West Coast adventure

I had been looking forward to another trip to West Coast National Park for quite some time now. It was decided that the sunny Saturday after the recent rains would be a great day to visit the park.

A friend and I headed out early the morning in order to catch the sunrise from within the park. This was probably one of the best decisions for the day. I was certain that the stormy weather would clear and produce an epic sunrise.

West Coast Sunrise 1

I still had not covered the entire park and that was the mission for the day. We drove up to Seeberg which boasts the best panorama’s of the park. It overlooks the entire Langebaan Lagoon, which is a RAMSAR site.

Seeberg PanoramaSeeberg 1On the way leading up to Seeberg, we had a quick glimpse of a Steenbok running off into the bushes. As it took off I heard a bird making a terrible noise. It turned out to be a Southern Black Korhaan. I was thrilled as I had not seen one before. I couldn’t believe how noisy they were. It eventually took off and then I spotted another one which took off too.

Southern Black Korhaan

As sunny weather was forecasted, I was sure that most of the animals and birds would be catching some sun after the rains disappeared. I spotted a little Rock Kestrel perched on one of the stop streets signs. It was all puffed up, trying to warm up in the early morning sun.

Rock Kestrel

There were many little birds perched on top of the bushes. I spotted a Bokmakierie with its distinctive call. I watched it for a little while and saw that it was making some weird movements. The next moment it coughed up something most disgusting.

I'm sick of this

We made our way back down to Geelbek bird hides overlooking the lagoon. I had timed the tides incorrectly and we ended up viewing the lagoon at low tide. I was hoping to get to see some great wading species, but the water was too far back. We ended up seeing some Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Pied Avocet and Kittlitz’s Plovers.

The salt marshes surrounding the hides were full of water and we watched some Red Billed Teals continuously fighting each other. The pans were very colourful and watching the birds interact around the water sources was great fun.

Wetland observerCape Weaver with grassKaroo Prinia with nesting materialCape BuntingWhite Backed MousebirdsAfter lunch we decided to drive up to the Postberg section. As we left our picnic at Geelbek, we noticed a lot of activity in one of the trees. There was a spectacular male Malachite Sunbird feeding on the flowers. It was spectacular to see the full metallic plumage of this little bird.Malachite Sunbird

Along the way to the Postberg section we saw a lot of game activity. We managed to see some Angulate Tortoises, Eland, Bontebok, Kudu and many Steenbok pairs. The Steenbok seemed rather calm and were feeding in the open quite close to our car. One of the males had a deformed horn. It did not look comfortable at all!

KuduSteenbok MaleSteenbok Female

Unfortunately the flower season had not started yet so we could not enter the Postberg section. I really would like to make a turn there in spring.

On our way back down and out of the park we stopped over at Abrahamskraal. It had become super cold so we didn’t stay long. We managed to see a Marsh Harrier fly over the wetland. On our way out we saw the sun starting to set. A female ostrich graced us with her presence and walked directly between us and the sunset. We caught a great glimpse of the ostrich bathed in warm golden sunlight.

Ostrich in golden light

All in all it was a real adventure spending the whole day in the park. We counted 32 bird and 5 mammal/reptile sightings.

Reflections

A windless day in Cape Town provides the most amazing sights around water sources. I experienced such a day at Rietvlei Nature Reserve in Cape Town.

I headed out early morning as usual and found myself sitting in the Sunset Hide. There was not a breathe of wind on the water. It was as if the water had become a large mirror.

Soon after sunrise I saw a pair of Black Winged Stilts fly in and feed in the shallow waters in front of the hide. I could not help but take reflection shots of these birds feeding.

Black Winged Stilt-2Black Winged Stilt-3Black Winged Stilt-4

One of the birds must have been very vain as it kept looking at itself in water. Either admiring itself or wondering who this intruder was wading in its feeding area.

Black Winged Stilt-1

These tiny Black Winged Stilts managed to scoop up quite a bit of food before they took off again. There was a hive of activity from the various bird species due to the still waters. I guess it must have been very easy for them to spot food in those pristine conditions.

Piercing Eyes

Spending time in nature must be one of the most relaxing experiences, but at 2 Degrees Celsius that experience is not all that relaxing.

I was up and about early on Sunday morning and decided to head out to Rietvlei Nature Reserve in Cape Town before sunrise. I didn’t realise how cold it would be and had I known, I might have just stayed in bed.

When I arrived at the reserve the sun was just starting to make its presence known. I made the long walk towards the viewing hides. On route I watched as the sun was going to rise over the distant mountains. What a magical sight it was.

20160703_075837It was extremely cold outside and I could already feel my fingers starting to burn from the cold. I was walking on the wooden walkway and it felt like I was ice skating rather than walking. When I looked down I saw that the walkway was covered in frost. It was very entertaining making my way to the hide.

Unfortunately there was very little action on the water as the birds must’ve been sleeping in late too. I did manage to get a fantastic view of a sunlit Table Mountain across a very smooth Rietvlei dam.

Rietvlei Mountain-2

It was too cold inside the hide so I decided to rather venture out into the field and hopefully find some raptors. I saw the resident Black Shouldered Kite perched in the distance, but it was too far away for any decent shots. I walked around for a while and still not too much activity.

Once the sun had warmed things up a little, the birds started venturing out. All of a sudden I noticed the Black Shouldered Kite flew in and perched very nearby. I took a closer walk and tried to get as close as possible without chasing it off.

Black Shouldered Kite-1Black Shouldered Kite-2Black Shouldered Kite-3This bird of prey is not the biggest of the lot, but what I find most incredible is their piercing red eyes. It is quite an eerie feeling looking at them straight in the eyes. It’s almost as if they are looking right through you.

I spent a couple of minutes with this beautiful raptor and I knew it would take off soon. I lined up the shot and watched it depart.

Black Shouldered Kite-4Black Shouldered Kite-5