The Cape Bird Club

Events in 2007

16th - 19th November Natures Valley trip report by John Magner

30 Club members drove to Nature's Valley for the weekend, which started with a dinner at THE VALLEY INN on the Friday evening to meet our guides and organize the weekend's birding. Our two guides were Phil Whittington, who drove down from Port Elizabeth for the weekend and Geoff McIlleron who lives in Nature's Valley (lucky man!) On the advice of Phil and Geoff we divided ourselves into four smaller groups which would be easier to lead in the forest and give everyone a good chance of seeing the forest specials. For a bit of fun, and to make it easier to organize, we gave the four groups bird names - Turacos, Trogons, Victorins, and Finfoots. After a very nice supper and a few glasses of wine we all retired for an early start on Saturday morning.

The Tauracos and Trogons with their leaders Phil and Geoff left the camp at 6am and walked upstream and into the forest, while the Victorins and the Finfoots joined forces and walked from the camp down to the estuary and back through the village of Nature,s Valley. As I was a Finfoot, I was in the latter group. Walking along the road on the forest edge provided some excellent birding and we saw Knysna Turacos, Black-headed Orioles, Puffbacks, a Yellow-throated Warbler and a Grey Cuckooshrike. A family of Olive Woodpeckers gave us a close-up treat, and during our tea stop we were entertained by a pair of Chorister Robin-chats while sitting in the shady front garden of someone's holiday home (thank you!). All the groups returned to the camp for lunch and a break before the afternoon session. In the afternoon, the Victorins and the Finfoots together with guides Geoff and Phil drove out of the valley to the fynbos at the top of the pass to look for Victorin's Warbler and other fynbos specials. The Victorin's Warblers remained as elusive as ever, with many being heard but none being prepared to show themselves. However nice sightings of Orange-breasted Sunbirds and Cape Sugarbirds, along with soaring Forest Buzzards, made for an interesting walk.

photograph by John Magner                                      photograph by John Magner

Knysna Turacos                                                The forest walk

That evening after a somewhat hasty braai, we were entertained by Geoff McIlleron who gave us a Powerpoint presentation called The Birds of Bitou (the name of the area). This was a highlight of the trip, and was an excellent show, the pictures were fantastic, and I found it very interesting how he split a lot of the pictures, showing both male and female of a species at the same time. The following morning the groups were reversed, and the Victorins  and Finfoots did the forest walks with Geoff and Phil, and the Turacos and Trogons went on the village walk. Ideally for forest birding one should have a rubber neck or alternatively lie on a blanket on the ground! However, having the excellent guides made the walk special. The sounds of the birds echo through the forest and locating them requires expertise and patience.

photograph by John Magner                                                       photograph by John Magner 

Geoff McIlleron and the show                                  The Groot River estuary, Natures Valley

Some of the specials for me were Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Olive Bush-Shrike and Black Cuckooshrike. Back in camp for lunch there was a very interesting happening. We heard a Bar-throated Apalis kicking up a storm, and on investigation found a Boomslang in excess of a meter long being mobbed by birds about four meters above the ground. The snake was doing its best to escape moving from tree to tree, but more and more birds joined in, and the many people on the ground prevented its escape. The species I saw mobbing the snake were, Puffback, Cape Robin-chat, Chorister robin-chat, Olive Woodpecker, Knysna Turaco, Yellow-throated Warbler, Bar-throated Apalis, Sombre Greenbul and Cape Batis. Quite a sight. During the afternoon, we had an appointment with an Emerald Cuckoo. Geoff McIlleron had told us of a tree half way up the pass that had a particular caterpillar infesting it that was the favourite food of the Emerald Cuckoo. So, while the other groups did the fynbos trail, we sought the Cuckoo. When we found the right spot we found not one but three Emerald Cuckoos!

The large Boomslang

That evening we had a more leisurely braai in our lapa, enjoyed each other's company and making a bird list for the weekend. The list consisted of 89 birds seen, and many more heard. A few saw an African Finfoot, one lucky group saw a Narina Trogon. Overall, the birding was spectacular, and the bird of the weekend for me was the beautiful green and gold Emerald Cuckoo.

17th 19th August De Hoop Nature Reserve
27 April - 1 May Karoo National Park, Beaufort West.

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Events in 2004.


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