Stony Point Penguin Colony

On a recent trip to Betty’s Bay I made a quick stop at Stony Point Penguin Colony.

This reserve used to be a whaling station until it ended its operations around 1930. The African (Jackass) Penguins settled here and decided to start nesting. Now the reserve hosts a very healthy population of African Penguins, amongst other birds like the cormorants, darters and sea gulls.

Harbour - Stony Point-1Bank Cormorant - Stony Point-1

There is still evidence of the whaling station at the reserve like the old slipway and the shipwreck. The penguins seem very relaxed around people, but don’t get too close to them. They might just bite!

Penguins - Stony Point-5

Some of the penguins love posing and are not camera shy at all.

Penguins - Stony Point-1Penguins - Stony Point-2Penguins - Stony Point-4

Most of the penguins just gather around each other, minding their own business.

Penguins - Stony Point-6

Penguins - Stony Point-3Harbour - Stony Point-2

Keeping your eyes open will usually reveal something interesting. My dad noticed an egg that had been scavenged. It might have been snatched by a mongoose, snake or possibly one of the other birds looking for a quick meal.

Penguin Egg - Stony Point-1

There were many lizards sitting at the edge of the rocks, basking in the sun. It almost got tiring taking photos of them.

Girdled Lizard - Stony Point-1

To my surprise there were some Dassies (Rock Hyrax) at the reserve too. They seemed rather lazy and didn’t move around too much.

Dassie - Stony Point-1

Advertisements

An old soul

There are those days in Kruger when you can just end up driving for kilometres on end without seeing any animals.

My friend, Anthony, and I had one of those drives on a rainy morning in Kruger National Park. To make it worse, it was a gravel road that felt like it was never going to end.

We set out the morning hoping to hit some open grassland and view some Lions and Cheetah. Unfortunately the morning did not deliver any of it.

What we did come across, eventually, were some very old African Buffalo. They are one of the Big 5 animals.

Buffalo_300dpi2[1]

This old buffalo made its way up from the Sabie River. It is very interesting to see the older animals in the park. One tends to wonder what encounters these old souls have had to deal with over time. The older buffalo can be rather irritable and temperamental so we kept a safe distance while viewing them.

Along the road we came across many nooks and crannies that could be the ideal place to spot some game or even the more elusive animals. Yet, there was not much to be seen besides a few birds.

We circled a muddy waterhole and decided to park there for a while, hoping that something would come our way. We scanned a large field opposite the waterhole. Nothing.

Then from out yonder, we saw some movement. We grabbed the binoculars and managed to spot some more buffalo. These weren’t as old as the first sighting, but they were moving at a crawling pace. They did not seem phased about anything and just carried on with their mission.

Buffalo_300dpi3[1]Buffalo_300dpi4[1]

We watched the buffalo stop for a very brief moment at the waterhole and then they proceeded to move into the bush.

A little treasure

Even though Betty’s Bay is a very small ,holiday town in the Overberg area of the Western Cape, it offers a very scenic drive between mountain and sea. The first Saturday in February saw me take a trip through to Betty’s Bay with my parents.

Tucked away on the mountain side of the town you will find a national treasure, the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens. It was the first time that I went to visit this site. It certainly won’t be the last!

The garden offers spectacularly landscaped Fynbos, Protea and Erica sections. The colours bursting through these little pockets are mind-blowing. It also includes a small wetland system and a mini forest. There are some hiking trails that lead to a magnificent waterfall.  You can also take another route which leads to a panoramic view point higher in the mountain. One of the bridges was undergoing maintenance so I couldn’t venture that far into the mountain, but I’d love to go back and do the full trail.

Besides the abundance of indigenous flora in the garden, you’ll be able to see a wealth of fauna too. From the entrance I could hear many frogs croaking in the pond and nearby streams. Many birds were chirping about as the sun was starting to rise. You may be lucky to see tiny Steenbok or Klipspringer in the gardens if you are there early enough and have a well trained eye. Up in the mountain you might even be lucky enough to spot a Cape Leopard.

I followed this Blue Agama for a few meters until it settled on a rock to bask in the warming sun.

Blue_Agama_-_HPBG-1[1]

The striking Erica section was beaming with lively, colourful Double-Collared Sunbirds and Malachite Sunbirds and others passing through.

Sunbird_-_HPBG-3[1]Sunbird_-_HPBG-1[1]Double_Collared_Sunbird_-_HPBG-1[1]

The impressive Protea section was dominated by Cape Sugarbirds. One male in particular looked as if he ruled that section. He posed on a Protea and was not camera shy at all. I managed to get pretty close to it and snap some pics.

Cape_Sugarbird_-_HPBG-2[1]

Cape_Sugarbird_-_HPBG-1[1]Sugard_Tongue_HPBG-_HPBG-1[1]There are many tiny insects, butterflies and dragonflies buzzing around the various sections.

Dragonfly_-_HPBG-2[1]

I saw some Jackal Buzzards soaring high in the sky scouting for something to prey on. Unfortunately they did not venture any closer and decided to perch on some rocks higher up in the mountain.

The entire garden can be covered with a comfortable walk. Keep an eye open for any activity and you may just find something very special there.

A scoop of pelicans

Rietvlei Nature Reserve in Cape Town has two bird hides and these always provide some form of entertainment.  It is a rather lengthy walk to get the hides, compared to other reserves I’ve been to. However, this also provides an opportunity to scout the surrounding area for interesting sights.

I made a quick visit to Rietvlei early on the morning of Christmas Eve 2015. The tide was very low and the salt pans were rather dried up. This resulted in bird activity being quite far away from the viewing hides. Without getting despondent, I continued with my quest.

Along the way I managed to see some Stilts, three African Spoon Bills as well as a Yellow Billed Kite flying overhead. These were all a first for me.

I made my way to the Old Friends Hide. I watched some Flamingos wade in the wetland and eventually take off. These lanky birds look rather comical when flying. In the background I could see a large scoop of Pelicans circling in the air. I was hoping that they would come nearer, but that prospect didn’t seem promising.

I decided to move along to the Sunset hide, further down the wooden pathway. By this time I could see some rain clouds forming. This didn’t deter me. I noticed a good couple of White Throated Swallows flying around, hunting for insects and dragonflies. I saw at least five successful dragonfly and cricket hunts.

Swallow with Dragonfly2

With all this activity I knew some rain was bound to fall. The wind started to pick up over the water and it got rather chilly inside the hide. I decided to sit tight and waited for some action.

Then unexpectedly, the Pelicans I was hoping for came and landed in front of the hide. I watched one scoop up a fish with its large beak. I managed to capture a take-off of one of the other pelicans as they were all about to leave.

Pelican-1Pelican-2Pelican-3Pelican-4Pelican-5

Sure enough after watching the pelicans a couple of large drops of rain started falling. I packed up my belongings and decided to leave as it would have been a long run back to the car in pouring rain!

Koeberg Nature Reserve

Most Capetonians know about Koeberg  nuclear power plant on the west coast. Few know about the wonderful nature reserve that the plant hosts.

The Koeberg Nature Reserve caters well for cyclists and hikers. I decided to try out the approximately 25km mountain bike trail. I set out on an early Saturday morning in January striving to photograph the various game in the reserve as well as take a break at Gordon’s bird hide.

Before you reach the car park you stand a good chance of being greeted by some Springbok. These animals seem well accustomed to visitors and will casually wander past you.

Springbok 1Springbok 2

A dazzle of zebra’s were introduced to the nature reserve quite recently. Some move close to the cyclists without alarm, but the greater group remain on an open field until they become familiar with their new surroundings.

Zebra

I was hoping to see some of the bigger Eland and Gemsbok along the trail, but only realised half way through how large the reserve really is. I saw a lot of tell-tale signs like droppings and hoof prints, but did not manage to spot the antelope in the open west coast fynbos.

There were a handful of raptors flying around hunting for rodents or smaller birds. I managed to take a pic of what I believe to be a Steppe Buzzard.

Steppe Buzzard

After cycling through most of the reserve, I managed to reach Gordon’s bird hide. It is well positioned on a bank, towering over a small dam. Many eagles and herons pass through the wetland section of the park searching for a meal. I managed to witness a majestic African Fish Eagle soar through, but I was unable to take a picture of it. This was the first time I saw one in the greater Cape Town area.

Bird HideBird Hide 2

While setting up my camera in the hide, I saw a large herd of Eland approaching the water from the opposite bank. There could easily have been 30-40 Eland. I watched as one of the Eland moved closer to the water. It cautiously moved down a strip of soft white sand. The sand gave in beneath it, but the antelope managed to find its footing and it did not topple over. I watched as the group grazed and moved leisurely through the fynbos. Some moved lower down to drink while others were just ambling around.

I managed to get a picture of these Eland with a rather startled gaze. It may have been some of the cyclists passing through that caused alarm. They scanned the area and simply resumed their grazing.

Eland

I also caught a quick glimpse of a tortoise on the side of the road before I headed off back home.

Tortoise