Posted on the 26th September 2019

One of the reasons I love birding and fellow birders is that they can’t resist an invitation! My car was due for a service in Hermanus which meant I had a day free to either trawl the mall or organise like-minded folk on an outing. Hence Chris, Carl, Gill and I headed out to Bontebok National Park for the day.

The bird list started in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley after which we connected with the N2 all the way to Swellendam. Along the way we spotted Blue Cranes, Cape Crows, Hadeda Ibis and quite a few Spur-winged Geese. Southern Fiscal’s were out in their numbers sitting on the telephone wires too. The farm dams were not looking full as one would have expected at this time of the year, but the canola fields were bright yellow while the wheat fields deep green: It’s a great time to be out and about in the Overberg.

The Southern Red - and Yellow Bishops added bright splashes of colour to the landscape, while the Sacred Ibises and Helmeted Guineafowls were conspicuous in the fields. Quite a few White-necked Ravens and Pied Crows flew overhead. Other birds seen “on the wire” were Capped Wheatear, Pied and Common Starlings, African Stonechat and Large-billed Larks.

Into the Park we went, it’s a good hour and a half from Hermanus. In the main entrance car park, we saw Cape Bulbul, Malachite and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, Cape Weaver and our first raptor for the day was a Jackal Buzzard. At this point I think I started driving Chris nuts as I started spotting flowers not birds, which added to the stops for photographs and lots of patience from all the birders in the car. Yellow Canary, Karoo Prinia, Grey-backed Cisticola and Bokmakierie were seen in the fynbos sandy flats. Gill spotted the first Denham’s Bustard, a male his magnificent plumage Here we had a super sighting of herd of Bontebok with a young and energetic foal racing around the fynbos doing figures of eight. 

Next stop was near the river day camp. Fairly quiet in the way of birds except for the Cape Weavers, Red-knobbed Coots, Yellow-billed Ducks and Egyptian Geese. Our first Yellow-billed Kite took off from the Bluegums on the riverbank. Cape White-eye’s made a fair amount of noise in the river front shrubbery. In the far distance and high up in the sky an African Fish Eagle called.
Back in the car we headed off towards the camp site on the Breede River. Along the way we watched a herd of zebra, one of which was enjoying a dust bath. We stopped at the “fishing sign” were we first heard a Sombre Greenbul, Lesser Swamp-Warbler and Bar-throated Apalis. In the parking area a Fiscal Flycatcher was hawking insects.

We then ventured along a short walk in the other direction and had the sighting of the trip! A pair of Olive Woodpeckers were busy making a nesting hole and the hammering noise of the female was a dead giveaway. The female worked like a trojan while the male put in an appearance from time to time. We sat no further than 3 meters away from all the action and mobile phones took great photos! One very special half hour of real bird-watching – what a treat! On the water there were Red-billed Teals, Egyptian and Spur-winged Geese, Yellow-billed Ducks and Red-knobbed Coots. A pair of Southern Boubou’s also made an appearance as they skulked in the bushes.

Back in the car we headed off to have lunch in the main camp. As we parked, we spotted an Acacia Pied Barbet. Chris heard the “meitjie meitjie” call as soon we saw the beautiful male Klaas’s Cuckoo. While we watched, we thought we saw him feeding caterpillars to a juvenile! However, I have reliably learnt that this was probably an act of solicitation, as apparently Klaas’s are lazy and get other birds to feed their young. The camp site, added Cape Robin-Chat, African Hoopoe, Common Waxbill, Cape Spurfowl, Olive Thrush, Cape Wagtail, Speckled Mousebird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Levaillant’s Cisticola and Southern Masked Weavers. We started the “aloe walk” and had a good sighting of a Southern Tchagra and the riverbank had Brown-throated Martins busy flying in and out of their burrows. Rock Martins and Alpine Swifts were also on the wing and a juvenile African Fish Eagle flew over.

With time being of the essence we decided to do the big loop though the fynbos plains, hoping to see the Secretarybird (2019 bird of the year). We glimpsed two in flight, but none on the ground, a photographic disappointment as this was one of our targeted species! In the drier areas we saw a family of shy Grey Rhebuck, always a treat as these are considered Near-Threatened and endemic to Southern Africa. In the distance a Black-winged Kite perched on an acacia tree and the Cape Clapper Lark, Karoo Scrub Robin, Cape Grassbird and an African Pipit were spotted. 

We then headed home and other birds seen along the way were: Western Cattle Egret, Greater Striped Swallows, Cape Turtle Dove, Rock Kestrel, Cape Sparrow and a Black-headed Heron. At a “stop-go” we amused ourselves by spotting Red-capped and Large-billed Larks with African Pipits and Cape Canaries in the roadside shrubbery. Little Grebe, African Spoonbill and Blacksmith Lapwing were spotted near farm dams and in a stony field Crowned Lapwing was seen.

A few special flowers were added to my list and Chris now considers himself an amateur botanist! A few flowers that were special were – Satyrium erectum (orchid), Leucospermum calligerum and Moraea tripetala (Blou Uintjie) and the Lemon Scented Geraniumaka Pelargonium crispum. All in all, we saw 73 birds and some stunning mammals and flowers, a good day was had by all!
Jenny Parsons

Spur-winged Goose
Klaas's Cuckoo (1)














Klaas's Cuckoo (2)
African Pipit











Zebra dustbath




Southern Boubou











Olive Woodpecker (1)
Olive Woodpecker (2)










Olive Woodpecker (3)




Klaas's Cuckoo (3)











Leucospermum calligerum




Satyrium erectum (orchid)












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