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Birding for South African Bird Atlas Program - Chintsa/Cefani 6/6/2013

Updated on June 7, 2013
Weaver in Wild Dagga
Weaver in Wild Dagga | Source
White-fronted Plover in Cefani
White-fronted Plover in Cefani | Source
Yellow-billed Duck in sewage ponds
Yellow-billed Duck in sewage ponds | Source
View of Indian Ocean
View of Indian Ocean | Source
Red-billed Teal
Red-billed Teal | Source
Little Egret and White-breasted Comorant
Little Egret and White-breasted Comorant | Source
Vervet Monkey- balansing act
Vervet Monkey- balansing act | Source
Jackal Buzzard
Jackal Buzzard | Source
Summer visitors now somewhere in north. Spoonbill
Summer visitors now somewhere in north. Spoonbill | Source
Brown-capped Tchagra- in full song
Brown-capped Tchagra- in full song | Source

"Citizen Scientists" contributing to research

Listing Bird for the South African Bird Atlas Program –Chintsa/Cefani: 6-6-13

As part of the research into the distribution of birds in South Africa over 1000 “Citizen Scientist” volunteer to visit specific 2’x2’ areas-about 9kmx9km- (called Pentads) to draw up a list of the birds that they can identify either by sight or sound in that area. There are 1700 of these Pentads in Southern Africa. These lists are then sent in to the University of Cape Town’s Animal Demographic Unit where they becomes part of the data base for research and updating of field guides, etc.

Each list must be done over at least two hours and include as many of the habitats found in that area as possible. One is encouraged to visit the areas you take responsibility for as often as possible.

I bird three areas in the Eastern Cape, Chintsa/Cefani, Gubu Dam near Stutterheim and East London/Gonubie and one in Kwa-Zulu Natal at the Trafalgar Nature Reserve. I try to visit each area four times a year and usually manage that.

Come with me as I visit with my wife Audrey the Chintsa/Cefani area this morning for some winter birding in this coastal resort area about 45km north from our home in East London. The area includes the coast, sand dunes, coastal forest, and shrub, thorn veldt and two river estuaries.

We begin with a stop at the sewage works on the outskirts of Chintsa and begin our list with the water birds that are regular visitors or even reside in the 5 settling ponds found there. Yellow-billed Ducks, Red-billed Teal, Little Grebes (Dabchicks) and the less common Cape Shovelers are busy exploring the waters. At the entrance to the sewage works a group of Cattle Egrets are in close attendance to some cattle feeding there. Missing is the Flamingo that has been present in the area, the Spoonbills and the waders that have left for warmer climes north of the Equator. A Cape Wagtail explores the grassy banks together with the ever present Black-smith Lapwings with their unique call that gives them their name.

The road to the Cefani River mouth is a good area for coastal bush species and we find a Black-crowned Tchagra that is common in the area but not often seen because he feeds in the undergrowth. This one obliges by coming out and giving us a song. Two types of Sunbird (Amethyst and Collared) are feeding in the Wild Dagga plants that are in full bloom. We try to photograph them but the flit around and so we move on because today our mission is listing rather than photography. We stop briefly to admire two Impala that share space with the cattle in this farming area.

At the lagoon and beach area we add a Pied Kingfisher, a Kelp Gull and White fronted Plover to our growing list. Most plovers fly north for the winter but some stay for the winter and these fall in that category as they are in breading plumage. A Wood Sandpiper explores the shallows in the lagoon and is possibly also overwintering in this area even though the bird guide classifies it as a summer visitor. Perhaps the bird did not read the guide. The East Coast of South Africa is sub-tropical and at the coast the winters are mild due to the effects of the warm Mozambique Current that flows from the north. On our way back Audrey sees a rare bird in this area, an Emerald-spotted Dove, and this is an exciting addition to our list.

Our last stop is in the village of Chintsa where we bird the river, the rocky coast and the quiet streets of the residential areas. We add African Hoepoe, Green Pigeon and a few of the common birds in the area to our list that now stands at 41. A Knysna Turaco and African Fish Eagle are heard but not seen today and the Southern Boubou also calls from the thick forest.

For winter a list of 44 is not bad in two hours of birding and we make our way back to East London satisfied that we have contributed in a small way to a better understanding of the fascinating world that makes up the beautiful bird life in our area.


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    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Amazing place with such lovely photos, definitely worthwhile reading.

    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      It was a good couple of hours and then we visited our daughter and grandkids-it does not get much better than that. You need to come to East London and we will be your guides for some great birding and a visit to Addo Elephant Park.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Wow, Johan, you and Audrey had a great day. All those birds in two hours. I love hearing about what you have in South Africa!

    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Thanks for the comment, we also enjoyed the monkey business

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 

      5 years ago from London

      Excellent photos and a great list! The 'Balancing Act' of the velvet monkey is my favorite :)

    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      It does keep us sharp and improves our I.D. skills as we pour over our field guides when we see a new bird.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      What a fun and great way to spend a few hours. Wish they had something like that here in New England. Love the photos.

    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Hope so indeed, but at the same time it is fun especially when we get to visit our family.

    • Gill Harris profile image

      Gill Harris 

      5 years ago from South Africa

      I hope the impact of the work that birders do with regard to this kind of record keeping is appreciated! I am sure that all these small scale contributions add up to a big and invaluable knowledge bank.


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