Recently Cathryn and I made the decision to postpone our desired trip up country to the KNP in order to focus on more Western Cape species, and with 1 May being a public holiday, I decided to put in for the Thursday and the Friday off work and to go away somewhere. I picked up my copy of the Southern African Birdfinder and looked for the closest location with the largest amount of species that we both still needed to see, and Grootvadersbosch seemed like a great place. Originally we were thinking of heading to Knysna, but given that Grootvadersbosch is a hell of a lot closer, and had much of the same species we’d be targeting. I found accommodation at the Honeywood Farm, located just a kilometer from the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve entrance and contacted the owner John, just a few days before our desired trip. He was a pleasure to deal with and the accommodation prices were excellent. Just a day before our trip, my car began to give problems and for a while it was looking as though we may not be able to make it, but after changing one of my tyres onto my mother’s car – I was able to borrow a car for the trip.
Our targets for the trip were: Denham Bustard, Crowned Eagle, Narina Trogon, Red-Winged Francolin, Cape Vulture and a couple others.
We set off in the early morning, at around 8am. We got onto the N2 and would be driving a fairly straight trip, through Caledon, Napier and Bredasdorp. Our first target was the Cape Vulture, which we would be finding at Potsberg, at De Hoop Nature Reserve. This was quite a bit of a detour, but something that I have been wanting to do for a while now.
The drive began pleasantly, as the sun heated up the cold morning air. We drove through the empty and vast spaces of farm land just outside the Caledon area, stopping occasionally along the side of the road, scanning the fields for anything interesting – and getting some photographs of the majestic landscapes that were offered (there’s something special about rolling hills). Our first stop gave Cathryn a couple of common lifers in the form of a Stone Chat and some Blue Cranes, followed by a lifer for both of us and one of our target birds, the Denham Bustard. Three of the birds walked in green fields just opposite the road. We stopped every few kilometers for Jackal Buzzards which plagued the road-side poles.
Then out of nowhere we had a beautiful Black Harrier dip in front of us, causing me to quickly pull over to the side of the road to try get some photographs of a bird that has always managed to elude my camera. Once again, the shots that I managed to get were terrible, but still a nice sighting – albeit quite common.
We made a short stop in Napier to get some photographs of their likely, completely over-photographed church. But we were soon back on our way through to De Hoop.
I never realized just how long the dirt road to De Hoop is… We must have travelled close to 60 kilometers or more on a gravel road (in a sedan), though we did stop along the way a few times… Nothing too exciting though, a few LBJs and Sparrows and such. We did come across a lot of Capped Wheatear, a species neither of us had seen yet.
We eventually arrived in Potsberg, the only ones there… We got out the car and began to look around. Some Speckled Mousebirds jumped from tree to tree, eating the Autumn berries. It wasn’t too long before we got visuals on the Cape Vultures circling up in the sky in the distance, too far for any photographs. We decided to have some lunch while there, and in the time of eating – the Vultures had started to move down. We first saw 3, then 10 then 14 and before long there were 20+ Cape Vultures on all sides of us, still generally quite high though, but close enough for some photographs now.
We then hit the dirt road again, but when leaving – we got some of the best views of the Vultures, as they flew in numbers, at a height that was quite conductive to photography. They were occasionally harrased a bit by Cape Crow, and a single Black Harrier. While stopped to try get some shots of the Vultures, we also saw a Hammerkop fly across the road in front of us.
It was then a whole lot of dirt road riding as we headed north towards Swellendam. Jackal Buzzards were the main sighting along the way, but a pair of Yellow Mongeese/Mongooses?! gave us a short but enjoyable sighting. After 30 or so kilometers we were back on tar, and God, how good it felt…
It was then the last stretch of road before we arrived at our destination… The rest of the drive was quite good, though not many birds. We arrived at the Honeywood Farm and met with John who showed us to the cottage. When we arrived there was a fire that had just been brought back under control a few hundred meters away, which while worrying, offered hope in that it could bring out the raptors. While unpacking the car, we had a flyby of what appeared to be a Falcon or Kestrel – too high for a positive ID, but the wings were sharp.
We settled in quickly and were both amazed at what a beautiful, but yet rustic appeal the cottage had. The views were wonderful, and we had both horses and sheep mere meters from our bedroom.
A cat by the name of Bono joined us, he would spend much of his days along with us at the cottage…
I took a short drive around the farm later in the day and came across two beautiful Forest Buzzards too, which I was pleased about.
This is part 1 of a 4 part blog post. The other posts can be accessed here: