We presented the Flight for Birders course at Piketberg on the Cape West Coast on 2 and 3 February. It was attended by 25 people. We were rather pleased with this given the fact that it is could be regarded as 'deep platteland' and many people could not attend due to it being harvesting season. Interesting that most of the participants represented nature conservation or tourism agencies – a clear indication of the growing interest in birds and birding and birding tourism. Several people from Cape Town attended as had happened during the Fernkloof course a week earlier and we will now turn our attention to the presentation of these courses in the peninsula. One participant even came down from Pretoria.
A number of people assisted us tremendously in putting the course together:
We need to particularly thank Garry Frasca of the West Coast version of 'Nosy Rosy' who did all the initial moving and shaking to get the course going.
Pikkie, the owner of DE BERGE GUEST HOUSE, where the course was presented should be commended for a facility of outstanding quality. The conference facility is certainly one of the best that we had ever used and one can not believe that such facility is available in the sticks. We recommend it strongly for conferences, workshops, courses and break-aways. The aircon was just fantastic given the heatwave that we had to cope with. And thank you for the lovely grapes that was given away free of charge.
Jannie du Toit and Ansel van Schalkwyk of Piketberg Tourism came to the party in a big way by adding a real professional touch by producing a constant stream of fresh water and ice. Besides this they were extremely helpful and assisted in many ways to 'keep the show on the road'. The crowning glory was receiving some really exceptional local wines to sample.
The only sour note of the trip was the poor facilities at DUNN'S CASTLE where we stayed. Our room was not properly cleaned upon our arrival, it was poorly equipped and general maintenance seems lacking. It is not a destination that can be recommended for travelers and particularly birders.
From a birding perspective we were pleasantly surprised with the good selection of species seen. In and around the mountain we saw huge numbers of SWIFTS, together with both LANNER and PEREGRINE FALCONS towards the evenings. We also had good sightings of many species that included FAMILIAR CHATS, LESSER HONEYGUIDES, CAPE ROCK-THRUSHES and CARDINAL WOODPECKERS. JACKAL BUZZARDS also appeared to be particularly plentiful in the district. The practical outing was done early on the Friday morning and we visited a farm called DE BRUG along the Bergriver. Birding here was simply outstanding and if one considers that Velddrif and it's many birding delights is just downstream, then this certainly represents a highly underrated birding destination.
We have started negotiating with members of Piketberg Tourism about doing a public talk there in future in view of getting more people in the region involved in birding tourism. We will certainly highlight the birding potential of the Piketberg region when we prepare the next edition of the FLAMINGO BIRDING ROUTE birdfinder brochure.