24 – 27 September 2015 – John Magner

Bar-throated Apalis

Setting Out

This venue was a bit of a surprise as the original venue was to have been Swellendam Municipal camp site, but they had failed to record our booking and a last minute scramble by our Chair lady Priscilla Beeton produced this venue, and a gem it turned out to be! Swellendam Municipality did us a favour after all!

Thursday the 24th was a public holiday (National Braai Day), and people arrived at a trickle all day, enjoying the drive through Blue Crane country from Cape Town. The total number of people booked on this camp was 33, quite a crowd. The Uylenvlei Resort is situated about 15 kilometers from Stanford and to the north east of Gansbaai.

Late that afternoon we took a short driving and walking trip through neighbouring farms, at our first stop we found a number of accommodating Bar-throated Apalis giving good views and photographic opportunities. Walking through a well wooded area with a small stream we saw both Fiscal and Spotted Flycatchers, also an Amethyst Sunbird put in a brief appearance.

Vineyard Meander

We stopped a little further along the track in the vineyards of the next farm, where a break between the vineyards had been preserved (or planted) with fynbos and proteas. It was an amazing area and shows the value of corridors of indigenous vegetation. There were literally hundreds of Cape Sugarbirds along with Malachite, Greater and Lesser Double-collared Sunbirds, various Canarys, Weavers and Bishops (both), Pin-tailed Whydahs, Bulbuls and Cape White-eyes all enjoying the bounties of nature.

Feeling very satisfied we returned to our base for a relaxing braai and to plan the next day.

Uilenskraalmond & Estuary Visit

On Friday morning, with the threat of deteriorating weather over the next few days we headed first for the coast at Uilenskraalmond , stopping at a viewpoint along the way to admire the beautiful coastline below, and discovered a pair of Black Saw-wings with their nest holes in a nearby cutting. Many Prinias and Bokmakieries and Sunbirds were enjoying the warm spring morning as were we.

Arriving at the Resort at Uilenskraalmond we parked in the public car park and were allowed to walk through the resort and up the estuary, fortunately the tide was fairly low. Many Swift Terns were flying down the river to the sea, we did not see a lot of waders but managed a Common Greenshank, several White-fronted Plovers, African Black Oystercatchers, Little and Yellow-billed Egrets, Black-winged Stilts, Blacksmith Plovers and Greater Flamingo’s. As we left we were treated to a nice sighting of a pair of Peregrine Falcons as well as a Caspian Tern!

Ruddy Turnstones with a White-breasted Cormorant
Ruddy Turnstones with a White-breasted Cormorant - Priscilla Beeton
Uilenkraalsmond estuary
Uilenkraalsmond estuary, by Priscilla Beeton.

Danger Bay

Bank Cormorant
Bank Cormorant, by Graham Pringle.

From there we drove to Danger Point near Gansbaai, the rocky coastline was a treat and we added many birds to our list, four cormorants – Bank, Crowned, Cape, and White-breasted! As we drove along the coast we saw Common Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone and added Sandwich and Common Terns as well as Kelp and Hartlaub’s Gulls.

We returned home for lunch and a well-deserved break among the many garden birds in our relaxing accommodation. The place was alive with Southern Boubou’s, Cape Robin-chats, Drongo’s, a noisy Klaas’s Cuckoo and even an African Paradise Flycatcher to name a few.
That evening we decided to return to the now named “Sugarbird Alley” as a few latecomers had not been there the last evening and it did not disappoint, it was again a hive of activity! Along the way we stopped at a dam and discovered a White-backed Duck, a new bird for our ever growing list, and then home for the evening braai – again!

A small dam and wetland
A small dam and wetland, by Priscilla Beeton.
Birding on the roadside
Birding on the roadside, by Priscilla Beeton

We awoke on Saturday morning to gloomy weather as promised by the weather department, but undeterred we set off on our planned 30km road trip through the farmlands back towards Stanford and in a circle back home. Although there was a little drizzle from time to time we managed some good birding along the way. An avenue filled with Swee waxbills and Streaky-headed Seedeaters delighted, our tea stop gave us a pair of African Marsh Harriers as well as Burchell’s Coucal, a singing Cape Grassbird and a Red-knobbed Coot with a tiny chick.

The route we took goes through many habitat types and despite the bad weather we saw Denham’s Bustards on three occasions. There was a lack of larks probably due to the weather, but we did find a number of African Pipits displaying. A beautiful display of Blue Cranes on the brow of a hill amongst the blue flowers was a photographer’s delight.

As we drove home for a late, late lunch the rain got heavier and the road a little more treacherous but we all got home safe and more than satisfied.
That evening’s braai was an indoor affair, but our splendid venue was more than adequate for the occasion. During the night the rain became increasingly heavy and we woke to a cold and wet day. We had planned a short morning trip to the Flower Valley before departing for Cape Town that morning, but sadly that had to be cancelled.

All in all a very nice birding trip with very nice facilities.
We ended up with a bird list of 126 species, I have included the Common Ostrich, for which I will be chastised, but it had such lovely Betty Davies eyes!

John Magner