Photodestination brings you interesting and informative birding articles and news on some of the top birding areas and top birding photographic locations from South Africa and beyond. Articles are provided from some of the top wildlife and conservation photographers and birders from South Africa.
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The small town of Stanford has become well-known in recent years through its annual birding fair.
Located between Kleinbaai and Hermanus, famous for Great White Shark cage diving and the annual “Whale Festival” respectively, Stanford is a prime Southern Cape birding destination.
Larks and pipits are, as I am sure they are to many a birder, my weak point and I had decided to brush up on these extremely confusing species by making a trip to the montane grassveld of the Mountain Zebra National Park. This area not only harbors a number of the more obvious drab species but is also striking in its scenic beauty with its typical karoo flat-topped hills and open vistas.
Sitting in the cool darkness, I let my senses absorb all that was happening around me, with my hearing being the most acute. It was hard work trying to discern the individual calls of birds amongst what had to be one of the best dawn choruses that I had ever heard. In the distance the roar of the sea was carried across by a slight and fresh breeze after a night of soft rain. Fiery-Necked Nightjars, Spotted Thick-Knee and Spotted Eagle-Owl were perhaps the most expected birds to be calling in the darkness but these were soon drowned out as other birds started awakening. Cape Robin-Chat, Southern Boubou, Karoo Prinia and Bar-Throated Apalis all called from the scrubveld behind me while from the waters edge Black-Winged Stilt and Pied Avocet gave intermittent high-pitched peeps and the gull and tern colony set up a tremendous squawking as they welcomed in the new dawn. Gradually as the eastern skies began to soften with pinks and purples the indistinguishable large whitish blobs moving around in the shallows took better form, transforming into hundreds of Greater and Lesser Flamingos. WOW! Was the thought that went through my mind as I realized how privileged I was to be sitting in the Seeberg Hide on the Langebaan Lagoon within the West Coast National Park.
The scene was not unlike rush hour traffic at a city intersection, where the traffic lights had failed during one of the countries load shedding exercises and the mood of some of the cars passengers was undoubtedly similar as they jostled and inched backwards and forwards to gain a view of the King of all Beasts - the majestic lion and his lioness as they tried to get amorous with one another. I had inadvertently got caught up in this “traffic jam” on the Gorah Loop during an afternoon drive in the Addo Elephant National Park. The lions certainly were impressive and it was fantastic to see that they had totally settled into Addo after having been re-established in the reserve a number of years ago, but it was now time to move on and do some serious birding.
Thin wisps of pink and golden dawn touched cloud contrasted against the black silhouettes of the rugged Swartberg Mountain as I drove out of Oudtshoorn on a day of adventure birding. The trip would lead me through several habitats and two rugged mountain passes. Mist rose from reed-embanked streams as Black-Headed and Grey Heron roosted in gum trees, which had been relegated to skeletons after having been ring-barked during an alien clearing exercise. On telegraph poles, Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk and Jackal Buzzard huddled with ruffled feathers against the chill of the morning while Black and Pied Crows, together with White-Necked Raven, carried out dawn patrols along the roads in search of scrub-hare carcasses killed overnight. I was extremely fortunate to see a Porcupine as it scurried to cover after a night of foraging.
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