Spring Flowers Trip 2022 – Tietiesbaai : Bay of Plenty….. Birds

The Background

With wonderful memories of our Spring Flowers trip through parts of the Western Cape in September 2021 still fresh in our minds, we decided to do a similar, but different, trip in September 2022. Our planned route was to take us to Tulbagh for one night, then three nights each in Clanwilliam and Paternoster. To round off the trip we treated ourselves to a three-night stay in Cape Town’s Vineyard Hotel, in celebration of our birthdays which “book-ended” the trip,

Not just Flowers

My previous post described the rugged beauty of Tietiesbaai, particularly during the ‘flower season’ when rafts of colourful flowers add to the already spectacular views of sea and rocky shorelines.

What we found during our previous visit, and again this September, is that Tietiesbaai can also lay claim to being a birding spot that is the equal of some of the better known and more recognised birding destinations in this part of the country

From the moment we entered the main gate into the reserve the birding was interesting and took our attention away from the flowers many times.

A Familiar Raptor

We came across several raptors during this trip, none more so than the Rock Kestrel, which we encountered many times. Before reaching the reserve proper, we found one on a utility pole, surveying the landscape, probably hoping to find a field mouse or small lizard to swoop down on. Raptors generally get edgy when you slow down and stop and will often fly off, only to settle on the pole a bit further away. This one was no exception, so I made sure my camera was ready before stopping, leapt out and tracked the kestrel with my camera as it took off – fortunately capturing an image in flight, albeit from behind.

Rock Kestrel, Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

Birds among the Fynbos and the Flowers

Once we were through the gate there was abundant bird life with the typical birds of the fynbos prominent – Grey-backed Cisticola, Yellow Canary, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Karoo Prinia and Cape Bunting.

Yellow Canary Crithagra flaviventris Geelkanarie, (male race flaviventris) Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Karoo Scrub Robin Erythropygia coryphaeus Slangverklikker (race cinerea), Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

Even more prominent were the Karoo Larks (SA Endemic) which we came across a few times, some of which were foraging on the ground, while others were calling and displaying avidly, no doubt hoping to attract the ‘right sort’ as it were

Karoo Lark Calendulauda albescens Karoolewerik (race albescens), Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Karoo Lark Calendulauda albescens Karoolewerik (race albescens), Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Karoo Lark calling and displaying

A particular thrill was finding a covey of Grey-winged Francolins among the flowers – always difficult to photograph as they tend to dash off into the bushes as you approach, so I was happy to be able to snatch a few images before they disappeared

Grey-winged Francolin Scleroptila africana Bergpatrys, Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

Birds among the Rocks

Our stop for tea was in the same spot as a year ago – along a short, narrow, bumpy track between the rocks near the “Sea Shacks” (basic accommodation for visitors).

Nearby many Cape Cormorants were resting on the rocks and as we drove along the track we came across Ruddy Turnstones – no less than 30 of them according to my quick count! Now, Turnstones are fairly common summer migrants to our country from the arctic tundra region, but seldom have I seen more than a couple at a time, so this was a sight to behold!

Even from a few metres they can be surprisingly hard to spot as the next photo illustrates – their colouration blends in with the rocks, stones and kelp littering the shoreline

Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres Steenloper, Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres Steenloper, Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

Another summer migrant to SA – from the Palearctic region – Curlew Sandpipers, were also around in numbers but nowhere near those of the Turnstones – the two species seemed happy to share each other’s space

Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea Krombekstrandloper, Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Ruddy Turnstone and Curlew Sandpiper, Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

A (Turn) stone’s throw away was a single White-fronted Plover, a common coastal resident most often seen on open beaches – if you can spot them – they are masters of “hiding in full sight”

White-fronted Plover Charadrius marginatus Vaalstrandkiewiet (race marginatus), Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

Protective Plover Parents

And then the highlight of our day ……

Heading back to the main track after enjoying our tea among the rocks, we spotted a pair of Kittlitz’s Plovers – looking rather anxious it seemed to us. The reason was obvious when we saw two juveniles in the short grass nearby – looking oh so cute – two balls of fluff with long legs and huge feet

Kittlitz’s Plover Charadrius pecuarius Geelborsstrandkiewiet, Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Kittlitz’s Plover juvenile, Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

As we spotted them, one of the chicks scurried across the shale to its parent and literally disappeared before our eyes. The following sequence of photos shows how it “buries” itself in the belly feathers of the parent until just the legs are left dangling out

Meanwhile the second chick, much braver, walked about in the track, then rather hesitantly across the rocks, before heading to the adult as well.

Kittlitz’s Plover, (Very young juvenile) Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

We had gradually edged the car past this scene to avoid disturbing them any further when the other adult set about trying to lead our “metal monster” away by doing its “mortally wounded act” right in front of our vehicle

Kittlitz’s Plover acting wounded to distract us

Eventually I was able to edge past this adult as well and we continued on our way

Discovering a Nest

Further along I spotted a small bird in the distance flying towards a shrub with yellow flowers, then promptly disappearing from view – into the middle of the shrub it seemed. I watched carefully as we got closer to see where it had got to, only to see it emerge from the shrub and fly off low and rapidly.

It was all too quick to ID the bird which was small and brownish, but my curiosity got the better of me and I stopped alongside the shrub, got out and walked around the car to have a closer look as I had a hunch there was a reason for the bird’s behaviour.

Sure enough, when I carefully parted the branches a nest with three eggs was revealed and I set about finding the parent’s ID by going through some of the possible suspects on my Roberts app. My second guess was correct – Cape Bunting

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Bunting nest, Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

So, our flower-viewing day at Tietiesbaai had turned into a birding bonanza as well, much to our delight!

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