5th December 2020
Rooiels certainly stayed true to its reputation for being a windy spot. As we assembled in the car park at the restaurant we saw a colourful assortment of hats and masks flapping frantically in the gale-force wind. Undaunted, we set off in convoy to the Rockjumper hiking trail.
The strong wind made it almost impossible to hold binoculars and a hat while trying to point to some feathered object being blown across the boulder strewn slopes. A few of the local denizens made brief appearances and we managed to set eyes on Neddicky, Grey-backed Cisticola, Cape Bunting and Rock Martin. Although someone said that they heard Ground Woodpeckers calling high up on the slope, the birds remained hunkered down behind the rocks. The endemic target, namely the Cape Rockjumper, remained elusive in spite of fifty watery eyes scanning the waving vegetation.
The team reassembled at the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden where they could shed a windbreaker, jersey or jacket. Being situated in a sheltered site the wind velocity had lessened to a breeze and everybody seemed to be rejuvenated. The shady trees, colourful flowerbeds and manicured lawns seemed so orderly and welcoming after the windswept slopes of Rooiels.
A leisurely amble along the path produced Speckled Mousebird, Orange-breasted Sunbird and Cape Canaries feeding their ravenous chicks. Overhead the Black Sawwings whistled past at such a speed that in-flight photos were just not considered. Later, Ettienne Kotze managed to locate a dark dot and capture an image of a sawing that had perched for a brief moment to get its breath back.
The forest canopy along the Disa Trail did not disappoint and had necks craning for views of flitting feathers in the dappled sunlight. Very busy African Dusky Flycatchers were found feeding newly fledged chicks that were constantly begging for another morsel. Suddenly the mood lifted even higher when someone spied a Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher. The “Oohs and Aahs” flowed freely when we realised that a pair, too, were feeding fledglings. The rapid clicking of camera shuttered added to the chorus as members tried to get clear shots of the handsome male as he fanned his tail and spread his wings briefly before flitting off to the next partially obscured perch.
The forest continued to produce the goods with Cape Batis and African Paradise-Flycatches providing good views. After a very relaxed and fruitful morning the members returned to the entrance and reappeared with bulging picnic baskets and folding chairs. The banter picked up steadily because we now had an excuse to remove the muffling masks. The bird list for the day consisted of an assortment from both localities and, given the windy conditions, produced a total in excess of 40 species.
Brigid thanked the members for attending the outing and their support during the year, in spite of constraints caused by the Covid 19 pandemic. In turn, Gerald thanked Brigid for her unwavering enthusiasm and leadership, as well as conveyed gratitude for the services provided by the loyal committee members.