Posted on the 13th January 2011

(Article and pics by Mike Graham. - Ed.)

Getting out of the Hermanus Madhouse for Christmas is almost compulsory and with our family down from the UK for Christmas and the New Year I decided that a few days at Addo via Plettenberg and Wilderness would be nice and it would give me a chance to get some SABAP2 Observations under my belt.

We left early on Sunday 18th December and I always find the route through the Mossel Bay at least has birds to offer if you take time to look around. Traffic was surprisingly light so a bit of “twitching” wasn’t a distraction.

With the arrival of the Steppe Buzzard some months back there are plenty to be seen on the R326 and the N2, along with Jackal Buzzards and Black-Shouldered Kites. There were a number of Blue Cranes feeding in fields and White Storks in abundance through the Swellendam area. Canaries and Stonechats, Pied Starlings and at the large dam (at Witklippieskloof – Ed.) on the R326 north of the Caledon/Bredasdorp X-roads several Pelicans and Spoonbills along with Red-billed Teal, Egyptian Geese and Cape Shovelers. There was no sign of any Secretarybirds. I always used to see one near the R326/N2 junction but not for a few years now.

We stayed at a very nice B and B in Plettenberg Bay called Bitou River Lodge. It stands on the Bitou River just over 4km North of the N2 on the Wittdrift Road. Using their Kayaks it allows access to stretches of the river that you would not otherwise see. Very comfortable accommodation and a great breakfast. Sue does 7 days for the price of 4 in the Autumn and Winter. I managed several hours around the property itself giving fairly good views over the mud flats plus and hour or so on the river itself in a kayak.

The property affords some good birds without too much disturbance. Sombre Bulbul, Speckled Mousebird, Bar-throated Apalis, Knysna Touraco, African Pipit, Greater Double-collared, Southern Double-collared, Malachite and Amethyst Sunbirds and Southern Masked Weaver. The short section of river visible from your patio offers up Black Crake, Little Rush Warbler, Red-billed Teal, Yellow-billed Duck, Three-banded Plover, Red-knobbed Coot, Common Moorhen, Southern Red Bishop, Southern Boubou and Cape Robin-Chat.

Diderick Cuckoo female

The river upstream is narrow and shallow but is quite a haven for birds. Black-headed Oriole, Diderick Cuckoo, African Hoopoe, Green Wood-hoopoe, Brown-hooded, Giant and Malachite Kingfishers, Karoo Prinia and Lesser Swamp Warbler. From the garden looking over the mudflats there were plenty of Black-winged Stilt, Common Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper and Cape Shoveler.

There were also plenty of Swifts and Swallows gracing the air. Sue keeps a list of birds seen at and around the area, compiled by a member of the local BLSA Club plus visitors.

The weather was pretty appalling as it had rained from Albertinia through the Plettenberg but there was enough time, just, to get in some data for SABAP2, a 54 species count.

Our next stop was De Old Drift Guest Farm, some 15km from Addo Main Gate, for 3 nights. The weather didn’t improve and it rained all the way from The Crags to Port Elizabeth and with the low cloud and spray from vehicles we saw nothing. The sun came out as we turned for Addo and the afternoon was pleasant and warm.

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow

De Old Drift Guest Farm is just before Addo Village and is a large citrus farm with 2,000 trees, grazing land and a river. There are plenty of areas within the farm to walk and bird watch. One of the dams adjacent to the house where the Willow Tree was offered up Southern Masked, Cape and Spectacled Weavers plus a Malachite Kingfisher. Cape and Southern Grey-headed Sparrows frequented the outbuildings and a Paradise Flycatcher had nested close to one of the accommodation units. A walk to the river through the plantations was quite productive. Southern Red Bishop, African Fire-finch, Olive Thrush, Bar-throated Apalis and Yellow-fronted Canary. Sundays River is quite wide and very slow moving. Here there were Yellow-billed Duck, Common Moorhen, Pied Kingfisher, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Rush Warbler, Purple Heron and African Fish-Eagle. The escarpment behind the river offered Rock Kestrel and Klaas’s Cuckoo. From the river a walk around the perimeter of one of the lemon tree orchards produced Neddicky, Diederick Cuckoo, Black-Collared Barbet, Southern Boubou and Speckled Mousebird.

There were the usual doves, including Emerald-spotted Wood Dove and Sombre Greenbul and Cape Canary. I did manage to see a Barn Owl on their entrance road one evening. There were plenty of swifts and swallows, Hadeda Ibis and Egrets. Grey Cuckooshrike was probably the best bird seen. Altogether there were 45 species for the SABAP2 submission.

Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk with ring

I spent about 12 hours in Addo Reserve but was disappointed at the return for a SABAP2 report. Raptors were in short numbers with 1 Booted Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk, several Yellow-billed Kite and Steppe Buzzards and only 1 Jackal Buzzard. There were several Pale Chanting Goshawks and I watched one attack, kill and eat a snake.

The Domkrag water hole usually produces water birds and there were Red-billed Teal, Yellow-billed Ducks, Moorhen and Coot and on the fringes Blacksmith Lapwing, Spur-winged Geese, Southern Red Bishops and Little Rush Warbler. There were plenty of Common Fiscals, Bokmakieries, Red-billed Quelea, Neddicky and Karoo Prinia. Larks were just not there to be seen and a lone Red-capped Lark and a lone Spike-heeled Lark was all I saw. Similarly only 1 Cisticola, a Zitting. I did pick up on a summer visitor in way of a Willow Warbler. I did see 1 Blue Crane (never seen any there before) and a pair of Secretarybirds soaring, something else I have never seen before.

The southern end of the park is now open with new dirt roads so I ventured down there to see if anything was around as it is different habitat with open plains African Pipit and Ostrich but on the Vukani Loop road a Full Out of Range Long-tailed Widow, my second OFR in 6 weeks. Probably won’t be recognised as “No photo”. Still I know what I saw.  For the SABAP2 report a poor 57 species and that was hard work.

African Paradise Flycatcher

From Addo we came back through Wilderness where we stayed for 3 nights on the Lagoon at Serendipity. This little area is great for birds and you can get 50 species from the garden. Plenty of Greater Striped Swallows, Barn Swallows, Black Saw-wings and White-rumped Swifts. The garden that backs onto the lagoon is quite small but hosts many birds. Swee Waxbill, Knysna Turaco, Cape Robin-Chat, Southern and Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Amethyst and Malachite Sunbird, Sombre Greenbul, African Dusky and Paradise Flycatchers, Diderick Cuckoo, Forest Canary, Burchell’s Coucal and Water Thick-knee. The lagoon is always busy with Yellow-billed Duck, Dabchicks, Darters, Common and Sandwich Terns, White-breasted Cormorants and Pied Kingfishers.

A walk along the old railway line (now disused) towards the sewage works and Ebb and Flow Camp Ground will produce Common Waxbill, Yellow Bishop, Olive Bush-shrike, Olive Thrush, Knysna Woodpecker and Streaky-headed Seedeater. This area never fails to produce and a visit to the nearby vleis or Big Tree will offer up even more.  So 52 species were recorded for SABAP2, almost as good as the whole of Addo in what is a very small area. If you have a few hours to spare along the N2 then a look along the lagoon is always worth it.

Next report from Etosha and the Erongo Mountains in early February.

Mike Graham



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