Helen and I have just returned from a two week caravaning and birding trip to the West Coast and think it might be a good idea to give members an update on conditions there.
Our first camp was in Yserfontein which was ideally suited for visits to the West Coast National Park. We spent two days in the park and quite a few hours in the hides.
Our timing for the Geelbek Hide was perfect. We arrived just after high tide. There were large numbers of waders to our left and as the waters receded they began to move in mass across the front of the hide and then, gradually, as more of the mudflats were exposed, they moved further out.
We have never seen so many there before. They ranged in size from Curlews and Whimbrels, Green Shanks, Black-winged Stilts, Common Sandpipers , various Plovers, etc. By far the greatest number were Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints.
Flamingos of course by the thousand – both Greater and Lesser.
In the park we had great views of a Black Harrier. We drove to the Churchhaven side of the Lagoon and then down to Tzaarsbank (?) and saw a flock of Turnstones with the Oystercatchers
Our next camp was Dwarskersbos – 12 km north of Laaiplek at the mouth of the Berg River. We have always enjoyed staying here because of the proximity to the lower part of the Berg River and day drives further in the area and northwards.
On this occasion however by 11 o’clock each day we were confronted with high winds and extreme temperatures – 38 to 40 degrees centigrade. The countryside here and northwards was extremely dry. There were very few waders on the river or on the salt pans..
On the river we did see many Flamingos, Pelicans, Swift Terns and thousands of Cape cormorants and Gannets offshore. Plus some Great Crested Grebes and Malachite Kingfishers.
Sadly, the Hide at Veldrift is in a bad state. Part of the roof is missing. There was rubbish and worse in it as well. We could not understand how they could neglect a facility like that.
We decided to visit Rocher Pan. This was also a disappointment as it was totally dry. So we went further north to Verlorenvlei which as we know from the past covers a considerable area of wetlands.There was not a drop of water in it – and no birds at all.
We then went on to Baboon Point, where there were many Cormorants as well as Common and Swift Terns.
On the way we did see some Chestnut-Vented Tit-babblers and Pale Chanting Goshawks.
We then decided to head for Greener Pastures. So next up was Silver Strand on the Breede River at Robertson. Some Birders that we had previously met had advised us to go birding near the Aerodrome and along some of the farm roads.We spent three days there. The area was beautiful and green with vineyards and fruit orchards.The last of the seasons grapes were being harvested.
We saw a Secretary Bird, Large-billed and Karoo Larks plus more PC Goshawks.
A walk on the Vrolijkheid Reserve near McGregor yielded, amongst others, some nice views of Fairy Flycatchers and, rather surprisingly, on the dam, a small flock of Little Stints.
It was then time to come home.
Our total bird count was a modest 96 species, influenced, no doubt, by the hot, dry and windy conditions.
Nevertheless it was an enjoyable couple of weeks away.
Mike Mac Naught