Alien clearing brings back rare Agulhas birds
The Agulhas Plain bird list now stands at 235 bird species, according to the Agulhas Plains Birding report for 2015. And the list is growing, thanks to the invasive alien clearing work taking place in the region.
The Agulhas Plains Birding Project has been running since 2010. Through this project, birding experts have visited the area to record all the birds found here, while also making use of local birding expert reports.
The report found that the invasive alien clearing work taking place on the Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area, through the ABI Alien Clearing Project, as well as on the Agulhas National Park, is bringing back bird species that haven’t been seen here frequently for years. The ABI Alien Clearing Project is clearing nearly 30,000 hectares per year in the Agulhas region.
Record numbers of African Marsh Harriers were seen during 2015 - in particular immature and juvenile birds. Marsh Harriers hunt by flying low over the landscape. However, invasive alien trees forming thick canopies of three metres or higher made this impossible. With the trees removed, it has made the habitat more suitable for these birds.
The first Southern Black Korhaan was also found in the year. This is only the third time a Korhaan has been recorded by the project over the past five years. The Korhaan used to occur commonly on the Plain. However, transformed land and invasive alien plants have affected the population here. The alien clearing activities have therefore also proven beneficial for these birds.
The Greater Honeyguide was also recorded during 2015 - only the second time it has been seen by project participants over the five years. However, experts say the Honeyguide could disappear from the region as it favours alien forests.
The report says, “Often real estate developers are allowed to develop land because ‘the land has already been irreparably damaged’ and overgrown with aliens. The alien clearing program in the AGNP (Agulhas National Park) and SMA is proof that any land can be rehabilitated.”