The Cape Bird Club

The CBC Birding Trip to the Eastern Cape by Janet Hallet.


The CBC (specifically Frank Hallett) bravely organised an 11 day birding trip to the eastern Cape area in March/April this year, with some trepidation as such a lengthy camp had not been tried in recent bird club history!
Isabella Hayden was invited to be the bird guide and was somewhat daunted by the big group of 23 birders who ventured on this trip. After a precamp meeting we all met on the first evening for a communal braai at the Karoo National Park, our first stop on this expedition.
Here local bird guides Ralie Claassen and Jaco van Veuren did the honours for the park, where with their help we clocked up 77 species, highlights being Karoo Korhaan, Double-banded Courser and a pair of Verreaux’s Eagles displaying. We also had a lovely view of Ground Woodpeckers showing their red rumps!

photograph by Frank Hallett

Ground Woodpeckers.

After a wonderfully organised evening meal at the Park Restaurant on our second night, we moved the following morning to our next venue, the Mountain Zebra National Park. A side trip to the Molteno Pass on the way eventually came up with a much sought after sighting of a Rock Pipit.

photograph by Frank Hallett

On the Molteno Pass.

We spent the first day birding in the Zebra National Park in the mountainous area as the weather was expected to deteriorate, and the second day in the lower lying grassland area. We had all been introduced by now to the intricacies of atlassing as Simon Fogarty had taken on the organisation of this for the duration of the trip.

photograph by Derek Longrigg

Sabota Lark.

This park was a first for many and with our total of 120 species was a wonderful park to visit with highlights being a magnificent display by a large flock of Melodious Larks and sightings of African Harrier-Hawk, Martial Eagle, Secretary Birds, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Karoo Korhaan and for some lucky viewers a pair of Blue Korhaan displaying, and not forgetting the delightful views of the strikingly striped Mountain Zebra with their young. After three nights of healthy mountain air and much chatter round the campfire, with anecdotes contributed by the Rhodes University Zoology staff, we set off for the Addo Elephant National Park.

photograph by Frank Hallett

White browed Sparrow Weaver.

The Addo National Park proved to be a most productive spot despite the rather uniform habitat. By now we were getting used to Isabella’s calls for a very early start to the day, and with Shaun Overmeyer’s contact with a bird guide from the area we had a vast territory to cover. Not surprising therefore that we notched up 111species in one day, and our park total was 139. 
Interesting birds on this leg were Red-billed Oxpecker, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, a female Black Cuckoo Shrike, Grey Cuckoo Shrike and Terek Sandpiper. An added attraction here were the large herds of elephants, with which some of us had very close encounters, and also some teenage lions who entertained us with their playfulness. Though our accommodation was scattered throughout the Rest Camp, the park provided a communal braai area where we gathered every evening, which gave us a good opportunity to celebrate Fenja Clarke’s 70th Birthday with a splendid cake from a “Tuisgebak” shop in Cradock, found by a resourceful Penny Thornewill.

Then a long drive to the Wilderness National Park, where we had some very good birding as local guide Mark Dixon helped us locate some gems and here at last we had the opportunity to do most of our birding on foot and were grateful for the chance to be out of our cars. The tally was 125 species, with Olive Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Rail, the locally common Knysna Turaco and Black Bellied Starling being some of the birds of interest, and for a lucky few Narina Trogons and Blue Cheeked Bee-Eaters.

photograph by Frank Hallett

Olive Woodpecker.

photograph by Shaun Overmeyer

Blue cheeked Bee eater.

If only we had been on Oberprieler’s Raptor course before the trip we might not have mistaken a juvenile Fish Eagle for an Osprey - fortunately we had some photographers with monster lenses with us so the photographic competition was serious, and enlargements showed the real identification!

photograph by Frank Hallett

The junvenile African Fish Eagle.

It also means we have a record of many of our sightings, which will be a reminder of the good trip we had, with a grand total of 248 bird species - and hopefully will be presented at an evening meeting later in the year.


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