The past week has been anything but easy, both personally and in regards to being out taking photographs. Without getting too much into the personal knocks, my grandmother passed away last weekend, she was always extremely supportive of my love for photography and every week would edge me on, asking that I show her the latest results, she herself was interested in photography in the 60s and 70s and to my knowledge took part in it as a hobby as well. I will be looking into a way to tribute her through photography at some point in the future, but for now all I can say is that our family has lost a great personality and one of the reasons I am where I am. As if that weren’t enough, the day after her passing I woke up with a pain in my upper right abdomen and went to the doctor, to be diagnosed with cholesystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder) which left me bed ridden for most of the week, though through a course of two anti-biotics and another check-up I am apparently back up and running as normal.
The weather has also been quite terrible, at least for birding. There have been several strong cold fronts pushing through over the past couple of weeks that have brought some gale force winds, flooding, snow on the mountains and large swells. There were a couple of days of sunshine though when I went through to the Helderberg Nature Reserve, the Dick Dent Bird Sanctuary and Strand beach. Unfortunately because of the weather, the monthly Dick Dent get together was in all likeliness cancelled, after looking out the window I didn’t even bother to head down to see.
The weekend saw me heading to Dick Dent during a break in the clouds, I arrived to a couple of Cape Shovelers in a tiny little puddle on the lawn which was quite amusing, proceeding down the sanctuary I was very pleased to see that the Black-Crowned Night Herons which used to be present quite often, until the fire – were again back and joined by 3 African Darters. While heading to the main dam a Southern Pochard came flying in and landed on the far side of the sanctuary, there have been a few of them spotted here now over the past month or so. It was otherwise quiet and the trip was quite short, before I headed back towards the gate, on my way there I noticed some Red Bishops just starting to get their breeding plumage which was a good sign, I am yet to get a decent photograph of these colourful little guys so hopefully it won’t be long before they are all dressed up and parading around properly.
The Helderberg Nature Reserve was visited on Thursday, the weather was quite decent actually but there was a bit of a brisk breeze. The bird life was mostly quiet, a look at the pond revealed nothing and after waiting a while I decided to head back to the car, when on the way I noticed a Mystery Buzzard in the distance, I made haste and tried to get close to it, but as I arrived to where it was circling it ducked quickly into the middle of the forest where I wasn’t able to locate it again. It was a rather disappointing little visit but with the days now increasing in length by nearly 2 minutes a day, it won’t be long before summer is upon us and the conditions will be far more favourable.
Since the birding wasn’t going great I decided to make the most of the stormy weather and head down to Strand beach as the cold front approached, I arrived to an amazing view where the rain had not yet started to fall in Strand, but was clearly visible on the other side of the ocean towards Cape Town and the setting sun was reflecting a luminous blue tinge on some lenticular clouds, most surprising were the light tones of red at the bottom of the cloud which was unusual given the thick density of the clouds in front of the sun.
On Saturday I headed down to the beach again to see the seas which were forecast to be extremely rough with swells in excess of 9 meters off shore. I arrived a few hours after high tide but the ocean was still pretty rough and brown. I kept an eye out for any possibly interesting sea birds that may have come in with the storm but could only locate some of the common gulls. Before long I was headed off back home again, but on the way home I noticed on an open field a couple of moderate sized birds on the lawn and decided to stop and have a look, I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of Crowned Plovers along near the road on the field and quickly hopped out with my camera and took some photos. This common species is one that has eluded me and a lifer is always very welcome!
I am looking forward to the Somerset West Bird Club outing this coming Saturday where we will be heading to the Koeberg Nature Reserve, followed by Intaka Island, should we have time. The weather is looking good and I am hoping we can follow up last month’s outing with equal success.