GENTLE BIRDING CRUISE DOWN THE KLEIN RIVER ON THE LADY STANFORD
Posted on the 6th June 2018
Now here is another huge feather in the Cape Whale Coast’s already impressive bird-watching cap. This morning members of BirdLife Overberg went on a slow cruise along the Klein River from Stanford aboard the “Lady Stanford”. Peter Hochfelden was our host and served as skipper and guide – very ably so, we should add. Riaan was there before we arrived and had already produced great images of a Purple Heron and African Black Ducks. The rank vegetation along the river produced the familiar calls of species such as Southern Boubou, Sombre Greenbul, Bar-throated Apalis and Karoo Prinia. So off we went.
African Black Ducks
This trip was postponed last week due to inclement weather and thankfully this morning was crystal clear, windless and later on rather hot. Beate, Emmie, Rita, Di and Ian spent most of the time on the upper deck that offers fantastic views of the surrounding area. The rest of the group were on the lower deck, with Ingrid and Riaan hard at work capturing lovely images of great birds on offer. Little Grebes, moorhens, coots and Yellow-billed Ducks displayed prominently before taking off in front of the boat. Then a magnificent male Giant Kingfisher sunned itself on a dead tree, followed shortly thereafter by the first of many Malachite Kingfishers.
On the lower deck
On the upper deck
African Spoonbills started showing themselves and then African Darters appeared, often in huge numbers – this river must be filled with fish. A sub-adult African Fish-Eagle caused a stir, before good numbers of Black-winged Stilts worked the shallows. Many African Purple Swamphens were seen patrolling the edges of the reeds. An African Marsh-Harrier twice caused excitement, once being chased away by, guess who? Blacksmith Plovers. Peter then spotted the first Great Crested Grebe, followed by a nervous Black-crowned Night-Heron taking off from the reeds.
Sub-adult African Fish-Eagle
Riaan, Sharon & Ingrid clicking away
At the 8 km mark Peter stopped the boat for coffee and a picnic with lots of banter and debating on the identification of species. A raucous pair of African Fish-Eagles called in the distance and there were hundreds of Greater Flamingos and probably thousands of Red-knobbed Coots lower down the estuary towards the mouth. The calmness of the day after last week’s storms made for a lovely picnic lunch.
Male Giant Kingfisher
Upon our return it was in the middle of the day and understandably the birding slowed down dramatically. We saw several pairs of Cape Teals, but the highlights were certainly an African Snipe whirling past in its typical zigzag flight and a nearly all black Black Sparrowhawk flew overhead. There was lots of discussion about the very long, thin tail and the short, broad wings. Cape Spurfowls, a Three-banded Plover and a Familiar Chat rounded off the morning’s birding.
In the end we managed to record 57 species in just over two hours, but this trip is certainly not just about birding. The magnificent views of the surrounding habitats, with the river making its way down to the estuary and the beautiful mountains as backdrop simply have to be experienced. This is chilled, laidback and relaxing birding at its best and a must do for bird clubs and visitors to our region alike.
We decided immediately that we’ll do this again and will provisionally target two Saturdays in October and play it by ear depending on the weather predictions. Our sincere appreciation goes to Peter for taking us on this awesome cruise.