We entered the park through the Twee Rivieren Gate and proceeded to our first stop at Nossob Camp where we had a river front chalet for three nights. There were the usual stops along the way to look at sleeping lions, a leopard half hidden under a bush and a stretching cheetah. It was very hot and the few birds that we saw were gasping for air!
Mornings were spent at the waterholes around the Nossob area and the large flocks of Cape Turtle Doves and their pursuing Lanner Falcons were a sight to behold. There were, of course, other smaller birds present, such at Yellow Canaries, Shaft-tailed Wydahs, Red-headed Weavers and the ubiquitous Lark-like Buntings, as well as the odd raptor. Swallow-tailed Bee-Eaters provided bright flashes of colour, and various antelope wandered by.
From Nossob, we moved on to the wonderful Grootkolk bush camp, a place where one can really relax and watch the action around the waterhole. During our short visit, it was dominated by a pair of Martial Eagles, whilst the action around our tent was mainly Sociable Weavers. I had been searching for a Barn Owl for some years and on the day we moved on from Grootkolk to Gharagab Camp, we saw no less than 4 of them!
Gharagab is always a pleasure, and the drive there through the sand dunes is really enjoyable. There had been some rain so the desert was looking quite green, with many Thunderbolt (Sesamum triphyllum) flowers in evidence. We saw a couple of Honey Badgers digging for prey and they were attended by the inevitable Pale Chanting Goshawks, which prey on animals trying to escape from the Badgers. Sadly, we did not have any close encounters with predators at the camp – these are always recorded in the Visitors’ Books but seem to happen only on nights when we are not present!
We spent another night – interrupted by a male lion making an awful racket outside our bedroom – at Nossob, before moving on to Twee Rivieren for one night. Our drive from there to Mata Mata the next morning produced a good showing of birds along the Auob river. We spent three nights at Mata Mata. Rain threatened but did not materialise, however, we were able to cool off by showering in our clothes and sitting on the deck in the breeze! We saw a Groundscraper Thrush in the camp, having searched all of SA for one – what a relief!!
We met quite a few other birders from Hermanus in the Park and we all agreed that the drought appears to have caused quite a drop in the numbers of most birds, especially raptors. Our Challenge list, did, however, benefit from the addition of a few more species, and we were glad to add a new lifer, in the form of a Rufous-cheeked Nightjar, seen and heard at Grootkolk