This last weekend was a weekend I had been looking forward to for ages. Jean’s cousin Phil, and wife Michelle, were celebrating their combined 40th birthday party on the Nirvana houseboat in Kraalbaai in the West Coast National Park. It was very good of them to pick that spot for their 40th as the West Coast National Park is one of my favourite places in the world.
After saying goodbye to all our kids on Friday evening we battled heavy traffic to get to the park before they shut us out. We arrived just in time and our rush was rewarded by a gin and tonic as we watched the sun go down from the deck of the boat.
I have seldom enjoyed an evening as much as that Friday night with a braai on the deck of the boat and time spent with good mates. But, as much as I enjoyed the evening, nothing could compare to the spectacular awakening on Saturday morning. I heard some strange slapping noises outside our window and with the light starting to come through the curtain I decided it was time to get up. The “slapping” noises were being generated by hundreds of Cape Cormorants that were flying around the boat and settling on the water for some early morning fishing in the bay. The sight of these birds flying low over the water as the pink dawn rose in the east was a sight I will hopefully never forget. It was truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
After taking a few photos I was in my swimming costume and dived into the very fresh water for a memorable swim around the boat. With the early start and most of the others having a lie-in or going for a paddle, Jeanie and I jumped in the tender to the shore and after dropping Jeanie off for a run, I spent some time looking for a few frogs and reptiles under rocks and in the molehills. Coincidentally Dom Rollinson and Dave Winter had come through to the park for the morning and it was great to have some company for the short time I spent in the field. My 40 minutes spent alone looking for anything that moved was completely unsuccessful so the fact that we had two extra pairs of hands at least improved our chances.
The start was disappointing but we did manage to find a couple of geckos to start the list. The first gecko I found was a lifer for me – an Ocellated Thick-toed Gecko. In fact, it was a lifer for all of us. Such a wonderful friendly looking creature. Unfortunately this particular one was missing his tail so you will note the cunning way the photos were taken to ensure that this was not evident. I also managed to get a nice sequence of its effective method of cleaning its eyes.
The second gecko was the common Striped Dwarf Leaf-toed Gecko and after taking a few pics we moved away from the rocks and started working our way through the molehills.
A week before we had found a few burrowing skinks and I had made an error with my ID, so this time we were careful to make sure we separated between Gronovi’s and Silvery Dwarf Burrowing Skinks. Aside from the different colouring Dom told us that the hind leg in Silvery has two toes as opposed to the single toe of Gronovi’s. With the dwarf burrowing skinks it is almost impossible to see the hind leg, never mind the toes, so Dom had Dave and I peering at the second invisible toe to convince us that our first one was a Silvery. The only way I can now confirm this is by looking at the photos I took. In the end we easily found both species and we were at least able to compare their markings and colourings and separate them in that way.
The animal I was most keen to find was a Namaqua Rain Frog. I had searched for this frog on a few previous occasions but with very little success. When Dom eventually found one in one of the molehills I suddenly realised why we had found it so hard. They are really, really tiny. It is quite possible that we had turned a few over in the molehills without even realising it. Thankfully Dom’s eyes were sharp and this one did not get away. A very cool little animal.
With me having been away for too long I quickly left and rushed back towards the boat. I was making good time when I nearly drove over a nice big Puffadder lying in the road.
I screeched to a halt and called Dave and Dom to join me to have a look. When they arrived we slowly got out of the car to get a little closer. Unfortunately it decided it was time to head for the safety of the fynbos and within seconds it had disappeared. Ordinarily one would leave it at that. Especially with one of the most venomous snakes in the country. But, no, we had to see where it had gone. All three of us were standing at the edge of the bush with Dom stepping carefully trying to see if he could still see it sliding away. The next thing I know Dave is shouting frantically at Dom to step back. We all jumped back and looked at where Dom was about to put his foot.
No surprise to see a few lumpy Puffadder coils lying, as camouflaged as you can imagine, in amongst the fynbos. I reckon Dom came as close as you get to needing a very fast lift to the nearest emergency room. I suspect it took a while for his heart rate to return to normal. The most remarkable thing about the puffadder we were now looking at turned out to be two puffadders as one slinked slowly away revealing another fat set of coils. Not exactly the most comforting sight to have three very venomous puffadders within 6 or 7 square metres of one another.
The trip to the park, however, was far shorter than we would have liked. Jeanie needed to get back to Cape Town for another function so we were soon back in Cape Town having left paradise behind.
Mind you, the good thing about getting back to Cape Town was that we were positioned in front of the television set at 5pm to watch VeePee clinch the Currie Cup title in the most remarkable fashion. What a way to end the day.
With Jeanie away on Sunday morning I took the three boys for a quick stroll on Table Mountain to see what we could find. We targeted our search on Tafelberg Road after battling through the most horrendous traffic at the roadworks near the Cable Car but it was worth it as we returned with a few pics of some pretty nice looking creatures. From a frog perspective we had Cape River Frog and a very young Clicking Stream Frog whilst the reptiles were well represented by a Southern Rock Agama, Black Girdled Lizard and Cape Crag Lizard. The latter was a lifer for me and although I managed a few decent shots of a young one the adult was so hard to snap as it disappeared underneath a crack every time we got close.
So, yet another busy weekend with a few more new animals. It certainly cannot continue at this rate but I am enjoying it while it lasts.