The ‘Flock at Sea’ – Birding in the Southern Ocean

Birdlife South Africa (BLSA) certainly pulled off a major coup with the 2017 Flock at Sea. Around 1950 lucky birders took part in what must have been the most spectacular birding event ever held in the Southern African region. We had four nights at sea and three full days of birding, ending this morning when we returned to Cape Town and docked at 7:00 am.

Map
Our approximate route

Our vessel was the MSC ‘Sinfonia’ and, because there were sufficient birders on board, BLSA had control over where we went.  This enabled us to seek out ocean eddies and up-welling currents (not that we always found them) and, thereby, find good concentrations of foraging seabirds.  For me it was really exciting as I managed to see a total of 25 seabirds, 12 of which were lifers!  The bird of the cruise was undoubtedly the Light-mantled Albatross, previously only seen by 2 birders in the region!  This trip enabled hundreds to see it and my only regret is that I did not get a photo of this very rare bird.

Apart from the birds, the trip provided an opportunity to renew old friendships and make new ones, as well as enjoy the chance to get off land and see something of the Southern Ocean.  We had winds of up to 75 kph with quite heavy chop, but luckily the swells were not too heavy.  Birding was not easy as the birds seldom came within 100 metres of the ship and many had to be identified at greater distances, but there were many experts on board.  They readily shared there knowledge and guided those of us not so well-versed in seabird identification.

In addition to spending time on deck with binoculars and cameras on hand, there were also many talks on birds, the most enthralling of which were the two presentations by the world’s great seabird expert, Peter Harrison.  His passion for albatrosses brought tears to the eyes of many who were present.  It certainly was a memorable event and a vast improvement on the first Flock at Sea which took place in 2013.

A Walk in Fernkloof

Beautiful weather prevailed for our walk in Fernkloof this morning.  We were led by Piet, who took eight of us on a 2 hour hike.  When it was over. he invited us to join him and Martha for a cup of coffee at Savannah to celebrate Martha’s birthday.  It was the perfect ending to a perfect walk!

Jonkershoek

Yesterday we met at the beautiful Jonkershoek Valley for a hike up the valley. Being Easter Saturday there were many people out enjoying the day, despite the strong south-easterly wind that was funneling down the valley. We stopped in the stream bed for a snack and Gillian surprised us with some really tasty snacks for lunch – five star stuff!! – before returning to our cars and setting off to Atlantic Beach.

Dragon’s Back Walk

Piet led the walk up Dragon’s Back on Wednesday.  Regrettably, it was poorly attended with only 4 members present.  The weather was perfect for walking, marred only by some mist when they reached the top.  Hopefully we will be able to do this walk again when more people are available.

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Zuma Must Fall!

Taking part in the local demonstrations against Zuma in Hermanus this morning was an exciting experience.  Rain notwithstanding, hundreds of concerned citizens turned out to protest against Zuma and his cronies and it was satisfying to be part of the movement. Let’s hope that the corrupt so-and-so takes heed.  He is no longer relevant and, as one placard suggested, “There is a better cabinet at Snuffels!”  (Snuffels is a local second-hand furniture shop.)

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A small part of the crowd

Dot’s Dash 2017

Our annual walk up Dot’s Dash in the Kogelberg did not disappoint.  The weather was very favourable and cool, although there was a stiff westerly breeze blowing.  Only eight Hurriers pitched up, but they all enjoyed the day.  We walked 8.6 km and climbed to a height of 412 metres.

The flowers were very good, however, a recent fire meant that much of our walk was through burnt fynbos.  A storm around two weeks ago had caused major flooding and there were areas where there was evidence of very swollen streams causing considerable damage to the mountainside.  In the burnt areas the post-fire plants were showing well and we can look forward to a good crop of Orchids come November.