Paarl Wild Flower Garden
22 April 2018 – by Priscilla Beeton
Leader: Brian Vanderwalt
After a string of overcast days Sunday dawned clear and chilly – especially for those leaving home before 6:30 to reach Paarl in time for the 8:00 starting time. On the N1 highway many had to drive through quite dense fog patches gathered in the dips in the road but, as soon as the day began warming up with the rising sun, we realised we were in for a spectacular autumn day, sunny and wind-free. 26 people gathered as planned at the Meulwater parking area at the gardens. So it was quite a long string that set off over the weir crossing the waterblommetjie-filled pond at the entrance. We could hear much twittering as we walked steadily up hill, spying a Fiscal Flycatcher far away in a tall tree and then a Brimstone Canary close by. Some spied a Cape Batis, a Bar-throated Apalis and a Southern Boubou in the thick bushes. As we moved out of the deep shaded vegetation where we spotted an African Olive Pigeon moving around in dense foliage, its beak shining brilliant yellow, and up into the more sunny areas, we started seeing sunbirds galore: first a Southern double-collared Sunbird, then a Malachite Sunbird (this first one moving into transition plumage), and then many more of both these birds, male and female.
We also spotted several Orange-breasted Sunbirds as we moved higher. Also seen were several Red-faced Mousebirds. Eventually we reached the fence separating the Flower Reserve from the Mountain Reserve and followed that in a semi-circle through almost pristine mountain fynbos. Everyone got to see the one and only Cape Sugarbird and many spied a pair of African-Olive Pigeons chasing each other through thick bushes at the base of a large rock on which we were standing. Some were lucky enough at the top to view a Streaky-headed Seedeater. Perhaps the highlight of the outing was the Hamerkop that flew overhead giving us all excellent views of it. Then the long crocodile moved slowly downwards again with more sunbirds seen as well as Spotted Prinia, a Cape Grassbird and Common Fiscal. Back in the valley people enjoyed looking at the variety of trees from all over South Africa (always there are a number of botanists among the group willing to share their knowledge). We visited the little dam but the only water birds we spotted were a Reed Cormorant and also Egyptian Geese – and the latter were not even on the dam. Brian, however, was able to show everyone another Streaky-headed Seedeater. It was a beautiful walk – a comfortable two and a half hours long – although we did not see a large number of birds.
We met in the picnic area next to the parking lot and had our tea before drawing up our list for the day. It numbered just 30 species, which included a Buzzard (Some called Common and others Jackal) seen overhead during our tea and also a Rock Kestrel – the only raptors. Of course, in the course of the walk we saw the usual suspects as well: Cape Robin-chat, Cape Bulbul, Cape Weaver, Cape White-eye, Red-eyed Dove and Cape Turtle-dove and Olive Thrush. And of course the ubiquitous Pied Crows!
Thank you to Brian for a most enjoyable outing!