Four of us decided to attend the heritage day celebration at Springfield farm in the Agulhas National Park. (24 September 2009). This historic farm was the setting for Daleen Matthee's last novel “Die Uitgespoeldes” and the program together with a traditional “skaapbraai” suggested that we could be in for a great day's entertainment. The Western Cape weather is really not settling down and it appears that summer (or spring for that matter) will never come. We started by driving around the Onrus “peninsula” and were at least able to see some summer migrants such a Common and Sandwich Terns. We did however see the 25 species that one would normally expect to see around the peninsula.
From Stanford we decided to take the road past the Salmonsdam nature reserve towards the historical hamlet of Elim. There were plenty of Blue Cranes around and summer migrants included Yellow-billed Kites, Greater Striped and White-throated Swallows and Common Quails. The weavers and bishops in full breeding plumage were out in force and we a were anticipating a great day's birding until the clouds and mist settled in (once again). Anita needed breakfast, so we stopped over at the restaurant in Elim. We had good fun chatting to the staff and wasted an hour's birding over a wonderful meal. Members of the local community have great anticipation about the forthcoming Agulhas National Park birding weekend that will use this village as base. (Visit www.westerncapebirding.co.za for details).
The action really started when we left Elim. The ponds at the edge of the town really produced vast numbers of birds – this a birding spot that needs to be worked intensively when the area is visited. It has now become known as a stake-out for Hottentot Button-Quail, although we were unsuccessful in finding them. The wetlands along the Nuwejaarsrivier are heavily underrated and the waterbirds here are simply prolific. We experienced several highlights such as seeing two Jackal Buzzards with pure white breasts on our way into Springfield. The pans in the Bosheuwel area produced Wood and Marsh Sandpipers and Common Greenshank and a flock of more than 20 Bar-tailed Godwits!!! All of this in really poor weather.
The celebrations at Springfield were outstanding. Piet van As remains one of the best storytellers and his explanation of ghosts being part of our heritage needs to be heard. The traditional “boerekos” was out of this world and the atmosphere was simply the best. Springfield offers affordable, quality accommodation in fantastic birding habitats and comes highly recommended for birders, be this in small or large groups. The girls decided that BirdLife Overberg will do a weekend outing to Springfield during 2010. Keep in mind that Brandfontein, Voëlvlei, De Mond nature reserve and Agulhas are all within close proximity. Birds found at Springfield included African Fish-Eagle, Olive Bush-Shrike. Southern Boubou, Southern Tchagra and Sombre Bulbul. Piet's Vietnamese potbelly pigs are great entertainment as well.
We spent to much time at Springfield and as dusk was approaching we decided to take the tar road back to Hermanus and headed off to Struisbaai to return via Bredasdorp and Napier. This 20 kms. dirt road produced the goods with not less than five little groups of Denham's Bustards found. Throw in three males displaying their ridiculous massive white plastic bags and this made for the best of Strandveld birding. We were unable to locate the Kori Bustard that was reported from this area over the last few weeks though. The final highlight was a Secretarybird strutting with its postbox red facial coloration in the area around its nest.
We have published several articles about birds and birding in the Agulhas National Park in recent months and believe that we have not yet scratched the surface. (Play around on www.westerncapebirding.co.za and see what great birding potential this area has). Watch this space and assist Eddie Cassani and his gang to get a strong BirdLife branch going in the area. This important bird area deserves a potent site support group – how is that for a crude challenge Eddie?