Please Prevent Fernkloof being turned into a Theme Park!

Many readers are no doubt aware of the current proposals for the so-called upgrades to the Fernkloof Nature Reserve (FNR).  These can be viewed at the following website:

The public is urged to lodge objections, as this development is likely to cause huge damage to the FNR.  These can be sent to

My own response (which has been registered) was;

As a member of the Hermanus Botanical Society and a keen walker, amateur botanist, photographer and birder, I wish to state my strong objection to the plans presented for the further development of Fernkloof Nature Reserve.

This reserve is world-renowned for its dedication to preserving the integrity of our natural heritage and serves as a window into the fascinating flora and fauna of the region.  All it requires in terms of future development is the retention and upkeep of its wonderful network of paths, which allow the public to wander freely and enjoy and discover nature at its best.  Trying to convert it to some form of theme park is abhorrent to all nature lovers and the idea of cableways and cafes reflects a mindset which is completely at odds with the original Fernkloof ideals.

I cannot stress strongly enough the antipathy which your proposals generate within the community of Hermanus nature lovers, be they birders, botanists, zoologists or whatever, and I urge you and your colleagues who are responsible for this new plan to think again and withdraw your proposals, in favour of retaining the present state of FNR, but with better attention to the maintenance of the paths so that more people are able to enjoy our wonderful heritage in safety and comfort.

‘River Queen’ continued

Our visit to ‘River Queen’ included some birding and we managed to see 73 species in the immediate area, but strangely, no Kingfishers.  We also walked in the surrounding veld and noted a few interesting flowers, the most exciting one being an Orchid, Holothrix, but we were unable to identify the species.

Keagan picked up my camera and showed his skill as a portrait photographer with some good images.

Walking in Fernkloof

Only five members of the Hurriers turned up this morning at Fernkloof for our weekly walk.  We had intended to climb Hangklip, but there was trouble in Kleinmond, so we decided to not take a chance on the road.

The weather was perfect for walking and it was good to see that the fynbos is really starting to show its Spring flowers.  The slopes of Kanonkop were covered in Aspalathus caledonensis and Geissorhiza ovata, whilst there were many Gladiolus hirsutus and G. debilis.  We also saw Liparia splendens and a single Protea scabra.

It was good to hear the Red-chested Cuckoo calling again and we also got Victorin’s Warbler, Cape Grassbird, Red-winged Starling, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Southern Boubou and Karoo Prinia on the mountain slopes.

A Little Ringed Plover at Vermont Pan

Having spent over an hour searching for the Little Ringed Plover at Vermont Pan yesterday without any success, we were thrilled this morning to find this very rare little bird.  It has attracted huge attention, being the only specimen ever seen in South Africa (it is believed to be the same bird as that was recently seen in Port Elizabeth) and there were birders from near and far in constant attention.

Besides the Plover, it was good to see the many pairs of Grey Herons breeding on rocky islands within the pan

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….