09 – 12 August 2012 – a family weekend…
It was to be a family weekend in Citrusdal and because Thursday was a public holiday, we had taken the Friday off to make it an extended long weekend. We were booked into Elephant Leisure Resort at the base of some mountains about 8km from the town and arrived at around lunch time on Thursday. The chalets were very comfortable and clean with all the necessities like a jacuzzi on the stoep and DSTV channels so that we could keep up with what was happening with the Olympics as well. They were situated at the base of some mountains and it looked like there was the potential for some interesting “life” around close by as well. Because it was essentially a “family weekend”, we would have to limit ourselves to just how much time we could spend in the field though…
Most of the remainder of the day was spent just wondering around the property looking at birds. Most of the common species of the area were present with Cape Sugarbirds and several sunbirds as well as lots of weavers and bishops showing signs of the start of the breeding season. Overhead, Verreaux’s Eagles and Jackal Buzzards soared by whilst the heavily wooded areas also held both Olive and Cardinal Woodpeckers and Cape Batises, Karoo Thrushes and Streaky-headed Seedeaters were also plentiful. There was also a bit of time to play with star photography later that night and one soon realizes just how much you still have to learn about these things…!
Early on Friday morning, we were up and went for a walk up into the gorge. A group of Chacma Baboons watched our every move and we enjoyed lots more of the common bird species. Bokmakieries, Cape Buntings, Cape Robin-chats, Karoo Prinias and several canaries were all enjoyed on the walk and a lot of rock turning yielded absolutely nothing! It was clearly still too cold for reptiles to be active.
After spending some more time driving around atlassing the pentad that our chalets were based in, the wind eventually started to become quite strong and unpleasant, a sign of the storm that was heading our way. We headed into town and had lunch at a small restaurant and then headed up into the mountains on the other side of Citrusdal. The rest of the afternoon was spent stopping at various sites along the way and turning over whatever rocks we could find. We found a number of scorpions, mostly just 3 species, Opistophthalmus pallipes, Uroplectes carinatus and Parabuthus capensis and just 2 individual reptiles, a Southern Rock Agama and the find of the weekend (for us anyway!), a McLachlan’s Girdled Lizard. This small cordylid is pretty uncommon and was only described to science for the first time in 1986. It was a full lifer for us and a fantastic one to be able to add to our challenge list…!
We returned back late in the afternoon and, by now, the weather was already starting to move in. It hit with all vengeance on Friday night and Saturday saw us spending most of our time inside. It bucketed down and the wind howled. We did venture out a couple of times, had breakfast in town and drove around a bit doing some bird atlassing again, but there was no chance of any photography at all. With the rain, there was a chorus of Cape Rain Frogs that had started in one of the wooded gorges, but despite trying, there was no easy way to even get in there to try and find them. The only form of life that was photographed on the day was a Opistophthalmus pallipes scorpion which was under a rock next to our chalet.
Sunday morning was a little better, and after packing up and booking out, we took a long drive home via Velddrif. We took a back farm road which had literally turned to mud with all the rain and we had a lot of fun slipping and sliding along the road as the car got covered in mud. The idea was to look out for a Palm-nut Vulture that had recently been reported from there as it would be a good one to add to our challenge list, but it was not to be and eventually, we gave up and headed back home. Not the most productive wildlife weekend ever (mostly due to weather and also being a little too early in the season for most reptiles), but we did come home with a lifer reptile, so we can hardly complain about it…:)