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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

A double in Strandfontein

The Baird's Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii) Strandfontein 13 November 2020

Terek Sandpipers (Xenus cinereus) Strandfontein 13 November 2020

 American Golden Plover not located at cape point 

(P2 pan and the location for the Terek Sandpiper, picture-perfect and the back of Table Mountain seen in the distance )

( soft golden morning light with Greater flamingos )

(Greater Flamingos on P2 )

Exciting news had filtered through on our rare birding group of a vagrant Baird's sandpiper spotted at the Strandfontein Sewer Works. After reviewing the location were the Bairds was last seen, located on S5 pan in the South Eastern corner, we decided to twitch for this rare find.

(Wood Sandpiper )

(Common Greenshank )

(juvenile Red Knobbed Koot)

Little did we know that the Baird's Sandpiper is about the same size as a little stint, which is relatively small. On arrival, we stopped one of the birders on the approach road to enquire about the target bird. We were excited to learn that the Bairds was showing well. After a few twisty turns and over the last hill, we got our first glimpse of the location. 

(Wood Sandpiper)

(Common Ringed Plover)

(Little Stints, similar to the Bairds Sandpiper but without the light brown chest )

With a few birders at hand, we were very enthusiastic at the prospect of ticking off this mega find. After the standard introduction, we quickly learned that the bird was flushed and was now out of sight. Disappointed at missing this opportunity, we began to scout the area in the hope of relocating the sandpiper. Easier said than done, trying to find one little bird amongst hundreds of little stints seemed like an impossible task. The cold south easter didn't help one bit. Fading light and unpleasant conditions forced our hand, and we decided to give the Terek Sandpiper a try. 

(Pied Avocets)

(Purple Swamphen)

(Levaillant's Ciisticola)

(Cape Teals)

With the sun slowly setting in the west, we scanned the last recorded location, disappointed at the double-dip, we headed home. 

(Common Greenshank)

(Juvenile Red Knobbed Koot)

(Wood Sandpiper)

(Common Greenshank) 

(Location for the Baird's Sandpiper on S5, try your luck spotting for this bird amongst the little stints)

Friday and the weekend prospect gave us some motivation to attempt the Baid's and Terek Sandpiper, hoping to record this fantastic find. Conditions were perfect, warm and wind-still we were optimistic that we would find our target birds. 

(The queue ends here, once you enter through these gates the magic begins)

(Slangkop Lighthouse as seen from Olifantsbos beach)

(Bontebok at Olifantsbos)

(White Fronted Plover)

(An Ostrich strikes a pose amongst the flowers close to the Olifantsbos beach)

No luck on arrival, but after discussing the last known position for the Bairds, we decided to throw caution to the wind and change our location, despite the possibility of flushing the bird. 

(Olifantsbos beach, this is the location were the American Golden Plover was found)

(White Fronted Plover)

(Rock Agama)

(Fynbos flowers were in abundance in Olifants Bos)

(Eland: First time we have seen this large antelope in the reserve and the largest of the species)

What joy we experienced when we finally spotted the Bairds Sandpiper amongst the green foliage. Not your average sighting as it was somewhat distant and besides this was a spur of the moment decision so no camera equipment. With the Bairds ticked off, my attention quickly shifted to the prospect of locating the Terek Sandpiper.

(Platboom beach and the second location for the AGP)

(Jackal Buzzard, one of four we recorded on this trip)

(PLatboom beach, excellent surfing location and a great spot for birding)

(Booiseskerm looking towards Cape Point)

With some fellow birders, we made our way to P2 in the North-Western corner of Strandfontein. Luck on our side, it wasn't long before we had the Terek insight and more smiles all round. We were privileged to spend some quality time videoing this relatively small bussy bird as it was feeding along the shore. It was my fifth attempt to record the Terek sandpiper so no words can explain the excitement. Gratitude and thanks must go to Ardrius Rabie who must have the sharpest eye in the game; he located both birds.

(Tidal pool at Buffelsbay)

(Buffelsbay, with Black Rocks in the distance)

(Buffelsbay beach: we managed to tick off the King Penguin at this beach in 2019)

The weekend allowed us to twitch for the American Golden-Plovers, recently located at the Cape of Good Hope / Table Mountain National Park. Some planning and before long, we were outside the gate at Cape Point. Anyone who has visited this National Park will tell you that waiting in the queue is standard practice for this exceptional nature reserve. Due to COVID19, the gate time had changed, and we had no choice but to wait for the new gate opening time of 8 am. This time we managed to bring our camera gear, but sadly we could not find the American Golden Plover at Olifantsbos or Platboom Beach. 

(Cape Snow covered the open veld, what a striking fynbos flower)

(Life is a Beach, on a hot summers day nothing beats a cool tidal pool)

Cape Point never disappoints, with empty unspoilt white sandy beaches, fynbos spring flowers in abundance, picture-perfect views over the Atlantic and False Bay. Walking along the coast from Booiseskerm to Buffelsbay was how we ended our relaxing day, we picnicked and appreciated the sounds of the waves crashing against the rocks. Memorable is the only way to describe every visit to this Nature Reserve, and this one was no different. 

(White Fronted Plovers at Olifantsbos beach)

(Cape snow display covered these open areas)

We are eagerly anticipating the next visit and no doubt our next adventure to this windswept peninsula that is such an integral part of home here in the beautiful mother city, Cape Town. It goes without saying why the early Portuguese travellers called this peninsula " the most beautiful cape of all."

Amen to that.

(Restios fynbos surrounded by a bright pink floral display)

If you have enjoyed this post, please like and share our page, till next time.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Nieuwouldville spring flower bonanza Part 1 of 2

 Nieuwoudville 2020 , spring flower bonanza

Exploring the Hantam National Botanical garden just outside of the quaint town of Nieuwouldville, we were fortunate to meet the curator, Eugene Marinus, of this national treasure. We enquired with him about this years spring flower season, and to our surprise, Marinus mentioned that it was the best season in nineteen years.

Captivated by the floral display we surveyed the area, a warm spring morning, wind-still and picture-perfect, and soft fleecy clouds in the vivid blue sky helped to complete the moment. Having arrived early, we had a full day of activities listed. Absorbed and amazed by the variety of spring flowers and the abundance, we could appreciate the term 'carpets of spring flowers'. 

With the sun now way past midday, we returned to Matjiesfontein; this would be our base camp for our weekend getaway. Matjiesfontein is approximately ten kilometres outside of town, with no electricity, nor the standard amenities that one would expect in a small town. We had travelled more than three hundred kilometres to experience farm style living right amidst the spring flowers.

Upon arrival in Matjiesfontein, we introduced ourselves, and one of the caretakers showed us our self-catering cottage, aptly named Kosie se Kaya (Koos's home). This quaint cottage was unmistakenly one of the original staff members accommodation, and our host confirmed it was her mother's house. 

Our expectation we not exceeded, and we started to settle into our home away from home. As luck would have it, power was a problem.  After some negotiations, our host upgraded us the central accommodation. 

To say we were not surprised at our new five-star accommodation would be an understatement, thatched roof, power points, space to sleep ten guest and a fireplace for a king. We later learned that this large cottage was the original school for the new town of Nieuwouldville back in the days when they first established the farming village a few centuries earlier.

Unpacked and settled in, we decided to drive the Matjiesfontein flower route, eager to enjoy this beautiful floral display. The rains in the Cape were the best in years, and the Northern Cape enjoyed a similar blessing. 

We marvelled at the striking colours the spring flowers abound; absorbing up the splendour. Returning way after dark and having enjoyed a full days flower tripping, we returned base camp exhausted. 

By nine that evening, the droning of the generator had stopped, warm and quiet, most of the visitors were well asleep: this was my time, we enjoyed setting up for some night celestial photography. Being this far out of town we had no light pollution, and have never experienced such a bright display of our beautiful milky way. It stretched right across out cottage and faded in the distance towards Nieuwouldville.

Stars, stars as far as the eye could see. Later that evening, we had honour to enjoy the resident Spotted Eagle Owl calling into the night from our rooftop, blissfully relishing this unexpected blessing before falling asleep.

Slightly overcast and cooler we travelled to Gannaboss, the second-largest Quiver tree forest in the world. Despite the colder conditions, Gannaboss was baking hot. Pockets of spring flowers amongst the quivers was a sight to behold. Wasting no time, with little effort in this harsh environment we discovered unique and rare flowers that had us in awe. What seemed like an hour or two, but the entire morning had passed. Content that we had witnessed this natural beauty amongst these ancient quiver trees, one appreciates how they have to endure some of the harshest conditions in this dry, barren landscape. 

Lunch in town, and then a quick stopover at Papkuilsfontein, the variety of abundant spring flowers kept us busy for hours. Not fields of flowers as we had expected but impressive by the new collection of species that we so enjoyed.

We had made a bold decision to change our original spring flower adventure destination, and substitute this with an excursion to Nieuwouldville instead. The reports for Nieuwoudtvill had been outstanding. In the end, this proved to be the best decision indeed. Memorable is a great way to explain this floral display and happy that we managed to get some excellent images, awesome videos, and the family had fun tripping amongst the daisies.

It will we hard to match this display, but next year we look forward to our next adventure come spring. We hope you have enjoyed some of our images and that they will showcase some of the beauty that this Bulb Capital of the World has to offer.

If you have enjoyed this post, please like and share our page, till next time. Alex.