The 600 ha Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve is located about 35km west of Port Elizabeth. The reserve stretches from the Van Stadens mountain to the coast and its main purpose is to protect the area’s unique indigenous Fynbos vegetation. It’s always worth popping into the reserve because there’s always some type of protea in bloom. But Van Stadens isn’t just about vegetation and views of the Van Stadens gorge, it also boasts a birding list with 149 bird species and one of the best spots for twitchers to hang out and keep an eye out for our feathered friends is the reserve’s bird hide. The hide is the proud handy work of the Friends of Van Stadens, a group of volunteers who have helped out with the running of the Van Stadens Wild Flower Reserve since 2007.
One of the things I really enjoy about driving past Swartkops to Uitenhage is seeing the flamingos in the estuary and salt pans. Usually I’m in a hurry to get to where I have to be and I really need to stop more often and take some more photos of them.
The Wild Coast is all about the rugged coastline, beautiful beaches, rolling green hills, dramatic waterfalls, spectacular river mouths, friendly and hospitable people. So in fact that many visitors often miss the little things. And y’all know how I can go on about not just looking at the bigger picture when you are travelling.
A little while ago I was staying at Wavecrest Hotel and took an early morning walk down to the river mouth. It was raining all night and the morning was cloudy and gloomy so I left my camera in my room and just went to enjoy the fresh air. Close to the river mouth I watched a pair of Black Oyster Catchers eyeballing me awhile making a heck of a lot of noise. I realised that they must have a nest close by but what interested me more was how close I was to them without them flying off. Darn, and me without my camera. So I schlepped back to the hotel to fetch my camera and headed back to the beach. As I was approaching one was walking around between the boulders and on spotting me flew back to its mate making a lot of noise again. Now I know that is how they try to lure any potential danger to a nest away from it so I decided to have a look.
I approached the area carefully as I have never seen a Black Oyster Catcher nest before and wasn’t sure what to look for. And suddenly there it was right in front of me. By my footprints I actually passed not more than two meters away from it earlier before fetching my camera.
The camouflage was amazing but more amazing was the fact that the nest was nothing more than a slight hollow in the sand filled with shells and pebbles.
I didn’t want to get too close as (future) mom and dad was swearing at me from nearby so I popped the long lens on the camera to get one last closeup before giving them their space back. Isn’t that scene just a work of art?
I remember how people were moaning when they banned all driving on beaches back in 2002. One of the reasons given for the ban was the Black Oyster Catcher and how vehicles driving on the beaches destroyed nests, and thus eggs, as well as killed chicks. The pro beach driving group blew this off as rubbish yet research have shown an increase in Black Oyster Catcher numbers since the ban has been implemented. A win for conservation and the environment.
The 19 hectare Bird Island in Algoa Bay is home to 250,000 Cape gannets, the largest breeding colony of these birds on the planet. In 2014 Alan Straton of MyPE did this great time lapse of Gannets on Bird Island at sunrise.
We’ve all seen pictures (or in real life) of Red Bill Oxpeckers sitting on rhino, buffalo, giraffe or some of the other bigger animals. Taking a drive through Addo the other day I got to see a similar scene but it didn’t include a Red Bill Oxpecker nor a big animal. This time it was a Southern Boubou riding on a warthog’s back. Pumba has a new friend.