Greta and I took last Friday off work and spent a very enjoyable long weekend doing some Western Cape periphery birding in the Nature’s Valley area. We broke Wednesday’s late afternoon journey outwards with a night at Ebb and Flow in Wilderness and were rewarded early the following morning with 3 or 4 (European) Marsh Warblers in full song alongside the gravel road between Rondevlei and Bo Langvlei, in the same place as we found them last year. We had hoped to bump into a (European) Sedge Warbler, but alas this was not to be, and we also did not hear any Great Reed Warblers. A single House Martin was noted with hirundines feeding above, and we had the rather unusual view of six Fish Eagles soaring overhead with a seventh calling further to the west.
We didn’t stay long as we were keen to search for Mike Buckham’s Wing-snapping Cisticola’s west of Plett, as so hastened off in that direction. After struggling a bit to find the correct track in we ended up timing our approach to perfection as the farmer arrived at his locked gate simultaneously with us. He was very happy to let us bird on his land, and even left the gate open for us the following morning. We spent some time walking the overgrown grassy fields that afternoon and early next morning and flushed many small cisticola’s, but quite predictably they were totally silent and proved very difficult to get good looks at. While Zitting Cisticola was definitely present there were also a number of birds with seemingly slighter build and shorter tails, but after hours examining the photo’s I am left cursing that we visited the area at a time that they are almost guaranteed to be silent! I’ll still pore over the pic’s some more, but I think I already need to chalk down a visit to the area next September. A slight consolation was a number of Amur Falcons (10+) working the high grassy knolls.
The Sooty Falcon at Emily Moon in Plettenberg Bay was as accommodating as ever, and we were left with a couple of clear days to bird around Nature’s Valley. Although many of the vocal birds of the early summer months were quiet and unobtrusive and we had rain and wind on Saturday we were able to put together a very nice list of Garden Route forest birds and a good haul of Western Cape specials, especially on the raised plateau between Nature’s Valley and the Bloukrans River Gorge.
The most notable birds encountered were the following:
Lesser Striped Swallow on three occasions (Nature’s Valley campsite, Bloukrans Gorge and adjacent to Plateau Country House).
An immature Honey Buzzard near the Bloukrans Gorge.
A pair of Golden-breasted Buntings on the tall Fynbos vegetation edge SW of the Bloukrans River Gorge.
Three Black-collared Barbets in the vicinity of the Nature Conservation accommodation at Covie.
Two African Cuckoo Hawks on the forest edge adjacent to Plateau Country House.
Collared Sunbird commonly at Nature’s Valley campsite and in the forest on the raised plateau east of there.
Lazy Cisticola commonly on the plateau.
A distant Wailing Cisticola on the plateau.
A Green-backed Heron (unfortunately on call only) in the narrow river backwater alongside the Nature’s Valley campsite.
This very relaxed weekend reminded me again why this is one of my very favourite birding areas of the Western Cape.