Five keen birders, one from Pretoria, departed early morning from Beaufort West towards Laingsburg to pick up two more very passionate bird photographers. We took the Sutherland road and turn off towards the Tanqua. Gazanias, Mesembryanthenums and Bulbinellas were seen along the road. A sub adult Martial Eagle was very co-operative and everybody could have a good look and could take very good photos of it. Black-headed Canary, Long-billed Pipit, Karoo Long-billed Lark, Greater Flamingos, Southern Pochards, Black-necked Grebe, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, SA Shell-duck, Large-billed, Karoo & Red-capped Larks, Trac-trac & Karoo Chat and Greater Kestrel and even a African wild cat were seen through the Tanqua. At sunset we were on top of Gannaga Pass where one can appreciate the vast scenery of the Tanqua. We stayed over at Gannaga Lodge and enjoy the hospitality and good food of the owner Johan Visagie. (www.gannaga.com)
The next day we left for Nieuwoudtville. Along the way we saw Black-eared Sparrow-larks and Karoo Eremomelas to photograph. At Calvinia we visited the Akkerendam nature reserve. Dorotheanthus maughanii (karoo snow), Colchicum volutare (muisstertpatrysblom) and Zaluzianskya cohabitans (drumsticks) were in full bloom. Birds seen were Sickle-winged Chat, Long-billed Pipit, Karoo Chat and Mountain Wheat-ear.
At Nieuwoudtville we visited the Glacier-site. The flowers were excellent. Crassula natans, Lachenalia elegans, Spiloxene serrata (goue sterretjie), Sparaxis variegate (Pypiefluweeltjie), Babiana vanzyliae (stinkbobbejaantjie), Corycium ingeanum & Hemimeris racemosa were in full bloom. After we visited Nieuwoudtville waterfall, we went to the Quiver tree forest. This is one of the most amazing places in the Bushmanland area. Thousands of Quiver trees appear there and one only stand in astonishment this wonder. We slept over at Swiss Villa and Kokerboom guesthouses.
We left the next morning for Garies. We saw some Ludwig Bustards and the Lebeckia halenbergensis (fluitjiesbos) were very lush and in full bloom. Cysticapnos vesicaria (klapklappie) and Mesems species were all over the place. We drove to the Groen River crossing, five kilometres out of town, and up to Garies’ “Letterklip”- hill overlooking the town. Birds seen were Southern Black Korhaan, Mountain Wheat-ear, Rock Kestrel, Karoo Thrush, Orange-river White-eye, Namaqua Warbler, Bokmakierie, Fairy Flycatcher, Fiscal Flycatcher, Karoo Prinia, Namaqua dove.
We left the next morning for the flower paradise of the Namaqualand, the Namaqua National Park, also known as Skilpad reserve. Carpets of Namaqua daisies were awaiting us. Asteraceae species like the Kamiesberg Beetle daisy (Gorteria diffusa sp. calendulacea) is endemic to this area. Families like Campanulaceae, Geraniaceae, Iradaceae, Mesembryanthemaceae and Scrophulariaceae were found here.
After we arrived and unpacked at Springbok, we drove on the road to Concordia where more carpets of Namaqua daisies and purple Mesembryanthemaceae awaiting us. We visited the Orbicule Hill on the outskirts of Concordia where the almost elusive Cinnamon-breasted Warbler surprised us with its presents. Some keen bird photographers ran back to the vehicle to fetch their cameras because they were not prepared for this sighting. That was a superb moment. Another sighting that was a first for most of us was that of the Dassie rat (Petromus typicus). The next morning we quickly visited Goegab nature reserve to enjoy the scenery and the carpets of flowers. What a spectacular place it is?! Again the Cinnamon-breasted Warbler was co-operative and the photographers could take good photos.
We left for Vanrhynsdorp and on arrival we went up the spectacular Gifberg Pass. Birds along the road were Grey-backed Sparrow-lark, African Pipit, Spike-heeled Lark, Large-billed Lark and Karoo Lark. On the top of the pass we saw Cape Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird, Black-throated Canary, Long-billed Pipit, Mountain Wheat-ear and heard Common Quail. Flowers been seen were Ornithogalum conicum (tjienkerientjee), Brachycarpaea juncea (bergriet), Protea nitida (waboom),Polygala myrtifolia (Septemberbos), Dorotheanthus (vygie). We all enjoy the beautiful scenery.
The next morning we drove via Nieuwoudtville, Calvinia, and Sutherland to Laingsburg to drop off two of our companions before we drove the last section to Beaufort West. On our way between Calvinia and Sutherland we saw Karoo Korhaan, Grey-winged Francolin, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Karoo Long-billed Lark, Black Stork, Afr Spoonbill, Pied Avocet and SA Shell-duck.
We end this short but sweet tour with 130 bird species and a bag full of photos. All of us have definitively enjoyed this tour and become good friends.