Kanonkop Magic

Sixteen walkers ventured out this morning to walk over Kanonkop and down Adder’s Ladders in Fernkloof.  We could not have picked a better day, cool in the shade and warm in the sun, with not a breath of wind and beautiful clear skies.

As left the car park we were rewarded with a very good sighting of an African Goshawk, which came and perched within metres of where we were standing.  Later, on the slopes of Kanonkop, we put up a small flock of around eight Grey-winged Francolin, and then, to cap it all we had very good views of a Verreaux’s Eagle perched on a rock above us at Adder’s Ladder.

Of course, the flowers were also good and we were lucky to have Sandy along to do the identification.

Its Raining Birds

This afternoon we had another feeding frenzy by Cape Gannets off Voelklip and Grotto Beaches at Hermanus.  This time there were even more birds and the sea was alive, over several kilometres, with diving and surfacing birds.  These images can do no more than to give an idea of the scale of the event.  One had to be there to witness it!

Danger Point to Kleinbaai

Fourteen walkers set out in drizzly conditions this morning to walk from Danger Point (or as near there as we could get by car) to Kleinbaai and back, a distance of 10.3 kilometres.  Fortunately the weather cleared and we were able to enjoy the coastline with its abundant birds and sea life.  This included large numbers of Cape Gannets fishing  not far offshore, as well as many flocks of Ruddy Turnstones.  At Kleinbaai we saw two shark diving parties leaving for Dyer Island and the thrill of watching Great Whites feeding, but, needless to say, we did not join them.

Frenzy in Walker Bay

Its not unusual to see thirty or more Southern Right Whales in Walker Bay in Spring, but by now they have all returned to Antarctica.  Imagine our delight then, when yesterday afternoon we saw at least a dozen Bryde’s Whales actively hunting off Gearing’s Point.  Then a school of around eighty dolphins joined the fray, with occasional seals also visible.  The main attraction, however, was the huge flocks of Cape Gannets, either sitting in the water in vast numbers, or flying around and diving into the sea, in response to what must have been a mammoth shoal of sardines.  There must have been thousands of Gannets and there were times when the diving was so intense that it looked like a cascade of birds falling from the sky!

Cape Gannets in Walker Bay
Cape Gannets in Walker Bay

We really are lucky to live on a coastline that is blessed with such abundant and interesting sea life.  Unfortunately I only had my small camera with me to record the event.

The Flock at Sea

When Birdlife South Africa invited birders to join them on a cruise to Walvis Bay and back on the MSC ‘Opera’, they probably never thought that 1120 would pitch up.  Well they did and we were amongst them.  No less than 15 Hermanus Bird Club members participated and we left home on Friday the 1st March full of anticipation.  This was short-lived when we arrived in Cape Town and saw the queues stretching for a couple of hundred metres as the passengers lined up to present luggage, show tickets, pass through emmigration, get X-rayed and get aboard.  each queue was as long as the last and it was a tiring process, which we were relieved to eventually clear.

Our cabin was comfortable, but we wasted no time in getting back on deck when called for a boat drill, after which we all assembled on the top deck for a photo shoot was to be aired on TV that night showing the world’s largest ever gathering of birders (wait for the new Guinness Book of Records).

The weather was good and we all spent a great deal of time on the various decks where there were excellent guides to assist with bird identification.  The birds, however, were few and far between and usually several hundred metres away, so it was no easy task for seabird beginners.  Luckily there were also good talks by eminent authorities on a wide variety of seabird topics, so there was always something to do.  Amongst the speakers was Peter Harrison, who really raised the bar with two outstanding talks on Albatrosses and Penguins.

We spent Sunday in Walvis Bay – once more subjected to endless delays with disembarkation and transport arrangements with local touring companies.  They were obviously overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of birders, the like of which they had never experienced, so, whilst they did their best, it was often frustrating for those wanting to get moving.

Monday saw us sailing back south and the weather showed its normal west coast fog and cloud, so it was pretty cold on deck and birding became even more difficult.  The Birdlife AGM held that afternoon was thus the beneficiary and the auditorium was filled to capacity, making it the largest quorum ever!

By Tuesday morning we were back at Cape Town and were greeted by the sight of Table Mountain looming out of the mist.  This delayed our docking, but eventually the pilot arrived and guided the 60 000 ton vessel safely into the harbour, where we were once again subjected to huge delays in disembarking.

All in all it was an interesting experience, much enhanced by our meeting up with old birding friends, but it was not one that we would consider doing again.  There were just too many people (a total of around 2000 passengers) and the service suffered accordingly.

Palmiet River Walk

Ten lucky walkers enjoyed perfect weather and wonderful scenery along the Palmiet River this morning.  Deep brown pools beckoned, however, with a cool breeze blowing, nobody ventured into the water.  This is a truly beautiful part of the Kogelberg Rerserve and one that we should walk more often, especially in hot weather, when the river would be a welcome source of relief.

On our return, we stopped in Vermont to visit Tay’s studio and to see a magnificent mosaic made up of glass, shells and other beach material, prior to its being packed and dispatched to its future owners.  This was a real treat for art lovers and Kinki was rightfully proud of her daughter’s work