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

Your Hands....."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

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

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