Winter Birding – Part 4 – Gharagab

The last two nights of our Kgalagadi National Park visit were spent at the Gharagab Wilderness Camp, a truly beautiful place, which can only be accessed with a 4×4 vehicle.  It is a place of quiet and solitude and we saw little other than the birds around the camp, although a few antelope did come to drink at the waterhole.  Reading in the visitors’ book, we saw many stories of lions and hyenas that often spend the night in the camp, keeping the residents awake with their antics, but unfortunately they did not visit us.  We did get a glimpse of a Honey Badger one afternoon, but it was quite far off and it soon disappeared!  The tents at Gharagab are very comfortable and we really enjoyed our stay there!

The drive out was enjoyable and some soft sand had to be negotiated before we again reached the Nossob river for our drive down to Twee Rivieren and out of the park.  Kori Bustards abounded along this section and we probably saw around 40!

We spent the night at the Kgalagadi Lodge, just 5 km outside the entrance.  It was comfortable and well equipped and can be recommended as a place to stay if unable to secure bookings at Twee Rivieren.  From there we headed for home, stopping once again in Calvinia, where, as expected, it was cold!

We recorded only 102 bird species for the trip.  Hopefully, our next visit will be in summer, when all the migrant species are present.

Winter Birding – Part 3 – Nossob

We moved from Mata Mata to Nossob, where we spent four nights, once again occupying one of the new riverside cottages.  These are very comfortable and give one an uninterrupted view of the river, however, there were very few wild visitors to our section of it.  Whereas we had previously had wonderful sightings of Lanner Falcons catching Namaqua Doves at the Nossob Camp, these were totally absent during our visit.

There were no cats to be seen in the Nossob river whilst we were there, but we saw many antelope and we were, of course, fascinated by the antics of the Lanner Falcons that appeared to be hunting doves at most of the surrounding waterholes!  I spent many hours trying to capture them with my camera – a very frustrating task, but imagine trying to do it with film!! The Red-headed Finches appeared in huge flocks to drink and they too were troubled by the predating raptors.

Despite it being winter, we saw a number of snakes, the most impressive being a Cape Cobra.  There were also many Bataleurs and we enjoyed their antics at the waterholes.

Winter Birding – Part 2 – Mata Mata

We spent three nights in one of the comfortable riverside cottages in Mata Mata Rest Camp.  Looking out over the river bed whilst enjoying an evening braai, we saw Gemsbok and Blue Wildebeest, with occasional Red Hartebeest, and were visited every evening by scavenging Jackals.

Our drives down the Auob river provided excellent game viewing with abundant animals including Lion, Leopard and Cheetah.  The birds were somewhat limited with the absence of all the migrant species, but we had good sightings, nevertheless.  The temperatures varied from -2 degrees in the morning, to 28 degrees in the afternoon, and the days were clear with not a cloud in the sky!  Needless to say, the sandy roads remain very corrugated and one rattles along gathering a great deal of dust, but that is just part of the overall experience that is the Kgalagadi NP.  Traffic is minimal, so one is never unable to get close to animals.

Winter Birding – Part 1 – Calvinia to Kgalagadi

We traveled from Hermanus to Calvinia in wet, rainy and cold weather and spent the night at The Blou Nartje, a comfortable guest house with some good historical connections.  The trip from there to Upington was uneventful, with little to see in the way of birds.  The scenery, however, is typical Karoo/Bushmanland and very bleak.  Occasional outcrops of dolerite litter the landscape with the boulders showing desert varish.  Near Brandvlei there was occasional water at the roadside, attesting to recent rains, and by the time we reached Kenhardt, spring flowers were starting to show.

Upington is dominated by the Solar 1 power generating facility that rises some 60 metres and is visible from around 50 kilometres away.  We spent the night in the upmarket Riverplace Manor, where we could view the birdlife present on the Orange river. Next morning we traveled the relatively short distance to the Kgalagadi National Park and proceeded to our first stop at Mata Mata.

To the Dams

Our walk this morning took us to the Fernkloof dams.  The weather was lovely and warm with a slight berg wind keeping the temperature up.  The lower dam is quite low but the middle one was full to overflowing!   Sadly the path is in a very poor state so it was not very safe walking beyond the lower dam.

There are not many flowers in bloom, but the proteas are giving their usual Autumn show and we saw some beautiful blooms, not least the Waboom, or Protea nitida.  There were also some wonderful purple Gladiolus maculatus.

Walking in Fernkloof

Only 7 Hurriers showed up for this morning’s walk which went up Kanonkop and then back down via Adder’s Ladder.  Despite this, Renee and I managed to separate ourselves from the group, as we went off hunting for Orchids (wrong season, I know, but we had had a report of an out of season flowering Acrolophia ustulata) and we never got to the Kanonkop summit for tea!

The flowers were largely absent, but the weather was beautiful and clear and we all had a good bit of exercise!

De Bos Wetland Trail

De Bos has, through Frank Woodvine, developed a wetland trail through their farm in the Hemel en Aarde Valley.  Frank led us through this area this morning and we were all enthralled to see what he has done, developing paths and points of interest.  De Bos has also done a great deal of development for tourism, and there are picnic sites spread around the property , complementing the magnificent tasting room that was recently opened.

The wetland area abounds with fynbos birds and the potential for spring flowers was evident.  The area will be well worth visiting again in September.