Report by Sally and Paul Bartho
Continuing from Part 3
From Wilderness we headed for Plettenberg Bay and the Keurbooms Lagoon Campsite. The place was very busy especially the waterfront sites. However we were in luck and found an almost private site with a view over the lagoon. The cost R240 per night – no pensioner discount despite being mid-week.
Initially they only had one ablution open but opened up another for the weekend. They were passable.
The Rare Birds Report noted that the Sooty Falcon was still present. So we went to look for it on our first morning there. We found it but the sky was too grey for photography. However the next day we were able to get quite close and managed a couple of shots enabling positive ID for ourselves.
Part of our time there was spent enjoying the scenery with a visit to Roburg. Needless to say we did not walk all the way down to the beach. We got to one lookout point and stopped there – seeing a large seal swimming close to the shore and exhausted panting people passed us having climbed the steep steps up from the distant beach.
On the way back a pair of Orange-breasted Sunbirds succumbed to the heat and took shade in a bush right beside the path. Most of the time they had their eyes closed.
Back at the campsite we took a canoe to the opposite shore of the lagoon at low tide. There we saw almost one thousand Cape Cormorants on the spit’s edge. There was also plenty of Kelp Gulls as well as a dozen or so African Black Oystercatchers.
Campsite birds included Cape Turtle-Doves, Cape Robin-Chats as well as a friendly striped-backed mouse. Driving around the area we saw a few other birds which kept us interested.
From Plettenberg Bay we went to Tsitsikamma – Nature’s Valley. R248.46 for two nights which includes the 40% pensioner discount.
Choosing a site proved difficult. There was no power except by connecting to one of the facility buildings. We decided that we wanted to be in the woods and chose a site near the ablutions. We expected there to be no power however I managed to get a cable across the road into the scullery.
Our neighbours were brilliant. Once set up they came calling. First a Chorister Robin-Chat then a Lemon Dove. Each within metres of us. What a welcome.
A visit to the river mouth was unproductive birdwise but a pleasant stroll to get some exercise. On return we went for a stroll around the forested campsite which was quite quiet. We arrived back at our campsite to find four Lemon Doves and a Chorister Robin-Chat under our car. What a start to our time there.
The next day we went for a walk on one of the trails to the north of the river. The forest of well established tall trees was magnificent.
At first the birding was good with Forest Canaries, Swee Waxbill and Grey Cuckooshrike all entertaining us at one spot. Further up the trail we joined the Otter Trail and birding was pretty quiet – except for what we thought might have been a Narina Trogon.
Back in camp we relaxed and had constant visits from several Lemon Doves and the odd Chorister Robin-Chat. They were not concerned about our presence and came right up to us. Some of the other campsite birds and other visitors:
Later we went for a walk in the campsite and saw little except when we got back five Lemon doves and two Chorister Robin-Chats greeted us.
So special to see these birds up close and unconcerned about us.
This raptor waved us goodbye from way up high – anyone care to ID this for us would be welcome.
Mountain Zebra NP was our next destination for 3 nights. Midweek with pensioner discount of 40% amounted to almost R500. Unfortunately we were not aware that the campsite was undergoing renovation so we had to put up with bulldozers etc when we were in camp during working hours. It meant we spent all day in the park without a break.
This turned out to be one of our favourite birding areas. The habitat was varied from grassland at the top of the mountains, acacia savannah lower down, dams and wetlands.
Sally was enamoured by the flowers in the upper grasslands.
In all we recorded about 90 different bird species. Many of the birds were new to our trip – Gabar Goshawk, Black-headed Canary, Denham’s Bustard, a range of Pipits and Larks, Red-headed Finches, Scaly-feathered Warblers to name a few.
Lions were present but we managed not to encounter any. Game was plentiful – Cape Mountain Zebra, Black Wildebeest, Springbok, Eland, Hartebeest, Blesbok all readily seen. We also came across a Grey Rhebok, Yellow-tailed Mongooses, Ground Squirrels.
This is a place we would enjoy going back to – once the campsite renovation has been completed.
And then we headed home.
We decided to break the journey home with a stopover at Woodcliffe Country Lodge, 22 kms up the road to Naude’s Nek pass from Maclear. A self-catering cottage with a view and giving our poor trailer a rest. R600 for the night.
What a drive that turned out to be. Those 22kms should have taken us an hour. We were warned that we need 4×4 as the road was muddy after the rains. However we managed to take an extra hour missing our turn off and having to find someplace where we could safely turn round with the trailer!
On the way in we saw a number Grey-crowned Cranes and many White Storks. In the evening they roosted in the trees near our cottage.
A bull decided to come through the fence to eat the mown grass round the cottage. Although he got chased out and the wire repaired he burst through again the next morning.
More rains came and went giving us cause for concern as to whether we would get out the next day!
We left early but not before seeing 13 Grey-crowned Cranes together in the field by our cottage. On the way back to the main road we saw at least 12 more.
The road was as soggy as expected and we had to use low range in numerous spots. Then the rest of the journey home was a slow ride through the Transkei.
In all, we had an unexpectedly pleasant trip with the bonus of missing all the rain back home. In all we saw 244 different bird species and 100 of these species were only seen in one location. If you are interested click here to see our complete bird list at each location we visited.
Hope you enjoyed the read and photos.