Trip report: Exploring Stormsvlei to Protem

Besides the cold, and being only one coffee in, I was questioning of my decision to come this far to be birding in mist so thick I could barely see the road. The gravel road from Stormsvlei to Protem is one I had not explored before. There were three pentads I wanted to atlas. As is the nature of the gravel roads, I missed a turn to the third pentad. This turned out to be fortuitous as I ended up completing another productive, yet under reported, pentad instead.

Fortunately, the larks were calling from the fenceposts adjacent to the road or were scrounging for food in the road itself. Red-capped, Large-billed and Agulhas Long-billed Larks were abundant. African Pipits were also common in the fields. The mist lifted after about 40 minutes of birding.

An Agulhas Long-billed Lark calls from a fence post in the early morning mist.
Agulhas Long-billed Lark (Graeme Hatley)
Red-billed Queleas are common around Protem.
Red-billed Quelea (Graeme Hatley)
A female Yellow Canary absorbs some of the morning sun.
Female Yellow Canary (Graeme Hatley)
A White-throated Canary sits on a farmland fence.
White-throated Canary (Graeme Hatley)

For a number of kilometres the road follows a river course. Consequently, the habitat varies from farmland to Renosterveld-type scrub to small thickets. Birds are plentiful with Cape, Yellow and White-throated Canaries being common. More scrub-type vegetation has Bokmakierie, Cape Robin-chats and Karoo Scrub Robin. Farmlands are characterised by lots of Capped Wheatears. I imagine that scrutiny of the thicket may reveal some special birds, such as Fairy Flycatchers – which have been reported from the pentad.

Karoo Scrub Robins are common, but can be secretive amongst the scrub.
Karoo Scrub Robin (Graeme Hatley)
Capped Wheatears are common in the farmlands.
Capped Wheatear (Graeme Hatley)
Cape Longclaws are common, but usually secretive in the low-lying vegetation.
Cape Longclaw (Graeme Hatley)
Grey-winged Francolin move through the green grass.
Grey-winged Francolin (Graeme Hatley)

The area has had a lot of rain recently and temporary flooded areas are scattered throughout. Water birds including Cape Teal, Red-knobbed Coot and the occasional Kingfisher have moved in to take advantage of the pools. Kittlitz’s and Three-banded Plovers hunt in the shallows.

Three-banded Plovers explore the shallows of the recently flooded areas.
Three-banded Plover (Graeme Hatley)
A Malachite Kingfisher takes advantage of the frogs breeding in the recently flooded areas.
Malachite Kingfisher (Graeme Hatley)

Being cold and mid-winter, the raptors were limited in number. Both Jackal Buzzard and Rock Kestrel made an appearance during the morning. But I would imagine the summer migrants would provide good action.

I foresee this is an area that I will return to. I’m looking forward to a summer visit – despite the required very early start!

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