RAVE : Days 5, 6 and 7 (1 to 3 December 2023)

Common waxbill in flight

The RAVE continues at Botuin, Vanrhynsdorp. (RAVE = Ringing, Atlasing, Virtual-museuming Expedition.) This is the report on activities on Days 5, 6 and 7, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The report on the first four days, Monday to Thursday, is here.


On Friday we did our first atlas checklist for SABAP2. It was for pentad 3125_1855. It lies along the R27 between Vanrhynsdorp and Nieuwoudtville, near the foot of Vanrhyns Pass. The most famous landmark in the pentad is the Bagdad Cafe, which lies at the centre of the pentad. The map and species list of the pentad are here. It currently has 23 full protocol checklists, spread out over nine of the SABAP2 years, with the first in 2009, so there is scope for an analysis of changes in species occurrence through time.

The pentad has a total of 145 species on full protocol checklists. Of these, 29 have been recorded once only. We added three more species to this category! Yellow-billed Kite, African Black Swift and Tractrac Chat. None of these are particularly surprising in the pentad; the surprise is that they have not been recorded before. It takes a lot of checklists to develop a comprehensive species list!

The most intriguing species of the pentad is the Cape (Glossy) Starling. It was first recorded here in 2020 (see BirdPix record 130035). There is a pair, which breeds, hanging out in the trees at the Bagdad Cafe. This is the easiest spot in the Western Cape to find this species; the alternative site is at Kliprand, farther north, and right on the border with the Northern Cape.

We also got the third Cardinal Woodpecker record for the pentad. It was added via a photo destined for BirdPix. One of the best birding spots within the pentad is where the Gemsbokriver Road cross a main drainage line running westward from the mountains. This drainage line is as busy for birds as the nearby R27 highway is for vehicles. There is continual movement of birds in both directions along this flighway.

Cardinal Woodpecker along the Gemsbokrivier Road

During these three days, we also atlased pentad 3135_1810 at Dorningbaai and got 46 species, pentad 3135_1840 at Vanrhynsdorpand got 50 species, and the pentad in which Botuin is located, pentad 3135_1845 and got 67 species. The Botuin pentad has 249 full protocol checklists; since 2014 there have been multiple checklists per year, and this pentad is certainly a candidate for an analysis of a change in species composition through time.


We did a trip to the Waterfall in the quarter degree grid cell 3118DD Bulshoek. Before our RAVE, the species list for this grid cell had 54 records identified to 23 species (and a few identified to genus).

We recorded 15 species. Of these four were new to the grid cell. The new species are highlighted in this list: Sooty Threadtail, Mountain Sprite, Orange Emperor, Common Thorntail, Cape Thorntail, Common Hooktail, Rock Hooktail, Darting Cruiser, Cape Skimmer, Little Scarlet, Orange-winged Dropwing, Red-veined Dropwing, Navy Dropwing, Highland Dropwing and Jaunty Dropwing.

The Cape Thorntail is endemic to the Western Cape.

Ringing : “lark day”

Friday was “lark day”. This involves setting up a very long line of mistnets in open scrubby habitat that no normal birdringer would consider intelligent. But it is the only way to catch larks. We caught three Karoo Larks and a Large-billed Lark. A lot of effort for what might be considered a small return. But the data collected off the birds is scarce and valuable. Maybe the exchange rate is one Karoo Lark = 100 Southern Red Bishops.


An after dinner hunt on Friday evening revealed three species of scorpion, including this one:

It is Parabuthus calvus, which has recently been given the English name Bald Thicktail Scorpion. This South Africa’s rarest thicktail. This species lives in association with Harvester Ants (we have no idea yet of what the association achieves for either species!). Most scorpions are covered with sensory hairs, this one has almost none, hence the name “bald”.

The other two species are common: Uroplectes carinatus and Parabuthus capensis. A total of six species have been recorded in this quarter degree grid cell: 3118DB.

On Monday, 4 December, the RAVE moves from Botuin near Vanrhynsdorp, on to Vondeling Wine Farm, on the eastern edge of the Paardeberg and north of Wellington.