Trip report: van der Stel Pass

This report was provided by Johan van der Westhuizen.

It was a cold and cloudy day as twelve birders left the Onrus OK parking area en route to the van der Stel pass. After stops at Salandra and Botrivier to pick up two more birders the four-vehicle convoy travelled up the N2 turning onto the Villiersdorp road, the destination the Hawston View gravel road.  On the way several bird species were logged including Great White Pelicans seen on the Botrivier Lagoon.

Once on the gravel road several ground dwelling birds were immediately spotted including Capped Wheatear, African Pipit and Large-billed lark. A male Malachite Sunbird feeding amongst the Aloes gave the photographers ample opportunity to practice their skills. A large flock of Crowned Lapwing were seen on an open field while a few individuals were seeing off two passing Pied Crows. Arguably the highlight of the day came when one of the new members “spotted” a Spotted Eagle Owl in a grove of blue gum trees. The bird entertained the group for quite some time, flying from tree to tree before departing to find a quieter roosting spot. 

The first stop on the van der Stel pass failed to produce the resident Barn Owl that is often found roosting in a derelict old cottage. After several stops to try and call birds known to frequent particular habitats, the convoy turned around and headed in the direction of Botrivier. At the insistence of one of the ladies the group stopped at the Goedvertrouen farmhouse for a picnic. The group settled down next to a small pond to enjoy the much-anticipated meal. Streaky-headed Seedeaters, Cape White-eyes, Fork-tailed Drongos and Cape Bulbuls were active in the surrounding trees and a lone Common Moorhen paddled between the water lilies on the pond. 

Refreshed the group pushed on. The last section of the road produced several bird species with a male Amethyst Sunbird, which necessitated a handbrake stop by the leading vehicle, the highlight. With stops at Botrivier and Salandra to drop of the two birders, the convoy returned to Onrus. After the customary goodbye hugs the group dispersed.

Everyone agreed that it was a very pleasant outing with new friends made and old friendships rekindled. Despite the cold and cloudy start to the day, almost 60 bird species were identified with everyone looking forward to the next outing to Napier on the 27th of July. 

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