We (there were only nine members present) started our birding trip with a visit to Rooi Els in the hope of seeing the local specials, and boy, we were not disappointed! We immediately saw Cape Rock Thrush and then a great sighting of Sentinal Rock Thrush. Of course, there were the usual Orange-breasted Sunbirds and Cape Buntings, and then we suddenly saw a Cape Rockjumper in the distance. Further searching revealed a few more and they were quite engaging and did not mind coming closer. A juvenile even came out onto the track near to us and approached to within a metre or two!
We thought we had seen everything, but then came the Ground Woodpeckers and we saw around three of them hopping about in the middle distance. It was a wonderful start to our day, and we set out for the Harold Porter Gardens feeling quite buoyed up.
At Harold Porter we had our tea in the car park and then started our walk. Things only got interesting as we entered the section up towards the waterfall. Here we saw an African Black Duck, and then Dusky Flycatchers and Cape Batis. Then, lo and behold, a Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher came and displayed in the branches above us! What a great sighting!! On the way out we had good interaction with a flock of Swee Waxbills, rounding off a wonderful morning, during which we recorded only 30 species, but the specials made it very worthwhile. It was one of the best outings I have ever been on with the HBC and those who stayed in bed really missed something!!
This morning six of us set out from the Visitors’ Centre for a walk around the Jeep Track. First off came the climb up Adder’s Ladder – all in the cool early morning shade – so we were glad to come out into some sunshine at the top. Next came the trek along the Jeep Track towards the Vogelgat fence, with a stop along the way for tea and to search for winter orchids (we were not successful).
This section was fruitful from a birding perspective as we put up a Hottentot Buttonquail – a very exciting bird to see! Later we heard the unique call of the Victorin’s Warbler and there they were – about four of them close to the path and in full voice. We saw them a couple of time quite clearly as they flitted through to fynbos undergrowth.
On Thursday 3 June, there will be an outing to Rooi Els, to look for Cape Rockjumper and Ground Woodpecker, followed by a visit to Harold Porter, where many local and forest birds may be seen. Please meet at the Onrus Trading post at 8:00 am to consolidate transport and do bring along a snack for tea at H P, once we have completed our birding.
While most Bird Club members were doing the doggy-paddle around a watery Hermanus during the first week of May, Margie and I were walking through the very dry Karoo bossies in the Karoo National Park.
The Park is not in the happiest of spaces at the moment: Many of the thorn trees are dead, and the plateau at the top of Klipspringer Pass is suffering from a lot of erosion. The dam at the bird hide in the camp is overgrown by reeds and there is no birding to be done there. Birds were a bit scarce (as I guess was to be expected), and apart from the Bokmakierie calling non-stop, there were not too many bird calls to practice our skills on.
BUT: We loved being there, and had a splendid time. Mornings and nights are becoming nice and crisp, and we had some magnificent clouds soaring by − without stopping, alas. We also spent a morning in the Molteno Pass searching for the Cinnamon-breasted Warbler who did not put in an appearance, but sent us some magnificent Verreaux’s Eagles instead.
All in all, we logged 63 species, but it was hard work. We did have good sightings of the Karoo Lark, Karoo Long-billed Lark, Rufous-eared Warbler, Long-billed Crombec, and Karoo Korhaan. Also some four-legged creatures.
Our dedication to finding the African Rock Pipit along Klipspringer Pass on the rocky side of the road was such that we did not notice two lionesses lying on the left, right next to the road. When we stopped about 50 metres further to have our morning coffee, a passing car stopped and the couple asked us, very excitedly, if we had enjoyed watching the lions behind us. We admitted that we had not seen them at all, were not that interested in lion, and were actually looking for a little brown bird. The next morning at breakfast in the dining room they gave our table a wide berth. (Disclosure: We did turn back for a peek at the lions!)
From the KNP we went through Meiringspoort, Oudshoorn, and along the foot of the Swartberg to Kruisrivier where Roger Young exhibits his photographs. We then turned right and entered the Groenfontein Valley where a lovely road winds deeper into the Swartberg and ends at the Groenfontein Retreat, our stay for the next 2 nights. This retreat has beautiful views of the mountains and some excellent walks with good birding. We recorded 42 species, including a Sentinel Rock-Thrush, during our walks. The food there is very good, so the whole stay was a wonderful, and well-deserved, treat.
On the way back through the valley to Calitzdorp, we popped in at Peter Bayly’s small farm where he and his wife produce luscious Port, made the Portuguese way. Then it was full-steam homewards. Swellendam and Riviersonderend showed us how heavy the rains had been in our absence, so we returned home via Caledon and Shaw’s Pass.
A wonderful trip, to be repeated when the Karoo has had better rains.
p.s. It appears that we may soon be able to trundle between the Red Stone Hills on camels: A group of Arab businessmen have apparently bought up a couple thousand hectares of land in that area…
Our May outing will be to Jessie Walton’s farm near Grabouw. We will meet at the Onrus Trading Post (OTP) at 8:00 am and proceed from there. Sightings can commence once we are in the Elgin Valley. Please remember to bring a mask and snacks. John will be our leader.
Three possible teams apologised for not being able to take part. That left Margie and Barbara as one team, and Renee and I made up the other. And that was it!!
It was a really enjoyable experience for those of us who participated. Renee and I identified 90 species, whilst Margie and Barbara got 77, but the important thing was that we were doing something that was stimulating and awakened our somewhat dormant birding interests. The vast majority of our members missed out on what they should have been at in their element doing. One wonders whether the club should worry about more such events, but I am not that easily discouraged.
Adele, of Alpha Sierra Adventures, is starting a kayak based operation on the river at Stanford and can take up to six pax on river cruises at a cost of R350 per person for 2-3 hours. This will certainly offer a new and interesting way to view our feathered friends.
On Tuesday 13 or Wednesday 14 April, there will be an eight hour birding Challenge for club members. You can choose your day. Singly, or in teams of up to four people, you are required to identify as many species as possible in an eight hour period of your choice, and in an area of your choice, provided it starts and ends in Hermanus. Honesty is required. Please submit your lists to me at the end of the day at firstname.lastname@example.org
There will be no prizes, except that the winners will be announced and they will have bragging rights for the forseeable future.
Good luck and I hope we get more than a few entrants.