The National Museum is happy to report that Cape Vultures are now breeding at the Assvoëlberg colony in the Zastron area.
This is according to Museum ornithologist, Dawie de Swardt. Dawie recently conducted a monitoring visit to the area as part of his regular field work schedule. The annual ornithological fieldwork schedule covers various areas in and around the Free State. Dawie obtains specimen material for the Museum’s skin and skeletal collection. The most recent observations were recorded during the fieldwork trip to the Zastron area which took place from 24 – 28 February 2020. Another outcome from the field trip is that valuable bird distribution data for the South African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) is collected and submitted.
The presence of Cape Vultures at the Assvoëlberg colony is an exciting aspect for the region. The last breeding records for the Cape Vulture at this locality was about 20 years ago. Since 2014, the Cape Vulture numbers have increased and Dawie observed and counted up to 200 plus birds since the last observations. At the end of the field trip, Dawie left the farm where he was staying and was stopped at the roadside to further observe the colony. He was excited to record more than 60 vultures leaving the colony. These recordings are an excellent sign that the Cape Vultures in the Zastron area of the Free State, Lesotho and Eastern Cape are now a stable population. Other Cape Vulture localities in the Free State are mainly at ThabaNchu Mountain (east of Bloemfontein) and in the eastern Free State (Golden Gate / Harrismith areas).
In addition, Dawie also recorded interesting observations of species which have distribution ranges from the Eastern Cape extends up northwards to the Rouxville / Zastron areas of the Free State. One species, the Brimstone Canary, was already previously recorded in the Zastron area and more additional distribution records of this species were obtained. Two species, the cape and Red-collared Widow, which was previously only recorded in the north eastern Free State seemed also to extended their distribution ranges to the Zastron areas where there are resident populations in the adjacent Lesotho and Eastern Cape areas. These birds prefer the marshy grassland areas with the well wooded hillside bushes on the mountain hills.