Grootvadersbosch Away Trip

It started out as an outing for 20 members, but Cape Nature had a drainage problem and the numbers had to be reduced to 12.  The Palmers kindly agreed to camp, so in the end 14 of us set out on Monday.  Numbers continued to diminish for various reasons and by the time Wednesday evening came along, we were down to only 10.

We were very pleasantly surprised by the excellent accommodation available and looked forward to our first forest walk.  This took place on Tuesday morning, when we hiked for three and a half hours in desperate search of Trogons, Flycatchers and Turacos. Sadly, it was not to be – our total count for the forest reserve was only around 30 species, but we were well rewarded with an excellent sighting of a Barn Owl as well as large flocks of African Olive Pigeons – up to 40 or 50 birds on one occasion!

That afternoon some of us went up into the foothills of the Langeberg behind Heidelberg where we managed to add to our trip list. Unfortunately, the roads were very dusty and this, combined with a setting sun in our eyes, made for difficult birding.

On Wednesday eight of us visited the Bontebok Park outside Swellendam and were rewarded with good sightings, including African Marsh and Black Harriers. By the time we returned to Grootvadersbosch that evening our bird count was at 85, which was certainly more than any of us expected!  I managed to add another 24 species on the journey back to Hermanus, including a magnificent Martial Eagle near Bredasdorp.

As usual, catering was of a very high standard and we had three wonderful dinners! Being a small group also enabled us to get to know each other well, thereby meeting one of the objectives of such outings.

Grootvadersbosch Outing

 

There has been a cancellation, so there is room for a single lady to join this outing which promises to be one of the highlights of the year!

The itinerary and dates are as follows:

GROOTVADERSBOSCH  ITINERARY

Monday 22nd May. Arrive at Grootvadersbosch at 14h00 (*see directions below) – a short time to get organised and let’s meet at 15h00 to explore the area around the chalets.

We will meet at the lapa, which is near the camping area, for a braai at 18:30.

This is the only area suitable for getting our group together.  You will need to take your cutlery, crockery and glasses from the cottage each evening as the lapa will only have seating and tables.

Tuesday 23rd May. Meet at the designated spot at the chalets at 08:00.  We will drive to the reception area from where we will explore another part of the forest. Suggest we take along a mid-morning snack and drink.

We’ll meet again at 18:30 at the lapa at for tonight’s braai.

Wednesday 24th May. This morning we will again consolidate transport at 08:00 and depart for a trip to Bontebok National Park.  We’ll go to the campsite from where we will do the river walk. Next we’ll drive the loop road and afterwards end up at Die Stroom for our snack/lunch in the picnic area. Those who rather want to go into Swellendam for lunch can do so.

Back at Grootvadersbosch we’ll meet at 15h00 for a drive along the lower slopes of the mountain above the forest, enjoying the birds in the fynbos habitat.

 We will have our last braai at the lapa, where we will have an audit of the sightings we have had.

Thursday 25th May. Sadly time to leave and we need to be out of the cottages by 10h00 – please be ready to go as they need to get the chalets sorted out and ready for the next guests.  Of course once you are out of the cottage you can do some last minute exploring before heading home.

Here are the directions to Grootvadersbosch and some information you might find interesting.

Take the N2 from Cape Town towards George. Just past Swellendam and Buffeljags River, take the left-hand turn-off for Suurbraak/Barrydale. Continue through the town of Suurbraak and past the turn-off for Barrydale via Tradouw Pass. The tar road becomes a dirt road. Continue till a T-junction, turn left and keep left at the next fork in the road. The reserve is well signposted. The road ends at the entrance gates.

GPS: 33 59 08.4 S 20 49 24.7 E      Office hours: 07:30–16:00   Tel: +27 (0)28 492 0001

Grootvadersbosch comprises 250 hectares of indigenous forest in the Langeberg region, close to Heidelberg.  It is an excellent birding destination with more than 196 bird species recorded.  Specials are Black, Crowned and Booted Eagles, the rare Striped Flufftail, the Narina Trogon, Layard’s Titbabbler and Red-necked Spurfowl.

Sighting the forest emperor butterfly and a subspecies of the rare ghost frog would be the highlight of a visit here, as they can only be found in this particular forest.

The cost is R590.00 which is very reasonable.

If you want to participate please contact Craig at pcsholmes@telkomsa.net or on 0283132458

Strandfontein Outing

 

A visit to Strandfontein offers members the chance to see some rare birds, as a number of them have recently been recorded at this famous locality.  Those wishing to attend should meet at the Onrus Trading Post at 7 am next Thursday (the 6th April) to consolidate transport. Barbara will lead the outing and Challengers should use this opportunity to augment their lists.

Please ensure that you have sufficient food and drinks to see yourself through till around 2 pm, when we hope to be back in Hermanus.

Birding at Vrolijkheid Reserve

 

The club’s 2017 Challenge is not a competition, unless you are RH or MF!

Mike Ford, the forerunner at the end of February, left on Sunday for 3 months to man the Aras bird ringing station in Turkey for the 3rd time.  In a last minute effort to get as many species as possible for his challenge list, Graham and I were invited to join him and Valerie on an overnight trip to Vrolijkheid Reserve near McGregor. The aim was to get as many Karoo habitat species as possible.

We knew we were in the Karoo when we saw our first Pale Chanting Goshawk.  We stopped along the road, picking up good species like Cape Long-billed Lark and Karoo Chat and arrived at the reserve just before 10:00.  The day was warming up and we immediately set off to the hides, being greeted by an Acacia Pied Barbet. Along the way we picked up Dusky Sunbird, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler and White-backed Mousebird.  The waterhole at the first hide was pretty empty but there were a couple of waders about, including Black-winged Stilts and Little Stints.  This was also where we saw our first Fairy Flycatcher, one of my favourite little birds.

The day was getting unbearably hot so we checked into our chalet, Jakkalskuil, and tried to keep cool. This proved just about impossible and the ceiling-fans did little to help. A cold shower was the answer.  Eventually we could bear it no more and opted to go for a drive so that we could use the car’s air-conditioner.  The next day we heard that the temperature was 42°!  A huge fire in the Langeberg did not help.

At the Robertson water purification plant we saw a number of ducks, including a pair of South African Shelduck, Cape and Red-billed Teals and Lesser Swamp-Warbler. Next on our list was a spot under a bridge where we had previously seen Barn Owls. We made a hasty retreat as we encountered first a group of guys loitering and then a group seeking respite from the heat, including a stark naked man!

Back at Vrolijkheid we drove to the dam at the left of the main entrance but there wasn’t much of interest, except a pair of Water Thick-knees.  Home for a rest and a braai.

Thursday morning was very overcast with bad light but we were up at dawn and went for a long walk, first to the dam on the left, then to the first hide by which time it started to warm up. Karoo Scrub-Robins were everywhere.  Highlights of the morning were Pearl-breasted Swallow, Rufous-Eared Warbler, a Layard’s Tit-Babbler identified on call and a Klaas’ Cuckoo. While looking at the Cuckoo, a Spotted Eagle-Owl flew by!

Mike added 12 species to his challenge list and Graham and I double that to ours.

The dip of the trip was a Namaqua Dove and I have a feeling Mike boarded the plane on Sunday still moaning “I want a Namaqua Dove”!   Mike, I hope you see many beautiful Lifers at Aras to make up for the dip.

In conclusion I would like to have a word with the newer, less experienced birding members of our club. The only way you will learn about birds and birding spots around you is to go out there and find them!  Join the club’s First Thursday outings. Enter the challenge for your own enjoyment. Enter Mini Birding Big Day, go out and have fun with a friend or two and train yourself in identifying the species.  No, you probably won’t win, but you would have learnt an awful lot.  Truth: when I went on my first ever MBBD, I was lucky to be in Mike’s team, but when he called a ‘crow’ a White-Necked Raven I thought he was bonkers.  I’ve learnt a lot since then.  See you on the 2nd at the MBBD braai!!

Barbara Palmer

AN OUTING FOR YOU IN MAY

 

Monday 22nd May. Arrive at Grootvadersbosch at 14h00 (*see directions below) – a short time to get organised and let’s meet at 15h00 to explore the area around the chalets. We will meet at the lapa, which is near the camping area, for a braai at 18:30. This is the only area suitable for getting our group together.  You will need to take your cutlery, crockery and glasses from the cottage each evening as the lapa will only have seating and tables. We will announce the meeting place for tomorrow morning’s excursion tonight.

Tuesday 23rd May. At 08:00 we drive to the reception area from where we will explore another part of the forest. Suggest we take along a mid-morning snack and drink. We’ll meet again at 18:30 at the lapa at for tonight’s braai.

Wednesday 24th May. This morning we will consolidate transport at 08h00 and depart for a trip to Bontebok National Park.  We’ll go to the campsite from where we will do the river walk. Next we’ll drive the loop road and afterwards end up at Die Stroom for our snack/lunch in the picnic area. Those who rather want to go into Swellendam for lunch can do so. Back at Grootvadersbosch we’ll meet at 15h00 for a drive along the lower slopes of the mountain above the forest, enjoying the birds in the fynbos habitat. We will have our last braai at the lapa, but before we do that, we will have an audit of the sightings we have had.

25th  Sadly time to leave and we need to be out of the cottages by 10h00 – please be ready to go as they need to get the chalets sorted out and ready for the next guests. Of course once you are out of the cottage you can do some last minute exploring before heading home.

As usual the group will be in catering teams and they will create the starter, vegetable, salads and potatoes for one of the three evenings.  These teams will be allocated once we know the names of all on the trip. Breakfast and lunches will be enjoyed in your cottage.

The cost per person is R590.00 sharing a two bedroom cottage with a bathroom (shower only) and lounge/dining area. The kitchen is equipped with Eskom power points for all appliances including fridge/freezer, microwave and toaster, as well as an electric oven and gas hob with four burners. The reports that I have had are that the accommodation is lovely.

Payments must be by EFT please – if not, cheques should have R40.00 added and if cash the cost is an additional R60.00 – bank charges are huge and we make very little on these tours. Please note that if you cancel for any reason we will charge a handling fee of 10% IF we can find a replacement – if we can’t find a replacement then sadly we cannot refund at all.

Here are the directions to Grootvadersbosch and some information you might find interesting. Take the N2 from Cape Town towards George. Just past Swellendam and Buffelsjag River, take the left-hand turn-off for Suurbraak/Barrydale. Turn left and continue through the town of Suurbraak and past the turn-off for Barrydale via Tradouwpass. The tar road becomes a dirt road. Continue till a T-junction, turn left and keep left at the next fork in the road. The reserve is well signposted. The road ends at the entrance gates. GPS: 33 59 08.4 S 20 49 24.7 E      Office hours: 07:30–16:00   Tel: +27 (0)28 492 0001

Grootvadersbosch comprises 250 hectares of indigenous forest in the Langeberg region, close to Heidelberg.  It is an excellent birding destination with more than 196 bird species recorded.  Specials are Black, Crowned and Booted Eagles, the rare Striped Flufftail, the Narina Trogon, Layard’s Titbabbler and Red-necked Spurfowl. Sighting the forest emperor butterfly and a subspecies of the rare ghost frog would be the highlight of a visit here, as they can only be found in this particular forest.

If you want to join this outing please mail me at pcsholmes@telkomsa.net – as usual first come first served – payment will be required upon confirmation please as we need to make payment to Cape Nature by the month end.     Please include your date of birth and Wild card number when replying.

Craig

Four Black Storks and a Martial Eagle

 

By Margie Ogston

The HBC trip to Botterkloof during April was most enjoyable, with the group of 19 members compiling a list of 126 species. Barbara Palmer organised and led the outing and was ably assisted by various senior birders.

IMG_1650

Birding near Stilbaai. Image by Ronnie Hazell.

Having met mid-morning we enjoyed a walk through the riverine area to the lagoon, adding various species to our lists, including hearing the Knysna Warbler.

The trip to the Sewage Works of Stilbaai is always productive and we enjoyed seeing the juvenile Great Crested Grebes and many Water Thick-knees. We watched in amazement as a Pied Kingfisher silenced her ‘catch of the day’ with a determined slapping action.

Tuesday promised to be the highlight of the trip, and Voëlvlei lived up to its reputation. We left in five cars at 08:00, and through thick mist slowly made our way through the fynbos and agricultural fields.

Our major sightings of the morning, en route to the vlei, were a Jacobin Cuckoo, a Southern Tchagra and many African Hoopoe at one venue.

Botterkloof 2016 134

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons at Botterkloof. Image by Margie Ogston.

With the mist finally lifting, we reached Voëlvlei, where we finally had the pleasure of viewing hundreds of birds and waders in one section of the vlei. There was an abundance of Grey Herons, South African Shelducks, Black-winged Stilts, Black-headed Heron, Yellow-billed Duck, Blacksmith Lapwings and Lesser and Greater Flamingoes.

Glossy Ibises were also spotted, but our special sighting was of four Black Storks on the vlei and a Martial Eagle gliding overhead.

On our final day we were treated to the special sight of two juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons at Botterkloof.

Our evenings were, as always, well organised, with good food and with Graham providing fires for braaiing. Barbara encouraged members to share their time with different members each evening, which was a huge success.

Room for two more in Botterkloof

 

By Barbara Palmer

Two places have become available for the Club’s outing to Botterkloof near Stilbaai, due to a cancellation.

Botterkloof

Botterkloof. Image from website.

The dates are 18-20 April, and 21 members will be accommodated in three houses with shared bathrooms (about four people per bathroom). The cost is R315.00 per person for the two nights.

The price will indicate that the accommodation is comfortable rather than luxurious. Linen and bedding will be provided, but you do have to take your own towels. We will have our communal braai, with shared catering, as usual – this time in the Pool Room.

This will be the club’s fourth visit to Botterkloof, where we’ve always been made to feel very welcome and the staff has been very accommodating.

Our programme usually includes a walk around the farm, a drive to Stilbaai and environs, a trip to Voëlvlei near Mossel Bay and a bit of Karoo birding. During our last visit to the area we identified 119 species.

If you would like to participate in this outing, please contact me at barbarapalmer@telkomsa.net or on 083 659 3303.

Catching a dream cruise to Dyer Island

 

By Machteld Horsten

A group of 17 Club members met at the Great White House in Kleinbaai to get ready for the boat trip to Dyer Island. After coffee and muffins we set off on the Dream Catcher.

Dyer Island cruise

Club members and others, fitted with life jackets and ready to board. Image Machteld Horsten

The cruise had been scheduled for Thursday morning, 10 March, but low tide was so low that it had to be postponed to the afternoon.

The weather was great, the sea calm, the red tide very visible.

We had some fantastic marine sightings – a Great White Shark (Witdood-haai), called Rosie, engaging with the shark cage divers.

We were also lucky to see a number of Indian Humpback Dolphins (Bultrug-dolfyne) swimming around the boat.

In Shark Alley we saw hundreds of Cape Fur Seals (Kaapse Pelsrobbe), some sunning themselves on the rocks, others frolicking in the water to cool down.

There was also a  large female Elephant Seal (See-olifant), dozing on the rocks.

Nellie, reuse- (Petrel, southern giant) 160310 Dyer-eiland Walkerbaai 672A4194

The Southern Giant Petrel (Reuse-nellie). Image Charles Naudé

On the way back we encountered a large school of Common Dolphins (Gewone Dolfyne), some swimming with their little ones.

We saw the normal marine birds along the way such as the Kelp Gull (Kelpmeeu), Hartlaub’s Gull (Hartlaub-meeu), Swift Terns (Geelbek-sterretjies), Cape, White-breasted and Bank Cormorants (Trek-, Witbors- en Bank-duikers) and African Penguins (Brilpikkewyne).

Dolfyn, gewone (Dolphin, common long-beaked) 160310 Dyer-eiland Walkerbaai 672A4420

Common Dolphins (Gewone Dolfyne). Image Charles Naudé.

The highlight was a beautiful sighting of a Southern Giant Petrel (Reuse-nellie), which I’m sure was a lifer for many of us. It was very close to the boat, but apparently too well-fed and heavy to give us a show of running on the water for take-off.

Back at the Great White House we were treated to soup and sandwiches.

The tour leader was Mike Ford.