Trip Report - Late Winter in western South Africa - Part 4 (Long)

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Subject: Trip Report - Late Winter in western South Africa - Part 4 (Long)
From: "John McAllister" <>
Date: Tue, 22 Apr 2003 12:51:33 +0200
Hi again

Here's the final part of my trip report.  Hope that it has been of use to
some and enjoyed by others


John McAllister
Beautiful Just Birding
South Africa



16th August

After breakfast we drove via the very scenic Aardvarkloof and Kamies Pass to
Kamieskroon before and then on to Garies.  At Kamieskroon we were jolted
back to “civilisation” - tarred roads and traffic!  The day’s drive gave us
the only Maccoa Duck, Karoo Lark of the trip as well as the first Hamerkop,
Capped Wheatear, Malachite Sunbird and Southern (Lesser) Double-collared
Sunbird of the trip.  Lifers for Jo included Karoo Long-billed Lark and
Ludwig’s Bustard.

Overnight: Sophia Guest House

17th August

Today was devoted more to wildflowers than to birding with a drive from
Garies to Groenriviersmond (Green River Mouth) on the Atlantic coast before
the long drive to Cape Town and the Johnsons’ Fish Hoek home.  The winter
rains had been very good and flowers were indeed quite something.  Despite
this being a non-birding day we still managed to get a few “firsts” for the
trip - White-breasted Cormorant, African Spoonbill, Black Harrier, Southern
Black Korhaan and Grey-backed Cisticola at Groenriviersmond and small flocks
of Yellow Bishops (Yellow-rumped Widows) on the road south of Piketberg.  We
even saw some birds we did not find anywhere else on the trip like Great
Crested Grebe at Groenriviersmond and African Black Swift over the wheat
fields alongside the road between Piketberg and Cape Town.

Overnight: The Johnsons

18th August

Another day without too much emphasis on birding.  Elize, Elma and Shirley
had expressed a desire to visit to the Muizenberg flea market.  Jo and I
went of in a rather casual search for Chaffinch which I had not yet seen in
South Africa and Knysna Warbler.  We heard, but did not see, the former in
the grounds of Afton Grove Country Retreat where I had hoped to meet
birder-owner Chris Spengler.  Unfortunately we dipped out completely on the
Knysna Warbler after a few desultory tries to find the site mentioned in
Essential Birding.  Time caught up with us unfortunately as we had to get
back to Fish Hoek to meet the ladies for lunch before paying a visit to the
Boulders Beach penguin colony and taking a short drive around the southern
end of the Cape Peninsula.  We saw our only African Penguins of the trip at
the well-known Boulders Beach colony and had several “firsts” for the trip
here - Crowned Cormorant, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Spurfowl, Cape Gull, Hartlaub
’s Gull, Cape Bulbul, Common (European) Starling and Bully Canary of the
trip.  We also saw the first very distinctive southern subspecies of Cape
White-eye of the trip.

Overnight: The Johnsons

19th August

The morning was spent shopping for supplies, getting hairdos and general
sightseeing.  We finally got under way and took the West Coast Highway from
Cape Town to Velddrif and Aurora.  We made a quick stop at Tienie Versveld
Wildflower Reserve near Darling in a vain attempt to find the distinctive
western subspecies of Cloud Cisticola.  Birds not seen elsewhere Cape
Clapper Lark at Tienie Versveld and Sentinel Rock-Thrush at Mountain Mist.
First birds for the trip Blue Crane at Tienie Versveld, Great White Pelican,
Greater Flamingo and Lesser Flamingo  at Velddrif and White-necked Raven and
Cape Sugarbird, at Mountain Mist.

Overnight: Mountain Mist Chalets.

20th August

Today we spent lazing around at Mountain Mist enjoying the spectacular
scenery.  Even though birding and all other activities that even looked like
being strenuous were studiously avoided Elize and I managed to get a lifer
while talking to Anne Stoller in the front “garden” of their house - a most
obliging Cape Siskin.  That evening while slaving away at the braai supping
on a well chilled Windhoek Lager (maybe I’ll get a free couple of cases) the
peace and quiet was shattered by very distinctive yapping of a Freckled
Nightjar - the only one of the trip.

Overnight: Mountain Mist Chalets

21st August

Today we were to go on to Klein Cedarberg Private Nature Reserve near Ceres,
but this was not to be.  Due to a set of rather unfortunate circumstances
there had been a snarl up with our booking there so we made the very
difficult decision to spend another night at Mountain Mist.  Life can be
such a drag at times:-)  After another deliciously lazy morning we took an
drive to Velddrif and on along St Helena Bay to Britannia Bay.  We saw our
only Cape Long-billed Lark of the trip at Velddrif and other “firsts” for
the trip were Cape Grassbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird and Protea Canary
at Mountain Mist, Cape Shoveller, Kittlitz’s Plover, Common Greenshank,
Spotted Thick-knee (Dikkop) and Cape Weaver at Velddrif and Cape Cormorant
and African Black Oystercatcher at Britannia Bay.

Overnight: Mountain Mist Chalets

22nd August

Today we deviated from our original plan which was to visit Katbakkies and
Skitterykloof from Klein Cedarberg before going on to Swellendam.  Instead
we went straight from Mountain Mist through the Cape Fold mountains to
Swellendam - after all I had already ticked Cinnamon-breasted Warbler on
this trip :-)  We did of course stop at Robertson Co-operative’s wine
to pick up some Pinotage (a deliciously smooth dry red made from a South
African cultivar - purely for guests at out B&B you understand).  We
nevertheless found our only White Stork (presumably an over-wintering bird
and not an early returning migrant) of the trip together with a roadside
Giant Kingfisher.  Other “firsts” for the trip were a calling Fiery-necked
Nightjar and a Brown-hooded Kingfisher at Swellendam and some roadside
White-throated Swallows.

Overnight: Hermitage Huisie.

23rd August

Today we got back to some semi-serious birding again.  We left Swellendam a
liitle late, but stopped fairly often to check out likely looking fields
along the way.  Our route took us through Buffelsjagrivier (Buffalo hunt
river) and across the quaint old pont at Malgas to De Hoop Nature Reserve.
Along the road we found the only Burchell’s Coucal and Lesser Swamp (Cape
Reed) Warbler of the trip. White-rumped Swift was only seen at De Hoop.
Other “firsts” for the trip were calling Common Quails, Denham’s (Stanley’s)
Bustard, Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Large-billed (Thick-billed) Lark, Greater
Striped Swallow, White-rumped Swift, Fan-tailed Cisticola, in the fields
along the road and Southern Pochard, Marsh Sandpiper, Ruff, Speckled
Mousebird, Fiscal Flycatcher, at De Hoop.  The most spectacular sighting of
the day was 112 Blues Cranes in a roadside field near De Hoop.

Overnight: De Hoop Nature Reserve

24th August

The morning was spent relaxing and birding on De Hoop and later we drove
into Bredasdorp to get supplies.  We explored a small wooded gorge in an
unsuccessful search for Knysna Woodpecker.  Although we were not successful
with this quest we did find our first Sombre Greenbul (Bubul), Bar-throated
Apalis, Cape Batis and Common Waxbill for the trip. This gorge also gave us
the only Olive Woodpecker of the holiday.  The trees outside our
accommodation held the first Wattled Starlings and the open grassy areas
near the camp gave us the only Plain-backed Pipit of the trip. Just past
Bredasdorp on the Cape Agulhas road we were treated to the spectacle of over
200 Blue Cranes loafing in a roadside field.  That evening we heard our
first Barn Owl.

Overnight: De Hoop Nature Reserve

25th August

Once again we spent the morning birding in De Hoop Nature, this time
visiting Die Mond and Koppie Alleen.  Later we drove to the small seaside
village of Infanta at the mouth of the Breë (Broad) River.  The portion of
the De Hoop wetland near the camp held the first Cape Teals of the trip.  At
Die Mond we saw the only Chestnut-banded Plovers, Caspian Terns we were to
find and the first Levaillant’s Cisticola of the trip.  From the dunes at
Koppie Alleen we had marvellous views of Southern Right Whales just
offshore.  We also saw our only Cape Gannet (a single bird) from here.  The
drive to Infanta gave us our first Pied Avocet and at the ski-boat launching
site at Infanta itself we saw the only Swift Terns we were to find on the
trip and a small wooded patch near the village yielded the only Southern
Boubou of the trip.

Overnight: De Hoop Nature Reserve

26th August

Today we drove back through the wheat fields towards Swellendam and then on
to Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, arriving there in time to take a walk
through the forest.  The road from Suurbraak to Grootvadersbosch gave us the
only African Olive Pigeon (Rameron Pigeon) of the trip while the reserve
itself gave us the only Lemon (Cinnamon) Dove, Black Saw-wing, Olive
Bush-shrike, we were to find.  That evening we were treated to the calls of
a distant pair of African Wood-Owls.

Overnight: Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve


27th August

After some early morning birding in the forest we left Grootvadersbosch and
crossed the Cape fold mountains via the spectacular Tradouw’s Pass into the
Little Karoo.  After stopping off at Die Krans cellars in Calitzdorp to
stock up on their great Port (we’ll have to call it something else soon to
assuage the justifiable paranoia of the Portuguese producers) and more
Pinotage wine we crossed the Swatrberg Mountains via the magnificent
Swartberg Pass to Prince Albert on the edge of the Great Karoo.  We got our
only African Cuckoo-Hawk (a lifer for Elize) and Grey Cuckooshrike of the
trip from the hide of the Melkhoutpad (Milkwood Road) overlooking the forest
and the Duiwenhoks River.  While waiting for Elize I took a short walk along
the paths on Bosbokrand (Bush Buck Ridge) and found the only Olive (Cape)
Thrush, Greater Double-collared Sunbird and Forest Canary we were to see on
the trip.  On the way out of Grootvadersbosch we also saw our only Swee

Overnight: Granny’s House

28th August

Today was in the main devoted to enjoying the magnificent scenery and
wildflowers of the Swartberg mountains, particularly on the road to
Gamkaskloof or The Hell.  Until 1963 the only way in or out of the small
farming settlement of up to 600 souls at Gamkaskloof, popularly known to
outsiders as The Hell situated in a narrow, isolated valley deep in the
Swartberg Mountains.  Farming was largely at a subsistence level although
some produce, notably dried fruit, was taken out of the valley on pack
donkeys.  The drive from Prince Albert is a spectacular one - up the
Swartberg Pass almost to the summit and then Birdingwise we saw some
localised species such as Protea Canary and Cape Sugarbird but the only
species that we did not see elsewhere on the trip were Cape Rock-Thrush and
Long-billed Crombec.

Overnight: Granny’s House

29th August
After breakfast we left Prince Albert for the drive to Three Sisters –
really onlythe junction of two major roads in the middle of nowhere.  On the
way we stopped off for some birding on the banks of the Gamka River.  Among
the birds here was our only African Black Duck of the trip.  We arrived at
Three Sisters Guest Farm in time for some late afternoon birding and were
rewarded with our first and only Namaqua Warbler of the trip.  Later, while
we were having sundowners outside our rooms a VERY out of range
Pearl-spotted Owlet paid a visit to one of the many tall alien trees around
the homestead – a very pleasing and unexpected addition to our trip list.

Overnight: Three Sisters Gust Farm


30th August
Today was essentially a travelling day up the National Road to the north.
We paid a lightning visit to Garingboom Guest Farm near Springfontein on the
way to our destination near the old diamond mining town of Jagersfontein.
It had been raining in the area and some of the dirt roads had to be
negotiated with care.  It was not possible to go out onto the farm at
Garingboom so we dipped out on the much hoped for Kimberley Pipit.  We did,
however, manage to do some roadside birding and saw our first Orange River
Francolins of the trip.

Overnight: Vendutiekop Guest Farm

31st August
Today was our only really serious birding day of the trip.  Christiaan very
kindly devoted his whole day to showing us around the area and we birded the
area around Vendutiekop and Jagersfontein.  We got 13 new birds for the
trip - Black-crowned Night-Heron, White-backed Duck, Red-billed Teal,
Swainson’s Spurfowl, Common Moorhen, Blue Korhaan, Curlew Sandpiper,
Whiskered Tern, Malachite Kingfisher, Pearl-breasted.  Swallow, Red-breasted
Swallow, Yellow-crowned (Golden) Bishop and Black-throated Canary.  This
pushed our total for the trip up to a not too shabby 267 species without a
pelagic out of Cape Town.

Overnight: Vendutiekop Guest Farm.

1st September
A totally non-birding day driving from Vendutiekop via Bloemfontein,
Winburg, Senekal, Frankfort and Vrede to Wakkerstroom.

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