Rufousnaped Lark

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Week 36 - Port Elizabeth (Eastern Cape)

Cape Gull which are common on the coast

The beginning of September saw me travelling to Port Elizabeth (PE) in the Eastern Cape Province to represent my province in the masters squash tournament. With the games being spread out over 5 days and with excellent weather conditions it presented a perfect opportunity to do a bit of birding in my spare time. I do not know the birding spots around PE that well and spent my time birding around the grounds of the resort where I stayed, along the coast and at the Cape Recife Nature Reserve. I remember doing some good birding at Settlers Park many years ago, seeing a Peregrine Falcon nesting on a cliff face at the entrance and getting my first Knysna Lourie there but I did not get time to visit the park on this occasion.

The resort I stayed at was called The Willows and is situated on the sea about 15km from the main beachfront on the Skoenmakerskop road. They have chalets here and a camping area at very reasonable prices. Birding consisted of sea birds and coastal scrub birds.

The coast line is very rocky with very few patches of sand. At the resort I found Cape Gulls, Cape Cormorants, Pied and Giant Kingfishers, Caspian Tern, Cape Wagtails and Karoo Prinia in the scrub along the shoreline. Around the resort gardens I saw Common and Red-winged Starlings, Cape Canary, Common Fiscal and Fiscal Flycatcher, Brown-throated Martin, Cape Bulbul, Bokmakierie and Bar-throated Apalis amongst others.

Common Starling

Speckled Pigeon feeling the effects of an early spring season

Cape Wagtail gathering nesting material on the beach

Pied Kingfisher watching the rock pools for supper

Giant Kingfisher

Karoo Prinia in the coastal scrub

Caspian Tern caught in the act of diving for fish

For peaceful undisturbed birding I love to go to Cape Recife to sit at the tern roost near the lighthouse with camera ready and wait for the tide to push the terns in towards me. An old buddy taught me this trick and if you have a few hours to spend it is well worth doing. You can buy a permit for the reserve at the Pine Lodge reception which is just before the entrance to the reserve. The fees are minimal and the permit is valid for a couple of days. The tern roost often turns up specials like Sooty Tern or Bridled Tern and is a good place to see Roseate Terns. I was lucky (I think) to find a small flock of Damara Terns on the day of my visit.

Cape Recife Lighthouse

Sandwich Tern

Damara Terns coming in to roost

Roseate Tern (left) and Common Tern (right)

Roseate Tern

African Black Oystercatchers are common here and can be easily approached for a photo.

African Black Oystercatchers

Visitors to Cape Recife should be alert when birding here as there have been some incidents of theft in the past. The guard at the gate however assured me that patrols had been increased and incidents had not been reported for a while now.

As usual trips like this flash by in a wink and before I knew it I was back at my desk working as if it had all just been a dream.........

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