The Cape Bird Club

Weekend at the Steenbras River mouth   27 - 29 August 2010.
by Mervyn Wetmore.

On Friday evening 26 members of the Cape Bird Club assembled at the Sunbird Guest Lodge at the Steenbras River mouth near Gordon’s Bay. After an interactive run down on the weekend’s arrangements from John Magner and Vernon Head and an evening meal at the Lodge we retired early to prepare for a 07H30 start the next day.

photograph by Jane Magner

Arrived on Friday afternoon and discussing the itinerary.

On Saturday we set out, leaning into the wind in a forbidding North Wester on the track joining Rooiels and Pringle Bay, looking for Cape Rock-Jumpers and Ground Woodpeckers. We were unlucky with these though we did see Orange-breasted Sunbirds, Cape Buntings and a Black Eagle roosting above its nest on a mountain ledge, amongst others. By then the weather was turning for even the extreme birders and we moved on to the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens at Betty’s Bay. There we had snack and hot drink at the restaurant before walking up the Leopard’s Gorge to the waterfall listening out for and seeing local birds, the highlight being a good sighting of the Victorin’s Warbler.

Next we drove to Stony Point African Penguin colony. We saw four cormorant species Cape, White-breasted, Bank and Crowned all of which breed at Stony Point. A “lifer” for many was to see Shy Albatross off shore both flying and on the water.

photograph by Jane Magner

Looking for the Ground Woodpeckers.

From Stony Point, and with the bad weather blowing on and up the East Coast, we returned to our starting point at Rooiels. Retracing our steps of the early morning Mel Tripp was the first to spot a Ground Woodpecker before we returned to our base at Sunset Lodge at the end of a most interesting and rewarding day to enjoy a braai.

On Sunday morning we again set off at 07H30 for the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve. Arriving in warm, bright sunlight we were addressed by the Reserve Manager Mark Johns, who gave us some background information about the Kogelberg Reserve. At his suggestion we walked up the Palmiet River path for an hour before returning to the Kogelberg Office site for a short tea break under the trees.

From Kogelberg we moved on to the Rooisand Nature Reserve and the bird hide (designed by Vernon Head), and walked the fairly extensive boardwalk to a viewing deck at the Bot River lagoon edge before proceeding to the hide. From here we were able to see the free roaming horses and various ducks and geese. A Black-headed Canary out of its normal range was seen, and therefore an important sighting for the area.

Back at the Reserve entrance we gathered to enjoy our lunch and compile a complete list of birds seen over the Steenbras Weekend, totalling 98 species.

photograph by Jane Magner

The traditional braai.

This was a wonderful birding weekend with overlays of botany, zoology and visiting some beautiful places, very well organised, well paced. For those new to birding outings with the Club it was most revealing on a number of levels, not least the expertise and dedication of members and their willingness to share their knowledge freely. For me it was an encouragement to “up my birding game” and was a way to meet and enjoy the company of an interesting group of people. I’m looking forward to our next monthly meeting, which continues to dazzle and awe me in its depth, activities, range, sophistication.
If I were you I’d book to go on the next Cape Bird Club outing!


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