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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster Cape West Coast

 Cape Columbine Nature Reserve

The Cape Columbine Nature Reserve is situated near Vredenburg in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. It is a beautiful area and was declared a Nature Reserve in 1973. All along this beautiful coast grows the famous fynbos and the wildflowers cover the area with wild and wonderful colours and aromas. The reserve is known to have the last manually controlled lighthouse which was built in 1936 on Castle Rock.



Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Cape Columbine Lighthouse)


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Admiring the Spring Flowers along the Coast)

The reserve also boasts one of the most beautiful stretches of pristine coastline which is home to dolphins and whales which attracts visitors from all over. The Cape Columbine Nature Reserve offers a variety of interesting and relaxing hiking trails and it is an experience you would not want to miss out on.



Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Unfortunately no access to the Lighthouse due to Covid 19 restrictions)



Some interesting facts about the Cape Columbine Lighthouse:

  • Candlepower 5 040 000 C.D.
  • Character of Light One flash every 5 seconds
  • Installation Date 01 October 1936
  • Range 32 sea miles
  • Structure 15-metre white square masonry tower with red painted lantern house
  • Type of Light Revolving electric
  • Other features Fog signal and radio beacon



Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(One of many coastal roads to explore and enjoy, each with its own unique bay)


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Some local history of the marine environment and Lighthouses)


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Private and tranquil little bays along the coastal road for picnics and some swimming)



Before the lighthouse was erected in 1936, the coastline between Saldanha Bay and Stompneus Bay was infamous for shipwrecks. The list includes that of The Haddon Hall (1913), the Lisboa (1910), the SS St. Lawrence (1876) and of course the Columbine (1829). The Lighthouse was named after the British wooden ship which was wrecked just 1.5 km north of where it stands today. The Cape Columbine Lighthouse is now usually the first South African lighthouse to be seen by ships travelling from Europe.



Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(So many Spring Flowers and in some sections we had carpets of flowers, Coastal Fygies)

                      
Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(A juvenile Jackal Buzzard, up close for a change) 


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Carpets of yellow daisies south of the Lighthouse, the colours so vivid against the ocean )



The lighthouse stands on a massive granite boulder called Castle Rock and is one of the last manned lighthouses built in the country and the last significant project of the famed Harry Claude Cooper.  The Cape Columbine Lighthouse still has a full-time Light-keeper and although it still does its job of lighting up the West Coast, it has also become a favourite attraction to visitors of the Nature Reserve as well as a popular picnic site. It is one of only four lighthouses that offer overnight accommodation, the others being the Cape St Blaize (Mossel Bay), Danger Point (Gansbaai) and Great Fish Point (Port Alfred).



Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(The Famous Tietiesbaai, and you can see why pristine beaches and a perfect bay for some camping)


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Jacobsbaai, on a gloomy morning, the main Harbour)


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(The main entrance to the Quaint but growing coastal town)


Having visited Cape Columbine before, but outside of the spring flower season, the area was dusty and dry, with your typical west coast fynbos scrub in drab colours.


How different it was when we returned in September 2021, the coastline covered in magnificent spring blossoms. Cape Columbine has never featured on any flower routes, so it was most pleasant to explore this area now carpeted in spring flowers. What made our stay even more special was how quiet this stretch of coastline was. None of the traffic jams and people jostling for a photograph amongst the daisies.



Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Typical Sandstone boulders along the coast littered with wonderful Spring Flowers)


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Cape Penduline Tit, a new lifer for me, very happy indeed)


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(We loved exploring the narrow winding coastal roads, each one had its own unique surprise)


Tripping through the fields of spring flowers, we were pleasantly surprised with the picturesque coastline, impressed by the colossal lighthouse structure and ever so grateful for the beautiful country we call home.


Unique flowers we high on our program; we hoped to capture some fresh floral landscapes and some birding along the coast. Captivated by the beauty of this nature reserve, we look forward to returning next year with our camping gear at hand. Unfortunately, this reserve needs more than a morning to enjoy and explore the coastline; besides, we could not enjoy the workings and history of the famous Columbine Lighthouse as it was closed due to Covid 19 restrictions.


We look forward to next years spring flower season when we return to this beautiful area. 


Accommodation

For an authentic lighthouse overnight experience, visitors can try one of the few self-catering cottages on-site at the Cape Columbine Lighthouse. The cottages sleep between 2 and 6 people and the cost ranges between R600 and R900 per unit per night. The nature reserve also offers a few campsites where visitors can stay over if the camping experience is what you looking for.


Things to do and see

Lighthouse Tours

Curios & Memorabilia on Sale

Conference Facilities

Swimming pool & Jungle Gyms

Picnic Site

Camping & Self-catering Accommodation

Admission

Entrance fees are approximately, at the time of writing this article: Adult R19 and children R13. Prices are subject to change, please contact the tourism office directly to confirm all prices.




Cape Columbine Lighthouse Address:

Cape Columbine Nature Reserve

Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, West Coast Peninsula

Western Cape,  South Africa

32° 49′ 39.932″ S, 17° 51′ 20.178″ E


work: +27 21 449 2400

work: +27 22 752 2705


Opening Hours

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm



Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Fararia Crispa, one of the most elegant Spring Flowers along the coast)

Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Northern view of the Famous Cape Columbine Lighthouse)

Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Giant girdled lizard, my first sighting of this rare "Sungazer")


The last manned lighthouse built on the South African coast

Article received from: "The Cape Odyssey"


Cape Columbine, a majestic headland on the Cape’s West Coast, is a mere two-hour drive from Cape Town. It is situated in the Tietiesbaai nature Reserve, almost 5 km from the picturesque little fishing village of Paternoster.



Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Poppy field just before Jacobsbaai)


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(wind-still and picture-perfect, prefrontal clouds and flower abound)


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Ruddy Turnstone in breeding plumage, we found loads of them on the shore line)


Paternoster is well known for its crayfish and other seafood delights and reputedly derives its name from the thanksgiving prayers of shipwrecked Portuguese mariners. Early maps consistently record the place name as ‘St Martins Paternoster.’ Cape Columbine owes its name to the British wooden snow ‘Columbine’ which was wrecked in 1829, 1,5km north of the lighthouse.




Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Spring flowers season, it was special this year due to the good rain in winter)


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Black Harrier hunting in the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve)


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(So many places to explore and enjoy the great outdoors)


Prior to the installation of the Cape Columbine lighthouse, the coastline was the burial ground of several ships. In 1876 the iron steam troopship SS Saint Lawrence was wrecked on Great Paternoster Point. Bound for Cape Town she was carrying the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Buffs. No lives were lost. Other ships to meet their demise in this region were: the Portuguese twin-screw mail-steamer SS Lisboa (1910), SS Haddon Hall (1913), SS Malmesbury (1930) and the SS Haleric which floundered off Cape St Martin (1932).


Urban legend has it that the SS Lisboa was laden with a large quantity of red wine, which stained the sea. Fortunately, a large number of unscathed barrels which washed ashore were buried by the locals and retrieved much later after exasperated custom officials had finally returned home!



Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(We were searching for new flower species and this location did not disappoint)


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(The magical Spring Floral display)


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Nesting Crowned Plover, harassed by local Pied Crows)


The provision of a lighthouse on this piece of coast lay in abeyance for many years. The Lighthouse commission of 1906 recognised that Cape Columbine would be a suitable location for a lighthouse. Dassen Island and Pelican Point at Walvis Bay, however, appeared at the time to be more urgent. It took thirty years and much debate before the construction of a lighthouse at Cape Columbine got the nod - much to the relief of the local fishing community.



Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(We managed to get some great Drone footage from this angle of the Columbine Lighthouse)


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Large-billed Lark early one morning singing away, oh what a pleasure )


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Two juvenile Yellow-billed Kites)



Around the turn of the twentieth century, Harry Claude Lee Cooper was appointed as an engineer in charge of lighthouses. Columbine was the last lighthouse H.C. Cooper designed. He decided on the site known to the locals as Castle Rock, a massive granite outcrop a few hundred meters from the sea. The design of the Cape Columbine lighthouse was quite different from the conventional tapered circular tower. His design was a slightly tapered square tower with the outer faces of the walls recessed, thereby forming heavy buttresses on the four corners. The building is painted white while the lantern is red.



Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Grey-Tit with a juicy meal)


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(We managed to add ten new flowers to our list)



Columbine was the first lighthouse to receive all three navigational safety features, ie, a light, a fog signal and a radio beacon. The optical apparatus, supplied by Messrs Chance Brothers, was the first lens system designed for use with a 4kW incandescent electric lamp on the South African Coast. All prior installations had been designed for wick or petroleum vapour burners.


Thirty years had elapsed since the lighthouse commissions’ report and navigators and every person from the Berg River mouth, Vredenburg, and Saldanha Bay waited anxiously for the Columbine light to become a reality. They watched with anticipation as machinery and equipment were transported over the rough countryside to the rocky prominence.


The moment of glory eventually arrived on the 1st of October 1936. As the sun extinguished itself on the Atlantic horizon, Mrs H.C. Cooper set in motion the impressive lens. Two brilliant white beams penetrated the evening air over the formidable Britannia reef.



Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(Juvenile Jackal Buzzard )


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(This must be the largest poppy field we have seen to date in the Western Cape)


Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, Paternoster, Jacobsbaai, Lighthouse, Birding, Dji, Landscape Photography, spring Flowers, west coast,
(The level of detail in the flowers we encountered was truly spectacular)


Information Source:

Simon Baillie-Cooper

Visit Simon's excellent website about Lighthouses on the South African coast

Webmaster's Note: My appreciation to Mr Gabriel Athiros, editor of "The Cape Odyssey", for permission to publish this article.  "The Cape Odyssey" is a must for everyone who enjoys reading and learning about the colourful and fascinating history of the Cape.


Friday, September 3, 2021

Pink-backed Pelican and Dwarf Bittern, very rare birds in the Western Cape.

Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(The Great White Pelicans on the left dwarfing the Pink-Backed Pelicans to the right)
  

My First Sighting of the  Pink-Backed Pelican


The pink backed pelican is the smallest of the pelican family; however, it is small. This beautiful bird can grow from 125 to 155cm and weigh approximately 4 to 7kg, with a wingspan of 2.15 to 2.9m. The females are moderately smaller than the males. Pink-backed pelicans have grey plumage, pinkish back, dark flight feathers, and grey or pink patterns on their upper wings.



Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(Rare visitors the Western Cape, Pink-Backed Pelicans seen on the northern end of Zeekoevlei)



Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(Pink-Backed Pelicans roost in trees so no problem with a better view, unlike the Great White Pelican) 


Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(This is where we located the first Pink-Backed Pelican, sleeping with his head tucked under its wing) 



These birds have a broad range. However, pollutants and tree loss can become a major breeding capacity issue in the future. They can be found in wetland habitats like lagoons, rivers, dams, and lakes throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. They prefer foraging in discreet locations with plentiful vegetation, abundant fish, and where the water is shallow. Read more about my first sighting of the pink backed pelican.



 

Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(Rare visitors the Western Cape, Pink-Backed Pelicans seen on the northern end of Zeekoevlei)





Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(The fence that separated us from the Pelicans, no problem we made a plan)


My First Sighting of the Pink-Backed Pelican


 



My excitement grew as I was thinking about the prospect of recording my 450th bird seen in South Africa. We were going to see the rare pink backed pelican at first light. This bird was recently spotted by Paul Rollinson on 21 August 2021 at the Northern end of Zeekoevlei. When the broadcast came through on our rare bird telegram group, it was impossible to race back to Cape Town, as we were too far out of range. Instead, we were busy spotting another special bird, the Dwarf Bittern (Ixobrychus sturmii), at Sandbaai in Hermanus.


 








Pink-Backed Pelican



Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(How disgusting! the pollution was everywhere, picture-perfect, ruined by rubbish all over) 



Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(The Great White Pelicans on the left dwarfing the Pink-Backed Pelicans to the right)


The Big Day


Once we arrived at the pin location at dawn, it was quite challenging to work out how to gain access to the area where the bird was, since the gates were locked. Not wanting to miss the golden hour of first light, we decided to enter via the water Calvert. After embarking on a short mission through the reeds and mud, we could finally spot some birds. After frantically scanning through the array of birds, we finally spotted a single pink backed pelican about 200 meters away, to the left from where we entered.


Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(Rare visitors the Western Cape, Pink-Backed Pelicans seen on the northern end of Zeekoevlei)


Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(The Great White Pelicans on the left dwarfing the Pink-Backed Pelicans to the right)


We were unsure at first whether the bird was indeed our target bird since it was asleep. However, when it lifted its head, it was confirmed. We are looking at the pink backed pelican. We were overjoyed with the confirmation of this surprising find in the Western Cape. The only other documented sighting was at Island Lake on the Garden route, many years ago, in January 1981. Forty years have passed before unlocking this provincial phenomenon for many. Happy to enjoy this special moment with fellow birder John Graham.


 


Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(The Dwarf Bittern out in the open, but only for a while, a few images later and he was gone)



Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(Helped this group and a few others tick this one-off)


Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(We arrived and the Dwarf Bittern was sitting out in the open, but gone right after the first few photos taken)


Interesting Facts About the Pink-Backed Pelican 


Pink-backed pelicans are among the world’s biggest flying birds. Their take-off can be a bit wobbly. However, once they are in flight, they can effortlessly fly alternating glides and wing beats.


They predominantly feed on fish.


Larger pink backed pelicans can eat up to 400 grams of fish; however, they generally eat those weighing about 80 to 290 grams.


A Pink-Backed pelican feeds by plunging its head under the water surface, scooping water and fish. The water exits through the bill’s tip, and the fish gets swallowed whole.


Like its cousin, the pink backed pelican is a robust eater and can consume up to a whopping 1200 grams of fish per day.


They typically forage in groups. Then, they hunt on their own.


When pink backed pelicans fly with a flock, they use a slanting line formation to lower air friction, taking turns to be in from when the leader gets tired.



Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds

(The Dwarf Bittern out in the open, but only for a while, a few images later and he was gone)


Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(waiting for the Dwarf Bittern to come out from his hiding spot)



Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds

(The Dwarf Bittern out in the open, but only for a while, a few images later and he was gone)


 

I hope you enjoyed reading about my first sighting of the rare Pink-Backed pelican and Dwarf Bittern. This find was a rewarding and enjoyable experience, and I am overjoyed that I was fortunate enough to add it to my list of bird sightings in Southern Africa. 






Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds

(The Dwarf Bittern out in the open, but only for a while, a few images later and he was gone)