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 Post subject: Bush Baptist's brief Bontebok besoek. July '13
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 2:10 pm 
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Legendary Virtual Ranger
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OK, I couldn't think of anything in English meaning visit with a "B".

I am taking my wife and her business partner and his family to this gem of a park this weekend.
:hmz: If I had just said 'partner' you might have got foncused, but to me a partner is your business, tennis or bridge buddy, not the person who shares your life, albeit briefly or for a while.

I am hoping to add to my birdie list, and for my wife to relax, although me going along as well has its own stresses I am told. :roll:

So get ready for some pics and a bit of info.

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 Post subject: Re: BB's brief Bontebok besoek.
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2013 7:16 pm 
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It was a crisp but clear pre dawn morning when we set off in the fire engine (my wife, her business partner, his wife and their 12 year old son) heading east to the smallest National Park, Bontebok, near Swellendam.

This park was established in 1931 but relocated to the present site in 1960, in order to save the 17 known remaining bontebok from extinction. Since then land has been added piecemeal and the park has grown to 3435 hectares, and bontebok numbers have increased to nearly 200 in the park, which is about the carrying capacity, with hundreds more ‘exported’.

First stop was the Peregrine Farm Stall outside Grabouw, where the coffee and Springbok pie improved the already good mood.

All the birdies were out this morning, as we spotted many crows, shrikes, lbjs, blue cranes, jackal buzzards, rock kestrels, and black shouldered kites along the N2. After a quick stop in Swellendam to pick up some cooldrinks, we entered the park and even before we got to reception, we saw some ‘locals’.

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The ladies at reception were very friendly and handled our reservation efficiently while the rest of my party took some pics of the birds in the trees outside.


Image

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 Post subject: Re: BB's brief Bontebok besoek.
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:05 pm 
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Thanks for all the kind comments.



Soon we were off to the camp and unpacked into our lovely compact chalets with a view of the Breede River. No 8 ‘s view is better than no 9’s.The wagtails weavers and Cape robin chats came to see who had arrived, and then we decided to explore.

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We drove to the walking trail and walked about a kilometer along the river bank, before realizing that the viewing deck we were looking for was in the opposite direction. After finding it, and seeing a darter fishing, we decided to have a look at the new picnic site called “Die Stroom”. We went up the hill and passed what looked like a conference centre and made our way down to the river again.

What a lovely sight came into view. The picnic site had a large grassed area along the river bank. To the right were quite a few braais, but we took the left road to the main buildings, which turned out to be very well designed. At the back were the ablutions, with a scullery, and facing the river was a veranda that ran the length of the building with 4 bench/tables under shade. The view was absolutely lovely. There was just one problem. We hadn’t brought our lunch.


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My wfie's business partner took some pics also, and I will try to get some to show the accom and picnic site better.

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 Post subject: Re: BB's brief Bontebok besoek.
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 11, 2013 10:53 pm 
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Picnic site stoep & bench tables

Image

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 Post subject: Re: BB's brief Bontebok besoek.
Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 20, 2013 3:23 pm 
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Apologies for the delay, it was a hectic week.


My wife’s business partner has said he would like to see a fish eagle, and his wife a secretary bird. I had told them that they were on the park’s bird list, and with such a river, they were always a possibility. While we were admiring the view, we thought we heard the “Call of Africa”. I scanned the sky with my binos while those with good eyesight quickly found the 2 specs to the west. The white heads gave them away. As we watched and waited, the fish eagles soared towards us on the wind and eventually passed overhead. A wonderful Western Cape sight!

one

Image

two

Image

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 Post subject: Re: BB's brief Bontebok besoek.
Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 21, 2013 3:17 pm 
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Thanks everybody. It certainly was a thrill to have those unexpected visitors.

Back at the camp we ate lunch and decided to go for a drive around the eastern side of the park.

It did not take long before we started seeing a number of bontebok and Cape mountain zebra.

One or two red hartebeest joined in and we flushed a black harrier from along the roadside.

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When we returned to camp there was still enough time for a walk down to the lower campsite and up the hill where we had some lovely views of the river and the camp.

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As darkness closed in after a lovely sunset, the braai fire was lit. The westerly wind certainly bit as we entertained ourselves calling up nocturnal birds that never arrived, probably the calls got lost on the wind, while waiting for the offerings that were well worth waiting for.

Unfortunately our chalet, no 9 had a blind missing, and during the night I woke and spent a while contemplating life while looking up at the milky way through the window next to my bed. A magnificent sight without the light pollution of the city.

Some birds seen today.

Image


Image

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 Post subject: Re: BB's brief Bontebok besoek.
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 25, 2013 9:03 pm 
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Thanks again for all the kind comments. I hope that eyes are being opened and plans being made....

It was getting light when we awoke and showered and then the boy came to visit. He told me his father had just showered, so I took the tablet to outside his chalet door and played the fish eagle call. Dad raced outside, only to see me there instead of the birds. :twisted:

After breakfast, went for a walk on one of the trails from the camp. Even though the skies were quite leaden, we chose the aloe trail, 3.3 km circular route which wound its way up the hill through the aloes and over the top where more aloes and termite mounds were. Here there were a lot of sunbirds, mainly Southern double collared

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and the occasional malachite.

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Then we descended almost to river level through the riverine forest back to the lower camp site where we had seen a greater double collared sunbird

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with a pair of pintailed whydahs.

Image

Strange combination….

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 Post subject: Re: BB's brief Bontebok besoek.
Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2013 9:28 pm 
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Sorry for the dalay in replying and getting on with it, but we have had 2 burglaries in 2 weeks that have changed my focus.

While we were packing up my wife took a pic of a robin chat, which seemed to say ‘hurry up’ as it posed and she struggled with the focus.

We then took another drive on the eastern loop. The bontebok

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and zebra were still there,

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but closer this time, and we flushed two black harriers and a jackal buzzard.

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After handing in the keys at reception (where a cyclist was standing behind a Landy, and when the Landy started up, the poor old guy, who thought he was on a healthy ride, was engulfed in a cloud of blue exhaust smoke!) and trying to photograph the ever moving birds, we set off again for Die Stroom for lunch, as the weather cleared a bit. As we approached the ‘conference centre’ a shout went up. Secretary bird! There was a pair, to the left, but quite far away. The road turned left, and they flew across it to give us a great sighting.

Image

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 Post subject: Re: BB's brief Bontebok besoek.
Unread postPosted: Thu Aug 08, 2013 2:24 pm 
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Lang Elsie's Kraal GM, after a lady indigenous to the area.

The permanent caravans have given way to compact comfy chalets.

There are large tortoises, but we didn't see any this time.

From Wikipedia

"The Cape mountain zebra, Equus zebra zebra, is a subspecies of the mountain zebra, named for Cape Province of South Africa and found in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape areas. Its broad black stripes are closely spaced on a pure white body. The Cape mountain zebra formerly inhabited all the mountain ranges of the southern Cape Province of South Africa. By 1922, however, only 400 were believed to survive. To counteract the continued decline, Mountain Zebra National Park was established in 1937 on acacia veld near Cradock, South Africa, but its small population of Cape mountain zebra became extinct in 1950. That same year reintroductions from nearby remnant populations began.

Eleven animals were donated from a nearby farm in 1950, and in 1964 another small herd was added. By the late 1960s, the total Cape mountain population was only 140 but grew to 200 by 1979, with 75 percent of the animals in Mountain Zebra National Park. In 1984, the population was back to 400 head. Since then a few zebras have been reintroduced to the Cape Point Section of Table Mountain National Park."

There are also some AFAIR, in Karoo NP, and Cape parks like De Hoop.

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 Post subject: Re: BB's brief Bontebok besoek.
Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 9:18 pm 
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Thanks again everyone for the kind comments.

The impatient Cape Robin-chat

Image

Again Die Stroom was deserted when we arrived and we ate our lunch in isolation, until a family arrived and father and son launched a kayak and disappeared downstream in it while mother and daughter lay on the grass bank. Then another family took charge of one of the other bench tables and yet another came and walked down to the river. It was getting positively crowded!

I tried calling the fish eagles, but only succeeded in unsettling a pair of Egyptian geese that had been chased off their perch by a darter. But as we reached the car, we heard the faint but unmistakable call of the fish eagle. A look through the binos confirmed that the dots above the western horizon were indeed the fish eagles.

On the way out, we passed more bontebok and red harties, and on the rise found an orange breasted sunbird.

Image

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 Post subject: Re: BB's brief Bontebok besoek.
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 18, 2013 9:35 pm 
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THanks once again for all the comments. I hope we have been able to 'open up' this little Park a bit.

The drive home was into gloomy threatening clouds, but the rain never materialized. We saw more jackal buzzards, rock kestrels and blue cranes , as we shared the road with many who had been to the Knysna festival, but the flow was steady until we made it home after a lovely weekend.

'Bonus' pics to follow.

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