JENNY PARSONS AND FRIENDS BIRD THE BREEDE RIVER REGION
Posted on the 23rd August 2017
Weekend away in the Overberg – Aloe Ridge Lodge
We left Pringle Bay on Thursday (17 August 2017) at lunch time. It was cold and overcast with a little bit of drizzle. We were headed away for a weekend with friends and we were looking forward to a break from the office!
Our drive up to Swellendam was via the R44 from Pringle Bay, R43 towards Bot River turning off onto the Karwyderskraal road then over into the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (R320) over Shaw’s Pass to Caledon where we joined the N2 and made our way to Caledon.
Driving with a non-birder of a husband meant birding was only seeing the obvious and bigger birds. We arrived at our destination around 6pm www.aloeridgebreede.co.za. The chalets overlook the Breede River and were absolutely stunning. We highly recommend them! They are part of the Felix Unite River Adventures and close to the Round the Bend Lodge and camp.
Early the next morning, we woke to a misty river and cold cold temperatures – we could feel the snow that was on the Langeberg mountains just north of Swellendam! So birding started at 8am when I snuck out without waking the others in our chalet and started following the bird song.
Early morning mist on the Breede River
The air was cold, the ground was damp and the sun seemed way too bright. The birds were busy and the following were seen: Bar-throated Apalis, Malachite Sunbird, Yellow Bishop, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Turtle Dove, Karoo Prinia, Cape Canary, Common Starling.
The Cape Buntings and Neddicky were ambling on the ground while overhead Egyptian Geese, Blue Cranes, Hadedas and Spur-winged Geese did fly-overs.
Lots of frozen spider webs were seen too. Dew on the grass reflected and made for a beautiful landscape.
Malachite Sunbird enjoying the Leonotis leonurus better known as Wildedagga
A walk down to the river from the cottages produced some good sightings – a lifer for me was the Cape Penduline-tit (only got the ID after serious investigation and cropping of dreadful photographs!).
Spoor of the Water Mongoose near the water’s edge was a highlight too. The birds seen included the Southern Masked Weaver, Acacia Pied Barbet, African Darter, White-breasted Cormorant, Red- knobbed Coot, Karoo Thrush, Common and Swea Waxbills, Rock and Brown-throated Martins to name a few…
An absolute highlight was the Greater Double Collared Sunbird in the Honeysuckle alongside the Southern Double-collared Sunbirds – great to be able to do a comparison with live birds! (For interest sake I have included images of the two species caught in a mistnet by Mark Brown recently. - Ed.)
Breakfast was now calling - and then onto my first ever visit to the Bontebok National Park where we planned to do the walks. Thanks to BLO’s insightful link and Campbell Flemming (Birdlife Africa) I was forewarned on what to look out for. En route to the Bontebok Denham’s Bustards and Spurwing Geese were fairly common. Not the easiest of birds to photograph though! A special sighting was the Cape Grysbok in the wheat fields.
Denham’s Bustards with snow-capped mountains as a back drop
The Bontebok offered different ecosystems so a variety of birds were seen. Highlights included Yellow Canary, African Fish Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, Pearl Breasted Swallows, Pin-tailed Whydah and the colourful Bokmakierie, The absolute highlight was seeing the pair Cardinal Woodpeckers in the acacia trees just below the aloe ridge area.
On our drive along the road to Malgas – some raptors were spotted (they had been relatively scarce up until now): My first yellow-billed Kite of the summer, jackal Buzzard and Black Harrier and a wonderful sighting over a wetland area of two African Marsh Harriers.
On our way home on Sunday we got some magic Blue Crane photographs, they really are so much part of OVERBERG birding!
A total of 100 birds were spotted. A 1001 photographs taken and 999 deleted… BUT this is why I have fallen in love with birding…
Thanks to Anton Odendal, BLO and my Flight for Birders Course I did just over a year ago. Plus fellow bird club members who have taught me so much – Paula and Chris. Birding has become a way of life…