Dry West and Garden Route trip - September 2008

Hi All,

Had a fantastic 17 day trip with one client which started at Cape Town on 13th September and went via Bushmanland/Kalahari/West Coast/Tanqua/Garden Route.

The Bushmanland area still had flowers, maybe they had had early rains, as did the coastal belt from Port Nolloth to Langebaan. The road to Kalahari is now tarred to within 10k from the Park gate and the dirt road to the gate was good. Inside the Park it was a different storey with bad corrugations on the Nossob road but Auob road was not too bad. With the Mata-Mata gate being open many Namibia tourists are coming in there, staying 2 days in the Park and then going out via Upington/Springbok to Ai-Ais. This means that they need to maintain that road more often, which I told their PR officer, but!!!!!!!!!

We saw 306 species which included 28 Raptors, 17 Larks, 2 Sparrow-larks, 14 Canary type and 3 Honey-guides amongst all the Chats and others. The ones that interested me were the Black-eared Sparrow-larks we saw at Brandvlei, Kenhardt, Pofadder and 20k north of Springbok towards Steinkopf. First time I have seen them that far west.

Well Larks! What can I say about my favourite birds and we really had great views of all of them. The water trough next to the road near Kenhardt had no water in it and no birds came there, maybe I should carry a jerry can of water with me!

Bradfield’s Larks were numerous on the telephone wires throughout Bushmanland as were Chat Fly-catchers and Pale Chanting Goshawks.

Kalahari Nat Park was cool in the morning and warmed up to 20C during the day, very comfortable. 91 bird species were seen in Kalahari Nat Park in 3 days and the surprise for me was Rosy-faced Love-bird at Mata-Mata. Eastern Clapper Larks were again performing in the dunes close to the road and the grass was sparse enough that you could see them on the ground. Pink-billed and Spike-heeled Larks were also seen on the dune road often sitting in the road to dig up something from the freshly pushed up red sand in the road. Wonder what it was? Many Giant Eagle and Spotted Eagle Owls hid in the big Camel Thorn Trees. Also a lone Barn Owl was spotted in a not so dense Grey Camel Thorn tree along the road. Missed African Scops Owl again! Ashy Tit, White-faced and Pearl-spotted Owls, Ground-scraper Thrush (building a nest) Kalahari Scrub-Robin and Crimson-breasted Shrike were the some of the specials seen at Mata-Mata. In excess of 20 Giraffe were seen on the Mata-Mata road, did not know there were so many in the park. Lion, Leopard (+ cubs in the same section of the Auob River as we saw them mating in March) and Cheetah (with 2 adolescent cubs near Samevloeing) were performing well and seen fairly often by the visitors as were Meercat, Slender and Yellow Mongoose, Brown and Spotted Hyenas and most antelope.

Kalahari Guest House produced Sclater’s Larks on a road nearby where 2 adults were feeding 2 nearly fully grown chicks. Always great to see these larks in there natural habitat and not have to wait at a “waterhole trap”. We birded along this lonely dirt road close to the GH where you can just stop and bird watch without traffic speeding past to get to the Kalahari before the gate closes! A large flock of European Bee-eaters flew over on there way to Cape Town? The eye striped Fiscal Shrikes were often seen thought the trip as were Black-throated Canary, Scaly-feathered Finches and Northern Black Korhaan. Also did a pentad here.

Augrabies Nat Park did not have much water but it was good to see that they are upgrading the Chalets. A drive in the Park produced Pygmy Falcon, Bradfield’s and Karoo Long-billed Lark. In the camp Red-eyed Bulbul, Brubru, Pririt Batis, Dusky Sunbird, Namaqua Warbler, A dark not pale phase Booted Eagle made an appearance for a change to challenge the Black Eagles in the gorge. I wonder if the Booted breed there? Palm Swifts were roosting in the palm tree at the main office and many Greater-striped Swallows and Martins were flying in the gorge, but no Europeans Swallows yet!

We did however see 2 more Sclater’s at the Pofadder water tank. Red Larks were co-operating with us at the Aggenys Koa Dunes (plains form also well seen at Brandvlei) as were Karoo Long-billed and Fawn-coloured Larks. A lone Bokmakierie called from the Koa Dunes which seemed a bit out of place, but then birds will fly!

Klein Pella produced Orange-river White-eye, Starks, Karoo Long-billed and Bradfield’s Larks as well as many Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters but no Rosy-faced Lovebirds this time. Starks Larks we also saw next to the road from Klein Pella Guest House to the tar road. Did the smallest pentad on the SA map! The one next to the Orange River which was about the size of a rugby field. Still need to work out my notes and process it!

Port Nolloth area was still a spectacle of flowers but the best are now setting seed which meant that many seedeaters were very busy. Flowers means bugs and worms and Large-billed, Karoo, Cape Long-billed and Barlow’s Larks were very active even in the late afternoon as were the Lanner Falcons, Pale Chanting Goshawks, Greater and Rock Kestrels and Jackal Buzzards.

We called on Goegap reserve in the morning and drove the 16 k circular drive which produced some great forms of Mountain Wheatears and many Ant-eating Chats and Rufous-eared Warblers. Cinnamon-breasted Warbler came out when called and we had great views but a Smith’s Red Rock Rabbit caught our eye so we left the Warbler to sing on his own from his perch on the rock! Damara Canaries were everywhere eating daisy seeds and also saw a small group of Karoo Eremomelas feeding amongst the rocks which I found very strange as they normally frequent short shrubs on flat ground. Never know it all when it comes to birds!

Brian Vanderwalt
Brians Birding Tours