A Walk at Beloftebos

This morning a lucky group of ten of us had the privilege of walking at Beloftebos.  The good rains of the early morning had stopped and we had wonderful overcast, cool weather for walking.  Our route of 10 km followed an excellent path (also used as a mountain-bike trail) through a good variety of habitats.  We meandered next to a fast flowing stream, through fields and forests and saw many beautiful flowers and birds, including African Harrier Hawk and Forest Buzzard.

It was particularly nice to see many Orchid plants starting to emerge and we were interested to see them (Satyrium odorum) growing in what appeared to be a symbiotic relationship with a pretty green Lachenalia, which we could not identify.

This was an excellent walk!  Well done, Jenny in finding it and be assured, we will do it again, many times, I hope!

A cold Beach Walk

Ten brave souls ventured out onto the beach for a walk to Sopies Klip this morning. There was such a strong westerly wind blowing that we flew along going east, but the return was not so nice, walking into the teeth of the wind.  It was, nevertheless, an enjoyable outing and we completed it before the threatened rain arrived.  We flagged, however, after about three kilometres and never actually reached our destination!

At Last! Another Orchid

A walk in Fernkloof this morning revealed a single Disperis capensis at the side of the path.  This is the ‘Moederkappie’ and is a particularly beautiful little flower.

Disperis capensis
Disperis capensis

Unfortunately there was a strong breeze blowing, so it was impossible to get a decent photo, but nevertheless, it was an important ‘lifer’ for me.


Sunday on the Palmiet River

Following our return to Hermanus from a very successful 5 week birding trip, Gillian and Andrew asked us to join them for a picnic and walk along the Palmiet river in the Kogelberg on Sunday. It was a beautiful, if cool day and we really enjoyed seeing the river running strongly after the rains of the previous two days.

Our picnic was wonderful – if excessive.  We seemed to have too many good things to eat and some chilled wine washed it all down well!  We returned to our cars, well satisfied after ten vigorous kilometres.  The beauty of the mountains and valley is something that one cannot easily forget and we will return often to this lovely area.

A Winter Birding Traverse – Part 13 – Sanbonani to Hermanus

Our journey from Sanbonani took us down to Clarens in the eastern Free State, but not before we had had to cope with early morning rush hour traffic in Mbombela! The trip was uneventful and, with around 600 kilometres to cover, left little time for birding along the way.

We did, however, visit the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, where we experienced the beauty of the area in the setting sun.  At the vulture restaurant we did not see any vultures. and had to be content with a pair of Cape Longclaws pecking at the carcasses.

Our accommodation at Mill Pond Cottage was excellent and we awoke to a temperature of -3 degrees!  The birdbath in the garden had 15 cm of ice in it! Holding a frozen steering wheel was not too pleasant as we departed for Graaf-Reinet, but things soon warmed up and we had a pleasant drive down the Lesotho border.

On arrival we immediately set out for the Valley of Desolation, hoping to see some good birds, but there were none.  The best birds were in The Drostdy Hotel, which is presently home to the fabulous collection of original bird paintings that were commissioned for the first Roberts Guide. There are about 50 plates on show and they are well worth a visit.

Besides the bird paintings the hotel is full of wonderful botanical art as well as many artefacts from the early days of Graaf-Reinet.  The wine list in the restaurant was also something to behold!

From Graaf-Reinet, we had a good run home to Hermanus.  We had been away for 5 weeks and it would take some getting used to not birding all day! Our trip list numbered 393 birds – not bad for winter.  We covered 10300 kilometres – an average of 26 km per bird, and I estimate that we spent around 250 hours actually birding!  It was a truly memorable experience.

Grahame Snow who runs Reach Africa Birding Safaris was an excellent guide during the Zimbabwe leg of our journey.  I can recommend him to anybody interested in birding in the southern African region, where he conducts a wide variety of different excursions.

A Winter Birding Traverse – Part 12 – Sirheni to Sanbonani

We left Sirheni with long faces and travelled across to Louis Trichardt and then down the N1 to Pretoria, where I had an appointment the next morning.  Once that was out of the way, we set off east again to Sanbonani, a time share and hotel complex close to Hazyview.  Sanbonani has magnificent gardens and lies in a V between two rivers.  There are many birds to be seen and on a single walk around the property we recorded 56 species!

Not only that, but we had a couple of early nocturnal visits by a local hippo that chose to walk right up to our verandah on the first night we were there.  We spent a day in the Kruger Park and another in the farming area around Hazyview, and then it was time to set out for home.  We had had a good dose of northern birding, which would remain in our memory for a long time.

To be continued….

A Winter Birding Traverse – Part 11 – Satara to Sirheni

Leaving Satara Camp we traveled north to Shingwedzi for a night en route to Sirheni.  It was early and as we reached a grassy section of the park, we were delighted to see huge numbers of Francolin and Spurfowl along the road edges.  Then suddenly we saw smaller birds and, on stopping, were very pleased to see that they were Harlequin Quails. There must have been around 30 of them spread in small groups over about a kilometre or two.  This was a real bonus as we had not seen any for many years.

At Shingwedzi, we looked for Verreaux’s Eagle Owl along the river, but without success. There were, however, many other birds in small parties and we were happy to park close to them and observe their interactions.

After a night at Shingwedzi we went further north to the very comfortable small camp at Sirheni.  The dam that the camp fronted on to has been washed away, so there was only the dry riverbed in front of us.  We spent three nights there and were visited every evening by a leopard or two, unfortunately after dark, so we did not see them, but they made a lot of noise!

Travelling north from Sirheni took us to Punda Maria, where the Flycathcer Trail was rewarding in that it brought us close to a flock of Crested Guineafowl.  Roads in the camp vicinity proved to be good for birding as well. On our second day we visited Pafuri, really enjoying the scenery and wildlife that the area had to offer.  We saw many elephants and antelope.

This was our last stop in the Kruger Park and we did not relish the idea of leaving.

To be continued….


A Winter Birding Traverse – Part 10 – Pretoriuskop to Satara

Our drive from Pretoriuskop to Satara was typical of the Kruger Park in winter.  Not as many birds as we might have liked, but interesting, nevertheless.

The Satara camp had many birds, including the African Mourning Dove.  Its plaintive, but melodious call greeted us on arrival.  In the evening an African Wild Cat visited looking for food – a beautiful animal.

Drives out to the east gave us an opportunity to see a group of cheetahs on the look out for prey, but they were not too serious and were still in the same spot 4 hours after we had first seen them.

The weather was warm and we measured 17 degrees first thing in the morning and by mid afternoon it had risen to around 30 degrees!  Not bad for winter.  We could appreciate the lure of the Lowveld.  If only we could find more birds, but then again, it was the worst birding season.

To be continued….