Birding in Cape Town: Die Oog, Bergvliet

I’ve been a bit slow in catching up with all of these African Openbill records so I decided to remedy this by visiting Die Oog in Bergvliet, Cape Town on Saturday evening. Die Oog is a small wetland reserve in suburban Bergvliet, not far from the M3 highway.

Site map reduced

The reserve has, and I say this with respect, a definite “English duck pond” feel to it, which didn’t get me that excited at first, but this impression was soon forgotten when I started notching up a good variety of species [bird list included at bottom of post].

MG 0288MG 0316

Yellow-billed Duck, Common Moorhen, Egyptian Goose, Little Grebe and Red-knobbed Coot (breeding) were, as to be expected from any duck pond worth its salt, in attendance. I’m teasing. In fact, Die Oog, produced two new species for my greater-southern suburbs list on Saturday. The first, and more obvious, was African Openbill. At exactly 7:20 a single bird flew in from the north and settled on the island. Apparently at least 5 birds have been roosting here, but the other 4 only arrive just before dark.

MG 0445

What was perhaps more interesting for me was the Acacia Pied Barbet that seemed very at home in the reserve. It first caught my attention when it called from the Pine trees at the entrance gate, but then it spent the next hour foraging on the island and trees on the western side of the pond.

MG 0366

Acacia Pied Barbet is now a rather rare (perhaps uncommon?) bird on the Cape Peninsula, bar the odd record. The Atlas of the Birds of the South Western Cape (Hockey et al, 1989) shows a recording frequency of 60% for the Cape Peninsula. Interestingly it also says:

“Prior to the 1930’s, was almost unknown in the SW Cape, except for the extreme northeast. Now widespread and well established. Its dramatic range expansion is well correlated with the establishment of alien trees in the region, suggesting that its earlier arrival was precluded by a lack of best sites.”

There were some posts on Cape Bird Net in December last year on this very subject. I’ve summarised some of the more interesting notes below:

[post from Les Underhill]: the area from which acacia pied barbets have not (yet!) been recorded for sabap2 is the cape peninsula and most of the cape flats — the reporting rate for the two quarter degree grid cells that constitute the cape peninsula was greater than 42.8% — so the acacia pied barbet, on the cape peninsula, represents a species that has both arrived, built up in numbers and then has apparently disappeared without us having documented the processes terribly well.

[post from John Graham]: As a child in Fish Hoek in the late 70’s I had Pied Barbet regularly on the large dead tree (Aussie type Acacia, ironically) in our garden, and I certainly thought of it as a perfectly usual bird to find during my explorations of the Fish Hoek and Noordhoek valley. I probably became aware of their apparent disappearance from the south Peninsula in the early to mid 90’s, and I don’t think I’ve seen or heard one within reach of the Peninsula for a decade or more.

There were some other incidental records of APB in Glencairn and Scarborough last year. I wonder if these are just once-off records or if we’re going to see a comeback?

Bird list from Die Oog: Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, Egyptian Goose, White-throated Swallow, Cape Weaver, Fiscal Shrike, Acacia Pied Barbet, Barn Swallow, Little Swift, Greater Striped Swallow, Cattle Egret, Sacred Ibis, White-backed Mousebird, Cape White-eye, Cape Canary, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Cape Bulbul, Helmeted Guineafowl, African Openbill, Hadeda Ibis, Laughing Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Long-tailed Cormorant.

10 comments to Birding in Cape Town: Die Oog, Bergvliet

  • Hi Dave,

    Here’s some commentary on Acacia Pied Barbets partly from Cape BirdNet — including a breeding record from Pinelands. The barbet was back in the garden again today.


    On 25 Feb 2010, at 9:19 AM, Jessie Blackshaw wrote:

    Hi Callan,

    I can’t quite remember when I last saw the barbet in Pinelands when we lived there but it was possibly a year or so before we left. I love their call. I remember when I was visiting my friend in Greenway when I heard the call and was surprised to see it at the nest in front of me. Somehow it always sounds far away but was right there.

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Birding Africa (Callan Cohen)
    To: Jessie Blackshaw
    Cc: David Winter ; Les Underhill ; Adam Welz
    Sent: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 10:36 PM
    Subject: Re: [capebirdnet] Acacia Pied Barbet in Bergvliet

    Hi Jessie,

    Thanks for the info — that’s very interesting to know. They certainly aren’t around any longer. Had they already disappeared by the time you had left?


    PS I have copied a few people who might be interested

    On 24 Feb 2010, at 8:24 PM, Jessie Blackshaw wrote:

    Hi Callan,

    We moved from Pinelands to Constantia nearly 5 years ago. During the 30 years in Pinelands we had pied barbets in our garden regularly. They were particularly fond of the berries in the coprosma tree. A friend in Greenway had a pied barbets nest in her garden for many years and each year had another brood so it will be great if they return once more.


    Jessie Blackshaw

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Birding Africa (Callan Cohen)
    To: Cape Bird Net
    Sent: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 6:36 PM
    Subject: Re: [capebirdnet] Acacia Pied Barbet in Bergvliet

    Hi Dave and Ken,

    I’ve just had an Acacia Pied Barbet in the garden in Pinelands for the first time (a few hours ago). I’m guessing that this is a wandering bird, presumably in search of fruiting trees in the suburbs. Perhaps the Bergvliet bird is also a wander, and these records might reflect some late summer post-breeding dispersal rather than a new colonisation, and it would be interesting to monitor if these birds set up territories in these areas.

    Callan Cohen Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology,
    Mobile: +27 83 256 0491 University of Cape Town,
    Tel: +27 21 531 9148 South Africa.
    Skype: callancohen

    February 2010: Birdwatch magazine voted Birding Africa as one of the top 5 bird tour companies in the world, based on client recommendations (See for more survey details.)

    On 22 Feb 2010, at 8:55 AM, Ken Wynne-Dyke wrote:

    Hi David and others

    Fantastic news. Now is the time to put up a few sisal nesting logs in the area near Die Oog so as to create a population of Barbets in the Southern Suburbs. Possibly even put one up at Die Oog. I did this in the Northern Suburbs in the 90s and in a couple of years they had spread over a wide area. I am keeping a sisal log in my garage in Somerset West, ready for the time when I hear one calling here. I hope the experts don’t disagree with this, saying it is population manipulation.

    Ken Wynne-Dyke
    Helderberg Village, Somerset West
    —– Original Message —–
    From: David Winter
    To: capebirdnet
    Sent: Sunday, February 21, 2010 10:14 PM
    Subject: [capebirdnet] Acacia Pied Barbet in Bergvliet


    I popped into Die Oog on Saturday to catch up with African Openbill and was surprised to see an Acacia Pied Barbet. I first heard it calling from the Pine Trees at the entrance gate, but it then spent the next hour or so foraging on the island and in the trees flanking the western side of the pond.

    I’ve placed some photos and additional notes on for those interested.


  • David

    Acacia Pied Barbet at Die Oog note from Wolfgang Rohloff:

    Hi Netters

    Yesterday I went to Die Oog for an afternoon of birding. Saw the usual Pond birds all with their offspring. Even the Little Grebes had 3 little Grebelings swimming around on the adults back and sometimes they even went to hide under the Adults wings. Was a bit worried for them when a Raptor made its appearance and went to sit in the dead Pine tree. Luckil;y it left the young alone and went off in search of a meal elswhere.

    Later on the Acacia Pied Barbet made its appearance but this time there were two of them chasing each other around the pine trees on the property. They darted from tree to tree in typical APBarbet fasion nearly skirting the ground at times.

    Otherwise no notable new species on this trip.

    Wolfgang Rohloff

  • David

    This past weekend we went to have a picnic at Die Oog in Bergvliet. When I arrived there yesterday at about noon I was greeted by a graceful aerial display by the Black Sparrowhawk which I have seen there previously. He glided gracefully twice over the dam and then glided off in a SouthEastrly direction. Of the waterbirds only the RedKnobbed Coot had any juveniles. What I did notice is that there were very few waterbirdss ie Egyptian Geese 6 Coot 4 Dabchick 2 and Yellobilled Duck1. The juvenile

    Geese we saw about a month were absent as well as the Little Grebe. The most abundant birds around were the Weavers, Cape and Masked species who are at the moment heavily into building nests and breeding. Also seen was a Fiscal Shrike. What I found most disturbing was the sight of a domestic cat chasing and stalking the weavers but was amazed at the sight of the helmeted guineafowl ganging up in force(12) on the cat and chasing it off the premises. They seemed to show no fear as they approached the cat.

    Hope you all had a productive birding weekend.

    Wolfgang Rohloff
    DiepRiver CT.

  • David Winter

    Dear All: relatives who have lived in Gemsbok Avenue in Scarborough for many years saw an Acacia Pied Barbet in their garden yesterday. It was in full view at close range. They are competent re identification of a range of garden and bush birds. The birds in their garden are tame because they feed them and do not have cats. This is the second time they have seen a Pied Barbet in Scarborough – the first was a few years ago.

    John Fincham

  • Errol Westoll

    Hello all. We have several acacia pied barbets regularly visiting our garden in Strand. I tried to find a nesting log, but they appear not to be available in Helderberg!

  • Errol Westoll

    Anyone know where I can get a nesting log in Helderberg (Strand)?

  • Barry

    Hi All, with no previous serious interest in birds we are currently enthralled by a nesting pair of Acacia Pied Barbets in an old tree stump in our garden. This is simply for the record. We didnt know what they were at first and after watching them take turns to “drill” into the tree stump we thought they were woodpeckers of some kind – have now found this site and identified what they are.

  • Fantastic Barry – where do you live, on the Cape Peninsula or further afield?

  • Barry

    Hi David – we are on the Peninsula – Northern Suburbs

  • Kim Marais

    I have an Acacia Pied Barbet in my garden which I noticed for the first time this week. We live in Durbanville (Northern Suburbs) too :)

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