A birding walk on Lemoenkop, in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve, this morning turned up a few good birds, as well as a meeting with a small troop of baboons. The latter were in our path and were not inclined to move on when approached. John walked to within a metre or two of the Alpha male, but he would not budge, until John made to throw something at him. Only then did he trundle away. Austrian visitors with us were quite disconcerted by the whole thing and were very glad when the path eventually cleared!
During a birding trip to De Mond Reserve today, we were somewhat disappointed to see far fewer birds than anticipated. Where we had expected to see many Larks and Pipits, there were hardly any, and the large flocks of waders that normally characterise the lagoon edge at De Mond were down in numbers. Along the road in to the reserve, however, we were very lucky to see a Red Backed Shrike and a European Honey Buzzard. These are rarities in this part of the world.
Then on the edge of the lagoon we were very interested to see large groups of Hermit Crabs in absolute feeding frenzies, but we could not determine what was attracting them. A photo showing such a group is appended below.
A call from a friend alerted me yesterday to the presence of huge numbers of Cape Cormorants on the rocks at Platbank, Hermanus. I rushed down and was blown away by the literally thousands of birds that had gathered on the rocky shoreline! It was a really amazing sight and one that will always be remembered, especially since this is not a normal roosting spot for them. Presumably they had been feeding and were resting up before their next foray into the ocean. I searched for other species amongst them, but to no avail – they were all Cape Cormorants!
We spent four days at the park outside Swellendam, two of them on our own and two with the Hermanus Bird Club. It was a successful birding adventure and the club recorded 120 species from 23 members who attended, whilst Renee and I got 121. Whereas the club total represented only Bontebok Park sightings, we had three birds from outside the park – and they were good ones – a pair of Crowned Eagles soaring over the entrance to Grootvadersbos, a Black Sparrow Hawk and a Hamerkop.
Within the park we were thrilled to hear a Buff-Spotted Flufftail. It lured us with its haunting call for two nights without stopping for more than five minutes at a time! We obviously never saw it, as they are such secretive birds and it was somewhere in the dense riverine bush and quite inaccessible! Other specials were the ubiquitous Black Harriers, an Osprey, Jacobin Cuckoo, Knysna Woodpeckers and displaying Denham’s Bustards, as well as a good selection of Larks, with the Cape Clapper Lark the most recognisable, as it delivered flawless aerobatic displays.
We climbed to the waterfall at the Marloth Reserve – an excellent walk through a natural forest, but very steep towards the end where we encountered the waterfall and a beautiful rock pool. We did not see one bird in the forest!
We had also planned to walk in Grootvadersbos Reserve, but were very disappointed to find it closed, as the road was being repaired. We wanted to see Narina Trogon and some of the rarer Flycatchers that occupy this special habitat (and I, of course, wanted to find some epiphytic Orchids).
Our trip to the Kalaghadi provided an opportunity to observe Lanner Falcons and other raptors hunting down Namaqua Doves. This occurred at most waterholes and it was fascinating to see how successful they were. During on short spell at the Nossob waterhole we saw no less that 5 kills by the falcons. The photos below show some of the action.
We set out for the Kalaghadi on Tuesday 7 June and spent our first night at Papkuilsfontein in the quaint Rondekraal cottage. Alri was the perfect hostess, as always, and brought us a delicious meal which we enjoyed in front of the fire. Next night saw us in Upington where we once again had a pleasant stay before driving through to Twee Rivieren for our first night in the Park.
We stayed a total of 10 nights in 5 different camps, but the ones that stood out were the wilderness camps where there are never more than 4 couples and where the camps are unfenced and each one overlooks a waterhole. The atmosphere was wonderful and we spent many hours watching animals coming to drink and graze without any concern for the visiting humans. Drives in the park yielded further good sightings and provided for many pleasurable hours despite the poor corrugated roads.
Unfortunately, being winter, we did not see that many birds and our trip list only numbered 127 species, but there were good sightings nevertheless and we were fascinated to see the Lanner Falcons preying on the Namaqua Doves at virtually every waterhole. They are superb hunters and were joined on one occasion by a couple of Shikras and a Gabar Goshawk, also looking for their dove dinner.
Urikaruus, where we spent three nights was wonderful, with a herd of no less than 44 giraffes coming to drink one evening! It was, however, extremely cold and when the outside temperature fell to minus 3 degrees in the morning, it was about the same indoors. We had to sleep wearing beanies and socks and with three blankets and a duvet on our beds, but still felt frozen by morning!
We returned yesterday, spending another very cold night in Calvinia on the way.