21 October 2011 – the Garden Route beckons…

Trevor had been asked to give a presentation at Wilderness National Park for the SANParks Birding Weekend, so we decided to take an extra day off and headed out early this morning. The 4 hour drive through there was pretty uneventful in terms of biodiversity, but upon reaching George, we decided to make a little detour and headed up the old Montagu Pass to see if we could find Blue-spotted Girdled Lizards which would not only be a new species for our challenge list, but actually a full lifer for us. Every time recently that we had been in this area, the weather had been terrible and absolutely useless for looking for reptiles, so we were quite excited to arrive in George and actually have a bit of sunshine for a change.

Once on the pass, it actually didn’t take very long at all to find our first animal, although it chose to not really pose all that well for us. Moving slightly further up the pass, we encountered a good number of them, some of which actually gave us half decent poses, so it was a great way to start the weekend – first target in the bag! The only other reptile we encountered in the area was a rather large Leopard Tortoise that went about its business totally ignoring us. Birding was pretty quiet, but there were good numbers of Cape Grassbirds and Victorin’s Warblers calling – however, in all honesty, we didn’t really put too much effort into trying to see any of them.

Blue-spotted Girdled Lizard

Leopard Tortoise

After having spent a couple of hours on the pass, we headed back down into George again to look for our next target, Knysna Dwarf Chameleon. We had been given some information that a certain church had a reasonable population of them in the grounds. After eventually finding the church, we strolled into their gardens and, after about 10 minutes or so, managed to locate a single chameleon. Second target done – another challenge tick and another lifer! Only problem was that, as we located it, the groundsman also came along and told us that he was locking up and we would have to leave immediately!! No amount of begging or pleading seemed to work, so we sulkingly walked out of the grounds with not a single photo of the animal. But we weren’t going to give up so easily – we walked around the outside boundary of the grounds and managed to spot the chameleon from the pavement. Back to the car to fetch the cameras and then trying to find a decent angle through the fence to get shots of the animal where it wasn’t totally obscured by foliage. It must have looked very weird for anyone driving past who saw these two people standing on the pavement with camera lenses stuck between the uprights of the fence pointing into the church garden – we can only imagine some of the comments that must’ve been made…

Knysna Dwarf Chameleon

By this time, hunger pangs began to set it, so we headed off to have a late lunch. We then drove the final stretch through to Wilderness, stopping only at the Kaaimans River for a futile search for African Finfoot and Half-collared Kingfisher, 2 species we were hoping to add to our challenge list. It seems that the hustle and bustle of people in this area, as well as the recent floods, have all but chased these species off to greener pastures and we came away empty-handed. Finally arriving at Ebb ‘n Flow camp in the late afternoon, we met up with all the other attendees and booked into our accommodation. A late afternoon walk around the camp area didn’t yield anything too exciting – Southern Double-collared and Amethyst Sunbirds, Speckled Mousebird, Black-headed Oriole, Burchell’s Coucal, Bar-throated Apalis and Forest Canary amongst others, but it had gotten quite overcast and the light for photography was terrible. A couple of half-hearted attempts at photos before returning to the central meeting point to partake in the evening’s activities which included a slide show by Peter Ginn and then a wonderful meal and socializing afterwards.

Forest Canary


~ by hardakerwildlife on October 28, 2011.

2 Responses to “21 October 2011 – the Garden Route beckons…”

  1. Nice pics. How far was the chameleon from you and what lens did you shoot it with?


  2. Thanks Henco! It was probably about 15m away from us and we took the shots with a 70-200mm F2.8 lens @ 200mm and used the on board flash to light up the chameleon as well…

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