Elaine and myself are sitting here with serious rain in a drought stricken area. We don't quite know where we fit into the BirdLife South Africa national Birding Big Day competition thing as we are in a garden of eden landscape anyway. I have only missed out of one BBD through all these years when I was ill and it was strange merely walking around participating in this important day. We know what it is like messing around for as close to 24 hours as possible to count birds – been there, done it. We needed a relaxing weekend between two Flight for Birders courses and decided to spend it at Little Stone Cottage. Thus, no driving around, let us participate in the day and chill. And really bad weather, very little sunshine, no photographic opportunities.
Yes, we have done the SABAP2 thing and will submit our atlasing card and we operated in a garden with a difference. Let us namedrop: African Crowned Eagle, Emerald Cuckoo, Black Cuckooshrike, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Chorister Robin-Chat, Narina Trogon, Olive Woodpecker and several more. Remember that this is in the Western Cape province. We did not get into our car though and did we have experiences:
A Giant Kingfisher shooting up an down the river in front of the cottage carrying fish one way – until I got the nest late in the afternoon.
A very young (tailless) Bar-throated Apalis messing around on the lawn with hysterical parents trying to protect the youngster and trying to get it to safety. All very well until the chick moved into the area of Cape Robin-Chats raising it's own chick. Gentle Cape Robins? They assaulted the apalis's to the extent that the one adult in actual fact screamed it's head off – it actually got bitten seriously. What an experience!
Elaine wanted to see African Finfoot and thus I had to accompany her on a two hour hike along the river. Never got the bird, but look at this sequence of new birds added to our day's hit list: Black Cuckooshrike, Forest Buzzard, Terrestrial Brownbul, Scaly-throated Honeyguide (first time in more than a decade for me), Giant Kingfisher, African Crowned Eagle (a Western Cape lifer for me!), Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Jackal Buzzard – in that order. Not to shabby walking along a river.
So we only identified 59 species for our BBD effort in 2010 – our worst count ever. The quality and experiences though were out of this world. We ask why future Birding Big Days should not also feature a no petrol footprint. We propose that BLSA start with a “on foot, only your own footprint” BBD competition and I will take it to Council as a formal proposal. Who can produce the best birding experience on the day? Would that not be a great idea to “give conservation wings?”
Little Stone Cottage is close to one of the best birding places that we have visited and this is why we will offer them a free advertorial on www.westerncapebirding.co.za Thank you very much to Marius and Joelene Louw for allowing us to spend this wonderful Birding Big Day on their magnificent turf.
And it has been raining throughout the time that I have been writing this article and the entire night as well! It would be rather cool if we can't get out of this valley tomorrow morning.