BIRDING BLITZ AT RIVERTON STUD IN THE ROBERTSON DISTRICTPosted on the 31st January 2020
(This report should be read against the background of the report on our previous visit and can be viewed below).
The second group of BirdLife Overberg members participated in a birding blitz at Riverton Stud in the Robertson district between 29 and 30 January. Barry House again served as base for our visit and Charles & Colleen, Peter & Sue, Keith & Barbara and Carol also agreed that this is a magnificent venue. We recorded 123 species on the property during our previous visit and did not believe that many more species would be available.
Keith and Barbara were however quick to find African Dusky Flycatchers feeding fledglings in the garden outside their bedroom and then recorded African Black Ducks when they strolled down to the river. The garden is a real treat for birding as we were once again able to enjoy sightings of species such as Acacia Pied Barbet, African Goshawk, African Paradise Flycatcher, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Cardinal Woodpecker and many more. The group walked down to the river and we added Common Buzzard, Forest Buzzard, Little Bittern, Diederick Cuckoo, Little Grebe, and surprisingly Sombre Greenbul to the farm’s list. A young Peregrine Falcon caused a stir and both Black Sawwings and Pearl-breasted Swallows were of interest.
Barry House serves as an excellent base from which to explore the birding delights of the Langeberg region and on Wednesday morning we visited the hides at the Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve outside McGregor – we all agreed that birding here is hugely underrated. Lunch was enjoyed in the beautiful gardens of the Van Loveren Wine Estate and it was decided that the Fish Eagle trail on the farm will have to be explored on a next visit.
There were droves of European Bee-eaters milling about in the late afternoons and we started looking for a possible roost. The highlight had undoubtedly been when Elaine and Charles witnessed two Yellow-billed Kites attempting to catch some bee-eaters trying to settle and roost in blue gum trees near the homestead. It seems as if this is happening every afternoon – these are flight displays that have to be experienced to be believed! Riverton Stud offers outstanding birding and we thank Duncan and Natasha for again hosting us. (Needless to say that Carol was in clover with the horses on the farm).
We are now preparing for the Flight Higher course that will be presented in the tv and games lounge of Barry House over the weekend. The course is unfortunately oversubscribed, but this clearly illustrates the growing interest in birds and birding in the region. We are also looking forward to hosting Frank & Anne, Dup & Suzette, MC & Corrie and Cecilie on Tuesday and Wednesday when we will again share a brief report.
(Images to follow)
The Langeberg local municipal region at the beginning of Route 62 is hugely underrated as a birding destination and we recently submitted a proposal to develop a bird finder web page for the area. Duncan and Natasha Barry requested us to develop a bird checklist for Riverton Stud and a small group of us jumped at the opportunity to spend two nights at the historic Barry House. It is an active stud farm with the rest of the property being rented out for cultivation. The area along the Breede River is further mostly covered with exotics, with the result that we did not expect much as far as birding is concerned.
Barry House however simply blew us away with most of us studying photographs of champion horses having been bred on the farm. Several publications describing the history of the Barry family further assisted in giving us an overview of the long and illustrious contribution of the family in the region. The cherry on top is of course the horses with the recently arrived fowls in the paddocks and Duncan and Natasha’s fascinating stories of stud farming. A visit to Barry House alone comes highly recommended and we should actually have spent much more time describing the awe-inspiring beauty of the place.
|A "kuierstoep" of note|
|Elaine & Elsabe watching horses being stabled|
|Towards the end of the day|
But let’s turn our attention to the birding. The well wooded and beautifully maintained garden was alive with common garden birds of the region actively feeding fledglings. The African Paradise Flycatchers, Fiscal Flycatchers, African Hoopoes, Cape Robin Chats, Cape Weavers, Southern Masked Weavers and surprisingly both Karoo and Olive thrushes caused great entertainment. A variety of canaries, doves, sparrows and starlings further added spice to the experience with MC and Riaan keeping those camera shutters busy all along. The Klaas’s Cuckoos were a constant nuisance inspecting mostly sunbird nests.
|African Paradise Flycatcher|
|Cape Robin Chat|
|Adult Fiscal Flycatcher with titbit on patio|
|And feeding its fledgling|
Towards the end of the first day most members of the group hiked the short distance down to the river with Riaan, Frank, Annie and I being more leisurely by driving there. Species identified in the area along the river included the Bar-throated Apalis, Bokmakierie, Southern Boubou, Karoo Prinia, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow and African Stonechat. We were very surprised to find several Tambourine Doves and two Western Ospreys, both species being somewhat out of range as far as we were concerned. Other birds of prey included African Fish Eagle, African Goshawk, African Harrier-Hawk, Black Harrier and Black-winged and Yellow-billed kites. Conrad and Karina only spent the first evening with us before returning to England – younger people causing delightful banter at the well equipped braai area and at the dinner table.
|Male Tambourine Dove|
|Female Tambourine Dove|
|Snacks ala Conrad & Karina style|
|Barbara, Elsabe, Karina & Annie enjoying sundowners|
Barry House further serves as a wonderful base from which to explore the birding delights of the Langeberg region. Towards the middle of the second day Annie, Elsabé, Frank and Riaan drove to the Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve at McGregor, Corrie and MC went to the Dassieshoek Nature Reserve and Barbara and Keith investigated some of the excellent wine estates that the area has on offer. It is significant to note that they all returned with rave reviews of culinary delights experienced at different eateries! Elaine and I recently presented a birding course at Montagu and had a great time birding at the nature garden, the “Leivoor dam” in town and the picnic site in Kogmanskloof. A while ago members of the Tygerberg Bird Club also posted a lovely report on a birding weekend at Buitenstekloof Farm. And so one could go on ……… It is evident that much more time should be spent birding in the Langeberg region and the area can be used as a great alternative route by birders when travelling between the Garden Route and Cape Town.
|Akkerbos at Dassieshoek|
|The raid of the pigsty|
|Sub-adult Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk|
|Southern Masked Weaver|
Elaine and I unfortunately had to return to Hermanus very early on the third morning to attend Dr Mark Brown’s workshop on the zoning of Overstrand beaches for dogs – a report on this will follow in time. The rest of the group ended the visit to Barry House with a delightful casual cruise on the Breede River from Viljoensdrift Farm. This clearly illustrates the variety of birding experiences available in the Langeberg region and emphasises the fact that a bird finder web page for the area is needed. We will complete the provisional bird checklist for Riverton Stud after our second visit to Barry House towards the end of the summer and certainly cannot wait for this. The list as it now stands is available from us.
|African Darter on cruise at Viljoensdrift|
|Southern Red Bishop|
Our appreciation goes to Duncan and Natasha for hosting us and to the members of the group for making this such a memorable trip. Contact Natasha at 023 – 626 4309 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at www.rivertonstud.co.za to make your reservation to visit Barry House.
(Images by Riaan Jacobs, MC Botha and Anton Odendal)
|At the Barry House dinner table|