The Epic, Part 1 – Hermanus to St Francis Bay

On leaving Hermanus, we traveled along the Garden Route to Knysna, our first stop.  Travelling on the N1, one has little time to see small birds, but the larger ones are recognisable from the car and so our list started, growing rapidly as it does when everything counts.  We deviated around the lagoons at Wilderness and enjoyed the various bird hides and look-outs.  Once at Knysna, we visited the Goukamma Reserve and had good sightings of African Marsh Harriers and Black-winged Lapwings flying overhead.  There was also a Western Osprey over the village and the walks around Leisure Isle and along the lagoon edge at Belvedere, proved fruitful.

Leaving Knysna, we traveled via Nature’s Valley, always a good forest birding spot, but did not see a lot.  Our journey took us to St Francis Bay, where we were meeting up with friends for a few days of wild orchid hunting.  Regrettably, the weather turned cold and wet and we were severely hampered in our field activities, but did manage to get in some birding, between the frustrated flower searching!  Staying at our friend, Di’s house was a real pleasure and we were very comfortable and enjoyed some good times together!

Perdeberg Revisited

We last walked on Perdeberg in February last year.  It was beautiful, so we decided to go again, this time in Spring.  It was still good but very different.  There were many flowers as can be seen from the pictures below.  The Gladiolus debilis was in flower and there were wonderful Adenandras along the path.

Eighteen walkers set out, but we split up as some did not want to go the whole way.  We even managed to lose Piet and Martha along the way, but luckily they were found and all was well.  The weather was good and the breeze in our faces on the return was welcome.

I was pleased to see a number of birds, including Black Harrier, Jackal Buzzard, Common Buzzard, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Yellow Bishop, Cape Grassbird, Grey-backed Cisticola, Rock Kestrel and Blue Crane, but I could not find the Hottentot Buttonquail, which was my aim.

Spring in Namaqualand

We started our trip to Namaqualand with a visit to the West Coast National Park, where we stayed in the Duinepos Camp.  This allowed us the opportunity to see the wild flowers at Postberg (along with many visitors from Cape Town, as it was a Saturday) and also to look out for local birds.  Being late winter, the migrant waders were still absent, so we had to be content with the resident population. This still provided plenty of species and we started off with a good few.

After two nights we proceeded up the coast to Velddrif, where we again concentrated on water birds, before heading north to Rocher Pan.  There was virtually nothing to see there, so we set off for Kamieskroon and the Kamieskroon Hotel, where we were to spend 5 nights.

Namaqualand Route
Our route in Namaqualand

On Monday I had only one thing in mind and that was to see a Barlow’s Lark.  This meant driving all the way to Alexander Bay, a round trip of 640 kms.  Sadly, we did not find one so the trip was in vain, however we did see 21 Greater Kestrels along the road to Port Nolloth, along with about 200 Pied Crows!  The road from Steinkopf to Port Nolloth is 90 kms long and there are around 900 disused telephone standards along the way.  There must have been around 400 crow’s nests on these poles and many were occupied.  There were also a few Cape Crows and we even saw 6 Ludwig’s Bustards, which was pleasing.

That night we were joined by Richard and Jeanette West and we were amazed to find that our good friends, David and Elaine were also at the hotel, along with another couple.  All of us had lived at Kleinsee, so we had a great reunion!

Next day we visited the Namaqualand National Park.  Whereas we had not yet seen any flowers in the area, we were delighted with the display at Skilpad, where there were wonderful fields of Namaqua Daisies and many Heliophilas.  A drive to Soebatsfontein revealed good succulents and we were once again pleased with what we saw on the road back to Kamieskroon.

On Wednesday we undertook another long journey; this time to Kleinsee, via Hondeklipbaai and Koingnaas.  It was interesting to see the homes we had lived in, and we spent a while in the old squash club – scene of many raucous parties in our youth – chatting to the new owners, who have converted the pub into a restaurant.  We returned to Kamieskroon via Komaggas and the Spektakel Pass to Springbok, pleased to find a new tar road all the way from Komaggas, where previously there had only been a very rough and stony section.

By Thursday, I needed some new birds, so we set out for Gamoep in Bushmanland, in the hope of finding a Red Lark.  It was a very interesting drive with spectacular scenery and many Kokerboom trees.  Strangely, we did not find Gamoep, despite driving right through it, not did we find the Lark.  We ended up having to return via Springbok, so searched once more for the Cinnamon-breasted Warbler (also without success!) before returning to our hotel.

Our trip netted no less than 146 bird species, which was pleasing, even if we missed out on a few specials that we were searching for.

Walking Above Hermanus

Our walk this morning took us along the contour path, westwards from the Visitors’ Centre, then up Elephant Path to Rotary Way.  From there we went east until we eventually arrived at the top of the Kanonkop Path, which we descended back to our starting point.  The weather was perfect for walking, but we underestimated the time, so some of us had to break away in order to get back in time for other commitments.

The walk was 10 km long and we went through plenty of recently burnt fynbos, giving the botanists lots to enthuse about.  The pictures come mostly from Liz, who had her camera at the ready throughout.  There were also some good birds on display, including Cape Rock Thrush, Cape Rockjumper, Ground Woodpecker and Verreaux’s Eagle.

We really stretched our legs and had a good time, enjoying the splendour that surrounds us!