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

Your Hands....."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

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.

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