There was an excellent turn-out of over 40 people on a warm, perfect spring morning on 10th October. On our way to the turnstile, we looked at the female Spotted Eagle-Owl, who is nesting in the flowerpot opposite the Visitors’ Centre again. The very young chick was only just visible, with the white, fluffy feathers of the top of its head appearing from behind the rim of the basket.
We saw the male owl in its normal spot, in the garden outside the Conservatory, so that 5 minutes into the walk, we had seen 2,5 owls! There was more to come.
I explained to the group that we would walk fairly briskly to the first main stop of the morning: the Dell, where I hoped to see the African Paradise Flycatchers which had recently returned to the gardens. The other place which I wished to spend time in was the Enchanted Forest, hoping to show Lemon Dove to the various members of the group who had not seen it before, including three sets of people who were new to the garden (coming from USA, Thailand and England).
Coming up the path to the Otter Pond, we saw both African Goshawk and Black Sparrowhawk. Soon after reaching the Dell, we had a good view of a male Paradise Flycatcher, to the delight of the USA visitor and his young son. They had apparently been hoping to see it on the walk. I suggested that the group broke into two, so that we did not have a large group crowding around a single tree which might chase the Paradise Flycatchers away.
Jacque Smit kindly agreed to assist and led his larger group through the Dell, while I walked up the steps to the top of the Dell, pointing out where last year’s African Dusky Flycatcher nests had been. At the top of the Dell, we looked at the female Spotted Eagle Owl sitting on “Owl Rock”. Via a circuitous route, we found the male sitting in an unusual spot in the cycad garden. It was then seen back in its normal perch in the tree opposite Owl Rock, five minutes later. We bumped into Zoe Lunau-Johns, who pointed out a Common Buzzard to us.
Our group continued to the Enchanted Forest and although the group was extremely quiet, so as not to disturb any Lemon Doves, they were not to be found. We met up with Jacque’s group and swapped notes. They had enjoyed excellent views of a Southern Boubou and gave us directions to the spot, but we were unsuccessful. We had all seen the Jackal Buzzard high up in the garden.
Walking through the Protea Garden, we found many of the proteas in full bloom, and Hannah (newly settled in Cape Town from the UK) saw her first Cape Sugarbird.
It was getting rather hot by 10h15 and we headed back towards Gate 1, where we met up with Jacque’s group at the stone entrance (near the bottom of the Camphor Avenue). It had been an enjoyable, fairly relaxed amble, despite missing one of my two target birds, Lemon Dove. But wait – what was Zoe pointing at excitedly? She had seen a Lemon Dove next to the bust of Mandela and the Strelitzias, well deserving her title of “Lemon Dove Whisperer”. The first time I have seen it at this spot!
The full tally of the morning was 39.
Thanks to, Zoe Lunau-Johns for the bird photographs and to Jacque Smit for logging all the birds and helping lead the walk.
Photographs by Penny Dichmont and Zoe Lunau-Johns.
Photographs by Penny Dichmont.
Report by Penny Dichmont.