Birding around Caledon

Our trip to Caledon this morning in search of unusual Overberg birds was not unsuccessful.  We did not find what we were looking for, but the slow drive along farm roads was rewarding in that we did manage to see a good selection of the usual suspects.  There were very many larks, Red-capped and Large-billed, in the rocky fields as well as Pipits and Capped Wheatears.  Dams along the way abounded with Spur-winged Geese and there were many Blue Cranes in the wheat fields.  The Spotted Eagle Owl at the side of the road was a bonus.

We stopped in at the Caledon Cemetery to try to find some old family graves, but without success.  It was sad to see the neglect in this memorial garden.  A visit to the Wild Flower Garden was more rewarding, as we saw a juvenile Klaas’ Cuckoo near to the entrance and it allowed us to approach to within a few metres.  There were many sunbirds and other fynbos species on show.  Then, a visit to the settling ponds revealed many more Geese and a few other waterbirds such as Yellow-billed Ducks, Red-billed Teals, a few Moorhens and a Black Crake.  We got 75 species in all.

A Walk on the Contour Path

This morning’s walk along the Contour Path from the Visitors’ Centre to Elephant Path and back (a distance of 6.7 km) was attended by 18 Hurriers and one guest.  The weather was cool – perfect for walking – and we all enjoyed the sights and sounds of the mountainside, especially the views over Hermanus and Walker Bay.  The new Sports Centre, under construction on the north side of the High School, is progressing well and the tennis courts and astroturf  hockey field look ready for use.

Our walk was followed by a gathering at Fernkloof for tea and the planning of the 2019 First Half Hiking Programme.

Walking at Flower Valley

Despite the threat of a wet morning and some of the stalwarts being absent with sick leave, 14 Hurriers turned up at the Kraal Rock parking area at 07.30.

On arrival at Flower Valley Farm we were met by Kirsten Retief, Conservation Manager of the Flower Valley Conservation Trust, who told us something about the Trust and the work that it is doing on the farm and with various conservation agencies and organisations in the area.

The fynbos was in excellent condition and we enjoyed two of the shorter walks . First the circular Pincushion Walk which took us up and around a hill and through fields of pincushions.  We then took a ‘there and back’ walk to the Stinkwood Forest where we enjoyed a tea break under a canopy of magnificent old stinkwood trees.  On the way back to the office we found fresh tracks of one of the four leopards known to range in that area.

The total time for the walks, including breaks, was 2h 45m and the total altitude gain 255m.

It was a morning much enjoyed by all and we were back at Kraal Rock by 12.30.

Piet van Zyl (with photos by Piet and Ed Meyer)

Birding at Gifberg

A three night stay at the Gifberg Holiday Farm in the mountains south of Vanrhynsdorp, with the Hermanus Bird Club, allowed for some interesting birding and an enjoyable stay in this remote, but beautiful part of the Western Cape.  The accommodation is basic, but comfortable and the company was good.  Communal evening meals were delicious and a tribute to all the contributors.  We enjoyed some entertaining outings and saw a good number of birds – 107 species to be exact!


Orchid Hunting around Sedgefield

We have just returned from a four day outing to the area around Sedgefield where we went in search of Orchids.  This trip was precipitated by the devastating fires of last June in the area, as we were looking for species that are stimulated by fire.  A total of only nine species were found in a variety of coastal locations.  A new fire burnt a huge swathe of upland forest in the days just preceding our arrival and this fire was still smoldering during our visit, so we were somewhat restricted regarding forays into the mountain ranges backing the area.

Besides Orchids, we obviously saw many other species and we also had a very comfortable guesthouse and much fun was had by all.  We were allowed access into Westford Bridge and Featherbed Private Nature Reserves, a real bonus as both areas proved very interesting, especially with regard to the work that has been and still is being undertaken to restore these properties after the 2017 fires.  For the rest we made do with searches along roadsides, using prior knowledge where available.  It was a superb outing and we all relished the opportunity to see a new area and learn something about it’s flora.

Of course, we also saw some interesting birds, with the most notable being the Broad-billed Roller which was seen near Wilderness – a first for the Western Cape, as this lone specimen was way outside its normal range.  A pair of Crowned Eagles flying above Pine Lake was another special treat!

A Wild Day of Birding

The Hermanus Bird Club held it’s Mini Birding Big Day yesterday and 5 teams entered.  Unfortunately one team had to withdraw, and they, therefore, missed the windy birding conditions, as it was surely one of the worst days we could have picked in term of the weather.  There was a gale blowing!

Nevertheless those who participated had a good time, and made the most of the 12 hours allotted.  There is nothing like a common enemy (the wind!) to inspire people!  The winning team, ours, managed 125 species, which we thought was pretty good.  Next came 122, followed by 107 and 92.  For all those who took part, it was a good experience and an opportunity to learn more about local birds and their habitats.