Kirstenbosch Walk and picnic.
16 December 2023.
Leader Penny Dichmont.
The traditional, end-of-year walk at Kirstenbosch took place on Saturday the 16th December. The numbers were lower than usual, doubtless because some members’ BotSoc cards have already expired. Nevertheless, seventeen people were there, including a few new or relatively new CBC members. We had perfect weather (although rather hot).
At the start, I introduced Rhys Gwilliam as my co-leader. I was grateful to have the benefit of his sharp eyes, knowledge of bird calls and his ID skills. Rhys was hoping to see a European Honey Buzzard.
One of the birders, Arthur, who had only joined Birding Big Year (BBY) halfway through, was hoping to add a few species, such as African Olive Pigeon, to his list. A new CBC member, Stephen, mentioned that seeing an Orange-breasted Sunbird “would make his day”. I immediately doused his hopes with plenty of cold water, explaining that Orange-breasted Sunbirds become scarce in the garden towards the end of the year, but return in numbers in January. We set off.
Our first stop was in the Dell. We had seen a Lemon Dove building a nest on our mid-week walk earlier that week and found it in exactly the same spot, walking backwards and forwards to and from the tree containing the nest. Members of the group were amazed to not only see the dove confidently walking just a few feet from us, but to see it in full sun, rather than the shade of the forest – and the photographers took full advantage of this opportunity.
Walking up to the top of the Dell, we had good views of a Fork-tailed Drongo sitting on its nest in a yellowwood tree. Someone commented that it was the first record of a drongo nest in the gardens. We also saw Cape Batis, Swee Waxbill and African Black Swift.
When we reached the stone steps at Owl Rock, we saw that an energetic Antoinette and friends had already located the two Spotted Eagle-Owl chicks halfway up the steep lawn above the steps.
We continued to the top path which runs to Rycroft Gate. We saw Cape Sugarbird (not plentiful), a Yellow-billed Kite, Common Buzzard and White-necked Raven, and heard a Bar-throated Apalis.
As we approached the entrance to the Enchanted Forest, Rhys heard an Orange-breasted Sunbird call. After waiting for it to appear for a few minutes, I suggested moving on into the forest as it was very hot standing in the full sun. Rhys insisted that the bird was right there, and was worth waiting for. After another few minutes, the Pincushion leaves quivered and a head appeared, followed by the rest of the body. This was one of the highlights of the walk, as we all had excellent views of its iridescent colours – a lifer for Stephen, as well as for another birder from the USA, Claire.
While making our way back to Gate 2, we picked up Southern Boubou, Speckled Mousebird, Forest Canary and Cape Grassbird. We then rounded off the walk with a leisurely picnic. As Rhys, his mother and sister walked up towards the nursery and car park, they watched a helicopter performing a practice rescue operation on the mountain. Rhys noticed that the helicopter seemed to be chasing away a bird which was flying nearby. He later explained, “I knew it was a European Honey Buzzard because of how long its tail was. I took a photo quickly and then ran down to the group who were still sitting there. Mel Tripp looked at my photo and confirmed it was an EHB from the small head and long tail.”
About six of the picknickers were able to run up and see the bird. A good species for Arthur to add to his BBY list before leaving Cape Town two days later!
Our final tally of 32 birds was pleasing for a very hot, midsummer’s day.
Thanks to all who came and to Rhys for helping lead the walk. Thanks, also, to Daryl de Beer who logged our sightings, and to Rhys, Phil Green and Claire Gribbin for contributing their photographs.
Photographs by Phil Green, Claire Gribbin, Rhys Gwilliam and Penny Dichmont.
Report by Penny Dichmont.