Outing to Diemersfontein

(Wellington) 22 July 2017 

A crisp Winter’s morning greeted 23 members who were dressed for arctic conditions.  We assembled at the parking zone to the south of the manor house and commenced our walk by inspecting activity that turned out to be an African Hoopoe in the tall alien trees in the garden.  The road overlooked a large field leading to the dam that bore witness to the local drought. However, Little Egret, White-breasted Cormorant and Grey Heron decorated the shoreline.

The call of a Fork-tailed Drongo attracted our attention and two birds were found in close proximity to a pair of Olive Woodpeckers.  They remained in the vicinity of the foraging woodpeckers and we suspect that the drongos were shadowing the woodpeckers in order to snap up any flying insects dislodged by the woodies.  The camera-bearing club members were offered ample opportunity to photograph the male woodpecker’s bright red cap in good sunlight. 

Subsequent calls from the treetops revealed Southern Grey-headed Sparrows in the bluegums and Streaky-headed Seedeaters in the Beefwoods. 

A stroll around the dam was very pleasant as the sunshine had raised the temperature and there was not a breath of a breeze.  A pair of Grey-headed Gulls circled above the dam but, being fresh-water birds, they were not unexpected. 

After a most pleasant three hour stroll we decided to unpack the picnic baskets and downed some welcomed coffee.  The bird sightings were discussed and the checklist showed that more than forty species were recorded. 

Then it was off to the wine tasting centre.  David Sonnenberg has been marketing the “For the Birds” brand of red and white blends.  A portion of each sale is donated to BirdLife for conservation of our seabirds.  These blends were offered at a discount and the members supported this initiative with enthusiasm. 

While the last of the members were carting off their purchases a Lanner Falcon (species number 48) circled over the adjacent field and ventured overhead as if it was bidding us farewell. 

The TBC is grateful to David Sonnenberg for access to Diemersfontein, the wine tasting and the discount on the “For the Birds” blends.  A special word of thanks is due to Hazel Kelly who made all of the arrangements for the TBC’s visit to this fine establishment. 

Gerald Wingate


Outing to Avondale

On a lovely spring morning last Saturday 15 birders joined the TBC outing to Avondale Wine Estate.  While waiting on the road up to the winery for the last cars to arrive we saw Black-headed Heron, Fiscal Flycatchers, Helmeted Guineafowl and Hadeda, and soon the sky was full of White-rumped, Little and Horus Swift and Greater-striped Swallow.  Suddenly an African Harrier-Hawk was spotted as it flew over the farm lands into the valley below – a nice sighting.  Cape Wagtail, Malachite Sunbird and Common Starling were moving around near the small dam behind the winery and in the many trees and tall shrubs in the stream bed we had sightings of Cape Robin-chat, Cape turtle-dove, many Cape weavers nest building, and Red-faced Mousebirds. 

We left the stream near the old Cape Dutch farm buildings and strolled along the path and lawns, picking up Cape Spurfowl, Southern Fiscal, African Sacred Ibis, Cape Canary and Cape White-eye, among others.  A small compost heap just past the buildings produced Speckled Mousebirds, Cape Bulbuls, Yellow Bishop and Cape Sparrow.  From here we could see the fields were lush and green, the fruit trees in full blossom and the mountains behind spectacular - what a beautiful estate.  Further up we passed through fynbos where a pair of Bokmakieries were feeding their chicks and Karoo Prinia were calling. Then on to a large irrigation dam which surprisingly was full, with a stream of water still coming in from the mountainside.  But, as is often the case with these dams, it was very sterile with no birds to be seen at all.  Retracing out steps we saw Cattle Egret, Egyptian Geese and Blacksmith Lapwings flying overhead.  The Harrier-Hawk put in another appearance, closer this time so we could all get a better look.  Nearing the fruit orchards we stopped at a smaller dam with lots of shrubs and trees which was much more productive – Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Batis, Southern double-collared Sunbird, Olive Thrush, Pin-tailed Whydah, African Hoopoe, Reed Cormorant, and others.  The owner of the estate came to talk to us on our way back and took us to a spot where he said Barn Owls usually bred – unfortunately we were out of luck. 

Our last few species were seen while enjoying our picnic – Black Saw-wing, Yellow-billed Kite and finally White-throated Swallow.   In all we saw 48 species, including four species each of swifts and swallows.   Definitely a birding venue to return to in the future.

Helene Thompson

Outing – Tinie Versfeld Reserve & Darling Farms
19 August 2017

We met at the Tinie Versfeld Reserve, where we had a cold start to the TBC outing. When we got to the dam it was wonderful to see a Pied Avocet with its small baby. The little ball of fluff was really cute! This reserve is always nice for displaying Cloud Cisticola and African Pipit. We had good views of a pair of Banded Martin hawking insects. Across the field 18 Blue Crane were feeding amongst the ostriches.

Darling was luckily a bit warmer, and the group enjoyed the birds and wild flowers in the Oudepost  Reserve. Next we enjoyed the orchids at Duckitt Nurseries and thanked Nicolas for specially opening the greenhouses for our group. A White-throated Swallow – first for the new season, was seen at the dam and displaying Clapper Lark were elusive, always moving away as the ‘camera brigade’ approached. A Dusky Flycatcher was a surprise to see, near the greenhouses.

The Cloof Wine Estate road did not disappoint with roadside birds. A Wood Sandpiper, Kittlitz’s Plover and a large group of cranes were enjoyed, and the usual Large-billed Lark & Stonechats along the fenceline. A walk above the vineyards produced great views of Booted Eagle and a flock of Alpine and African Black Swift. Tea was had in the farmyard at Burgherspost Farm. For the last to leave, a nice sighting of a Secretarybird was had just beyond Cloof. A big thank you to all the farmers who allowed us to bird on their farms, a total of 85 species were seen. This area is always good for birding.

Brigid Crewe
Paarl Mountain Outing

FORTUNE FAVOURS THE BOLD, and so it happened for the five ardent birders who attended the Paarl Mountain Reserve Outing on Wednesday 04 October. The threatening rain storms given by weather reports did not materialise, and we had one of the most enjoyable birding outings I have ever been on.
Our first stop was at the Victoria Dam where African Black Duck, Giant Kingfisher, and Malachite Kingfisher were seen. Here too, we spotted the first of three flocks of Black Saw-wing. Although overcast, the light was exceptionally good for bird observation, so the distinctive colours of the various bird species seen was any photographers dream.
We then pushed on to the Reserve and were all stunned by the floral beauty and the pristine condition the fynbos is in. The King Proteas and the Warratahs are in full bloom, together with the many Ericas, all which were truly bird magnets. I cannot remember when last I have seen so many species of birds in such large numbers concentrated in the  relatively small area of the Reserve. It was fantastic.
The walk up to the mountain was slow and very productive. Birds were everywhere and within our small group, discussion concerning diagnostic features of the various species was high quality and very informative.
Bar-throated Apalis were seen and heard. Cape Batis, Southern Boubou, Cape Grassbird and Pin-tailed Whydah  are a few of the forty five species observed on the outing. Dozens of male and female Cape Sugarbirds swamped the Proteas.  Then the mega for the trip, a PROTEA SEEDEATER perched within ten meters of us, nonchalantly picking out protea seeds from the many proteas at the top of the Reserve. As I said in the beginning, fortune favours the bold, and what a great sighting this was.
Many thanks to Kevin Drummond-Hay, Philip Fry, Helene and Ivor Thomson for making this such a wonderful bird outing, the company was top class, and I hope you enjoyed the trip as much as I did.  
I am so sorry so many bird club members ducked out on this outing. It was truly epic.
Peter Nupen