The Eastern Cape offers some interesting birding opportunities with many varied birding habitats and some endemic species we still needed to see, so we decided to travel to the Garden Route. We broke the long journey with a most enjoyable overnight stay in Smithfield. After an unexpectedly good dinner at Nick's Place B&B it was up early in search of a Grey-winged Francolin (pictured below) which we located on a farm road not far from town before breakfast.
The drive to East London and then Port Alfred was uneventful, along good roads and through beautiful scenery . High winds curtailed our birding plans to seek out the Black-winged Lapwing on the Port Alfred golf course but provided good opportunity to visit family. Then on to Kynsna and the possibility of some of the forest specials in the area.The next 2 days were spent with Tim Carr a local bird guide in Sedgefield.
Our first early morning search for Knysna Warbler proved fruitless so it was off to Mossel Bay to a change in habitat. We visited several farms in the Vleesbaai area with Fransmansvlei being a particularly nice birding spot providing two target species the Southern Tchagara and Augulhas Long-billed Lark and also great sightings of Cape Capper Lark and Large-billed Lark.
The afternoon took us into mountains behind Wilderness to fields near the small town of Hoekwil where we celebrated finding the Black-winged Lapwing with slices of the Hoekwil Cafe's famous cheese cake. This good birding day culminated in a sighting of a Knysna Woodpecker whilst dropping off Tim at his home at Reflections Eco Reserve on Swartvlei at Sedgefield.
Day two and another early start looking for the elusive Knysna Warbler yielded success after long searches in forest areas and the Half Collared Trail near Wilderness. The area also provided many wonderful sightings of the beautiful and brightly coloured Knysna Turaco and another good view of Knysna Woodpecker and Olive Woodpeckers. And so it was once again up the mountains into the fynbos habitat beyond the Simola Golf Course. After some severe bundu bashing in the thankfully thornless fynbos we were rewarded with a close up encounter with a very vocal Victorin's Warbler. A very special bird as it occupies number 800 on my species list.
On the the long journey home, Lois and I were rewarded with wonderful sightings of our South African National Bird the Blue Crane which provided a very fitting end to another most enjoyable and rewarding birding trip.
(Tim Carr can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. 071 683 4133)
Images by Charles Hardy