Most mornings find us going for a brisk walk around the Golf course. Of course, we are privileged to be able to do this – it is one of the perks of living in the Fernkloof Golf Estate. We normally set off at around 6 a.m. as we are not allowed to interfere with the golfers. Needless to say we are often alone at this time – except for the wildlife!
As we leave home we hear the Speckled Pigeons cooing and billing on the rooftops. We could do without them, but there have every right to be here. Of course, there are also Laughing and Red-eyed Doves. Perhaps a Cape Wagtail or two are on our lawn, strutting around looking for insects in the grass. As we leave Prestwick Village, we normally see the resident herd of Springbok, comprising around 75 of these graceful animals. Mostly they are just grazing, but there are always a few practicing their fighting skills and we hear the clatter of their horns as they engage with each other. They are becoming ever more habituated to man and machinery and they do not run off when they see us.
Helmeted Guineafowl are wandering around in small groups, cawing harshly or making little ‘come hither’ noises to attract their many chicks. The same goes for the Cape Spurfowl. Both species start off with broods of up to a dozen tiny chicks, but they are soon reduced to one or two, as cats and other predators see them off.
Suddenly we are startled by a loud hissing as a male Spotted Thick-knee rushes at us in order to defend his mate, as she sits on her eggs right out in the open, next to our path! We survive the onslaught and walk on, as Common Starlings fly around in noisy flocks.
Near the clubhouse, we pass the water feature, where Common Moorhens are often out on the grassy banks, whilst a Grey Heron sits on a rock surveying his surroundings. Southern Fiscals are out everywhere looking for prey and we sometimes see them attacking Cape Sparrows. As we pass the wetlands on the west of the course, we see many Cape Sugarbirds sitting on the tops of shrubs comparing notes and discussing their plans for the day. Occasionally the morning air is filled with the haunting sound of a Burchell’s Coucal.
Further on, as we walk past the houses adjacent to the 17th hole, we see the odd domestic cat hunting in the undergrowth. They flee when they see us, as they know they are not popular with birders! Above us, the cry of a Diederik Cuckoo is heard as he calls for his mate, whilst further on we hear the shrill cry of the Jackal Buzzard.
Yellow-billed Ducks move quietly along the water in the many ponds, whilst, lurking in the wetland vegetation are Little Rush Warblers, with their rasping call. We seldom see them, but their cry is unmistakable. All the while, there are Egyptian Geese waddling along on the fairways or honking as they fly overhead. Perhaps they are competing with the many Hadeda Ibises, whose calls originally awoke us!
As we walk above the 6th fairway, we are close to the mountain and we hear the Cape Grassbirds calling in the fynbos. There are also Sunbirds to be seen, both Southern Double-collared and Orange-breasted. Cape Weavers are flitting around in the vegetation chasing insects, or noisily calling as they build their nests. Groups of Speckled Mousebirds move from shrub to shrub, or hang from small branches in their peculiar and precarious manner. If we go through the gardens at Lakewood Village, we are often surprised by the water birds on the lake. These include Black Crake, African Darter, Yellow-billed Ducks and domestic Muscovy Ducks.
By now the Bokmakeries are out and about, amazing all with their beautiful melodious calls. Greater Striped Swallows and occasional White-rumped Swifts carve their way through the air above our heads as they chase insects. Suddenly, we are back in Prestwick Village and as we round the corner, we hear and see a pair of Olive Thrushes in the undergrowth.
It has been another glorious morning walk and we realise how blessed we are to be living here and healthy enough to walk! We can relax at home and enjoy the garden birds. Yesterday we saw an Amethyst Sunbird and a pair of Swee Waxbills – what a pleasure!