OUTING TO ARABELLA ESTATE AND ROOIELS ON 19 JANUARY 2019
Posted on the 23rd January 2019
The devastating Overstrand fires changed our plans for our traditional January outing to Rooiels and Harold Porter as the latter took a very heavy hammering in the blaze. Carin then suggested that we visit the Arabella Estate and then Rooiels. On top of this the day did not start out well as it was cold and overcast with occasional drizzles. Logically several members who confirmed participation did not pitch. Cobus and Anneke Rossouw from Bloemfontein picked up on our activities on our website and joined us on the morning.
At Arabella we initially walked past a few dams and one was particularly productive. Yellow-billed Ducks and Common Moorhens were protecting chicks and an immature Malachite Kingfisher caused lots of excitement. Other species added here included White-faced Whistling Duck, Little Grebe, Three-banded Plover and Lesser Swamp Warbler and around the pond there were Karoo Prinia, Streaky-headed Seedeater and Cape Spurfowl. An African Darter and a Common Bustard and several swallows staged fly-pasts and by the time we left the pond we had logged 25 species. It is amazing to think that such good birding is available on a golf course despite windy conditions and occasional drizzles
The hike along the shores of the Botvlei did however produce the goods and we were able to enjoy a huge variety of waterbirds. Many terns were patrolling the water and we were very surprised to find a few Whiskered Terns amongst them. The Caspian Terns were particularly impressive. The calls of African Fish-Eagles called rang out and Blue Cranes, a Black-winged Kite and a Jackal Buzzard were observed flying in the distance. A single Common Sandpiper caused a stir and other species observed included the Black-necked Grebe, Giant Kingfisher, African Spoonbill and Cape and Red-billed teals. Terrestrial species added included Bokmakierie, Brimstone Canary, Fiscal Flycatchers feeding chicks and Cape Grassbird. By the time we enjoyed coffee and something to eat some two hours later we were already on a whopping 70 species and all of this on foot. I am convinced that we will easily score 100 species on a morning’s birding on a clear day at Arabella Estate.
The impact of the recent fires on the Betty’s Bay community saddened us as we drove through the village. Groups of people were standing dazed at skeletons of burnt-out houses and vehicles and the charred remains of the vegetation along Disakloof and the river at the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens are simply sickening. One is lost for words ……..
A Rock Kestrel chasing the pair of Verreaux’s Eagles in the sky around Klein Hangklip welcomed us at the famous Rooiels site. The area was strangely windless and the sun had come out by now making for excellent birding. Orange-breasted Sunbirds entertained us initially and we gradually started picking up on to be expected species such as the Cape Bunting and Familiar Chat. A Grey-backed Cisticola was very confiding and allowed us to really get to grips with its varied calls – stunning that such a drab little bird can cause so much entertainment. Three Klipspringers should be noted and some of us spent some time observing an Elephant Shrew basking in the sun – a very interesting and rewarding observation.
Enjoying those eagles
Cobus and Anneke had some local endemics on their wish-list and Cape Siskins were the first to come up trumps. These tiny birds were feeding on the ground and it was amazing to see how small they actually are when compared to Familiar Chats that were foraging around them. A long walk eventually delivered on the rock-jumpers and there were suddenly substantial numbers of them all around us. There were at least three family groups with immature fledglings of these magnificent birds in an area of about hundred metres and camera shutters were working overtime. I am always fascinated to observe visiting birders watching rock-jumpers for the first time and Cobus and Anneke were no exception. These birds must certainly be one of the most sought-after terrestrial species in South Africa and one of our region’s top “birding export products”.
Rock-jumpers at last
We further heard Ground Woodpeckers calling in a distance. On our hike back to the vehicles a mixed group of foraging Cape Buntings, Cape Grassbirds, Familiar Chats, Cape Rock-jumpers, Cape Rock-Thrushes and Red-winged Starlings rounded of yet another marvellous and successful visit to Rooiels. Cape Sugarbirds were observed at the vehicles.
Cobus getting his rock-jumper images!
Carin then volunteered to take the “blikore” to Stony Point where they added Bank, Cape and Crowned cormorants, African Penguins and African Black Oystercatchers. In the end we managed to log 110 species on a morning when conditions were initially not supportive of good birding and a quick count indicates that 32 of these are endemic or near-endemic to southern Africa. The full list of species seen is available from us. This once again illustrates that despite natural disaster and poor weather there is always a plan to be made resulting in outstanding birding along the Cape Whale Coast.
We express our sincere appreciation to Dawid and Carin for arranging our visit to Arabella and for hosting and guiding us there – a genuine privilege to be able to visit this hugely underrated birding destination.
23 January 2019.
(Images by Carin Malan, Jenny Parsons and Anton Odendal).