05 August 2012 – a day full of dips…
Our friends, Keir and Alouise Lynch, were staying with us for the weekend and, with the discovery of a Grey Wagtail at the Riviersonderend Sewage Works, we made the decision to chase it. It had shown well throughout the day while we were at sea yesterday, so how difficult could it be…?!
Leaving home at about 7am, we eventually arrived in Riviersonderend at around 9am (a short breakfast stop en-route had delayed us a little.). After some initial confusion about where exactly to go, we finally reached the sewage works and met up with Mike and Tommy Buckham and Jacques Malan there who had also just arrived along with locals, John and Myra Jones. John had originally found the bird, so knew exactly where to go. Unfortunately, the bird seemed to have taken exception to the horrible weather that had moved in overnight and was nowhere to be seen. We spent the next couple of hours working carefully through the small series of sewage ponds and still came away without our quarry. A Black Sparrowhawk overhead and a few White-faced Ducks were welcome distractions amongst the more common species whilst a couple of Plain-backed Pipits which posed rather poorly for some photographs finally made their way on to our challenge list.
After giving up, we popped back into town, picked up some coffee and then headed out into the farmlands in search of Agulhas Long-billed Lark which would be a lifer for Keir and Alouise. Plenty of Large-billed and Red-capped Larks around interspersed with Capped Wheatears and the distraction of our gorgeous National Bird, Blue Crane, and eventually we heard the call of our target. Unfortunately, it seemed to stay far away enough off the road that we were unable to see it and this process repeated itself several times over the next few kilometers that we travelled with us becoming more and more frustrated. After more than an hour of searching, Alouise eventually spotted one off in the distance on top of a ridge and we were able to get satisfactory views of it. After the tick was officially bagged, we moved just a short distance forward and then managed to find one much closer to the road which allowed for great views and even posed for some vaguely acceptable photos.
Hunger was now starting to set in, so we began the long drive back towards Cape Town. Our first lunch stop was a disaster as the restaurant was full and there was already a waiting list, so we decided to push on a bit more. Eventually, we found a farm stall where we were able to “refuel”. It was already starting to get late when we came back over Sir Lowry’s Pass into Somerset West, but spotting some Arum Lillies on the side of the road gave us an idea to head through to Rondevlei Nature Reserve to look for Arum Lily Frogs which the Lynches also wanted to see. The whole drive to Rondevlei provided plenty of Arum Lillies along the side of the road, but when we eventually got to the nature reserve and began walking around, there was only one single Lily in flower there and it did not have a frog in it!! How unlucky can one get? At least we had a nice African Harrier Hawk circling over us whilst African Marsh Harrier and Small Grey Mongoose were other nice distractions there.
We were now going to be running out of light pretty soon, so we jumped into the car and sped around to a number of “reliable sites” where we hoped to show Alouise a House Crow, an introduced species that she still needed to see. Needless to say, even taking them through some of the choicest neighbourhoods in Cape Town turned up absolutely nothing! It was just going to be one of those days where nothing really went according to plan, so eventually, we gave up and headed back home after what had been a somewhat disappointing day (fortunately, Alouise managed to catch up with the crow at the airport the following morning!). Nevertheless, it was still great to get out into the field and spend some time with our friends showing them around “our turf”…:)