Lichen and Sand Fleas

A walk along the Onrus/Vermont Coastal path this morning in search of a Southern Tchagra was unsuccessful, in that we did not find the bird.  It was, nevertheless, a very enjoyable outing and I was fascinated by the beautiful lichen growing on the weathered quartzites.

Another sight that caught my eye was a pool full of dead Sand Fleas.  There must have been many thousands of them and I was left wondering why.

Epic Birding

I set out this morning hoping to do some bird-watching along the Swartrivier road. First stop was at the iron bridge, where I was lucky to see a pair of Cardinal Woodpeckers.  Then on to the gravel and a Black Crake revealed itself. All was going well, but then I spotted a marshal in the road and realised that I was about to drive onto a part of the Cape Epic course.

The cyclists were about to come through, so that was the end of my birding. No matter, a few minutes later the yellow jersey group came through and I was privileged to see the best mountain bikers in the world racing past me!  Unfortunately I did not have the right camera with me, but managed to get some shots, anyway.

After half an hour of watching the race, decided to return home, but stopped in at the Onrus lagoon, where I was extremely lucky and saw a Squacco Heron; a great addition to my Challenge list!  My morning’s birding netted me 58 species – not a lot, but some interesting and rarely seen birds amongst them.

From 9 to 4

When we started our walk in Fernkloof this morning we had nine participants.  Two dropped out quite soon and then, half way up Adder’s Ladder, we lost three more, so there were four of us left to complete what was a lovely walk .  It was pretty humid, but the day was mild and we completed our round trip by descending back to the Visitors’ Centre via Kanonkop.  A new app on my phone confirmed that we had walked exactly 8 kilometres.  It was slow but steady.  Regrettably the birds that I wanted to see did not reveal themselves, so I will just have to keep trying!

Tritoniopsis lata was the flower of the day, with many throughout the area covered. Sadly, the drought is taking its toll and a number of plants looked severely stressed.  Thanks Sandy, for naming the Empodium and Indigofera!

Birding at McGregor

We spent two nights in a delightfully restored cottage in the hamlet of McGregor this week.  The reason for our visit was that I wanted to see some of the Karoo birds that occur in the area, so as to be able to augment my list for the Hermanus Bird Club Challenge – a sort of competition in which participants are required to see as many bird species as possible in a fixed time and area.  We were not disappointed, achieving a trip count of 83 species, of which 12 were new to my challenge list.  These included such Karoo specials as the beautiful Fairy Flycatcher, Karoo Chat, Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Rufous-Eared Warbler and Grey Tit.

Fernkloof in March

Our walk in Fernkloof on Wednesday was poorly attended – a pity, because, as my birthday was on Monday, I had brought cake for everyone – but only six people walked.  No matter, that meant more for me!!

We were lucky to see a March flowering orchid, Disa ferruginea, on the southern slopes of Lemoenkop, as well as many beautiful Erica tenella, Bulbine favosa and Tritoniopsis triticea.

Leopard Kloof

Eleven Hurriers set out this morning to Harold Porter Reserve to walk the Leopard Kloof trail.  It is a rugged walk through a beautiful stretch of Afromontane Forest and walkers need to negotiate a number of ladders in order to reach the final pool.  We had great time, but it was somewhat marred when Renee banged her head on an overhanging tree and fell backwards down some steps, hitting her head on the way down!  First aid was quickly administered, and she made her way safely down, but it was a stark reminder of how one needs to be vigilant at all times when walking in the mountains, as it could have been a lot worse!

Agulhas Plains Birding

We spent three nights in the Agulhas National Park close to the southern tip of Africa. This afforded us the opportunity to explore the region thoroughly and, at the same time, do some good birding.

We were not disappointed in the results, picking up 118 bird species. Included in our list were a couple of rare vagrants; (two) European Rollers and (eight) Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters.

At De Mond Nature Reserve we were surprised by the paucity of birds around the lagoon. Normally there are hundreds of terns – we only saw one Caspian Tern and no others. It was the same with many of the other waders that normally frequent the area, however, we did see three Black Tailed Godwits and a single Bar Tailed Godwit, along with a Eurasian Curlew.

Driving around the National Park is not easy as the only roads are from the main road in to the various accommodation units, which are widespread.  Poor road maintenance means a bumpy ride and the authorities should carry it some urgent repair work. The fynbos along some of these roads is, however, good and we saw a variety of wild flowers and many small antelope on the adjoining farms.

All in all it was an excellent break and served to remind us of the wonderful nature available in this unsung part of South Africa.