tu­ra­cos that com­pete with Trum­peter Horn­bills for the fruit of the wild plum (Harpe­phyl­lum caf­frum).

Her pas­sion for birds ex­tends to res­cu­ing those in dis­tress and she’s played Florence Nightin­gale to quite a few. One such case was Gra­cie, an un­com­mon and vul­ner­a­ble African Grass Owl that Anne found im­paled on a barbed-wire fence.

She spoke to Gra­cie and calmed her be­fore

un­tan­gling Gra­cie and tak­ing her to a lo­cal vet.

An­other time Anne helped a Fis­cal Fly­catcher mom rear her chicks af­ter they fell out of the nest while be­ing ha­rassed by a boom­slang. “I placed them in a con­tainer and supplied her with meal worms. She did the rest and they still come to beg for worms,” says Anne. “Friends for life.”

Kleinemonde has two river mouths and dou­ble the num­ber of birds on its es­tu­ar­ies.

< À we watched a Go­liath Heron trawl for titbits among Reed Cor­morants, while a Fish Ea­gle wres­tled with a snake it had caught in its talons. We could hear a Grey Sun­bird, but it re­mained tan­ta­lis­ingly hid­den from view.

On one of Anne’s pop­u­lar eco tours from the Riet River mouth to the Three Sis­ters land­mark, we spot­ted African Black Oys­ter­catch­ers for­ag­ing for mus­sels while Terek Sand­pipers, and Caspian Terns and Lit­tle Terns, took ad­van­tage of the low tide. Anne told us fas­ci­nat­ing tales of ship­wrecks, lo­cal his­tory and the ecol­ogy of this stretch of beach, rich in rock pools to ex­plore.

Join­ing one of her Bird ’n Break­fast out­ings at Pomeroy Game and Na­ture Re­serve nearby,

À Honeyguide while strolling through river­ine bush. The Moun­tain Wag­tail and Na­rina

Tro­gon re­mained elu­sive, but we were charmed

, * / man­tled Crested Fly­catcher.

Other lo­cal spe­cials in­clude the se­cre­tive

- 4 < $ / /

* = / tailed God­wit and Com­mon Red­shank.

Some of Anne’s favourite bird­ing spots on the Sun­shine Coast in­clude the Kowie

River horse­shoe val­ley at Wa­ters Meet­ing Na­ture Re­serve in Bathurst, Ng­ciyo Pans on the stretch of the R343 out­side Ken­ton (dubbed the ‘poor man’s game drive’), Nyala Val­ley Game Lodge, Kap River Na­ture Re­serve,

Riet River es­tu­ary and the coastal stretch to the Three Sis­ters land­mark.

Var­ied habi­tats make it easy to spot birds

¿ + Heuglin’s Gull may be the most un­usual vis­i­tor to the Sun­shine Coast recorded so far – and

¿ - other va­grants are fond of sur­pris­ing twitch­ers

- > a Great White Pel­i­can on the Kleinemonde La­goon, and a Dusky Lark on the road to the light­house at Fish River Point.

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Euro­pean Honey Buz­zards, Spot­ted Red­shanks and Green Twinspots are some of the other un­com­mon vis­i­tors Anne has ticked lo­cally.

Her big­gest re­gret is miss­ing a Pel’s Fish­ing Owl pho­tographed on the Kleinemonde East

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– it would have been a lifer to add to her list of 655 species.

“Af­ter days of search­ing for it I had to con­cede de­feat. I was dev­as­tated,” she mourns. “Now I need to travel again if I want to add to my list.”

TOP: River­ine for­est is one of the habi­tats ex­plored on Anne’s Bird ‘n Break­fast out­ings to Pomeroy Game and Na­ture Re­serve near Kleinemonde. ABOVE LEFT: This rather ca­sual at­tempt of a nest by a Wa­ter Thick-knee is on the grounds of Kleinemonde’s...

ABOVE: The im­pres­sive Three Sis­ters rocky head­lands on the coast near Kleinemonde at­tract a va­ri­ety of birds and plant life. RIGHT: Life on the wa­ter be­side the Kleinemonde East River means boats and birds aplenty.

LEFT: An En­dan­gered African Black Oys­ter­catcher perches on a cliff at the Three Sis­ters land­mark. BE­LOW: This gi­ant wild fig tree at Pomeroy Game and Na­ture Re­serve is a mag­net for birds such as the Trum­peter Horn­bill.

ABOVE: Gra­cie the African Grass Owl that Anne saved, pho­tographed by Chris Pre­to­rius who cared for her at his re­hab cen­tre near Gra­ham­stown un­til she was well enough to be re­leased. RIGHT: Anne Wil­liams started bird­ing late in life and found her...

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