Verlorenkloof is our favourite destination for a get away from it all week in October each year, usually green from early summer rains and buzzing with bird life across all of the various habitats, from the river along the one boundary through wetlands and open grasslands to the forested kloofs of the surrounding mountains.
It’s all about relaxation while enjoying the beauty and superb birding of this secluded valley – so join us as we explore the estate and the surrounds, ever on the lookout for the special birds of the area.
Day 3 – Saturday
Today was far more productive in terms of birding effort and we made up for yesterdays fairly relaxed day with some quality birding / atlasing while remaining within the boundaries of the pentad that includes Verlorenkloof resort. The pentad number is 2525_3015.
I was awake just after sunrise and decided to make the most of the perfect weather conditions with a walk along the foothills of the mountain that overlooks croft 2, following the mountain bike trail.
As I left the croft I spotted an Olive Bushshrike in the trees nearby and spent a while stalking it and “spishing” (that strange habit that birders have of making a sound akin to a bird’s alarm calls in the hope that the bird being sought will pop out of the bush to investigate). It seemed to work as the bush-shrike, usually very shy, did appear for a few seconds at a time, just long enough to rattle off a few photos and hope for the best.
As I headed up the lower slopes of the mountain, mist descended rapidly and visibility reduced, but I could still make out several Rufous-naped Larks along the way, celebrating the new day with their familiar call.
There was not much else in the way of bird life, so I focused on the different small flowers that were in bloom, standing out like beacons in the short green grass and scattered rocks and boulders.
A Cape Longclaw flying off into the mist caught my eye and got me back into birding mode, followed by a Little Bee-eater hawking insects from a thin bush.
Back at the croft, I gathered my breath, had a quick breakfast and headed out with Koos for an extended drive mostly outside Verlorenkloof estate but within the pentad that surrounds it. Our route took us past the fishing dams, down to and across the bridge over the Crocodile river, where a White-throated Swallow was perched on a fence post.
Then we turned left onto the gravel road that runs east-west past several prosperous-looking farms which variously produce wheat, corn, lemons and livestock. The first stretch passes through natural habitat lined with trees and bush, always productive for those species which prefer this habitat, such as the Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird. The latter, a tiny bird, has the outsized voice and lungs that enable it to keep up a loud popping call for much of the day.
This habitat is also favoured by Weavers – Village, Southern Masked, and Spectacled Weavers were all present. Later a Cape Weaver made it 5 weavers for the day, having seen a Thick-billed weaver during my walk. Oh, and Koos later spotted a White-browed Sparrow Weaver on our way back later on, to make it 6!
We stopped at every farm dam but only one had any water birds of note, with a flotilla of White-faced Whistling Ducks and a Little Grebe.
At another stop next to wheat fields the Fan-tailed and White-winged Widowbirds contrasted with the pale brown of the wheat, soon to be harvested.
I was watching swallows and swifts overhead when I saw what for a moment looked like six planes in a tight formation – then I realised they were Blue Cranes at a considerable height, on their way to some distant field or wetland.
As we watched, they started flying in a wide circle several times, no doubt using the thermals to go up even higher and catch an air stream, then continued on their way – spectacular!
The road ends at a T and we turned right along a poorly maintained, bumpy gravel road which passes more farms and a rural school, then skirts an upmarket looking game farm and winds up the pass to the highest point in the area (where a paragliding launch spot is located). This is also the southernmost boundary of the pentad and where we turned around.
While having coffee at this spot I noticed an LBJ and immediately hoped it was the Wailing Cisticola which I had found at this exact location a couple of years ago. It was and I followed it in the hope of getting a photo. With some patience I was able to photograph it from a distance – my first photographic record of the species.
That was the sum total of the species until a small black and white jet plane shot past – actually an Alpine Swift which was followed by a few more, quite appropriate at this elevation and mountainous habitat.
We returned slowly past the old farmhouse on Verlorenkloof (which served as the estate reception in years past) adding a White-fronted Bee-eater on the wire to complete a very productive drive.
A late afternoon walk produced an African Reed Warbler at one of the dams and at dusk a Fiery-necked Nightjar called to close out the birding for the day – 43 species added taking my week total to 104.