It started out as an outing for 20 members, but Cape Nature had a drainage problem and the numbers had to be reduced to 12. The Palmers kindly agreed to camp, so in the end 14 of us set out on Monday. Numbers continued to diminish for various reasons and by the time Wednesday evening came along, we were down to only 10.
We were very pleasantly surprised by the excellent accommodation available and looked forward to our first forest walk. This took place on Tuesday morning, when we hiked for three and a half hours in desperate search of Trogons, Flycatchers and Turacos. Sadly, it was not to be – our total count for the forest reserve was only around 30 species, but we were well rewarded with an excellent sighting of a Barn Owl as well as large flocks of African Olive Pigeons – up to 40 or…
Three days in beautiful Franschhoek listening to some of the best writers and political commentators certainly gave one lots to think about. It was an exhilarating experience and, coupled with the fact that we stayed in a very nice house with good friends, means that we will return again next year.
There was plenty of discussion around not only writing, but also the parlous state of affairs in South Africa. We left armed many new ideas and with the latest books which will keep us going for quite a while. We also ran into some old friends and listened to some wonderful music concerts, making for a very pleasant time overall.
Yesterday was a fantastic day to walk the Palmiet River path at the Kogelberg Reserve. 11 friends joined us and we hiked 11 kms in the most beautiful weather before returning to the car park and opening up the champagne to celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary! Thank you to all who attended and for the great card you gave us. It was a fitting way to celebrate 50 fantastic years!
At the start of the walk
The river was flowing strongly despite the drought
Today our weekly walk took us up Adder’s Ladder and onto the jeep track before coming back down to the Visitors’ Centre via Kanonkop. It was cool and we covered 6 km. The high point of the walk for me was not getting up to 340 mamsl, but finding a Hottentot Buttonquail when we got there! This was a very fine addition to my Challenge list.
Yesterday we went to McGregor and the Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve in order to try to supplement our Karoo birding list. We had wonderful clear warm weather with no wind whatsoever, but nevertheless, the birds we wanted to see eluded us. Sadly, the dams are still empty and the area is in desperate need of rain. Our afternoon was punctuated by a few isolated drops and there was some thundery activity around, but it remained dry and dusty!
Interestingly, we saw an enigmatic black, white and grey bird with a clear breastband. It was obviously a wagtail, but the lack of any brown colouration suggested that it had to be a Mountain Wagtail. This meant a bird very far out of its area and also out of its habitat, so we were reluctant to name it, but there really was no other choice. I did not get a photograph!
We managed to add three birds to our challenge list, but have yet to see any Eremomelas or Penduline Tits. A journey up the mountain into good protea growth also failed to produce a much-needed Protea Seedeater.
There were 16 Hurriers on the Cliff Path this morning for our walk from Kraal Rock to the New Harbour and back. We covered a distance of 13 kilometres and stopped at the Running Rabbit for coffee on the way back. It was a pleasant outing with cool overcast conditions – ideal for walking!
Birdlife South Africa (BLSA) certainly pulled off a major coup with the 2017 Flock at Sea. Around 1950 lucky birders took part in what must have been the most spectacular birding event ever held in the Southern African region. We had four nights at sea and three full days of birding, ending this morning when we returned to Cape Town and docked at 7:00 am.
Our vessel was the MSC ‘Sinfonia’ and, because there were sufficient birders on board, BLSA had control over where we went. This enabled us to seek out ocean eddies and up-welling currents (not that we always found them) and, thereby, find good concentrations of foraging seabirds. For me it was really exciting as I managed to see a total of 25 seabirds, 12 of which were lifers! The bird of the cruise was undoubtedly the Light-mantled Albatross, previously only seen by 2 birders in the region! This trip enabled hundreds to see it and my only regret is that I did not get a photo of this very rare bird.
Apart from the birds, the trip provided an opportunity to renew old friendships and make new ones, as well as enjoy the chance to get off land and see something of the Southern Ocean. We had winds of up to 75 kph with quite heavy chop, but luckily the swells were not too heavy. Birding was not easy as the birds seldom came within 100 metres of the ship and many had to be identified at greater distances, but there were many experts on board. They readily shared there knowledge and guided those of us not so well-versed in seabird identification.
In addition to spending time on deck with binoculars and cameras on hand, there were also many talks on birds, the most enthralling of which were the two presentations by the world’s great seabird expert, Peter Harrison. His passion for albatrosses brought tears to the eyes of many who were present. It certainly was a memorable event and a vast improvement on the first Flock at Sea which took place in 2013.
Queuing on arrival at the docks
Sailing out of Cape Town
A tugboat escorting us out
Signal Hill and the CT Stadium
Table Mountain as we departed
Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles as we left
Chum being dragged behind the ship
Some of the birders at the stern of the vessel
Possible immature Southern Giant Petrel?
Northern Giant Petrel
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and Cory’s Shearwater