A break in the miserable late December weather allowed us to take a walk to Sopiesklip and back. Needless to say, with many holiday makers around the beach was very active, but the numbers had thinned out considerably by the time we reached our destination, 6 km from the end of Grotto Beach. It was a really pleasant walk and gave us a good appetite for the lunch at The Hermanus Brewery on our return.
The cool weather this morning was perfect for the beautiful hike up the kloof to the ruins on the farm. The hiking paths are very well sign posted and the route established by Frank Woodvine a few years ago, is very well maintained. It was exciting to walk through vine growth that had a different leaf shape and to learn that the Bosman family grow some of their rootstock on the farm which is grafted with many varieties of vines including vines that come from Sicily that can handle the the dryer and hotter weather that we are experiencing in South Africa.
The coffee after the hike in their tasting room was delicious and there was a great light lunch menu for those of us who need to escape our “village” that is filling up with happy holiday makers.
We also enjoyed the company of 2 younger walkers who had great smiles on their faces on the way down.
Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and much joy with your family and friends.
Happy Xmas to all my readers!!
A visit to Strandfontein last week, in search of the elusive Red-necked Phalarope, was unsuccessful. There were so many birds present that it was like looking for a needle in a haystack! What we did see, however, was this assemblage of floating pillows!
We drove from the Waterberg to our overnight stop in Mahikeng. The less said about Mahikeng, the better. It is the most disgustingly filthy place imaginable – on a par with Umthatha. It appears that nothing has been spent on town maintenance, upkeep of roads, traffic lights, garbage removal, etc., for 25 years, and it shows!!
On the way there we drove through the Pilanesberg Reserve, an excellent birding destination, however, this too is showing signs of decay and the roads are in disrepair, the buildings and toilets are run down and there is a general air of neglect about the place. It is not within the Sanparks stable and this may explain the lack of maintenance. We were very disappointed and will not return.
There were many Korhaans, mainly Northern Black, along the road to Vryburg and then, near Warrenton, we saw a huge flock of Abdim’s Storks in a field. The main show, however, was on the approach to Kimberley, when we passed Kamfersdam and saw the incredible multitude of Lesser Flamingos on the pan. It must be one of the major birding sights of the world as there were literally millions of birds. Sadly, one cannot get close to them (perhaps this is actually a good thing) and no photograph can do the sight justice, but it will remain embedded in my memory forever!
We spent two nights at the Lilydale Camp in the Mokala Reserve. After the good rains experienced further north, it was tragic to see how dry it was – the drought is really bad from there southwards. Fortunately there is still some water at the waterholes, and in the grasslands in the north of the Reserve near Lilydale, there were vast herds of all manner of antelope, especially buffalo. We searched diligently for Coursers, but without any success, however, we did get around 80 other species whilst there, but the dryness and the dust left us in despair.
We traveled south for our last two nights at the Karoo National Park. The camp is very comfortable and we were impressed with the Interpretive Centre, but once again the drought was taking its toll and the birds were definitely in short supply. We managed a few more ticks for our trip list and got the total to 427 which we felt was not too bad, but way short of what such a long trip could have yielded.
Our journey home was a nightmare with a major truck accident on the N1 near Beaufort West holding us up for an hour or so when around 300 trucks and many cars were held up in a queue about 6 kms long! The chaos of speeding vehicles, trying to escape this mess, caused us some very scary moments and we diverted from the N1 at Laingsburg for a long drive home on some bad gravel roads, but free from the dangers of the highway!
It was a truly epic trip and it contributed greatly to our Big Birding Year Challenge list. We now look forward to a foray into Namibia in January, but first we must lick our wounds and recharge our batteries!!
After our time in Hazyview and the KNP, we set off for Magoebaskloof, a relatively short journey, but with some good stops along the way. These were Graskop, where we walked at God’s Window, Bourke’s Potholes, and then our real objective; a stop near the J G Strydom tunnel to search for the Taita Falcon. We found the local guide there and he first showed us a Mountain Wagtail and then we searched the cliff face for the falcon. It was quite an effort, but we eventually saw it; no more than a small speck against the cliff, but one could see that it was a falcon! This was lifer number 4 for the trip!
When we arrived at Magoebaskloof we had to find Robin Birder’s cottage. Luckily we had good directions from the owner, as it is situated at the end of a very narrow and winding road through the forest. It was worth the effort as it was a wonderful place to stay and we had every comfort, including an entire bathroom in the forest outside our bedroom. There was also a very small pool and a garden full of bird song and birds.
From there we explored the region. looking for forest birds. I had the impression that it would be a doddle to get a big list in the area, but we soon learned that birding is very difficult in such dense forest without a good knowledge of local bird calls. In the end our two days there only netted us a total of 60 species!
Our next destination was the Polokwane Game Park and we spent a good few hours there managing to find the elusive Short-clawed Lark, along with some other ticks for the trip list. We also tried the Polokwane Bird Sanctuary, but this was a complete failure. The sanctuary is based on the sewerage works and must at one stage have been okay, but it was a foul mess and we left after a cursory look.
We proceeded Westwards to the Waterberg, where we were to spend 4 nights at the Waterberg Game Park. This was a very good spot as we were able to walk wherever we wanted to and we really enjoyed our stay there. We had some really heavy rains during this time and these were most welcome as it had been extremely dry.
Whilst at the Waterberg we did a trip to Nylsvlei, a renowned birding spot, but there was absolutely no water at all, so there were no birds and our visit was in vain!
We were sad to leave Bonamanzi, as it had the potential for at least a day or two more, but time was marching on and we still had a lot of ground to cover, so we set off for Wakkerstroom. This is a well-known birding spot on the Highveld and is best know for its Larks and Pipits. We checked into the well appointed Wetlands Lodge, which caters mainly for birders and were pleased with our accommodation in The Sheds, their self catering section.
Larks being as enigmatic as they are meant that we needed a guide, so we engaged the services of Michael for a morning and we certainly needed him! Our first foray took us in search of Yellow-breasted Pipits and we were pleased when we found one, after quite a long search. We also saw Blue Korhaan, as well as White-bellied Korhaan, and managed to see a group of Orange-breasted Waxbills. Then the fun set in when we started to search for the Botha’s and Rudd’s Larks. Persistence paid off and after much driving and wandering through grasslands we eventually found both, but we could not have done it on our own!
We also spent quite a bit of time at the very productive wetlands and saw Grey-crowned Cranes, African Rail, Hottentot Teal, African Snipe and many other species. It really was a good place to spend a day or two. We also had very heavy thunderstorms whilst there and had to cope with some muddy roads.
Our next stop was for four nights outside Kruger Park at the Sanbonani Lodge at Hazyview. This is a comfortable establishment with huge gardens and much river frontage and very many birds. It was also our gateway to the Kruger Park and we spent three days in the latter, seeing good raptors, etc. Of course, there were Painted Wolves and Lions too, but they were always lying sleeping and we found no benefit in watching this lack of activity! The Lake Panic bird-hide was, as usual, a good place to spend time and we also visited and walked around a few of the main camps, which can be very productive.
We had one minor glitch at Sanbonani when the hot water cylinder in our unit burst and flooded the place, necessitating a move to new quarters, but we survived. Also the Barn Owl, which always roosts in the entrance to the Reception was absent during our visit, which was sad.