Gill kindly invited ten old friends to join her for her 80th birthday at the historic farm, Riverton, where we stayed in Barry House, an old building reeking with tradition and Barry family memorabilia. We didn’t all know each other when we arrived on Tuesday, but by the time we had to leave this morning, the ice had been well and truly broken. For those who had known one another in the past, it was an opportunity to renew and rekindle old friendships. Gill and Pam did a wonderful job keeping us well fed and Renee and I made the most of our chances to do some birding.
The latter was amazing right on our doorstep, when, yesterday afternoon, on a short walk, we saw African Fish Eagle, Martial Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk, Booted Eagle and Black Sparrow Hawk, all within a period of around 5 minutes!! All in all, with a visit to Vrolijkheid Reserve at MacGregor, we identified 70 species, so we were well pleased with the outing!
We started our trip to Namaqualand with a visit to the West Coast National Park, where we stayed in the Duinepos Camp. This allowed us the opportunity to see the wild flowers at Postberg (along with many visitors from Cape Town, as it was a Saturday) and also to look out for local birds. Being late winter, the migrant waders were still absent, so we had to be content with the resident population. This still provided plenty of species and we started off with a good few.
After two nights we proceeded up the coast to Velddrif, where we again concentrated on water birds, before heading north to Rocher Pan. There was virtually nothing to see there, so we set off for Kamieskroon and the Kamieskroon Hotel, where we were to spend 5 nights.
On Monday I had only one thing in mind and that was to see a Barlow’s Lark. This meant driving all the way to Alexander Bay, a round trip of 640 kms. Sadly, we did not find one so the trip was in vain, however we did see 21 Greater Kestrels along the road to Port Nolloth, along with about 200 Pied Crows! The road from Steinkopf to Port Nolloth is 90 kms long and there are around 900 disused telephone standards along the way. There must have been around 400 crow’s nests on these poles and many were occupied. There were also a few Cape Crows and we even saw 6 Ludwig’s Bustards, which was pleasing.
That night we were joined by Richard and Jeanette West and we were amazed to find that our good friends, David and Elaine were also at the hotel, along with another couple. All of us had lived at Kleinsee, so we had a great reunion!
Next day we visited the Namaqualand National Park. Whereas we had not yet seen any flowers in the area, we were delighted with the display at Skilpad, where there were wonderful fields of Namaqua Daisies and many Heliophilas. A drive to Soebatsfontein revealed good succulents and we were once again pleased with what we saw on the road back to Kamieskroon.
On Wednesday we undertook another long journey; this time to Kleinsee, via Hondeklipbaai and Koingnaas. It was interesting to see the homes we had lived in, and we spent a while in the old squash club – scene of many raucous parties in our youth – chatting to the new owners, who have converted the pub into a restaurant. We returned to Kamieskroon via Komaggas and the Spektakel Pass to Springbok, pleased to find a new tar road all the way from Komaggas, where previously there had only been a very rough and stony section.
By Thursday, I needed some new birds, so we set out for Gamoep in Bushmanland, in the hope of finding a Red Lark. It was a very interesting drive with spectacular scenery and many Kokerboom trees. Strangely, we did not find Gamoep, despite driving right through it, not did we find the Lark. We ended up having to return via Springbok, so searched once more for the Cinnamon-breasted Warbler (also without success!) before returning to our hotel.
Our trip netted no less than 146 bird species, which was pleasing, even if we missed out on a few specials that we were searching for.
Our walk this morning took us along the contour path, westwards from the Visitors’ Centre, then up Elephant Path to Rotary Way. From there we went east until we eventually arrived at the top of the Kanonkop Path, which we descended back to our starting point. The weather was perfect for walking, but we underestimated the time, so some of us had to break away in order to get back in time for other commitments.
The walk was 10 km long and we went through plenty of recently burnt fynbos, giving the botanists lots to enthuse about. The pictures come mostly from Liz, who had her camera at the ready throughout. There were also some good birds on display, including Cape Rock Thrush, Cape Rockjumper, Ground Woodpecker and Verreaux’s Eagle.
We really stretched our legs and had a good time, enjoying the splendour that surrounds us!
Members will be saddened by the tragic news that David has passed away. He went hiking on Maanskijnkop alone yesterday. When he had not returned by 11:30 am the alarm went out, but he could not be found. This morning a helicopter was deployed and his body was found on a path. He had apparently had a heart attack and he still had his walking stick in his hand.
Our collective condolences go out to Elizabeth and her family at this awful time in their lives. They will cherish the memory of this wonderful man who gave so much to the community around him. He was a committed member of the HBC and served on the committee for a number of years. Many of you will remember being entertained by him at Club functions, when, with his keen sense of humour, he regaled us with birding and other stories. He…
This morning Mick led us on an interesting and challenging new walk at Volmoed. First we went up the river to the base of the De Bos dam, then back through the burnt fynbos to the hill overlooking the Volmoed base and the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. We stopped there for a welcome coffee break before descending a steep rocky path back to the base. From there we did another walk up the stream to the beautiful waterfall, before returning to our cars and home.
We covered a total of around 5.5 km in very windy conditions, however, the mountain afforded us shelter from the worst of it for most of the way except when we were on the high ridge and almost got blown off the path at times. It was good to see the fynbos recovering from the burn, but the number of alien species was cause for alarm.
Only four intrepid Hurriers turned up for our Fernkloof walk this morning. We traversed around Lemoenkop, past the dams, and then down along the Mossel river as far as the main road. Yesterday’s rains meant that the water was up and we could go no further. It was really good to see the odd waterfall and walk along the burbling stream and, luckily, the rain had stopped so we stayed dry.
It was our first walk since Robin passed away, so we stopped and had a minute’s silence whilst we remembered him and the great contribution he made to our group. We will miss him and his wisdom.