We were very fortunate in deciding on spending five days at Kostaplenti, the fantasic Natures Valley home of Buks and Annette de la Rey. The two buildings comfortably housed twenty BirdLife Overberg members and the feeling of being in the forest made for outstanding birding. We could use this as base to explore the birding delights of the region and members of the group visited birding hotspots such as the Tsitsikamma National Park, Birds of Eden, Uplands outside Plettenberg Bay, the Soutrivier mouth and a variety of forest trails in and around Natures Valley. (See a report on the latter elsewhere on this site). Many participants also uitilised the beautiful weather to swim and Frank even caught a GRUNTER for supper. The braai area is ideal for a group of this size and all the evenings were spent socialising around the fire.
The group getting together on the deck
Socialising at the braai
The birding in this garden was however the highlight of our stay. The upper deck allowed a view of dry branches above the forest canopy that serves as a perfect perch for a variety of species. The sunbirds were particularly attracted to the branches and during the week we were able to identify AMETHYST, COLLARED , GREATER and SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED, MALACJITE and SCARLET-CHESTED SUNBIRDS. Not too shabby! Other species that regularly used these perches included CAPE BATIS, FORK-TAILED DRONGO, SOMBRE GREENBUL, AFRICAN OLIVE-PIGEON, BLACK-HEADED ORIOLE, BLACK-BELLIED STARLING and CAPE WHITE-EYE.
Birds heard continually (and most seen often) included BAR-THROATED APALIS, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, OLIVE BUSH-SHRIKE, AFRICAN PARADISE FLYCATCHER, KAROO PRINIA, KNYSNA TURACO, GREEN WOODHOOPOE and KNYSNA WOODPECKER. Other birds that I personally enjoyed finding included TERRESTRIAL BROWN-BUL, GREEN-BACKED CAMEROPTERA, AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER, AFRICAN GOSHAWK, BLACK-BACKED PUFFBACK, CHORISTER ROBIN-CHAT, WILLOW WARBLER, YELLOW-THROATED WOODLAND-WARBLER and OLIVE WOODPECKER.
Other birds that flew over the property included seven species of swallows and swifts and WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANT, PIED CROW, KELP GULL, AFRICAN HARRIER- HAWK and YELLOW-BILLED KITE. We also often heard AFRICAN BLACK OYSTER-CATCHERS calling as they flew past along the the beach some hundred yards away. In total we managed to see 58 different species on the property. This certainly is garden birding at its best!
Dr Mark Brown of the Natures Valley Trust and his collaborators do a regular bi-weekly bird ringing exercise in the mature fynbos above the Grootrivier pass and he invited us to come along on Wednesday morning. This was certainly one of the highlights of the week. Mark was able to demonstrate the entire ringing process and explained the provincial ringing project on fynbos species that is being coordinated by Dr Phoebe Barnard of SANBI. Members were able to see and photograph species such as CAPE BATIS, KAROO PRINIA, CAPE SUGARBIRD, SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRD, OLIVE THRUSH and CAPE WHITE-EYE, and the undoubted star of the show was a young OLIVE BUSH-SHRIKE that caused lots of initial identification problems.
At lunch time Mark gave us a very interesting presentation on the activities of the Natures Valley Trust. This talk had all of us spellbound and it would be impossible to give an overview of this within the context of a trip report of this nature. Most interesting though was one of the research projects that Mark is undertaking together with BirdLife Plett. In this they are working on breeding colonies of KELP GULLS and AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS. It was decided there and then that Mark will come and talk to BLO at one of our monthly meetings as his work certainly needs more exposure. Watch this space.
At the dinner table
Birding in the Bitou local municipality region in general and at Natures Valley in particular is simply outstanding. We have started negotiating with several people in the area about sourcing sponsorhip to develop bird-finder webpages, similar as those that we had developed for the Cape Whale Coast, for this region. The following two links can be visited in view of getting a better idea of the birding potential of the area:
Lakes Bird Club at Nature's Valley:
Nature's Valley remains a top birding destination (John Graham):