Garden Route Birds - Reflecting on my trip

The one thing I really battle with when it comes to birding, is the early mornings, especially when they are cold. This past Saturday was no different. I was up with the sun, a fresh 4 Degrees Celsius outside and on my way to spend the morning birding with the local birding club in Sedgefield.

Being new to the area I had no idea what to expect in terms of bird life. We met up at Reflections Eco-Reserve which is suited next to Rondevlei just off the N2 between Wilderness and Sedgefield.

Waiting to greet us from the top of a tree in the distance was a Goliath Heron. Not the usual place to spot one of these enormous birds, but nonetheless there he was with his head sticking up high above the treetops.

Moving along through the chalets we were immediately surrounded by birds. Although some are fairly common for the area, it was still amazing to hear and see. Cape Bulbul, Southern Boubou, Cape Weaver and the Greater Double-Collared Sunbird were a few of the locals we came across. Of course no birding experience is complete without the Hadeda Ibis. Although they are not often seen on the property, they do fly overhead quite frequently, announcing their flightplan like only a Hadeda can do.

Moving along to the waters edge we were treated to a beautiful view of hundreds of birds on the water. Among the usual suspects of Yellow-Billed Duck, Red-Knobbed Coots and Common Moorhen we were treated to a sighting of all three grebe species found in Southern Africa. Although I did not manage to get a photo of the Black-Necked Grebe, it was a lifer for me.

Photos: Little Grebe & Great Crested Grebe

As if waiting for us to arrive, the Greater Flamingos suddenly took off flight across the lake in front of us. This gave us the opportunity to go spy on the youngsters in the flamingo nursery. Although not as colourful as their parents, they are still magnificent with their long legs and necks. An absolute privilege to experience.

Greater Flamingos in flight

Juvenile Flamingos

While spying on the flamingos through our binoculars, it was amazing how many other birds were in the water and surroundings that we could so easily have missed. Two Herons, one Purple Heron and one Grey Heron, were hiding in the reeds in search of their next meals. Standing so still that if you didn’t study the area, they could easily be overlooked.

One of the highlights of the day for us was a huge flock of Cape Cormorant, another lifer for me, that flew over our heads and landed in the lake. The sound that you experience from these birds flying in at crazy speeds ( up to 75km/h) is indescribable.

Having absorbed as much as we could from the water and shore birds, we headed back through the chalets for a walk on the property searching for the Knysna Woodpecker, which we could hear. As with most Woodpeckers, easy to hear, not so easy to see. Not to be discouraged, off we went again. This time we added Cape Batis, Pin-Tailed Whydah, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Fork-Tailed Drongo, Amethyst Sunbird, Africa Hoopoe and a very special sighting of a Cardinal Woodpecker pair to our list.

Cardinal Woodpecker

Ending our morning with a coffee on the deck of one of the chalets we were entertained with a pair of Sombre Greenbuls displaying to each other. That brought our list of birds to 62 for the morning. Not bad at all.

Although the raptors had been scarce for the day, I was blessed on my drive back to my accommodation. Two Jackal Buzzards circling overhead about 2 km from Reflections Eco-Reserve. Three circling Fish Eagles at the picnic spot just off the N2 that overlooks the Swartvlei. And because like any birder my eyes are always on the look out for birds, as I approached my accommodation for the weekend at Teniqua Treetops, I got an awesome display of a Booted Eagle circling overhead and then suddenly diving down into the valley. I must mention that I had pulled my car over to the side of the road at this point. I was so excited I could hardly stop smiling. Luckily there was no one around to witness this strange lady smiling to herself at the side of the road.

I was sitting there feeling very privileged for the day I had spent and the birds I had seen, but that was not the end. No, to end my day there at the top of a pine tree was the Forest Buzzard, surveying the land and posing for some photos.

Forest Buzzard

And so ended my day of birding in the Garden Route.

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