Fifteen members of BirdLife Overberg visited the Red Stone Hills guest farm near Calitzdorp on Route 62 over last weekend (7 to 10 August). The drive there was exiting as the Overberg is as green as it can come and the Little Karoo is starting to show its annual flower spectacle. As is normal when we pass through Barrydale, we stopped over at Clarke of the Karoo for a great lunch and extensive banter. A meal at Mike's restaurant comes highly recommended. The trip to the guest farm gave us the opportunity of seeing some great Western Cape birds – this included lots of Blue Cranes, Cape Sugarbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird (both in Tradouw pass), Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk and many more.
Early morning view from our chalet
The scenery at Red Stone Hills is simply overwhelming – the red red mountains must be experienced and the strong flowing little rivers create a diversity of habitats that makes for great birding. Bob and myself spent some time along the river on the first afternoon and were able to identify a lot of species that one would normally expect in this type of environment. I tried my best to get some pictures of Chested-vented Titbabblers, but their hyperactive behavior makes it almost impossible in dense acacia thornveld. My biggest disappointment though was missing out on my first picture of a Tambourine Dove – I in actual fact had the bird in my viewfinder, but did not have the time to focus before it flew off.
The scattered chalets on the farm are very comfortable and practically equipped and everyone agreed extremely good value for money. Bob and Christa, Charel and Marlien and Elaine and myself stayed in Bushman Cottage and had spectacular views of sunsets (and sunrises) as the veranda overlooks the entire valley. What a dawn
chorus!!!!! The communal entertainment area is great, we spent all three evenings there and Elaine's suppers were once again out of this world. We should mention though that Charel's steaks on the Sunday evening were brilliant. Take note that Petro does also cater and that meals could be ordered.
We took it really slowly on the Saturday – some of the group went up the mountain to look at bushman paintings and came back in awe. Christene was most impressed with the diversity of plants on the mountain and promised to write us a report on their little expedition. Len and herself are off to Kruger though with the result that we will have to wait a while for this one. Bob and Christa practiced their photographic skills, some of the girls explored the valleys in the area and four of us took a casual drive to the the quint hamlet of De Rust. Essentially we did nothing and just drank in the marvels of this landscape. The group was so laid back that we even afforded ourselves the opportunity to watch the Boks lick Aus. (Yes, DSTV available).
On the Sunday morning most of us went on a slow two hour walk and we were able to assist the relative novices in the group to study many interesting species up close. Familiar Chats were in abundance, Karoo Scrub-Robins were very confiding and Neddicky's everywhere. We watched a large flock of Cape Canaries feeding on little yellow flowers accompanied by Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, Yellow Bishops, weavers and sparrows. A great bonus was being able to compare Common Fiscal and Fiscal Flycatcher that were perched close together. In the more wooded areas of the farm we were able to pick up Acacia Pied Barbet, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Sombre Greenbul, Southern Boubou, African Goshawk, Cardinal Woodpecker and so on. Of further interest were Barn Swallows and Black Saw-wings and the inevitable debate of early migration vs. over-wintering birds. Most participants found the young African Fish-Eagle in this habitat strange and we spent ten minutes waiting for a Rock-Thrush on top op a hill to turn its back on us – turned out to be Cape Rock-Thrush. We spent the afternoon having a picnic along the swimming pool at the entertainment area, the greatest entertainment being the ostriches with their elaborate breeding rituals and trying to predict when the male's legs and face would turn red.
African Fish-Eagle in strange landscape
The Red Stone Hills holiday farm must certainly rate as one of the most underrated birding destinations in the Western Cape province and one wonders when Route 62 will start getting the recognition that it deserves in birding circles. We are currently investigating the possibility of presenting Flight for Birders courses along Route 62 in an attempt to establish a BirdLife South Africa infrastructure in this beautiful part of our country.
In the end we saw 94 species on the farm and 126 species on the entire trip. Visit www.redstone.co.za or contact Petro Potgieter at email@example.com for more information on Red Stone Hills. Also visit the photo gallery that we have established elsewhere on this website.