(Members of BirdLife Overberg recently spent a few days birding along the Garden Route and Jos and John Simson forwarded this trip report to us. We also loaded a new photo gallery of pictures taken on some of our regular trips to this beautiful part of our country – go to “Gallery” and then “BirdLife Overberg birding on the Garden Route” - Ed.)
Now THAT was a jolly good BirdLife Overberg outing: great birding terrain, good company, delicious meals and a terrific break from the daily grind. Thank you Anton and Elaine for organising this celebration of birdlife.
Our club visited Storms River Mouth and the Wilderness National Park during the week of 17th – 21st February where we found birdlife at a premium, and we were able to relax and enjoy our feathered friends in the most pristine surroundings.
The view from the Oceanettes overlooking the crashing Indian Ocean at Storms River, where lively dolphins surfed and frolicked before our eyes, was a delight to behold. Here members were able to gaze at flocks of seabirds with the naked eye, view a Chorister Robin-Chat from the boardwalk at leisure, swim in the sea with the cormorants, and Annie, Frank, Jos, John and Lee were even fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of the beautiful green and sulphur-yellow Collared Sunbird near the entrance to the park.
Speaking of great birding – one should spend a few hours birding around the offices and the staff village at the entrance to the Tsitsikama National Park. Various small groups of us were able to study species such as Terrestrial Brownbuls, African Dusky Sunbird, three different woodpeckers, Grey Cuckoo-Shrike (a lifer for Elaine), Southern Boubou and many more. Some of us spent the majority of the Thursday at Nature's Valley and were obviously overjoyed with the abundance of forest species on offer – African Paradise Flycatcher, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Amethyst Sunbird, Lemon Dove, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Sombre Greenbul, Green-backed Camaroptera, Black-backed Puffback, the list just goes on. There is a dam at the Kurland polo estate at the Crags that should always be visited when in the Garden Route. The ducks are plentiful here, but the highlight was the pair of African Jacana – a WC lifer for several in the group.
Most of us visited Birds of Eden on our way from Storms River to Wilderness. Here we were treated to an orgy of exotic as well as indigenous birds. Seven different types of Louries made every effort to make their presence felt, but the flambuoyant Scarlet Ibis stole their thunder. Birds of Eden MUST be visited when traveling through the Garden Route. Some members stopped over along the Bitou river estuary and at the Plet sewage works – both of these should be included on any itinerary when birding along the Garden Route.
At the risk of being BORING (!) birdclub members were indeed privileged to view an abundance of the exquisite/ inquisitive Knysna Louries at close proximity at the Wilderness National Park. The flash of red wings was in evidence all over the park and the Wild Fig trees were filled with feasting birds. On the Saturday morning more than thirty different species were counted in one of these trees! What a sight to behold.
At our rustic wooden chalets overlooking the Serpentine, weaver birds twittered happily in the milkwoods, just about every swallow, swift or martin to be found in this region swooped gracefully, giving great opportunities for members to practice their identification skills and crakes and moorhens waded in the water under the gently swaying reeds. African Fish-Eagles performed beautifully for the crowds spiralling and circling above our heads, emitting their poignant, distinctive African call.
Kingfishers of any description remained elusive in spite of all the trails named in their honour and all attempts to spot them on the Touw River in the Wilderness. However, John, Lee and Jos were fortunate enough to spot the Giant Kingfisher at Kaaimans River, who obliged by executing a giant leap into the waters beneath, emerging with a large, glistening fish. But the African Finfoot was nowhere in evidence.
It is currently extremely dry in this part of the world, with the result that birding in the various hides in the area was not nearly as good as in previous years. The ducks, grebes, cormorants and other birds could only be seen at a distance. There were very few if any waders to be seen, but still the group ended up with more than 150 species seen on the trip. The Garden Route remain one of the top birding destinations in southern Africa and BirdLife Overberg will no doubt be back – sooner rather than later.
(Some members of the group saw a Lesser Grey Shrike between Mossel Bay and Albertinia on our way back to Hermanus. - Ed.)