04 February 2012 – a spontaneous visit to Citrusdal
A very late decision and we decided to book ourselves into the Wolfkop Nature Reserve near Citrusdal for Saturday evening. An early start on Saturday morning and our first stop was just now the small village of Philadelphia. Here we quickly found a number of common species including Yellow-billed Kite, Little Swift, White-throated and Greater Striped Swallows, Southern Red Bishops, several species of warbler and White-throated Canaries amongst others.
However, the biggest surprise was finding a female Brown-hooded Kingfisher. This is a little out of range and certainly the closest that we have ever seen this species to Cape Town. Fortunately, it even posed for a few photos, so that we had some proof of the record…:)
We then headed out into the farmlands towards Malmesbury where we enjoyed several species of larks and pipits, Capped Wheatears by the dozens and several small groups of Blue Cranes, some of which didn’t mind modeling for our cameras.
By now, it was already getting very hot, so we hit the road again enjoying the air-conditioning in the car as we made our way north to Citrusdal. Arriving around lunch time in the town, we stopped off at a little restaurant for a bite to eat before heading out towards Wolfkop. We also started with an atlas card for this pentad but, because it was so blisteringly hot, progress on the list was particularly slow. Once we had finally managed to book ourselves in, we were pleasantly surprised to find our chalet actually also had air-conditioning, so much of the rest of the afternoon was spent inside trying to keep cool whilst outside, it was soaring up to close to 40 deg C! Our chalet also had a Jacuzzi, but the warm water was extremely unwelcome. It didn’t take too long to make a decision to turn the thermostat down, remove the covers and let the water cool down to a bearable temperature and, later it would become a bit of a saviour as we lounged around on our patio in the cold water of the jacuzzi enjoying the views across the valley and making notes on the occasional birds that flew past as they made their way on to our lists. We also had the opportunity to photograph a Citrus Swallowtail on the ground – anybody who knows these butterflies will know that they spend virtually no time at all sitting still and to photograph them is extremely difficult, so we weren’t going to let the chance go by.
As it cooled down later in the afternoon, we found a dripping irrigation pipe outside our chalet which was proving to be very popular amongst the local bird population and we spent the rest of the afternoon photographing several common species that were coming in to drink there – Karoo Prinia, Cape Bulbul, Cape Bunting, Cape Robin-chat and Karoo Scrub-robin amongst others.
As dusk fell and we had started the braai up for dinner, we first heard some interesting sounds coming from the walls of the chalet and then noticed a number of bats starting to emerge from the walls. Quickly grabbing the cameras, we attempted to get photos of them and, after eventually getting some vaguely passable shots, we were able to identify them as Egyptian Free-tailed Bats, our first record for the challenge list and a great species to get. It certainly became the animal highlight of the weekend!
Sunday morning saw us up early to try and get in some photography before it got too hot. Unfortunately, although there was a fair amount of activity, there was not too much that we could get close enough to to photograph. We spent some time trying to get shots of a group of small butterflies called Sooty Blues which were taking time to rest on the gravel roads, but it was quite difficult to get close to them. And the only other vaguely decent subject to photograph was a female Nomad (a type of dragonfly) that posed quite nicely for us. Before long, the temperatures had already soared back into the uncomfortable zone and we were back in the jacuzzi just relaxing rather than spending more time in the field. By mid morning, we realized that it was only getting hotter and all forms of life were now really hiding away, so, after packing everything up, we hit the road and slowly made our way back home in the air-conditioned car – by our standards, a very slow, but rather relaxed, weekend away…:)