Natures Valley birding report

Posted on the 3rd November 2019

Natures Valley birding report

The African Fish Eagles called soon after our arrival for Birdlife Overberg’s annual week of birding in Nature’s Valley. It was Sunday 20 November.

They called the next day, and every day until the highlight when we met them on the Friday.

But that was not the only highlight of our stay in the familiar Kostaplenti. We had one just about every day.

On the Monday, while waiting for the other half of our group of 12 to arrive, some of us strolled along Forest Drive, ticking off bird species. Our first highlight of the week awaited us at the Groot River estuary – the spectacular take-off and flight of hundreds of Swift Terns.

By noon that day we already had a list of 38 species. 

Resident pair of African Fish Eagles at Salt River mouth
Little Egret at Salt River mouth











The next morning we all went for a walk in De Vasselot Rest Camp. We were listening to the hoarse barking calls of the Knysna Turaco, and some more melodious singing, especially by the Black-headed Oriole.

Suddenly there was another call – the Emerald Cuckoo. We followed the sound, and waited patiently for our next highlight. The bird descended to a branch less than 10 m above ground, where all of us could see it.

Wednesday’s highlight was a Western Osprey, sitting in the shallow water of the Bitou Vlei, quite far away. We had stopped there on our way to the Wittedrift Bird Festival, when we noticed a pair of Blue Cranes with two chicks nearby.

That whole area, just outside Plettenberg Bay, was a pleasant discovery from a birding point of view.

On the way back we turned into the Kurland Hotel estate, where we found another family – a pair of African Darters with chicks.

By noon our list had grown to about 80 species. By that time we began to realise that we might reach the magical 100 species, even without our Traditional Leader, Anton Odendal, who had to withdraw at the last minute to attend to a birding assignment.

The event that we had all been looking forward to, the dawn chorus, was to happen at the forest walkway next to the Groot River bridge on the Thursday morning. A number of us had studied the bird calls that were expected to form part of the chorus.

Emerald Cuckoo at De Vasselot Rest Camp
Pin-tailed Whydah at Wittedrift Bird Festival










It turned out to be a dawn chorus with a difference. As soon as we got out of our cars we were greeted by the ominous warning shout of a baboon. That soon turned into some sort of chilling, deafening baboon chorus. It came from the trees above our heads where we stood huddled together on the walkway.

It was 04:30, and dark.

Fortunately, many members of the troop seemed to move away, and their shouting faded.

By about 04:45 the real chorus began with the Red-chested Cuckoo’s call of “piet-my-vrou”. Other birds joined in, and the chorus reached its crescendo within about 15 minutes. Another 15 minutes later it was over.

Several of us thought it was one of the most beautiful performances in that forest ever. As an event is was most definitely the highlight of the day.

Then came Friday, when we set out to walk to the Salt River, early morning just before low tide. The walk along the coast was quite challenging, but what a beautiful sight beheld us at the river mouth.

Cape Weaver at Wittedrift Bird Festival
African Oystercatcher on the beach near Kostaplenti









Across the water, high up in a tree, the two resident Fish Eagles were perched. In the shallow river below a little Egret was foraging. Later we saw a White-breasted Cormorant diving for fish in the pristine bay.

We woke up on Saturday morning to another type of chorus – raindrops on the trees close by, probably hundreds of frogs further away, and the bassbooming of the sea in the background.

Only after lunch was it dry enough to go out for some birding.

A small party drove up the pass to a fynbos path, looking for Cape Sugarbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird. They were nowhere to be found, but we were treated to the beautiful solo recital of a Victorin’s Warbler, sitting about 2 m away in the undergrowth next to the path.

That was the final highlight of another wonderful week of birding in Nature’s Valley. The eventual birdlist was 113 species.

Report and bird images by Charles Naudé

Nature’s Valley social report

A BirdLife Overberg trip to Nature’s Valley has become synonymous not only with great birding but also with a very sociable stay at Kostaplenti. This year’s seven days (20 – 27 October) most certainly lived up to expectations.

Highlights (with some pictures to prove) were:

Kayaking on the lagoon, thanks to Frank who once again towed along some of his toys atop a trailer filled to capacity with proviand courtesy of Annie and Cecile. On the way from Hermanus dozens of oysters were bought and brought along to the delight of some of us who had ordered these jewels of the sea.

An enchanting dawn chorus enjoyed by the early birds among us who got up at 4:00 to marvel at a musical of note produced by Nature.

A two hour -- at times adventurous -- walk to the breathtakingly beautiful and secluded Salt River mouth.

A trip to the site of the Wittedrift Bird Festival allowed for some special sightings on the way along the Bitou River. Even the not so serious birders among us were excited by a pair of Blue Cranes who showed off their two chicks.

A visit to the dams at Kurland spoiled us with the beautiful sight of an African Darter feeding three very hungry chicks in a nest perched in a tree on a little island.

Braaiing under the trees
Birders at Bitou Vlei









The two serious photographers in the group, René and Charles, had two very rewarding outings: to Monkeyland and Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary where they on both occasions were assigned a very knowledgeable guide. Without any other visitors to distract them they had spent about two hours photographing monkeys and cats of varying sizes and descent while gaining interesting facts about the different species.

Because of forecasts of very bad weather we came armed with a jigsaw puzzle. Four dedicated puzzle builders, Wilana, Emmie, Anita and Colleen, gave it their best to put together The Garden of Earthly Delights, a famous painting by Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch. It was a challenging one, especially for those who stuck to the instruction of not consulting the picture at all ... The puzzle was not finished ...

All these activities were interspersed with consuming food, glorious food and copious amounts of drinks (soft and other). Thanks to Anton (Ackerman) and Ross for taking responsibility for the braai fires – and to Frank for coming to the rescue when on the last night only Aletta and Anita had meat and broodjies to braai.

Report and social images by Colleen Naudé

Anita and Wilana building puzzle
Frank the oysterman in action

















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