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BIRDING IN NATURE'S VALLEY

Posted on the 20th October 2015

In early October nineteen of us again spent five days at Kostaplenti, the fantasic Nature's Valley home of Buks and Annette de la Rey. The two buildings comfortably housed seventeen BirdLife Overberg members and two guests from Hermanus Bird Club. The braai area is ideal for a group of this size and most evenings were spent socialising around the fire, and one evening we watched the Springboks wipe out the Eagles.

     

(l) Carl & Madeleine watching the potjie, (r) the group watching rugby; (both images by Anton Odendal).

The feeling of being in the forest made for outstanding birding. We used Kostaplenti as a base to explore the birding delights of the region so, in addition to two dawn chorus hikes, members of the group visited birding hotspots such as the Tsitsikamma National Park, Birds of Eden, the Soutrivier mouth and a variety of forest trails in and around Nature's Valley.

     

(l) A giant yellowwood tree, (r) lunch at Tsitsikamma; (both images by Anton Odendal).

The birding in the Kostaplenti garden was prolific, although it was not as good as last January when the Milkwood trees had fruit. The upper deck allowed a view of dry branches above the forest canopy that serve as perfect perches for a variety of species. The sunbirds were particularly attracted to the branches and during the week we were able to identify AMETHYST, COLLARED , GREATER and SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED, GREY and MALACHITE SUNBIRDS. Other species that regularly used these perches included CAPE BATIS, FORK-TAILED DRONGO, SOMBRE GREENBUL, AFRICAN OLIVE-PIGEON, BLACK-HEADED ORIOLE, BLACK-BELLIED STARLING and CAPE WHITE-EYE.

     

(l) Swee Waxbill, (r) Greater Double-collared Sunbird; (both images by Charles Naude).

Birds heard continually, (and most seen often), included BAR-THROATED APALIS, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, OLIVE BUSH-SHRIKE, AFRICAN PARADISE FLYCATCHER, KNYSNA TURACO and KNYSNA WOODPECKER. Other birds that I personally enjoyed finding included GREEN-BACKED CAMEROPTERA, AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER, AFRICAN GOSHAWK, CHORISTER ROBIN-CHAT, YELLOW-THROATED WOODLAND-WARBLER and OLIVE WOODPECKER. We also often heard AFRICAN BLACK OYSTER-CATCHERS calling as they flew past along the the beach some hundred yards away. This certainly is garden birding at its best!

     

(l) Bar-throated Apalis, (r) African Black Oystercatcher; (both images by Charles Naude).

We spent a lot of time birding along the Grootrivier boardwalk as there were too many noisy students and scholars in the De Vasselot restcamp. There were droves of BAR-THROATED APALIS, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, BLACK-HEADED ORIOLE, KNYSNA TURACO and SOMBRE GREENBUL everywhere, causing a constant din in the forests. Other fairly common species that were encountered included noisy CHORISTER ROBIN-CHATS, GREEN WOODHOOPOE and OLIVE and KNYSNA WOODPECKERS. Specials for us Hermanus birders included TERRESTRIAL BROWN-BUL, OLIVE BUSH-SHRIKE, GREY CUCKOO-SHRIKES and YELLOW-THROATED WOODLAND-WARBLER.

     

(l) The Grootrivier, (r) BLO members leaving the forest boardwalk; (both images by Anton Odendal).

The early morning hikes produced rippers such as FOREST CANARY, BLUE-MANTLED CRESTED-FLYCATCHER, KLAAS'S CUCKOO, SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL, BUFF-SPOTTED FLUFFTAIL (including a brief sighting), PIET-MY-VROU, NARINA TROGON and AFRICAN WOOD-OWL. SCALY-THROATED HONEYGUIDES were calling constantly and we were eventually rewarded with a clear sighting. This was soon followed by sightings of both BROWN-BACKED HONEYBIRD and LESSER HONEYGUIDE.

THE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • An AFRICAN EMERALD CUCKOO called for a long time and Charles managed to get a good view as well as photographs of it. The intense colouration of this bird simply blew us all away.

     

(l) African Emerald Cuckoo (image by Charles Naude), (r) Charles getting the shot (image by Anton Odendal).

  • Elaine found a CHORISTER ROBIN-CHAT doing a near-perfect mimic of a FIERY-NECKED NIGHTJAR at 11h00 in the morning!
  • Another wonderful find was the positive identification of a BLACK CUCKOO – a great bird for the Western Cape.
  • And of course, young Tristan Pearson who coped with us old bokkies for a week and can now identify the calls of AFRICAN EMERALD CUCKOO, BUFF-SPOTTED FLUFFTAIL, SCALY-THROATED HONEYGUIDE, BLACK-HEADED ORIOLE and CHORISTER ROBIN-CHAT to just mention a few. At our monthly meeting on 12 October we awarded him with honorary junior membership of BirdLife Overberg and gave him his first bird book and a bird feeder.

    

(l) Chorister Robin-Chat (image by Charles Naude), (r) Frank & Tristan catching a cold (image by Anton Odendal).

These outings are not just about spotting birds. The early morning atmosphere in the forests with the sun gradually filtering through the leaves of ancient yellowwoods cannot be described in words, and needs to be experienced. The sense of cameraderie around the fire is unforgetable. Little wonder that several of us described sadness and nostalgia when we had to leave Nature's Valley. This brief description clearly illustrates the vast birding potential of the Nature's Valley region. This is certainly one of the top birding destinations in the Western Cape Province as far as forest species are concerned.

We were able to positively identify 96 species at Nature's Valley of which 58 were at Kostaplenti. The entire trip, which also included two wonderful days at Paul and Sue Scheeper's Bitou River Lodge outside Plett, produced 159 species.

Our appreciation to all participants who contributed to making this such a memorable week. We also thank Buks and Annette de la Rey for the use of Kostaplenti. We'll be back!

Anton Odendal

               

(l-r) Knysna Turaco, Green-backed Cameroptera, Chorister Robin-Chat & Streaky-headed Seedeater; (all images by Anton Odendal).

          

(l-r) Swift Terns, Knysna Turaco & Grey Cuckoo-Shrike; (all images by Charles Naude).

 

 

COMMENTS

2166
JILL MORTIMER (posted: 2015-10-21 16:08:20)
Sounds absolutely wonderful. Looking for somewhere (reasonably priced) for two adults and two dogs to stay in February for 3 nights. Any ideas?

Why am I still not logged in?
ELSABE KETTERINGHAM (posted: 2015-10-21 08:39:39)
A wonderful time was had by all. Thank you to the organisers!
CAROL VAN HOOGSTRATEN (posted: 2015-10-20 21:15:10)
Lucky people and beautiful photos. Thank you