Winter – at last!

Winter arrived in the Western Cape on Monday with a large cold front hitting the country.  Heavy rains and snow made their presence felt and water levels in our much depleted dams will be rising steadily.  A drive over Shaw’s Pass revealed beautiful snow covered peaks in the distance.

Winter Birding – Part 4 – Gharagab

The last two nights of our Kgalagadi National Park visit were spent at the Gharagab Wilderness Camp, a truly beautiful place, which can only be accessed with a 4×4 vehicle.  It is a place of quiet and solitude and we saw little other than the birds around the camp, although a few antelope did come to drink at the waterhole.  Reading in the visitors’ book, we saw many stories of lions and hyenas that often spend the night in the camp, keeping the residents awake with their antics, but unfortunately they did not visit us.  We did get a glimpse of a Honey Badger one afternoon, but it was quite far off and it soon disappeared!  The tents at Gharagab are very comfortable and we really enjoyed our stay there!

The drive out was enjoyable and some soft sand had to be negotiated before we again reached the Nossob river for our drive down to Twee Rivieren and out of the park.  Kori Bustards abounded along this section and we probably saw around 40!

We spent the night at the Kgalagadi Lodge, just 5 km outside the entrance.  It was comfortable and well equipped and can be recommended as a place to stay if unable to secure bookings at Twee Rivieren.  From there we headed for home, stopping once again in Calvinia, where, as expected, it was cold!

We recorded only 102 bird species for the trip.  Hopefully, our next visit will be in summer, when all the migrant species are present.

Winter Birding – Part 2 – Mata Mata

We spent three nights in one of the comfortable riverside cottages in Mata Mata Rest Camp.  Looking out over the river bed whilst enjoying an evening braai, we saw Gemsbok and Blue Wildebeest, with occasional Red Hartebeest, and were visited every evening by scavenging Jackals.

Our drives down the Auob river provided excellent game viewing with abundant animals including Lion, Leopard and Cheetah.  The birds were somewhat limited with the absence of all the migrant species, but we had good sightings, nevertheless.  The temperatures varied from -2 degrees in the morning, to 28 degrees in the afternoon, and the days were clear with not a cloud in the sky!  Needless to say, the sandy roads remain very corrugated and one rattles along gathering a great deal of dust, but that is just part of the overall experience that is the Kgalagadi NP.  Traffic is minimal, so one is never unable to get close to animals.

Cutie Pie

A chance happening on a juvenile Brimstone Canary right close to our cottage, whilst Orchid hunting at Barrydale, provided an opportunity to get close to this interesting little bird (what a fantastic hairdo!).  It’s parents were nowhere to be seen and it did not appear to be bothered by our presence.  We were worried as it was sitting in a cold wind and had a somewhat forlorn look about it, so I was relieved to note that an adult pair frequented the same area the next morning, suggesting a nearby nest and a re-united family!

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Juvenile Brimstone Canary

A Weekend on the Breede River at ‘River Queen’

Our annual family get-together took place over the long weekend at ‘River Queen’ on the Breede River just downstream from Malgas.  It was a large and funky house that could cater for all 14 of us and we had a wonderful re-union, with lots of superb food and great company.

Sadly the weather was not what it might have been, but that did not stop the fun, although it did not make for good fishing!  The braai was in constant use and the quality of the meals was outstanding!

All the grandchildren are teenagers for the first time, and it has been interesting to see them grow from babies at our first re-union, to what they are today.  We are very proud of them all!

The place itself was fascinating! There was so much interesting ‘stuff’ everywhere, in the garden, on the walls and on every surface. It offered the photographer an opportunity to capture some beautiful textures and compositions.