After a fair amount of time spent feeling pretty miserable yesterday and with the family still away I felt it was necessary to cleanse my soul with a few good hours of birding on solid land. I called Buks, a good friend of mine, late on Saturday evening and asked him if he felt like a few hours out in the field. Despite the late notice he was able to get the “pink ticket” from his wife and our plan was set to head out to Paarl for some birding. The weather prospects were extremely good and what better way to spend a Sunday morning under mid-winter clear skies than getting a few snaps of some good birds in a familiar setting.
The Paarl Rotary Drive which traverses the Paarl Mountain Reserve, starting in the south west next to the Taal Monument and heading north east on the northern slopes of Paarl Rock, is one of my favourite birding roads. The raptor watching is usually top-notch and there is always the possibility of some good endemic birds including the ever elusive Protea Seedeater (having failed several times to find this tricky bird I was not too hopeful).
I had also decided to do some atlassing in the Paarl pentad and with three good hours available there was an opportunity to focus on getting a decent list.
Our morning started in the best possible way before the sun even rose with a beautiful sighting of a stately Black Sparrowhawk at the start of the Rotary Drive. So often we see these birds winging their way across the skies but seldom do they sit and pose as this one did this morning. Despite the poor light I managed to get a few decent shots before it took to wing for its morning harassment of Paarl’s local dove population.
A stop at all the wooded gullies for the Protea Seedeater went unrewarded so we stopped at the picnic site about half way along rotary drive. The air was crisp and cool and the early morning light was filtering through some of the autumnal colours that had managed to cling on to the middle of winter. A walk through the gardens often produces large flocks of Streaky-headed Seedeaters but this morning we were surprised to find a large flock of Protea Seedeaters feeding in the large Protea stands in the higher elevations of the gardens. This was a surprise as I had never seen them in this part of the gardens before and certainly didn’t expect to find so many of them. I had only photographed these birds on one previous occasion and very poorly at that so it was a pleasure to get a little closer where I could finally take a snap that was worth posting. It did require a bit of manoeuvring until one finally sat obligingly on top of a Protea to add to the authenticity of the photo.
Soon afterwards we had an even larger flock of Streaky-heads moving through the proteas allowing for some nice comparisons and equally as much fun picking apart their fairly similar calls.
On our way down through the gardens we bumped into a pair of Striped Mice nibbling on some berries which gave us a few moments to take some nice pics.
After leaving Rotary Drive behind we paid a visit to the Paarl Sewerage Works and added a new suite of species to the list. Our first bird at the works was the Squacco Heron that has been there for a few weeks and the only reason for posting this photo would be for its rarity status.
A few other birds presented reasonably nicely for some pics and then it was time to wrap up and head for home.
We finished the pentad on 69 species which was not too bad for a mid-winter morning but what was most pleasing about the excursion was that it involved absolutely no nausea…