Andre Rabie, the owner of “Die Poort”, recently attended one of our Flight for Birders courses and invited us to check out his farm between the two courses that we presented at McGregor and Calitzdorp. Die Poort is beyond Matjiesvlei in the Calitzdorp district where a sighting of a White-fronted Bee-eater was recently reported. Many of the locals reckon that it is “old hat” and that these birds have been there for years – makes one wonder how we can get these communities involved. This is another one of these magnificent destinations along Route 62 and one wonders why so many birders travel along the N2 when going from Cape Town or Hermanus to the Garden Route. There are stunning landscapes along Route 62 and the birds …...............
Die Poort as seen from the deck
Dropping down into Die Poort really gives one that “going to hell and back” kind of feeling and for about 36 hours we were totally isolated from the outside world, but for those continual jet streams up above. This gorge, where the Gamkas river comes out of the kloof, affords landscapes that one can not believe. Andre produced this major document on the history and background to the region that represents a great piece of research that makes for compelling reading. In this he has a checklist of about 100 birds on his farm and he states that professional birders will probably add another 20 - gross underestimation. In the short time that we spent there we identified 74 species “from the patio”. The facility where we stayed gives a panoramic view of the river cutting through the mountains of about a kilometer by 500 yards. We went on two short walks, but for the rest we parked off on two comfortable lounge chairs that Andre had placed on the deck. This truly was birding in style. In the end we estimated that there should be at least 170 species in this small area and we would not be surprised if this exceeds 200 species once birders get to frequent the place.
Overhead a pair of BLACK EAGLES continually patrolled the area despite attempts of a pair of WHITE-NECKED RAVENS to mob
them. Fantastic aerial maneuvers in the skies. The dry thorn bushes immediately around the house were particularly productive – imagine waking up with a mission to complete a SABAP2 card on the day and having a very vocal pair of CAPE ROCK-THRUSHES as the first id for the day. There were CAPE BUNTINGS, both double-collared sunbirds, both fiscals, very familiar FAMILIAR CHATS, Slangverklikkers (just love the Afrikaans name), BROWN-HOODED KINGFISHER and two pairs of CARDINAL WOODPECKERS giving each other “hell” in a tree. This latter incident was very special to us as it represented one of those unique birding experiences that makes birding so special. Will we ever see this again?
Downstream view from the deck
The area around the river itself is probably a super highway for water birds in this arid region and we found most of the warblers, cormorants and ducks that one would expect in the area. We agreed though that the AFRICAN FISH-EAGLE, AFRICAN BLACK DUCK, GIANT KINGFISHER and BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON were special for this “dry country”. The thorn thickets along the river though were extremely productive. The AFRICAN PARADISE FLYCATCHERS controlled proceedings, but we were delighted to see FAIRIE FLYCATCHERS as we had “dipped” on them for a few years. Droves of NEDICKIES, ACACIA PIED BARBETS, all of the mousebirds, both regional weavers and SOUTHERN BOUBOU, SOUTHERN TCHAGRA and BOKMAKIERIE providing background vocals on a continual basis.
Another feature of birding here is that it gives a crossover of the so-called “eastern” and “western” species – both OLIVE and KAROO THRUSHES, CAPE and PRIRIT BATISES, the TRACTRAC CHAT with its dominant white over the tail and rump was a big surprise for us and the FAMILIAR CHAT was so much paler, very much like the Kalahari birds. Add to this a bit from the north-east with the presence of GREEN-BACKED CAMEROPTERA and SOMBRE GREENBUL and this place has potential “wat jy nie kan oorvertel nie”. When we left and had tea with Andre at the main house a pale-phased BOOTED EAGLE circled the sky …..............
We visited Die Poort for to short a period to give justice to this magnificent part of our natural heritage and we believe that Andre should be commended for the restoration that he is busy with here in a cultural, historical and biodiversity sense. It is predicted that “Die Poort” will become a huge buzz word in birding circles in future and we will do our best to promote this destination on this website. Wanna get involved in birding “to hell and back”? Remember Die Poort.