Trip report: Stanford and surrounds

This report was provided by Jill Wheater.

The day dawned clear and surprisingly warm as we met at Eastcliff Spar carpark on our way to Stanford to meet Graeme, for an exciting day of birding. This is literally Graeme’s “birding stomping ground”, and it was a privilege to discover some of the lesser-known trails in Stanford. We were excited to see a Giant Kingfisher on the way into Stanford perching precariously on the telephone wires.

The hide in the middle of Stanford was our first stop and the ten of us squeezed inside to view the dam. An array of water birds including Yellow-billed Ducks, Red-knobbed Coots, two very hidden White-backed Ducks and colourful African Swamphens were seen. We pottered along through the reeds and onto the road leading to the cemetery identifying plenty of LBJ’s.

Around the edge of the cemetery is a well-laid out meandering path providing magnificent views of the local farms and dramatic mountains. An African Hoopoe, several Southern Double-collared Sunbirds and Karoo Prinias were seen in the Melkboschkraal nature reserve, while the farmlands were dominated by Little Egrets and Spur-winged Geese. The walk alongside the river produced a number of interesting birds including plenty of Cape Weavers, Southern Grey-headed Sparrows, Common Waxbills, Fork-tailed Drongos, a Little Rush Warbler, and a Bar-throated Apalis. As we returned to our cars there was great consternation in the bush with thrushes, weavers, and bulbuls darting everywhere and calling frantically – we guessed there was an unwelcome visitor in the shape of a snake creating the panic – but it was fascinating to watch.

Nature was in abundance with beautiful flowers, an array of mushrooms and some interesting mating borer beetles! Definitely time for coffee and onto the Papiesvlei road.

Using Graeme’s local knowledge, we stopped at several interesting dams and drove through the Sugarbird nature reserve. The scenery was spectacular as was the abundance of proteas attracting the Orange-breasted Sunbird and of course the ubiquitous Cape Sugarbird. Several Jackal Buzzards had been spotted during the course of the morning plus a Peregrine Falcon, Black Sparrowhawk, African Goshawk and a Rock Kestrel.

We were treated to White-faced Ducks whistling across a large dam, a Little Grebe and graceful Black-headed Herons joining company with some very interesting donkeys! A Bokmakierie was identified in the trees and a Burchell’s Coucal with its distinctive call alerted us to its presence. The views from the reserve were spectacular; the farmland was full of sheep and new-born lambs and the Autumn colours conveyed a grateful sense of the changing seasons.

As always, many thanks to Johan for the organization and to Graeme for his local knowledge and patience with the novice birders. A total of 78 species identified – wow!

The best way to learn – in the company of fellow birders – thank you everyone for the camaraderie.

List of birds recorded from the outing.

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