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Rooi-els & Betty's Bay and Crake!!

Hi All,

Took an American client to Betty’s Bay area yesterday with “will the Rockjumpers be around” thought stuck in my mind.  The burnt area is greening up slowly especially in the wetter gullies and riverbeds  but still not a good sight from a distance.  Some areas were desperately in need of a burn on the eastern side of the mountain as vegetation was more than 2m high.  It would be very interesting to see which plants, especially bulbs and orchids will now flower this coming season. 

Cape Rock-thrush welcomed us in the village. The walk along the dirt road was interesting as it now has sand or is that ash covering the pebbles.  Pretty soon a group of Ground Woodpeckers were being watched when behind them a pair of Cape Rockjumpers were quietly doing their foraging.  I was pleased to see them as the area they were using was where in the past group 3 (my idea) lived, nice to see them back.  Cape Siskin were also in the area as were Familiar Chats.  Further along another pair of Rockjumpers were seen ….group 4.  One wonders where they all escaped to when the fire raged over their domain.

On to Harold Porter Bot Gardens where Orange-breasted and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds were furiously pollinating the many Erica species that were in flower.  A Cape Sugarbird male was displaying from one of the flowering proteas.  The surprise was a male Amethyst Sunbird also around the ericas.  Bar-throated Apalis were gleaning the leaves and Brimstone Canary grunted from the top of the tree but we heard a Victorin’s Warbler calling high up the slope off one of the contour paths.  Once there we noticed the bird, for a change!!,  sitting on an open branch calling it’s heart out!  Watched it for a short while before it disappeared into the low shrubbery calling….so what new that’s more normal!  A Verreaux’s Eagle was roosting high up on the cliff-face and eventually gave us a flypast.

In the forest a chain-saw was being used to remove a large tree that had fallen over on the slope below the weir.   Why do they have to manicure an area?? Leave the tree and let it decay and be used for nesting by Olive Woodpeckers!!!!!! Keep it natural…… However at the top of the kloof a pair of Blue-mantled Crested Flycatchers were flitting around, as only they can do, high up in the cliff face trees.  I would have thought they would have moved on by now but maybe with the climate being so mild they decided to stay or are they always there in winter quietly doing their thing?  Interestingly no Swee Waxbills or Dusky Flycatchers were seen.

At Stoney Point it was the turn of Crowned Cormorants to join the breeding White-breasted and Bank Cormorants on nests on the rocks.  No sea birds or for that matter, Hartlaub’s Gulls were seen.

On our way home we stopped at the parking area just past the Rooi-els River to check the tern roost which had mostly Swift Terns but a big surprise for me was a Sentinel Rock-thrush sitting on a boulder on the mountain side where it had burnt.  Would not have expected this altitudinal migrant this early in the winter but maybe the burnt area had some grubs for it to eat.

Strandfontein Sewerage Works P7 also produced a strange large duck sitting on the grass…..turned out to be a Comb Duck!!!!!! This bird had a number of people rushing back from the Crake twitch to see this Western Cape rarity.  At the crake site a number of people were waiting for the little fellow to appear.  I cannot believe how untypically skulking the various rare crakes have been down here…..maybe because we are called “Slaapstad” and the birds get very chilled and casual?  The African Crake came out of the long grass and patrolled along the embankment and long grass.  Some comments were that “ wish it would walk on the road”????? Why??   Don’ t you want a pic of the bird in its natural habitat, I certainly do?

The joy of the day was seeing Rockjumper, Ground Woodpecker, both Rock-thrushes, Cape Sugarbird, Cape Siskin, Victorin’s Warbler, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher and 4 Sunbirds AND a lifer at this time of the year!!!!

Brian Vanderwalt

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I have been an avid birder in the Western and Northern Cape for over 45 years. Since 1999, I have guided Day trips and Overnight Tours (5 days or longer), as well as organised Birding weekends and Bird Ringing (Banding) outings. Read more...

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