BIRDLIFE OVERBERG AT KOSTAPLENTI IN NATURES VALLEY - 2017Posted on the 4th February 2017
(A photo gallery will be created once photographs are received from all the participants).
Fourteen BirdLife Overberg members again spent five days at Kostaplenti in Nature's Valley last week. Elaine and myself, Charles and Colleen, Charel and Marlien, Frank and Annie and Cecilie have participated in all the previous outings and this time, John and Jos, Conrad, MC and Wilana joined us. Such a pity that the Casey's had to withdraw at the last minute. The group jelled very well and this made for a relaxing and very enjoyable atmosphere. The feeling was so casual that no-one even bothered to visit any of the top birding hotspots in the region such as the Tsitsikamma National Park, Birds of Eden and the Bitou Valley.
|At Kostaplenti viewing/ sundowner deck|
|Chilling at the fire|
The feeling of being in the forest made for outstanding birding. The birding in the Kostaplenti garden was prolific. The sunbirds seen were AMETHYST, COLLARED , GREATER and SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED and GREY SUNBIRDS. Other species that were identified regularly included CAPE BATIS, SOMBRE GREENBUL, BLACK-HEADED ORIOLE, BLACK-BELLIED STARLING, KNYSNA TURACO and CAPE WHITE-EYE. On Sunday afternoon everyone just settled in and Charel lit one of his usual large fires. Charles and myself went for a short walk and found species such as CAPE BATIS and AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER, and excitingly BLACK-BACKED PUFFBACK and GREEN WOODHOOPOE.
|Greater Double-collared Sunbird|
|Knysna Turaco (Both pics from top stoep)|
Monday was spent birding around the house while some of us went to the De Vasselot restcamp. The species count increased rapidly as BAR-THROATED APALIS, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, OLIVE BUSH-SHRIKE, a pair GREY CUCKOO-SHRIKES, AFRICAN PARADISE FLYCATCHER, KNYSNA TURACO and OLIVE WOODPECKER were added. CINNAMON DOVE was also seen and the group decided that we will stick to that name as LEMON DOVE seems inappropriate.
Early on Tuesday morning we went on one of our traditional “dawn patrols” along the Grootrivier boardwalk. We saw several FIERY-NECKED NIGHTJARS driving there. The forest was disappointingly quiet as we only heard SOUTHERN BOUBOU, GREEN-BACKED CAMEROPTERA, SOMBRE GREENBUL, BLACK-HEADED ORIOLE and CHORISTER ROBIN-CHAT, but none of the AFRICAN EMERALD and BLACK CUCKOOS, BUFF-SPOTTED FLUFFTAILS, SCALY-THROATED HONEYGUIDES, AFRICAN GOSHAWKS and PIET-MY-VROU that we heard last time around. We then went to the bridge as locals reported recent sightings of a AFRICAN FINFOOT, but no luck for us this time. A WESTERN OSPREY flew from its perch close to the bridge. There were large numbers of FOREST CANARY and REED CORMORANTS around, together with a few PIED KINGFISHERS. The highlight was undoubtedly two HALF-COLLARED KINGFISHERS that flashed up and down the river – unfortunately they never settled long enough for any of us to get decent photographs. The calls of KNYSNA TURACO, YELLOW-THROATED WOODLAND-WARBLER and KNYSNA WOODPECKER rang out from the riverine forest.
On Wednesday we attended another ringing session with Dr Mark Brown of the Natures Valley Trust and his collaborators. 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 endemics. Members were able to see, photograph and sometimes release species such as CAPE BATIS, FOREST CANARY, CAPE ROBIN-CHAT, GREATER and SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRD, SWEE WAXBILL and droves of CAPE WHITE-EYES, as well as a very irritated juvenile FORK-TAILED DRONGO. The last bird ringed was a COLLARED SUNBIRD weighing in at 5.6 grams! A small flock of AFRICAN OLIVE-PIGEONS flew past at some stage.
|Mark doing his thing|
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 this report. Most interesting though was one of the research projects that Mark is undertaking. In this they are working on the breeding patterns of KELP GULLS, WHITE-FRONTED PLOVERS and AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS on beaches in the region. 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. We would like to implement the educational packages that Mark and his team have developed along the Overstrand coastline. We were so impressed with the man's work and that it was decided to donate R 10,000.00 to the Trust. Later on in the afternoon some of us joined Mark's staffers when they monitored WHITE-FRONTED PLOVERS and AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS nests on the beach.
|BirdLife Overberg donates R 10,000 to Dr Mark Brown of the Nature's Valley Trust|
That evening some of us went into the forest to listen for the calls of AFRICAN WOOD-OWLS – no real luck as we could only hear them a long distance away. Ironically Colleen, Elaine and Marlien decided not to join us and stayed put on the deck – the bird flew straight past them and settled a few meters away! It remained around the light of our fire throughout most of the night allowing for great excitement.
|Excuse the red eyes|
On Thursday we scattered in different directions: The TERRESTRIAL BROWN-BUL, OLIVE THRUSH and KLAAS'S CUCKOO allowed great sightings at the restcamp, and MC and Wilana added the LAZY CISTICOLA and ALPINE SWIFT to our list. Elaine and myself went for a short walk in the Fynbos above Nature's Valley and found the CAPE GRASSBIRD, CAPE SISKIN, ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD and VICTORIN'S WARBLER. Not a single CAPE SUGARBIRD, probably due to the fact that there were no Proteas in bloom. The large dam at Kurland Estate produced species such as WHITE-BACKED, WHITE-FACED and YELLOW-BILLED DUCKS, AFRICAN DARTER, LITTLE GREBES and breeding BLACK-HEADED HERONS. The highlight was an AFRICAN JACANA with two chicks – I was not aware that these birds were breeding in the Western Cape Province. The grand finale was John and Jos finding a pair of NARINA TROGONS at a house in Forest Drive. Charles, Elaine and myself rushed there and we were able to find the female – it remains one of our most beautiful and sought-after forest birds.
|Frank - man at work|
|Wilana & Elaine - girls at work|
The big dippers? Birds seen on previous trips to Kostaplenti, but not this time included BLUE-MANTLED CRESTED-FLYCATCHER, AFRICAN CUCKOO-HAWK, BLACK CUCKOO-SHRIKE, SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL, AFRICAN FISH-EAGLE, BROWN-BACKED HONEYBIRD and LESSER HONEYGUIDE, MALACHITE SUNBIRD, WILLOW WARBLER, AFRICAN HARRIER-HAWK and YELLOW-BILLED KITE. Weirdly we also did not see the CAPE SPARROW or COMMON STARLING, the latter probably a blessing.
These outings are not just about spotting birds. The early morning atmosphere in the forests with the sun gradually filtering through the leaves of ancient yellowwoods cannot be described in words, and needs to be experienced. The sense of friendship and sharing mutual interests around the fire and on the deck was memorable, the catering excellent and the facilities more than just practical. Little wonder that several of us described sadness and nostalgia when we had to leave Nature's Valley.
This brief description clearly illustrates the vast birding potential of the Nature's Valley region. This is certainly one of the top birding destinations in the Western Cape Province as far as forest species are concerned. We were able to positively identify 104 species at Nature's Valley of which 49 were found in the Kostaplenti garden. Our appreciation to all participants who contributed to making this such a memorable week. We would also like to thank Buks and Annette de la Rey for the use of Kostaplenti. We'll be back!
There are more detailed descriptions of the birding opportunities in the greater Nature's Valley region available at this link:
|African Dusky Flycatcher|
|Female Nerina's backside|