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F4B COURSES ALONG ROUTE 62

Posted on the 9th October 2010

Elaine and myself presented three Flight for Birders courses along Route 62 recently and herewith we give brief feedback on what had transpired. We started at the Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve near McGregor and 38 birders mostly from the Breede river valley attended. The staff of the reserve attended a previous course at Swellendam with the result that this course was attended mostly by ordinary birders and some owners of guest lodges and B&B's. Brief feedback on this is given elsewhere on this website.

Attentive guides from the Donkey Trail

The highlight of our trip was undoubtedly the two days that we spent at “Die Poort” - read all about this in the separate report on this website. From here we traveled the short distance to the “Living Waters” mountain estate at Groenfontein in the Calitzdorp district that serves as base for the Donkey Trail. Hans and Erica Calitz really have an interesting project going here and this not only in a tourism sense, but also from sustainable environmental rehabilitation and community development perspectives. I was pleasantly surprised on Monday morning to stumble onto the management and staff holding hands doing their early morning prayers. We invited Erica to forward material so that we could load a full advertorial on this website – watch out for this as the Donkey Trail represents an experience not to be missed.

We presented a course at the Kleinplaas holiday resort in Oudtshoorn on 6 and 7 October. We need to thank Charl and Una Blignaut and Pine and Wilma Pienaar for setting this up for us and for the “lekker kuier” and pondering about the good old days. (“Oh, how we danced” as Jim Capaldi lamented). Forty-one people attended and this included 19 staff members from CapeNature reserves such as the Swartberg, Gamkapoort, Kammanassie and Outeniqua nature reserves. Oudtshoorn is known for Langenhoven, ostriches, the KKNK and those caves, but hell, there is vast interest in birds and birding in this area. Beyond this, the town is also in close proximity to great birding destinations along the Garden Route and specific top birding spots such as Red Stone Hills, Meiringspoort, the Swartberg pass and Gamkaskloof (die Hel), as well as some of those already mentioned.

The group at Kleinplaas in Oudtshoorn

Many issues were raised during the courses in the form of questions during the talks itself or in discussions during teatime and over lunches:

  • Many people here farm with fruit, be this of the vine or tree. The issue of problem birds, and here it seems most particularly RED-WINGED STARLINGS, is a highly emotive one throughout the region. Farmers here could benefit a lot from the lessons that had been learned in this regard through research and experimentation with mitigation trials in the Western Cape and Northern Cape and it is our belief that BirdLife South Africa could play a crucial role in addressing these problems.

  • The need for resource material about birds for environmental education purposes came up repeatedly. We downloaded several of our talks and lectures and will forward the links to the lecture packs produced by the Educational Division of BLSA for National Bird Weeks to environmental educators, particularly those working for CapeNature. These officials reach thousands of learners each year.

  • The need for further courses such as this one was also identified and informal discussions were started about the possibility of presenting F4B at places such as Stilbaai/ Riversdale, Gouritz/ Mosselbaai, Tsitsikamma and Worcester. The idea of getting sponsorship to present the F4B course specifically for members of previously disadvantaged individuals in the area was also muted when we organized the Oudtshoorn course and Dr. Anneline Vlok of CapeNature assisted us with such an application to the Table Mountain Fund. This application was successful and it now seems as if we will go back to Oudtshoorn at the end of November to present such a course.

  • Many people working in the field of tourism along Route 62 want to get involved in birding tourism and most people wanted bird checklists for their areas. The notion of producing several individual checklists seems a bit counterproductive and it was decided to look into the possibility of producing a single bird checklist for the entire Route 62. It was also decided to consider the production of a Route 62 birding brochure, such as those that have been produced for the Overberg Birding Route and the Flamingo Birding Route along the Cape West Coast. Some product owners also requested information on Birder Friendly Establishments and this will be forwarded to them.

  • The idea of forming a bird club at Oudtshoorn also came forward spontaneously and in this regard it seems as if members of a regional organization, the H.O.P.E. Foundation (Helping Our People and Environment), will take the initiative. We will assist them with mentoring in this regard and have already given them copies of some of our talks and lectures to use at meetings.

More Oudtshoorn

We have for many years regarded Route 62 as a highly underrated bird-watching area, particularly after members of BirdLife Overberg spent one of our most successful weekend outings at Red Stone Hills. The wonderful news from this trip though is that there is more than just a passing interest in birds and birding in the area and that there are several individuals and organizations who are directly (and indirectly) involved in sustainable environmental and community development activities in the region. The International Ecotourism Association promotes “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment & improves the welfare of local people” and it seems as if many people in this region had already taken this leaf out of the book. This can only bode well for birds and birding along the spectacularly beautiful Route 62.

There are so many people that we need to thank for assisting us to put this trip together. We would like though to particularly thank and express our sincere appreciation to:

  • Piet le Roux and Adam Cupido of the Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve

  • Andre Rabie of “Die Poort”

  • Hans and Erica Calitz of “Living Waters” and the Donkey Trail

  • Pine and Wilma Pienaar of the “Kleinplaas holiday resort” in Oudtshoorn

  • Charl and Una Blignaut of the “Yamkela guest house” in Oudtshoorn and

  • Dr. Anneline Vlok of CapeNature.

     

Anton & Elaine Odendal

 

With the Donkey Trail guides at Living Waters

 

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