Don’t forgot to check out my Kruger National Park blogs (2 parts) if you haven’t seen it already.
We arrived to find a very steep, rocky road down to our accommodations – Magoebaskloof Getaway. This was not mentioned on their website. It is okay if no one is coming up when you are going down and visa versa. I wish I had taken a photo of the road.
We stayed in a very nice cabin overlooking a small pond. We had a resident Brown-headed Kingfisher right outside our door. We got there around 1:30 pm and decided to just hang out for the afternoon. It was hot out – 91 degrees F. Sitting in the shade and watching life pass by was pleasant.
The next morning we intended to bird the property. Originally I wanted to go to a nearby forest and do some birding but the prospect of driving up and down that road again made me quickly change my mind. When we woke up the morning was overcast and it was windy outside. The property has a trail to the top of the mountain and we started up it but quickly change our minds. It wasn’t much of a trail and I didn’t want to injure my shoulder again trying to break a fall if that should happen. So we just hung out around the property and I worked on my Kruger National Park blog. Amazing how much time it takes to upload photographs. The cabin was self catering and we had stopped in a nearby town for groceries so the first night we had bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes) and then chicken the following night. Felt strange to cook a regular meal. As I mentioned in my Kruger NP blog, the stores in the park didn’t carry much food. South Africans like to barbecue so there was plenty of meat for that, and charcoal too.
The next morning we woke to rain. I was a little worried our small car would have trouble getting up the hill but we made it without any problems. I was hoping to do a little birding before heading to Pretoria for the night. No such luck. The area has covered in a dense fog. With the way South Africans drive – FAST AND FURIOUS – I was nervous for over an hour as we descended out of the mountains.
We got to Pretoria around 2:00 pm and headed straight to our guesthouse. This guesthouse – Hatfield B&B – is by far the nicest place we stayed. I told Jack it is amazing that this place cost less than our hut in Lower Sabie (Kruger NP) where we had to share a kitchen and a bathroom. The B&B is owned by an architect and you can tell by the special touches. The paintings are his too. And this was by far the best breakfast we’ve had too. Yummy!!! Lots of food to choose from. I had french toast – my first for the trip. If you are ever in Pretoria, South Africa I would highly recommend this B&B. What a special find.
Our next stop – 561 kilometers later – was the town of Kimberley. You all have heard of DeBeers right – well diamonds are South Africans’ best friend or at least the residents of Kimberley. The drive was long but we got to see a lot of the countryside. In some places we told each other “This is what I thought it would look like when I thought of South Africa”, at least as far as the countryside goes. Right before we got to Kimberley I told Jack to “STOP”. There were two Northern Black Korhaans (birds of course) along side the road. A life bird for me so I wanted to get a good look at them and hopefully a photo. The birds weren’t too cooperative – no decent photo.
We stayed at a place called “Carter’s Rest”. The premises are nice and the room is great (they leave everything in your room for your “breakfast”), but the town itself has a lot to be desired. We haven’t found many towns yet we’ve like – except for St. Lucia.
In the morning we headed to a park listed in the “Where to Find Birds in Southern Africa” book. We think we found the park but there was a gate and a private property/no trespassing sign so we didn’t proceed into this so called park. Better instructions are needed on how to get to these places in the “Where to Find Birds in Southern Africa” book. Also I think it needs to be updated.
So the other place mentioned in the book was the “Big Hole”. Kimberley was the diamond capital of South Africa in the late 19 century/early 20th century. We took the tour and visited a caravan (camping) park nearby. There was some great birding at the caravan park. We observed a pair of Crowned Lapwings with their two young chicks – again days old. Also observed the European Bee-eater and the White-backed Mousebird. It was really windy out and the mousebirds were holding onto the tree limbs for dear life. Probably most birds as it was so windy.
After we left the Big Hole we tried to find access to the Kamfer Dam located outside Kimberley, and which is home to between 20,000-50,000 Lesser Flamingos. We believe the claim. There was a sea of pink so to speak. We never did find access to the dam, although it was suggested we climb an imposing fence and cross over the railroad tracks. Plenty of signs saying such activity was strictly prohibited. We heeded the warning.
Our next stop was a game farm – yes where you can come and shoot animals to your heart’s content. This place was mentioned as having good birding. So we drove up to the office and inquired about birding. They took a look at our car and essentially said good luck. We did walk to a hide to check out what birds, if any, might come to drink (we were there around 1:00 pm). We did actually get a few life birds at the hide.
With plenty of daylight we decided to find a nice country dirt road (these roads have little traffic) and check out the birds and indeed, birds we found. We got three new life birds along this road – Scaly-feathered Finch, Spike-heeled Lark, and Chestnut-vented Tit Babbler. I am now up to 283 bird species observed to date on our South Africa trip.
Tomorrow we have another long drive ahead of us – over 500 km – as we make our way to Beaufort West and Karoo National Park.
We left Kimberley early and made good time despite making several stops to check out birds along the road. By the time we arrived in Beaufort West I had added six new birds to my life list, including two raptors we had no trouble identifying thanks in part to the geographic range of one of the species – the Pale Chanting Goshawk. We saw the goshawk a number of different times during the drive. Hard to mistake this bird’s wing pattern in flight. The other raptor was the Greater Kestrel. We spotted this bird on a stick nest on electric pole. We stopped, got our binocs on the bird, took photos and watched as it flew to the adjacent pole and proceeded to copulate with its mate. With it being spring in South Africa we have witnessed a number of birds copulating.
We arrived in Beaufort West around 2:00 pm. The map shows a large body of water real close to our accommodations – Haus Holzapfel. However, when we passed the lake it was bone dry. Does anyone know where that term “bone dry” originated? Just curious. After getting settled in our “apartment” we walked the neighborhood. We rarely see “whites” walking, only black people. We netted two more life birds – the Common Waxbill and the Southern Double Collared Sunbird. Off to the store for dinner and breakfast items and back to our room for the night. Tomorrow we head to Karoo National Park located near Beaufort West.
Went to Karoo National Park, which is located a few kilometers outside of Beaufort West. I love this park – it is so beautiful. Here are a series of photos of the park.
We did get a few new mammals – Cape Mountain Zebra (you will see the striking difference – no shadows), Gemsbok, and Red Hartebeests. There are lion in the park, but we didn’t see any. Same goes for Black Rhinos.
We first visited a bird hide located at the rest camp. This was a beehive (or should I say Weaverhive) of activity. The waterbody was small but supported a Common Moorhen pair and a Red-knobbed Coot. Jack finally got to see a Red Bishop up close. We saw two yesterday getting grit from the road, but at a distance. He got to watch their antics from the hide. A few of them were coming into their breeding plumage of red and black. There were more Southern Masked Weavers than Bishops. Amazing how they construct their nests – what craftsman (or craftsbirds).
We drove two loop roads in the park for a total of over 75 kilometers, taking most of the day checking out the park, chalking up 16 life birds (not too bad), seeing new mammals, finding a Southern Rock Agama – beautiful reptile, and enjoying the scenery and sunshine. We made it out of the park with about ten minutes to spare. If you are late getting out of the park at closing time then you are fined.
The next morning we went back to Karoo National Park and spent about 1.5 hours at the bird hide. Fun to watch all the activity – the weavers building their nest, the coot chasing off the moorhens, the shelducks copulating, a pair of Cape Wagtails feeding their young, a large tortoise chasing after a smaller one – if you can call it chasing for a tortoise? We later saw a large tortoise crossing the road near the huts. They can move fast if they need or want to move fast.
Our next stop is the Cape wine country for one night and then onto Simon’s Town near Cape Town. I signed up for a pelagic tour but it looks like they won’t be going out due to the rough seas, which is fine by me. My least favorite thing is getting seasick. Will find plenty of places to check for new birds.
Total birds observed to date is 306. Until my next blog posting get out and enjoy the great outdoors., and ANY DAY IS A GREAT DAY TO BIRD.