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BLO AT DUINEPOS IN THE WEST COAST NATIONAL PARK

Posted on the 12th September 2010

Twenty-eight members of BirdLife Overberg spent the weekend of 10 to 12 September 2010 in the West Coast National Park. The weather was close to perfect and the accommodation at the the Duinepos self-catering chalets simply superb. We do not have the time to post a comprehensive report and thus we only focus on a few highlights.

DUINEPOS SELF-CATERING CHALETS

These chalets are very well appointed, practical and affordable and really great for birding. One is right in the “bush” and birds are all around one – really wonderful to sit on one's patio or at the swimming pool and be able to bird at leisure. The place was dominated be a breeding pair of GREY TITS that caused great entertainment to all in our group. They were very vocal and delighted us all with their antics on every available rear-view mirror. We came away with a new “favorite” bird for most members of our group. Some of us were atlasing and in total we were able to record 42 species in this very small area alone. This included southern African endemics or near-endemics such as WHITE-BACKED MOUSEBIRD, SOUTHERN BLACK KORHAAN, CAPE BUNTING, SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRD, ACACIA PIED BARBET, CAPE SPURFOWL and KAROO PRINEA to mention a few. The sighting of BLACK-HEADED CANARIES was also a bonus. And all of these and many more right there at your door. There is a very comfortable communal “lapa” area as well and we spent both evenings there.

Southern Black Korhaan

Most importantly, Duinepos gives one the opportunity to stay over in the West Coast National Park and is in close proximity to the bird hides at Geelbek and Abrahamskraal – several members of our group in fact walked to Geelbek. The Duinepos chalets could also be used as a base to visit other top tourism destinations along the Cape West Coast such as Darling, the salt pans at Yzerfontein, the Seeberg bird hide, the Langebaan quarry and birding destinations a bit further away such as those at Paternoster, Velddrif and Rocher Pan. It is such a pity that this great facility is not properly marketed and we have decided to in future feature the Duinepos self-catering chalets on the website more extensively.

THE BIRD HIDES AT GEELBEK

One can not discuss our experiences in these hides without mentioning the brilliant birding that is available in the row of bluegum trees leading to the old Geelbek homestead and restaurant. (Not to mention the cheesecake - better than your mom's original recipe). The heronry is currently very active with both GREY and BLACK-HEADED HERONS being present, although we did not pick up BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS this time. The group was fascinated by a pair of CARDINAL WOODPECKERS at their nest. There were many other interesting birds around, to many to mention, but our highlight certainly was when a ROCK KESTREL killed a mouse right in front of our vehicle and flew off with it towards the restaurant area.

The walkway leading towards the original hide again provided great entertainment: KITTLITZ'S PLOVERS, LITTLE STINTS, BLACK-WINGED STILTS and a variety of swallows, martins, cisticolas and warblers caused much excitement and the more experienced birders had a hard time fielding the questions of relative novices. To crown it all there were BLACK HARRIERS, AFRICAN MARSH-HARRIERS and YELLOW-BILLED KITES flying about fairly regularly.

Pied Avocet

We were very fortunate in that it was ebb tide on both of the mornings and we were then able to study many interesting waders coming and going with the receding tide with the sun behind us. Initially there were only hundreds of GREATER FLAMINGOS around given the depth of the water. As the tide receded though the COMMON WHIMBRELS, BLACK-WINGED STILTS, PIED AVOCETS (what lovely birds, particularly in flight), COMMON GREENSHANKS and MARSH SANDPIPERS started moving in allowing wonderful opportunities to hone identification skills. The highlight here was a BAR-TAILED GODWIT still very much in breeding plumage. As more and more sandbanks became exposed the shorted legged waders started moving in with GREY PLOVERS and CURLEW SANDPIPERS being most plentiful. In the distance there were a variety of water birds such as spoonbills, egrets, ducks, herons and oddly enough AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS and closer to the hide AFRICAN PURPLE SWAMPHEN and WHITE-THROATED SWALLOWS to be seen. If one then considers that this was still early in the season and that many other migrants are still to arrive, then it becomes evident that any serious birder visiting the Western Cape must visit this park.

ABRAHAMSKRAAL

Common Moorhen

The new bird hide at Abrahamskraal certainly adds value to birding in the West Coast National Park as this affords the visitor an opportunity to study birds that are mostly associated with fresh water. There are a few problems at the hide at present and one hopes that the park's management will ensure that the maintenance thereof will be addressed properly. We were able to see most of the species that one would expect to find at Abrahamskraal. There were seven species of ducks including SA SHELDUCK and CAPE TEAL and the antics of the LITTLE GREBES and RED-KNOBBED COOTS chasing each other all over the water mass were a delight to watch. Some of were fortunate to have good views of BLACK CRAKES and particularly an AFRICAN RAIL – the bird that most people want to see at Abrahamskraal. A visit to this part of the park is a must as a variety of other birds such as herons, warblers, canaries and occasional raptors are to be found here.

TSAARBANK

Andre Kruger together with some honorary rangers and a few members of the West Coast Bird Club invited us for an informal braai over lunch time on Saturday and we all met at Tsaarbank. Andre gave a brief talk on the flowers and fossils of the West Coast and I did a brief overview of the SABAP2 project. Our members were also very interested in the pelican watch project on Malgas and Jutten islands and at least eight volunteered to participate in this project during the summer. (Find details elsewhere on this website). It was great meeting up with old birding friends again and our group made a decision around the fire that evening that we will arrange similar talks by local birders on our future birding weekends.

African Black Oystercatchers

A visit to Tsaarbank adds an extra dimension to birding in this park as coastal birds are plentiful. One is normally able to find all of the southern African cormorants here and the gulls cause great entertainment. The area is also known for its terns. The numbers of AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS here are truly amazing and one is often able to see CAPE GANNETS and AFRICAN PENGUINS on the islands in the distance – spotting scopes are recommended for this though. Tsaarbank has further developed the reputation for coming up with very interesting pelagic species particularly during stormy weather.

Most of our group then used the opportunity to drive through the Postberg reserve in search of flowers. This was a very poor year for flowers, but our members were very impressed with the scenic beauty of the reserve, large numbers of game and the fact that this is the best part of the park where LBJ's could be studied. It is such a pity that the Postberg reserve is only open to the public for such a short period of time each year.

Readers should keep in mind that we did not have the time to visit the Seeberg hide this time around. This hide has become known for throwing up some really rare and vagrant waders over recent years and these sightings have been recorded regularly on this website. The West Coast National Park remains one of the top birding spots in our country and it is no wonder that it was in fact the first spot to come to mind when staff of Cape Town Routes Unlimited recently requested me to nominate the top ten birding spots in the Western Cape province.

Large-billed Lark

We have now shown that the Duinepos self-catering chalets could be used very effectively as base for smaller and larger groups when exploring birding delights of this wonderful national park. We have decided that we will load a free advertisement for this BEE accommodation establishment on the accommodation section of this website soon. From a birding perspective Duinepos must certainly rate as a five star destination.

A picture gallery of our weekend will as usual be established as soon as images have been received from all members who took photographs.

- Anton Odendal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(All images taken on previous visits to the Cape West Coast).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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