Tuesday, 26 December 2017

South Africa: Day 4

Typical Overberg landscape

Day 4:
Today we were headed east to De Hoop Nature Reserve, a location suggested and booked by Birding Africa that was about three and a half hours drive from Cape Town. In order to try and get there at a decent time we got up really early, but I think that unless you leave in the middle of the night you are basically not going to arrive for early morning birding. That said the landscape was fantastic - you head over the Sir Lowrie Pass once you are through West Somerset, and once over this small range you are in what is known as the Overberg, miles and miles of rolling countryside. Bustard country, if you are lucky. We had a number of stops along the main road to appreciate the fine views, and eventually turned off towards the coast at a small settlement called Buffeljagsrivier, signposted for Malgas.

The road became unpaved here, so we took it slowly looking for birds out of the open windows, winding them up whenever another car came along. Typically the locals absolutely steamed along kicking up a massive cloud of dust, so you had to be quick or get a covering! We were aided in birding by a guide prepared by Campbell, and his first sugggested stop was very good indeed. This was a small river bordered by thorny Acacias. Lesser Honeyguide breeds here and I managed decent views eventually. There were loads of Southern Red Bishops breeding in the reeds, and I also jammed an Acacia Pied Barbet distantly. Neither of us had a scope, so in some situations we simply took long range shots and identified the birds afterwards - lazy birding really but you do what you can. We also added various Pipits and Larks in the stubble fields along the way, and a pair of Crowned Lapwing.

Jackal Buzzard

We carried on towards Malgas, wasting a lot of time trying to photograph Capped Wheatears using the rock-on-post method. Despite loading up every post for 300 yards with a rock the birds steadfastly refused to perch on any of them. So I have a load of very close range photos of Capped Wheatear on crappy posts. As you know I am not that precious about perches but Mick is not a fan at all. As we approached Malgas we came across a Southern Black Korhaan that yet again refused to pose for us, and in the heat of the day the distance proved mostly unworkable. At Malgas we took a human-powered chain ferry across the Breerivier - the guys operating it literally clip themselves to the chain and plod the length of the ferry before unclipping themselves and walking to the other end and starting again. This was slow but very pleasant and we saw a Half-collared Kingfisher distantly, unfortunately our only Kingfisher of the trip. 

Southern Black Korhaan

Malgas Pont ferry

From here we were nearly at De Hoop, and despite the fact it was the wrong time of day to see the Cape Vultures at Potberg. We failed miserably, the birds were probably all miles away, but we did manage to see a several Fiscal Flycatchers and a Fork-tailed Drongo. Along the track that leads to Potberg is a fenced-in game area with various different antelopes, mostly Bontebok. We returned the way we had came, hoping for Secretary Bird which this a good area for but not seeing any, and then turned into the track to De Hoop itself. 

Fiscal Flycatcher

Zebra! I cannot begin to tell you how excited I was to see Zebra (Cape Mountain Zebra, as opposed the Plains Zebra), this to me is something out of a nature documentary on television, not something that I could personally experience. Astonishing to have them just walking about, and I was very pleased. Lots of wildlife here - a Leopard Tortoise, Chacma Baboons, Eland, Grey Rhebok and Bontebok, and a Boomslang (a very poisonous snake) crossed the road in front of our car. We dumped our stuff started birding alongside the Vlei, first near the boathouse and later on down near the beach. We added Great Crested Grebe here as well as Little Egret - really great being in Africa! Better was an African Darter which we picked up very distantly in a huge raft of Red-knobbed Coot, and decent views of Southern Tchagra in the scrub. Closer to the dunes we added South African Shelduck and Macoa Duck amongst many of the commoner species. We then wasted a lot of time going down to Koppie Alleen where we could access the ocean, but there was barely a single bird here and I whilst the view was nice we shouldn't have bothered. 

Kopppie Alleen


Back at De Hoop for the evening light I enjoyed myself with a relatively showy Capped Wheatear and finally took the Ostrich photo I wanted, whilst Mick stalked the Milkwoods for Bokmakierie and Southern Fiscal. We rounded off the day with a great meal at the Fig Tree restaurant that was part of the accommodation here before heading off to our cottage. In all honesty barring the final hour of the day it had not been that productive for images, but it is often the case that a short stint like that can rescue an entire day, and we retired very pleased.

Capped Wheatear will be the subject of a separate post!



Helmeted Guineafowl

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