" Your Grace has found me just as I am ~ empty handed but alive in

Your Hands....."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The last part of a wonderful trip...

Onseepkans to Noordheuwel.....
The following morning we travelled on a road that has been the high-light for me. It had the most beautiful scenery. Travelling from Onseepkans to Kakamas to Keimoes is a beautiful stretch of road. Halfway through the lock of the boot broke and couldn’t close. As a car was approaching far ahead in a dust cloud, they were having major negotiations about whom was to charm this guy into helping us.
I wasn’t planning on charming anyone.... (my husband was by now phoning frequently saying how much he misses me....AND becoming grumpy ) so by the time he stopped, I had the boot closed and tied enough to make it to Upington , with shoe laces and what ever else :-D
In Upington they quickly fixed the lock and we headed to Augrabies National Park. We drove straight to Echo Corner, found a suitable – looking spot and just as ‘Tourguide” was about to drive off, I spotted not one but TWO Cinnamon-breasted Warblers :-D Finally. What a stunning little bird, that sure enough makes one work very hard to find him.

After visiting the falls and enjoying lunch we were off on the last stretch of our journey towards Dandyslaagte in Griekwastad. My friend’s family owns Dandyslaagte and the guesthouse and game farm, Wildebeest. – a must visit in Griekwastad.
We were treated with a lovely meal and some wine and great company. We were shown around and my creative side was tingling with all the new ideas I got there, but eventually I slipped away into a quiet remote corner of the farm for some much needed alone-time.

I mentioned to a special friend some time ago, the reasons why I’d rather bird alone or with this friend, than with a couple of females..... and by now, much as I am fond of her...... I was missing my irritable friend terribly.

The next morning I was handed the keys to the OLD farm bakkie and only the two of us headed for the bush.....I know now what the Voortrekkers experienced on their “ossewa’s ( oxwagens)” :-D BUT it was great fun. It was soon too hot for birding, but we enjoyed the beautiful veld just as much.
Recent sightings on Dandyslaagte: Lark-like buntings, Kimberley Pipit, Starks and Sclater’s Lark, Secretary birds, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Acacia Pied Barbet, Northern Black Korhaan, burchell’s Courser and Burchell’s Sandgrouse.

After yet another lovely evening, with a braai and a disappointing final to the Curry Cup :-P we went to bed early. We completed our journey on Sunday evening when they dropped me off at home where my husband couldn’t leave me alone for even a few minutes....

The trip ended 62 lifers later, but came Monday morning – life and work happened again – so by now I am willing to pack up and head off into the , now not unknown anymore – but to a part of our country that has taken a special part in my heart...........and to which I cannot wait to return to.

PS I also added Arctic Tern on the Pelagic but forgot to mention it in the report

From West Coast National Park to Onseepkans...

West Coast National Park
We stayed at Abrahamskraal. It was really very nice to stay here, just us, the night sky, beautiful veld as far as one can see, and no other people in sight. Japie’s wife however told us about ‘2 ghosts that do a dance of love at night over the fields” :-D We did no see them, but I am sure that no ghost will venture near Abrahamskraal with the cacophony the Barn Owls create at night.
Leaving Abrahamskraal to head out to Seeberg Hide we came across the Black-headed Canaries, but man are they difficult to photograph – they are very skittish. At Seeberg we encountered Common Ringed Plover, Kittlitz Plover, Three-banded Plover, a Bokmakierie singing his heart out, a Cape Spurfowl wanting to join us inside the hide. Curlew Sandpipers were abundant. As were Kelp Gulls and Pied Avocet. Caspian Tern and Common Terns were there too. Lifers encountered here: Common Whimbrel, Grey Plovers, of which a few were still in breeding plumage, Ruddy turnstone, Red Knot & Bar-tailed Godwit.
We then headed for Geelbek Hide. En route we picked up Karoo Lark and saw 3 Southern Black Korhaan males fighting. The female didn’t seem to be bothered by them at all and kept her distance. We came across her again at a later stage, at the side of the road and now it was clear why she showed no interest in their fight – she had a very young chick with her. An amazing sighting.
At Geelbek I’m sure we timed the tides badly, and didn’t see much. Except for adding Eurasian Curlew. By now I was experiencing caffeine withdrawal symptoms and we promptly headed for the Geelbek Tea Garden where we enjoyed some coffee and cappuchino’s. We left the park to buy fire wood in Langebaan, and upon exiting found Alpine Swifts and a Booted Eagle, amongst other birds.
We also encountered quite a lot of snakes, which I still need to ID. We ended the day in a relaxed atmosphere in front of the fire place over dinner and some more coffee. The plan for the next day was to visit the 3 hides again before leaving the park and heading for Strandfontein.

Tuesday 26 october
The hides delivered nothing new and our time was limited. We encountered yet another Black Harrier, a juvenile, sitting in the road. These raptors are plentiful in WCNP – a great sighting of a beautiful bird.

We stopped for coffee and something to eat at West Coast Place in the most beautiful little town, Jacobsbaai. This to me was one of the highlights of our trip, and I would just love to move there. I kicked off my sandles, wriggled my feet into the sea sand, enjoying the fresh sea breeze & sun. I’m sure if our “tourguide” was not SO strict on the amount of time we could afford to spent at each stop, I would easily have been able to sit there the whole day staring at the ocean and drinking the scenery and beauty & tranquillity in....
So all too soon the words came: “Come we have to leave” and I felt like acting-up like a little girl with a long lower lip, stamping my feet and saying “No! I don’t wAnt to! “ :-D
I was placated with 2 more lifers being Grey Tit and Largebilled Lark, as well as a sighting of Damara Canary.

We went through Velddrif, saw a beautiful White Pelican there. We stopped at the Serebros plant and saw yet another Rock Kestrel as well as a Black-necked Grebe.
Next stop was Lambertsbaai for the Cape Gannets at Bird Island. We seem to have missed all the rarities (Black Tern, Lesser Sandplover, Chestnut-banded Plover) by a few weeks, so no. We didn’t see any Australian Gannet. I enjoyed the gannets a lot.
We headed from here to Papendorp, but this turned out to be rather disappointing with very little birds. We met one of the locals whome we gave a few things too and she could not stop blessing us, even singing us a hymn. Being so blessed the rest of our trip could only yield more lifers. :-D
We were booked at a guesthouse in Strandfontein. And yet again I don’t know how to describe the scenery and the experience. As child my grandparents lived a block away from the beach in Scottburg, KZN. Spending weeks a year there, being used to hearing and seeing the sea from my bedroomwindow, walking barefoot in and down with the stream that ran through their garden, through those big water pipes underneath the road and eventually ending in the lagoon, was something I often did ....( and subsequently getting the hiding accordingly :-D )
But this little house was facing the ocean on 2 sides: meaning if I sit on the stoep with my feet hanging over it, the waves are breaking right under my feet. This was really special. Pity we only had a night to enjoy this privilege.

The next morning we were “allowed’ to sleep a little later, in order to leave at 07h00. In Lutzville I added Namaqua Warbler, at Nuwerust Lark-like Bunting and Cape Clapper Lark. This was a beautiful stretch of road. Probably the only tollroad ( with a boom toll gate and all) in the country that is a gravel road :-D :-D
We stopped for lunch at Garies, but the place was desolate. Apparently they mostly work during the flower season. So we pushed on and enjoyed the most ‘cost-effective’ meal of the trip at the Kamieskroon Hotel. Needles to mention we were the only guests there.
We had an hour to bird at Goegap Nature Reserve in Springbok and once more the Cinnamon-breaasted Warbler eluded us.
I did however add Karoo Eremomela, a beautiful but shy little bird.

From Goegap, Gamoep - where I added Dusky Sunbird, towards Koa Dunes, where I added Red Lark & Grey-backed Sparrowlark. Nearly every lamp post or pole had an enormous Sociable Weaver’s nest, but most were inactive. The active ones however nearly always also produced Pygmy Falcons in the vicinity. This lifer I added in Namies.

We reached Onseepkans, at the Namibian border and checked in. For the first time during the trip it was extremely hot. This was definitely the most beautiful guesthouse of the trip – and one I would recommend to anyone. Very modern and spacious, with thick green lawn inviting you to come and take a nap on it, underneath the row of Palm Trees, with km’s and km’s of green patches vineyard and the mountains behind it.....and idyllic scenery.
We quickly unpacked and climbed over the rocks through the Orange River to an island in the middle of the river. We were soon greeted by flashes of green and pink as Rosy-faced Lovebirds flew across at the speed of lightning. We later found them in ‘ town’ too at the police station, as well as some more Namaqua Sandgrouse, Pied Kingfishers, Malachite Kingfisher and White-throated Canaries.

The next morning while handing over the key to the owner and farmer, we chatted for nearly an hour as he described the process of picking, packing, transporting & exporting his grape produce. Very insightful.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Kelp Gull at the fishing trawler, Cape Gannet's and a different view of Cape Point...


A view of Cape Point from the ocean.....Shy Albatros, Atlantic & Indian Yellow-nosed Albatros


Two of the Albatros species encountered on the Pelagic out of Simon's Town: Shy and Black-browed:

This African Penguine photo taken at Boulder's Beach;

Some trip photo's...

The next few are of a Rock Martin, Tractrac Chat, Ground Woodpeckers....

Here are some photo's to start with: the first being a nest of the Sclater's Lark, then Blue KOrhaan's and lastly a Ludwig's Bustard. Not great photo's as they were far off....

Heading into the vast unknown....2

Saturday 23 October
Dry rusks and Valoids were had by all for breakfast, before heading down to the meeting point. After the briefing we headed out to sea, the Zest team Trevor & John, 2 guys with HUGE lenses, the 3 of us,
FrancoisD, Tertius Gouws and 7 foreigners, 6 of whom turned out to sleep more than half of the day. Much to my delight I only once felt a little queezy after having the fruitjuice they served. This, while another member of our party, were ‘feeding the birds birthday cake at the back of the boat’ :-D
The weather was still windy, sea’s stormy and rough and we sat in the rain for about half an hour. As we headed out, we saw Common and Sandwich Terns, passed the Bank and Cape Cormorants and Cape Gannets then saw the first of 3 Southern Right Whales, within metres of the boat, just as we reached Cape Point.
Soon after this Trevor shouted out: “Great Shearwater”...... :-D thinking back now, it’s funny how then everyone tried to get at least a proof shot of the Great Shearwater, and in the end this turned out to be a ‘trash bird’, with having them upclose to the boat for the remainder of the day... :-D
Soon after Trevor’s next shout came: “Leather-backed Turtle”- again within metres of the boat.
Soon after the rain subsided and we found a trawler. These were our sightings of which all were lifers:
Paracitic Jaegar, Manx Shearwater, Shy Albatros – being #600 on my life list – White-chinned Petrel, Black-browed Albatros, Sooty Shearwater, Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatros, Subantartic skua, Indian Yellow-nosed Albatros, Sabine Gull, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, Black-bellied Storm-Petrel, Northern Giant Petrel, Pintado Petrel.
As we headed back, passing the cormorant spot, we picked up Crowned Cormorant and as we got out of the boat, I added lifer #23 for the day being African Black Oystercatcher.
But our day did not end here.....we headed out for Cape of Good Hope National Park where the 5 of us tried in vain to flush a Hottentot Buttonquail.

Sunday 24 October
Early morning we packed up and headed for Somerset West where we met up with Tertius. We headed for Arabella Equestrian Estate to once again try and flush the Buttonquail. Oh BOY! What an ordeal.... Walking through and over small bushes and shrubs, uphill, downhill, turn and walk back again with two of us not being the tallest, trying to keep up with Tertius’s long strides was quite tough. As if this was not hard enough, the heavens had opened once more and it was pouring, so trying to keep up and keep the bino’s and camera’s dry, eventually made me wonder “ Do I REALLY want to see this damn bird this badly??” Only then he suddenly stopped to ask: ‘Shame are you girls tired? :-D” ....ahhh.....NO!?
Although I picked up one lifer in Grey-backed Cisticola, here I was just too happy to be leaving Arabella.
Next we headed for Rooi Els, for the Cape Rock Jumper and Victorin’s Warbler.
I managed lifer # 41 for the trip in Orange-breasted Sunbird. Ground Woodpeckers, Red-winged Starlings and White-necked Ravens were plentifull, as well as the calls of Peregrine Falcon. But he remained unticked for Mary yet again.
Victorin’s Warblers were calling higher up the hill and none of us really attempted to start climbing up there in the rain. As we eventually turned and started heading back to the carpark, Tertius excitedly picked up the calls of Cape Rockjumpers. Finally! :-D
Fortunately the rain subsided then and I headed uphill to get a closer view. Mary and another birder soon joined me, we sat down quietly in the wet field amongst all the flowers and enjoyed the rockjumpers for the next half an hour. Three birds were relatively close. The one seemed to be a young female. Every now and again begging for food. Dad however was frequently bringing back food to what we suspected to be the nesting site. Tertius was very excited about this and said he would return during the week once the weather had improve, to inspect the site.
Mary, Tertius and I were ready to head to Harold Porter for the Victorin’s but we had strict instructions to head back home now as his wife had prepared a wonderfull Sunday lunch for us. Once relaxing with a glass of wine, he showed me a ‘ Beautifull specimen of Hottentot Buttonquail.....from the freezer :-D We spent the next couple of hours going through some of his most interesting books.
All too soon it was time to say goodbye and head out to the West Coast National Park.

Heading into the vast unknown....

In October this year 2 friends and I headed on a birding trip..we were to go from Johannesburg to Beaufort West, Simon's Town, were the main focus would be on a Pelagic trip to encounter seabirds, then on to West Coast National Park, Strandfontein, Springbok, Poffadder, Onseepkans on the Namibian Border, then spent the last two nights in Griekwastad, before heading home.
It was an amazing trip, with breathtaking sceneries. I will try to portrait as best I can to give you a glimps of what I have experienced.

As requested, I have started writing a trip report, but it will come in ‘chapters’ and without photo’s as I haven’t even had the chance of looking at most of them...

After a couple of strenuous weeks & a traumatic event, I found myself looking for someone to take my place in our planned trip.
However,on strict Doctors orders J and my husband insisting I go, on the evening of 20 October I joined up with friends in Pretoria, preparing to leave early Thursday morning.
The much needed nightrest would however eluded me for a couple of nights more. Thursday morning we left in coolish weather, heading for The Vale Beaufort West where we were
To spent our fist evening. We arrived shortly after 14h00 in due time to meet up with Japie Claasens to search for Sclater’s Lark.
En route we saw the ‘normal’ Gauteng birds as well as Greater Flamingo’s and Great White Pelican at a pan next to the road.
Once across the Freestate border, Blue Korhaans were seen frequently.
At a ‘Stop & Go’ control at Trompsburg, I picked up my first lifer in the form of Kimberley Pipit.
Once we met up with Japie, we headed to a privately owned farm called Bulskop. The first birds we flushed were 2 Burchell’s Coursers, which in the end I decided not to tick for seeing them too briefly.
While the other’s attention were focussed on finding Sclaters, I was having a ‘ball of a time’ adding lifers, as nearly every bird we saw was a lifer for me. This turned out to be the norm for the remainder of the trip :-D
Lifers that followed on the pipit were: Pale-winged Starling, Tractract Chat, Sclater’s Lark, Karoo Chat and Karoo Korhaans.
We celebrated a lifer to each of my friends and six to me, at the end of a successfull and very windy first day at a nearby restaurant. My friends going to bed with the birds  saw me battling through another sleepless night.
Friday 22 October
We were out and about early the next morning. As we were leaving the lodge even before 06h00, I picked up my next two lifers: White-throated Canary and Karoo Scrub Robins. We arrived
At Karoo National Park as they opened where our target bird was African Rock Pipit, which in the end of the few hours we had to spent there, was not to be seen.
We did however had other great sightings in the form of the resident pair of Verreaux Eagles, a rather tamed Short-toed Rock Thrush, Rufous-eared Warblers, some 9 Ground Woodpeckers in the camp.
Some more lifers were added too: Southern Tchagra for them, Karoo Prinia and Karoo Long-billed Lark for me.
Next we would head up Molteno Pass in search of African Rock Pipit but more specifically Cinnamon-breasted Warbler. But again to no avail. The weather was also not helping with it being cold, windy , dark, over-casted and drizzling. We did however had good views of Booted Eagle. Lifers I found on this stretch of road were Ludwig’s Bustard & Layard’s Tit-Babbler.

Our next stop at Matjiesfontein added Common Starling to the lifers. In this beautiful little place Malachite Sunbirds were abundant. Our next stop would be Seagetaway in Simon’s Town. The landscapes and scenery en route were breathtaking and no matter how you try, no photo gives ‘right’ to the beauty one sees and experience. Interesting landmarks were pointed out along the road – it surely does help if one of your friends is a tourguide.
BUT as the long road kilometre by kilometre brought us closer to our next destination, so too the weather was deteriorating at an alarming rate. By the time we reached Hugenote Tunnel, the skies were dark, the mountains covered in thick mist rolling over them, the wind howling and the heavens opened and pouring it’s contents. Word from Cape Town was not good at all: heavy rain and gail-forced winds, the waves at sea in excess of 5m. Things were surely looking grim for our Pelagic trip the next day. Waterfalls formed everywhere from the mountain tops, plunging down for meters.....absolutely breathtaking.
As we reached Cape Town though, the winds had ‘more or less’ calmed down a bit and it was raining softly now. Hartlaub’s Gull was the next lifer, shortly followed by a number of Cape Sugarbirds below the cottage we stayed at. Cape Bulbuls were in the garden.
The Seagetaway would turn out to be one of the best cottages we stayed at during our trip, with breathtaking views of the ocean.
After enjoying ( and taking some photos of African Penguines at Boulders) a light supper, we received a call with the good news that our pelagic was still on. Though this was news we wanted, it made my tummy give an extra twist and the first thing that went into my jacket pockets were Stugeron and Valoids. Soon after we tucked in, for what would be the first decent night’s sleep in a few weeks