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!
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.
Today Hermanus experienced some really big seas and the sight of massive waves breaking along the cliff path had hundreds of viewers enthralled. Winter storms always provide the best in seascapes and this was no exception. We also had some good rains and the total for August has now passed our average!
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.
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….