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EASTER BIRDING IN THE CEDERBERG MOUNTAINS

Posted on the 19th May 2014

Easter in the Cederberg Mountains
The invitation read: “Hoop julle goedjies is al amper reggepak vir die Sederberge, Driehoek Farm. Ons gaan lekker kamp, lekker eet en sommer net lekker rus met ‘n dag of oggend stap trippie, ek glo julle sal heelwat voëls ook sien. Dit is slegs snags wat ons in die tente slaap, so mens het niks nodig behalwe 'n tent nie. Ons hoop regtig ons sien julle daar.”
Ja, right, “only a tent” and “short easy walks”, however we committed ourselves, weather dependant. We have not camped for the last 4 years, but closer to the time the weather forecast seemed to be good, and we have committed? Next step, go in search of all our camping gear. Despite all, it seemed we did have everything we needed to camp and the thought of going with old time campers made it easier. My little bit of research let me to believe that the Cederberg is also a great place for birding, especially at Driehoek Farm from where the Black Eagle Project is managed. They also have their own resident Cape Leopard, called Houdini.
I made contact with Megan of the Black Eagle Project, but unfortunately she was not in the Cederberg over Easter. She however assured me that we would see the eagles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cederberg Mountains in the Western Cape Province occupy approximately 130 000 hectares of rugged mountain terrain between the towns of Citrusdal, Clanwilliam and Ceres, about 300km north of Cape Town. The Cederberg Wilderness Area covers 71 000 hectare and features famous hikes and climbs such as the Wolfberg Arch, Maltese Cross, Tafelberg and Sneeuberg Peak. The area is also famous for its Bushman paintings.
In 1488, when Batholomeu Dias first saw the Cedarberg Mountains, he called it the "Sierra dos Reis" (meaning the mountains of the three wise men from the East), presumably because of the three peaks of Sneeuberg, Sneeukop and Tafelberg.
Cederberg gets its name from the Ceder Tree which today only survives in small numbers, having being harvested in the area to be used as telephone poles. The area features many bird species, antelope, Chacma baboons and predators like Leopard and Caracal, as well as 3 threatened fish species.

Creeping Mountain Rose Protea
Drosera Insectiverous Plant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Several interesting projects were identified during our research: There is an amateur astronomical observatory, which regularly hosts open evenings for the public: contact them at www.cederbergobs.org.za This is a great outing for children and adults alike. Another interesting project in the area is to establish a link (15 983 ha) between the Cederberg Wilderness and Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve and to expand the Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve through the establishment of the Rooi Cederberg Private Conservation Area (67 000 ha). www.cederbergcorridor.org.za Then of course there is the Cape Leopard project www.capeleopard.org.za/research/leopard/cederberg
On the Saturday morning we did an early morning walk. Driehoek Farm offers beautiful camping accommodation and six hiking trails around the camp, ranging from 900m to 3.6km.
Birding started slowly on the Saturday morning as it was quit cold and misty, but it soon heated up and the birds started singing. We spotted Cape Batis, Bar-throated Apalis, Cape White-eye, Olive Thrush, Cape Bunting, Cape Robin-Chat and lots of Familiar Chats in the camping area.

Cape Sugarbird
Orange-breasted Sunbird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The circle route of 3.6 km round Rondeheuwel proved to be well worth the effort. We started off with a pair of Amathyst Sunbirds and lots of little puffed up of Cape Buntings warming themselves in the morning sun. Later Cape Sugarbirds and the other sunbirds started singing all around us. At the view point you could actually appreciate the different habitats, the small kopies with fynbos, then the lower wetland area, still with a free flowing stream in high summer and the beautiful towering mountains in the background.
Sitting at the viewpoint we scanned the wetland we found Yellow-billed Duck, Giant Kingfisher, lots of Bishops in non-breading plumage, Cape Weavers, Grey Heron, Cattle Egret, African Darter and a few Alpine Swifts. Further up the mountain we saw Malachite and Orange-breasted Sunbirds. One specific protea bush proved to be very productive, with Sentinel Rock-Thrush, Cape Bunting, Cape Sugarbird, 2 species of sunbirds having a feast on the recently opened flowers. Underneath it Olive Thrushes and Familiar and Sickle-winged Chats were hopping around.
We also had beautiful views of a Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk. A Jackal Buzzard was being bombed by a Rock Kestrel and a Black Sparrowhawk was seen in the gum trees behind the camping site.
Later on in the afternoon I took a drive down the road and was fortunate in finding 3 species of sunbirds, Ant-eating Chat, Black-shouldered Kite, Red-faced Mousebirds and Klaas’s Cuckoo. The highlight was a brief sighting of a beautiful Caracal crossing the road!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Easter Sunday we hiked up the Bosveldkloof to the Maltese Cross. One has to get a permit for your hike from Dwarsrivier Farm. There is a rather rough access road past the Cederberg Observatory to the parking area. The weather turned out to be excellent “hiking” weather.
Our party climbed higher and higher with the Iron Oxide red rocks all around us. We were in the midst of the Cape Fold Mountains. It is quite a climb at about 2000m above sea level to reach the Maltese Cross. The Maltese Cross stands 24m high. It is one of the most peaceful and sacred places I have visited and found it rather symbolic having to suffer to get to the top on Easter Sunday! …… but just before I got totally carried away, a movement to my right brought me back to reality, as a Cape Rock-jumper started jumping from rock to rock and then in the same area a pair of Ground Woodpeckers started their very loud alarm signals. Whow, that made the suffering in getting to the top worth our while. Going down a pair of Verreauxs’ Eagles graciously passed by, so as to say “Well done”!
On Monday we sadly made our way home on a very good gravel road past the Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve and we then travelled via the R303 past Op die Berg and Ceres to Kleinmond.
The Cederberg Wilderness Reserve must be one of the most pristine areas of South Africa, offering wonderful birding, hiking trails and relaxation. Please visit it sooner rather than later.
Carin Malan

Cape Bunting
Cape Rock-Thrush

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cape Rock-jumper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ground Woodpecker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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