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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, 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)




Thursday, August 26, 2021

Gansbaai, its not only about Great White Sharks (Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Kleinbaai)




Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(The View across Walker Bay towards Cape Hangklip)

Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(The Eco Self Catering Villa, Luxury  Accommodation) 

When asked if I would be willing to experience a wellness retreat focusing on Body, Soul, and mind therapy, including yoga and meditation, this required time to think about the concept. A place of sanctuary and retreat, where participants sense an authentic feeling of home-coming through a reconnection to nature, spirit, and humanity. 

Well, that's not my cup of tea, was the first thing that entered my mind.



Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(Walker Bay on a picture-perfect day, the Klipgat Caves on the left)


Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(Gaansbaai has so much to offer, just make sure you have enough time to experience them all)


Over the following days, applying my mind, not forgetting that it was my wife's 50th birthday celebration, the idea slowly became more appealing. But, of course, the venue was also a deciding factor; Gansbaai has always been a local favourite, close to the sea, with ample birding opportunities as it borders two world-famous Nature Reserves.


Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(Library in the Manor House, Step back in time, every this is as it was in the good old days)


Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(This is the view towards Hermanus from Grootbos Private Nature Reserve)


Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(Cormorants feeding in the glassy water of walker bay- the dark line centre of image)


We were happy with the notion that this would be a relaxing weekend with some casual birding thrown in, we booked, and so the planning began. With a list of birds that we would be twitching for and a full itinerary of yoga and meditation, we set off to an area known as the Grootbos Nature Reserve.




Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(Jackal Buzzard taking flight near Bodhi Khaya)


Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(100-year-old Cork Oak towering over the Manor House at Bodhi Khaya)


Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(Whimbbrel foraging amongst the kelp line)


The Bodhi Khaya Retreat, located on the Baviaans Fonteyn Farm- the oldest in the area. In 1791 the farm was granted to Dirk Cloete, son of Hendrick Cloete, the owner of Groot Constantia and one of the Cape's largest landowners. This peaceful establishment, nestled at the foot of the Witkransberg in the beautiful Overberg region. Only 2 hours from Cape Town the brochure promised us sanctuary for heart and soul- a place to relax, rejuvenate and re-connect. 


https://www.bodhikhaya.com/



Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(Self Catering Eco Villa, Private and elaborate, we loved every minute) 



Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(Sunroom where you can spend hours reading one of the many books available)


Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(One of many Small dams at the Retreat)

Due to some concerns, having our accommodation upgraded to the Self Catering Eco Villa gave us a sense of excitement for the weekend ahead. Spoilt beyond belief as we were treated with five-star luxury, privately tucked away with breathtaking views. We had the opportunity to enjoy the safe and peaceful sanctuary of Walker Bay Nature Conservancy while witnessing the abundant bird and wildlife, taking in the mountain views, and drinking from the flowing freshwater streams.



Bodhi Khaya Nature Retreat from Bodhi Khaya on Vimeo.




Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(Danger Point Lighthouse, built after the sinking of the Birkenhead a Mile off the coast as it ran aground)



Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(Cape Hangklip, image taken from Gaansbaai)

Early morning start way before Sunrise for a meditation session allowed us to look for owls and nightjars. To my surprise, we located two nightjars(Fiery-necked) en route to the studio; what a great start to the day. However, I  decided to miss this first session,  heading off to Danger point, searching for the Roseate Terns (we dipped on the terns). 


Exploring this unfamiliar coastline and relishing the opportunity for some new birding opportunities. Yoga and then a remarkable forest milkwood excursion allowed us to enjoy our new surroundings. Bodhi Kaya forms part of the Grootbos Nature Reserve, an idyllic setting with beautiful bird- song, flowering Fynbos, and ancient majestic Milkwood forests. So it's not surprising that this area has received a UNESCO World Heritage site status.


Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(The ancient Milkwood Forest is a must, we wandered through the cool forest canopy)



Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(We did say Rest and Rejuvenation, well we did stop as sit for a while)



Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(lush Fynbos in a full floral display, clear, clean air, and a magical view of the bay)


Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(Who could resist, we felt like tourists in Gansbaai)

Another early start, we were treated to a flyover by the resident Eagle Owl, perching in a nearby tree gave us a moment to connect before he flew off in search of his next meal.


Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(Cape Nature entrance to the Walker Bay Nature Reserve)



 Deciding to visit the Walker Bay Nature Reserve at De Kelders, we would see the famous Klipgat Caves and explore the area. Again, we were blessed with perfect weather, magical blue skies, and wind-still conditions, vastly different from the days before, freezing cold and windy. Another memorable, fun-filled day with the family, we were departing having experienced the charm of Gaaansbaai and the beauty of the Grootbos Nature Reserve.



Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(Thanks to Cape Nature for the well-maintained boardwalks and very informative signs at the Klipgat Cave site)


Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(The size and scale of these caves were impressive)


Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(One of the cave Openings facing the sea, Is that a strandloper posing for a photo???)


We would highly recommend Bodhi Khaya Retreat as a getaway; the area has so much to offer, backed with a picturesque coastline and breathtaking views across Walker Bay to Cape Hangklip. Just one word of caution, you will need more than a weekend to enjoy it all. 



Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gaansbaai, Grootbos Nature Reserve, Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Klipgat Caves, Danger Point, Danger Point Lighthouse, Klienbaai,
(Enjoyment for young and old, a wealth of information and history of these Caves and the people who occupied them)





Grootbos Private Nature Reserve hopefully will be our next destination when we revisit Gansbaai. We passed by this venue a few times during our stay, which we recommend to anyone visiting this remarkable area.


If you have enjoyed reading about this adventure, please share and like our page.




Monday, August 2, 2021

The Whispering Tree of Albertinia

 The Whispering Tree

(Ficus burkeil)

Common Wild Fig

Gewone Wildevy(Afrikaans)



Whispering tree, Champion Tree, trees, Tree Hunting, Albertinia, Gardens, Wild Fig Tree,
(We didn't stay too long, mindful of this strangler and the power that it has)



Over the years, we have visited so many remarkable trees, some Champions in every respect, others simply majestic beasts that command the landscape. Admiring these colossal ancient beings, we have always wondered what stories and secrets they share. Touching the trees attempting to connect and extract some of the power and wisdom they have acquired over the centuries. Alas, finding it difficult, as if we do not possess the psychic abilities to share and exchange in a common language that is mutually beneficial.



Whispering tree, Champion Tree, trees, Tree Hunting, Albertinia, Gardens, Wild Fig Tree,
(The elaborate canopy blocking out the sunlight)



Whispering tree, Champion Tree, trees, Tree Hunting, Albertinia, Gardens, Wild Fig Tree,
(Scale is everything and you can appreciate why this Majestic Tree received its Champion Tree status)


In December of 2020, we were fortunate to visit the Champion Whispering Tree of Albertinia, nestled in an elaborate setting at the Voelroepensfontein Guest House and writers retreat in the Western Cape. How privileged we were to meet the very proud owner who, without hesitation, welcomed us into her world.



Whispering tree, Champion Tree, trees, Tree Hunting, Albertinia, Gardens, Wild Fig Tree,
(Roots hanging down like thick hair, a labyrinth within the twisted and contorted trunk)



Sharing her forest garden, a haven of exotic trees, Marietjie was excited to take us on a journey through her writer's paradise and old-world time Guest House. Clinging to every word as she carefully explained the history of how she purchased the smallholding due to her love of the majestic trees that adorned the property. She found her peace and serenity, eventually establishing the location as a Guest House and writers retreat. In harmony with the tourism theme of this quaint rural town, a place of rejuvenation and inspiration, "Healing through Nature".



Whispering tree, Champion Tree, trees, Tree Hunting, Albertinia, Gardens, Wild Fig Tree,
(The Champion Common Wild fig tree in all its glory)




Whispering tree, Champion Tree, trees, Tree Hunting, Albertinia, Gardens, Wild Fig Tree,
(One must appreciate the canopy spread and the coolness it provides)


The wild fig Champion tree has a raised platform so that you can comprehend and appreciate the immense structure supporting a canopy that spreads out like a spiders web, engulfing the sky as its limbs reached above, blocking the sunlight. 



Whispering tree, Champion Tree, trees, Tree Hunting, Albertinia, Gardens, Wild Fig Tree,
(Estimated to be more than 150 years old, this iconic tree takes centre stage in this elaborate garden)



We studied this colossus from every elevation and admired its changing appearance, careful not to get too close in fear of being entangled by its parasitic roots the hung like thick hair ready to swallow us into its labyrinth. This Gentle Giant stands solemnly, his dark side directed inwards. It was the height of summer, appreciating the cool beneath the canopy; his sunny side was now smooth and gleaming.



Whispering tree, Champion Tree, trees, Tree Hunting, Albertinia, Gardens, Wild Fig Tree,
(We admired The Whispering Tree and listened intently to stories from years gone by)



Whispering tree, Champion Tree, trees, Tree Hunting, Albertinia, Gardens, Wild Fig Tree,
(The Strangler at work trying to engulf our son)


After posing for a few photographs with the family, we shared a quiet moment, connecting, listening as the tree whispered secrets and shared many tales of hope and dreams for the future. 


Staying for a while and enjoying the bird song (Voelroepens-fontein) is an apt description for this unique setting. A lone high pitched calling of the Brown Hooded Kingfisher distracted me; we lost our connection with the champion Wild Fig. It's moments like this that makes our quest to connect with all the champions of Southern Africa so rewarding. 



Whispering tree, Champion Tree, trees, Tree Hunting, Albertinia, Gardens, Wild Fig Tree,
(The Whispering Tree on the Voelroepens-fontein Guest House)



We hope to take you along on our journey across our striking African continent in an attempt to capture these unique national monuments in Southern Africa.



Whispering tree, Champion Tree, trees, Tree Hunting, Albertinia, Gardens, Wild Fig Tree,
(Entrance to a magical world where Champion Trees, natural spring fountains and birdsong abound)


Join us as we explore deeper, travel further and uncover more of these majestic trees; please like and share our stories.