Fernkloof to Plaaskombuis

Jenny and Mick must have the secret formula for attracting walkers, as no less than 21 keen hikers attended their 9 km walk from the Visitors’ Centre in Fernkloof, to Plaaskombuis in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley.  It was not too hot, thanks to a strong south-easter, which literally blew us up the mountain.  As usual, we were accompanied by a large troop of baboons, which, after their initial agitation, settled down to watch us pass.

Statistics

One cannot but be a little bit flattered to note that this site recorded its thirty-thousandth click yesterday.  In the last two years people from 130 countries viewed the site, most of them from South Africa, but a fair number from the UK.  I have enjoyed sharing my experiences with you and I certainly hope that you have enjoyed reading my posts.  There will be plenty more to come, I’m sure!

Recent visits
Recent visits

Erica filamentosa

Our visit to the Bontebok Park last week threw up some interesting birds and we also saw a flower or two.  Only after writing up our trip did I ask about this erica and was delighted to discover (thanks to Sandy) that we had seen and photographed a very rare plant, which probably only occurs in the park.  It is one of the most beautiful ericas we have seen and I thought I ought to share a few more images with my readers.

Birding at Bontebok Park

Renee and I spent two nights at the Bontebok National Park outside Swellendam.  We travelled via De Mond in order to chase an American Golden Plover.  It was there and gave me a much sought after lifer!  We then carried on to the park with the temperature at 37°C and wondered if we would see anything.  Fortunately, the weather changed and we awoke on Thursday to light rain, which soon cleared and we had an overcast day at 17°C, which was ideal for birding.

The trails along the river provide for perfect bird watching and, whilst we did not get many of the usual suspects, we were rewarded with some very good rare species and managed to add a few ticks to my HBC Challenge list.  These included a Brown-Backed Honeybird, a Willow Warbler and a Namaqualand Warbler.  We also had good sightings of a pair of Black Harriers, so were well pleased with the day.  Our total bird count for the Park was 76 species.

On Friday we returned home via Potberg and once again had good views of the Cape Vultures standing in fields adjacent to the road.  At Potberg we saw a pair of European Honey Buzzards, but little else.  The road back via Bredasdorp did not live up to its previous promise and we failed to record a single lark, which was surprising, but the whole outing was, nevertheless, very successful.

Hiking in the Kogelberg

There were sixteen hikers present this morning for our walk from the Kogelberg offices to Harold Porter Reserve.  This is an 8 km hike which climbs from 50 m. to 350 m and then descends back down to 30 m above sea level.  The weather was warm at 27 degrees C, but we had a breeze for most of the way.  The veld was pristine, having recovered from recent fires, and the sections of Afromontane forest provided plenty of shade and the sound of running water.  One cannot traverse this region without being impressed by the wonderful large trees, especially Yellowwoods, that have survived over hundreds of years.

Recent heavy rains had, however, caused severe land slips in places and the damage to mountain slopes and large trees was in evidence.  Fortunately, Cape Nature have repaired the damaged paths, so our progress, whilst slow, was not unduly hampered.  As usual. I was looking out for birds, especially in the forests, but we only saw a few.  On the slopes above Harold Porter I was lucky to get a glimpse of a Victorin’s Warbler.  These shy birds are not often out in the open, so it was something of a coup to see one.

Chasing the Ground Woodpecker

Yesterday morning Renee and I decided to see if we could find a Ground Woodpecker. These birds frequent the tops of our mountains so we knew we had to do some climbing. We chose to go to Vogelgat and up to Mossel Nook hut, as we had previously seen them in this area.  After an hour of walking we had not seen a single bird of any species and were beginning to wonder if we were doing the right thing.  Then as we reached Sea Saddle, things started to look up and the birds appeared.

We saw a number of Cape Rock Thrushes, some Malachite Sunbirds and Familiar Chats and then suddenly there they were – three Ground Woodpeckers – sunning themselves after their breakfast.  By the time we reached the hut, the area was full of birds and we also saw a number of Sentinel Rock Thrushes, Neddickys, Red-Winged Starlings and other LBJs which we were unsure about.  A Rock Kestrel flew overhead and then a pair of White-Necked Ravens and a Jackal Buzzard.  Unfortunately, the Verreaux’s Eagles were nowhere to be seen, but we nevertheless returned well satisfied with the morning’s birding.

Giorgio and his team have been working on the paths repairing the damage caused by the recent rains.  I wonder how many path users are aware of the great job that they do to provide access to these wonderful sights.

Orchids and Birds

This morning I joined five avid orchid hunters on a climb up the ZigZag path to the recently burnt area.  Regrettably the search did not turn up any new orchids, however, my main interest was to see if I could find some mountain birds and, in this respect, I was lucky.  I saw a couple of Cape Rockjumpers, a couple of Cape Rock Thrushes and many other more common species, notably Grassbirds, Familiar Chats, 3 Quail (Common or Buttonquail? – the jury is still out) a lone Jackal Buzzard surveying his patch, Red-Winged Starlings, Martins, Swallows, Karoo Prinias and a relatively large flock of Orange-Breasted Sunbirds which accompanied us on part of our route.  Unfortunately I did not see any Ground Woodpeckers, but not for lack of trying!

I got no bird photos, but the splendid fynbos and views across the bay made up for this.