BIRDING DELIGHTS FROM THE BARRY HOUSE GARDEN ON RIVERTON STUD, ROBERTSON DISTRICT
Posted on the 12th February 2020
Duncan and Natasha Barry requested us to develop a bird checklist for Riverton Stud and three small groups of BirdLife Overberg members jumped at the opportunity to spend two nights each at the historic Barry House on Riverton Stud. These visits were during November 2019 and January and February 2020. 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 this family to the region. The cherry on top is of course the horses and Duncan and Natasha’s fascinating stories of stud farming. A visit to Barry House on Riverton Stud alone comes highly recommended and we should actually have spent much more time describing the awe-inspiring beauty of the place.
Barry House on Riverton Stud
View from patio over paddocks
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, African Dusky and Fiscal flycatchers, African Hoopoes, Cape Robin Chats, Cape Weavers, Southern Masked Weavers and surprisingly both Karoo and Olive thrushes caused great entertainment. The calls of Diederik Cuckoos were prominent and the Klaas’s Cuckoos were a constant nuisance inspecting mostly sunbird nests. The photographing opportunities were out of this world with MC and Riaan keeping those camera shutters busy all day long.
African Paradise Flycatcher
Fiscal Flycatcher feeding fledgling
A water furrow on the one side of the garden creates yet another wonderful birding opportunity. The majority of seedeaters to be found in the region are often on display, even in the middle of the day. One is so blessed to be able to sit in a chair and watch Brimstone, Cape, and Yellow canaries, most of the region’s bishops, doves, sparrows and weavers, Streaky-headed Seedeater and Common and Swee waxbills having a drink and bath and then see them drying and preening themselves in the vegetation along the furrow. The sorties by the African Goshawk and Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk flashing through the branches trying to utilise the potential fair along the furrow just add further spice to the experience.
Late afternoons in January and February produced yet another spectacle: The skies are often filled with swallows, swifts and martins, placing huge pressure on our necks trying to identify birds in the milling masses. One afternoon we were able to identify 12 different species: Barn, Greater Striped and Pearl-breasted swallows, Black Sawwing, Banded, Brown-throated and Rock martins, Alpine, African Black, Little and White-rumped swifts and most surprisingly African Palm Swift. A big flock of migratory European Bee-eaters uses the large trees around the garden as a roost at this time of year – it is wonderful to hear them chatting away as they approach the roost site at the end of the day. But all is not as calm and peaceful as this: as soon as they settle in the trees three opportunistic Yellow-billed Kites barge through the branches looking for an easy meal. The explosion of massed yellow, turquoise and brown birds scattering in all directions is a site to behold with the skies filled with bee-eaters, swallows, swifts and martins. And all of this while the fire is going in the well appointed braai area……
Other raptors identified from the garden included Common, Forest and Jackal buzzards, Booted and Martial eagles, Peregrine and Lanner falcons and African Harrier-Hawk. A variety of ducks, geese and herons is often on the wing towards the river. The familiar calls of the Barn Owls, Spotted Eagle Owls and Fiery-necked Nightjars often adorn the night sounds around the house.
We were able to positive identify 115 bird species from the Barry House garden, an astonishing diversity for the hugely underrated Klein Karoo. The comprehensive list is available from us. The excellent birding, together with the ambiance on offer certainly makes Riverton Stud a must for small visiting birding groups. In a next report we will focus on birding opportunities on the rest of the farm, as well as in the wider Langeberg region. We also presented the Flight Higher course for intermediate and more experienced birders at Barry House on Riverton Stud and the facilities were very well received by the participants. We will report on this elsewhere.
Our sincere appreciation goes to Duncan and Natasha Barry for hosting and entertaining us so warmly. A few BirdLife Overberg gangs will certainly be back.
Male Klaas's Cuckoo
BARRY HOUSE ON RIVERTON STUD CONTACT DETAILS:
CELL: +27 (0)82 975 2243
TEL: +27 (0)23 626 4309
View from the garden towards the Breede River and beyond
(Images by MC Botha, Riaan Jacobs, Anton Odendal & Riverton Stud)