Family Reunion at Hilton Farmhouse

We celebrated Michael and Andrew’s fiftieth birthday party at the exceptional Hilton Farmhouse, some 20 km east of Stilbaai. The whole Clan was present and we had three nights away. It is a wonderful venue for a large family gathering and we were very impressed with all the facilities, however, the weather could have been a bit better – as is usually the case, the best day was the last, when we had to depart.

Everyone together on our last morning

The young boys spent their time fishing and having fun on the rocks. Sadly, the bad weather did not make for good fishing and nothing of interest was caught, but they all had a great deal of fun and we had a feast of black mussels! The table tennis and snooker tables were put to good use, whilst the lawns served their purpose for games of Petanque. Many hilarious times were had around the dining table and the food was very good and plentiful, as were the cocktails and other liquid refreshments! The indoor and outdoor braais were certainly well used and the pizza oven was a real hit, producing some wonderful tasty creations by all and sundry! This family really knows how to party!!

The sunset on our last evening was really special and we all sat outside in wonderment as the sky lit up and then faded. It was a fitting end to a really amazing reunion of a family that knows no greater pleasure than to be together!

Morning Life on the Golf Course

Our early morning walk around the Hermanus Golf Course is filled with the sounds and sights of many birds and occasional animals. We often see more than 50 of the 80-odd Springbok that live on the course. They breed fast and in Spring there are always many new-born calves. We also enjoy the frequent, haunting calls of the Burchell’s Coucal in the wetlands. Egyptian Geese, Helmeted Guineafowl and Cape Spurfowl are raising their chicks and we see them on the fairways.

Sunday Morning on Mosselberg

This morning we walked up the Voelklip Zigzag path to Mosselberg and then along the Jeep Track to the boundary with Vogelgat, with the intention of seeing what was growing in the recent burn. We left early, starting our climb at 6:20 am in order to beat the heat of the day. It was great to be up on the plateau and we managed to identify a few good birds; Peregrine Falcon, Rock Kestrel, White-necked Raven, African Hoopoe, Cape Grassbird, Cape Sugarbird, Grey-winged Francolin, amongst them.

The vegetation in the burn has started recovering well with the recent rains, and it was still wet underfoot, however, there was little to see, with no flowers anywhere. Going through the burn on to Vogelgat Reserve, we really enjoyed the colours in the fynbos, and the morning mist on the mountain added to the drama. Strangely, when we entered the burnt area we were suddenly reminded of Australia, as we were assailed by huge swarms of flies, and, just as they did when walking on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne, they gathered on our backs, as the photographs below show! Where they came from, we had no idea, but once we left the burn again, so too, the flies disappeared.

Fernkloof in December

This morning we did one of our favourite routes up over the front of Kanonkop and then along the Jeep Track before descending Adder’s Ladder. It did not disappoint. We have had very good rains so far this month and the mountain was very wet and very green and colourful. In fact, it was quite stunning!! A walk to the waterfall was very rewarding with plenty of brown water cascading down.

New signs have been erected at the Visitors’ Centre and we were very impressed with the high quality and good information provided.

1 December on the Contour Path

Our walk this morning along the Contour Path was wonderful with clear warm weather and no wind. The fynbos was absolutely beautiful with masses of Roella in flower as well as wonderful pink Metalasia. There were many Chironia jasminoides and also the smaller Chironia linoides showing off their lovely pink flowers.

Tortoises were abundant. I think we saw five on the path, from a small 7 cm length to a whopping 25cm beast – the biggest I have ever seen in Fernkloof!

The Kleinmond Coastal Path

We walked the Kleinmond Coastal path this morning. It was quite sad to see how it has degenerated from a well used and maintained path to something of an overgrown narrow track in parts. The masses of flowering Pelargoniums, however, were a joy to walk through.

There has been much discussion around the mysterious deaths of Cape Fur Seals along the coast in recent weeks. Despite this, or maybe because of it, there was quite a colony of seals lying around on the outlying rocks, along with many Cape and White-breasted Cormorants. In the waters off the small harbour were many boats actively lowering and raising their nets for crayfish, and the harbour itself was packed with the trailers that brought these fishing vessels.

More Migrants

A trip to De Mond this morning was incredibly rewarding. We were not looking for anything but migrant birds, but the birding is so good on the Agulhas Plain that we managed to get 89 species without even trying. Included in this list were 6 more migrant birds for our Challenge list. Fortunately the weather was near perfect for birding, and we were the only visitors at De Mond! Of course, we went there for migrant waders, but were pleasantly surprised to get a Booted Eagle flying over the lagoon whilst being attacked by a Rock Kestrel. We also saw our first Common Buzzards of the season, after having thought we might not see one before the close of the Challenge.

There was plenty of water in pans along the roads and at one we must have seen close to 60 Glossy Ibises, along with many Whiskered Terns. We also saw a Southern Pochard at one dam, so it was an excellent outing!

Chasing Migrants

Yesterday Renee and I went out to try to get a few migrant birds on our Challenge list. We found it was not all that easy! Firstly we went to Rooisand, hoping to pick up the Bar-tailed Godwit spotted recently by John and Sheelagh, but it was nowhere to be seen. We did, however, get a Common Greenshank, a few Common Ringed Plovers and some Barn Swallows. The Pectoral Sandpiper was present somewhere as others there had seen it, but we had no luck. Where the Common Buzzards are this year is anybody’s guess!

From there we traipsed over to Danger Point, where we immediately picked up a Sandwich Tern and some Common Whimbrels, along with more Common Greenshanks. After some considerable searching we also found a pair of Ruddy Turnstones. The rocks close to the road on the way to the lighthouse are always rewarding and we had a good time observing all the seabirds present.

Walking in Fernkloof

Yesterday was a Hurriers walk, but only Renee and I were present. We had a lovely walk up over Kanonkop and then along the Jeep Track until we could see the effects of the recent fire, before returning to the Visitors’ Centre via Adder’s Ladder, a total of 8,5 kms. The weather was perfect for walking and we could have carried on all day, especially as the fynbos was showing off in its usual spectacular fashion!