Pearl Valley Golf Estate

20 September 2015

Pearl Valley Golf Estate - Jo Hobbs and John Fincham. Photograph by Priscilla Beeton

This is a new venue for the CBC outings.

Several long skeins of Cattle Egrets and Sacred Ibis sped across the early morning sky in elegant V-formation as we gathered in the car park outside the imposing club house of Pearl Valley Golf Course on 20 September 2015. This was certainly a bird club outing with a difference. Birding on wheels!

Mike Westman, the Golf Course Superintendent, greeted us and introduced his two colleagues who were to be our guides for the morning. We separated into three groups and headed for the long line of golf carts where we paired up and were given 2-minute driving instructions. Each 5-cart convoy then set off in different directions. As we had to keep ahead of the golfers, our group headed for the 18th hole where we drove past several neatly raked bunkers and right on to the green to survey the small lake alongside. With our list started we then trundled on to a larger lake where another group had already spotted the African Jacana that everyone wanted to see. It was foraging on the far bank, not far from a pair of Egyptian Geese and a family of goslings.

Pearl Valley Golf Estate - setting out. Photograph by Priscilla Beeton
African Jacana. Photograph by John Fincham

Pearl Valley is a Jack Nicklaus award-winning course, beautifully laid out with at least ten small lakes and wetland areas, with a winding network of paths and roads. Without our guides we would have been totally lost as we spent the next 3 hours meandering around between the houses stopping at each lake and wetland area to stretch our legs and check out the birdlife. Apart from the jacana, some of the highlights spotted by the three groups included a Giant Kingfisher, Black Crake, two African Black Ducks, White-faced Ducks, a Streaky-headed Seedeater, Swee Waxbill, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow and an early African Paradise Flycatcher. John Magner consolidated our various bird lists and our final tally was 80 species. Unfortunately it was a dull overcast day as we would doubtless have seen more if the sun had come out.

At eleven we gathered for tea and coffee and savoury croissants at The Boma which is on the Berg River just outside the estate boundary.

Hank Chalmers from Eagle Encounters and three of his owls were waiting for us on the lawn and he described some of the rehabilitation work they are doing. Then it was the turn to meet one of the female Harris Hawks which have been working at the course, and to watch her fly and feed from several eagerly outstretched gloved hands. Next, and very exciting, it was the opportunity for the Peregrine Falcon to fly for us. Hank whirled his bird-like lure several times and finally this pocket jet fighter swooped down and in a flash had grabbed the food it concealed.

This was a high note on which to end the morning. Our thanks are due to the Pearl Valley Golf Estate for their invitation to us to compile a bird list for the estate. This has been sent to them for their records. They are working to maintain high environmental management standards and to qualify as a designated Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. We hope that some of the estate’s golfing residents will become interested in birds and that we may have an opportunity to return some time to bring the species total up to a hundred.

Jo Hobbs.