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 6 – Tuesday
After two days of very little birding, today was to be a serious birding day again and Verlorenkloof and the surrounds certainly delivered!
Koos had met a farmer on the opposite side of the valley, on one of his excursions, and had been invited by him to explore the trail that runs through the undeveloped part of his farm, up and along the foothills of the mountainside on the opposite side of the valley to the Verlorenkloof estate.
Up after 5 am, we set off soon after 6 am, heading slowly through the estate to the river, then on to the gravel “back road”.
On the way the birding was very productive, as it often is in the early morning, and combined with the birds I had recorded at the croft while enjoying coffee and rusks, I had already built up a list of 42 birds by the time we got to the gate a couple of kms further, still only 7.15 am. Most were the regular Verlorenkloof species but I was pleased to add Giant Kingfisher, Greater Double-collared Sunbird and Rufous-naped Lark which are not always guaranteed to be seen.
Koos stopped at the gate and we proceeded on foot along the track, that initially disappeared among the trees then emerged at the bottom of the first long slope.
The landscape around us had an other-worldly feel to it – hundreds of tall aloes standing like alien creatures on the lightly grassed slopes, with bare patches and rocks in the open spaces between clumps of trees and bushes.
We took it slow – not just because of the mild climb but to make sure we would pick up any bird movement. It paid off immediately as I spotted a Golden-breasted Bunting and the first of many White-fronted Bee-eaters.
Puffback and Black Cuckoo called in their distinctive fashion and there were plenty of aerial birds – swallows and swifts – to keep us looking up every now and then. Barn Swallows tend to swoop lower down but others such as Palm Swift are generally higher up while the only Black Saw-wing weaved its way at a low height between the trees.
Southern Bald Ibis is one of the specials of this area and we saw a pair flying by on their way to their favourite field no doubt.
At the top of the slope the track headed parallel to the road some way below us and the habitat became more bushy with birds to suit- Cape Batis, Long-billed Crombec, Bar-throated Apalis and Green-backed Camaroptera.
By now we had been walking for about two hours and with no sign of the track heading back down to the road we turned around and retraced our steps back to where the car was parked.
Not yet done for the morning, we drove further along the gravel “back road” to a dam where we had found the White-faced Ducks a couple of days before – they were not there but Little grebe, Black-headed Heron, Red Bishop and Levaillant’s Cisticola made up for their lack.
The rest of the day was spent in recovery mode (two and a half hour’s walking tends to require that at our age) which gave me a chance to catch up on my journal and blogging.
It started raining around midday, providing some welcome relief from the hot conditions and having a visible effect on the two waterfalls that drop from the escarpment, one of which feeds the stream near croft no 2.
A late afternoon drive to the lodge produced a juvenile African Fish-Eagle and a Common (steppe) Buzzard to round off an excellent day’s birding. I was amazed to find that I had recorded 83 species during the day, having started a new atlasing list that morning (atlasing requires that a new list is started after 5 days)
Day 7 – Wednesday
Time to return home to Pretoria, but not before having a good brekkie at the lodge (thanks Koos and Rianda), then driving slowly along the gravel roads back to the newly completed R36 tar road which connects Verlorenkloof’s access road with the N4 national road. Well done to the authorities for rebuilding this road which for years was in poor shape and suffering continuous damage from the many coal-haulage trucks that use the route.
The final stats for the week : 128 species recorded on two atlasing cards.