Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Rhodes Weekend Away 4th-7th March 2011 **UPDATED 31st March

Just incase you're unsure of where you are.
 The Rhodes sign looms over the town.

(standing from left) Doug Butcher, Ron Whitham, Val & Stan Culley, Cathy Lee, John Marchant, Margaret Jones, Elaine Whitham, Mike Fagan, Barry Porter, Pete Williamson, Herbie Osborne, Sandy Olver, Lennart Eriksson, Evelyn Heuinis, Jeanette Osborne, (seated) Andy Ruffle, Mary Mynors, Angie Butcher and Margie Williamson.
(Photo Barry Porter, Lennart Eriksson and Pete Williamson)

Trogons take the high road to Rhodes

by Barry Porter (published SCH 18th March 2011)

   Birdlife Trogons members fled the balmy coastal weather recently to enjoy the cooler high ground around the quaint little village of Rhodes in the Eastern Cape.
   The twitchers were eager to make acquaintance with the host of scarce, high altitude avian species.
   Rhodes lies at the foot of the southern Drakensberg, close to the mountain kingdom of Lesotho.
   Naude’s Nek pass, near the town, traverses the high mountains, rising up to an altitude of over 2,500 metres above sea level. This is ideal terrain for the sought after bird species.
   The club booked out the entire Rhodes Hotel, where management and staff went out of their way to accommodate the needs of a somewhat eccentric bunch of motley birders.
   The advantage of birding Naude’s Nek Pass is that it can be negotiated by an ordinary car – there is no need for high-clearance 4x4s. The road was in good condition, and very little traffic passed during the seven hours that Trogons spent birdwatching on the mountain pass. The scenery is magnificent, with steep grassy slopes dotted with rocky outcrops. Numerous crystal clear streams gush down the ravines, and many attractive indigenous flowers decorate the mountainside. The birding proved to be excellent. Nearly all the specials made themselves available for inspection by the happy band of twitchers. Ground Woodpeckers, Drakensberg Rock-jumpers and Cape Vultures were particularly obliging. Several sightings of Bearded Vulture, riding the thermals, thrilled the audience, while elusive species like the Sickle-winged Chat and Layard’s Tit-babbler, revealed themselves to only a few lucky birders.
   Other special avians seen were the Black Harrier, Blue Korhaan, Drakensbersg Siskin and Mountain Pipit.
   On Sunday morning the group split up. Dedicated birders patrolled the village, while the other party visited a nearby farm to study local San rock art.
   The farmer was very obliging. He showed the group his ‘holkrans’ – a huge natural sandstone cave situated behind his house where, he said, he could house a thousand sheep.
   The San rock art, about a kilometre from his home, is located under a sandstone overhang, on a steep slope near a massive mushroom shaped rock. The paintings are some of the most vivid images of San rock art that still exist. Their real meaning is steeped in mystery, and they are extremely well preserved. It is definitely worth making an effort to visit them. The very meticulous artwork on the rock face is astounding. Even the hooves of the eland are drawn with impressive anatomical accuracy.
   A quiet Sunday afternoon was passed in lazy fashion, birding and relaxing, before the highly satisfied, smiley-faced bunch undertook the long trip home on Monday morning.

The Rhodes Hotel offered us outstanding hospitality

(Photo Barry Porter)

Saturday morning we took a slow drive up to Naudes Nek.
Birding highlights included Drakensberg Rockjumper, Drakensberg Siskin, Karoo Prinia, Rock Bunting, Yellow Canary, Bearded Vulture, Rock Kestrel, Cape Vulture, Black Eagle, Black Harrier, Sickle-winged Chat and Layards Tit-babbler.

Naudes Monument

Mountain rock garden on the Naudes Nek road.
Barry says
''The red plant is Crassula alba. and the succulent leaves probably belong to a Delosperma species''
(Photo Barry Porter)

Drakensberg Rock Lounger
Drakensberg (Recliner) Rock-jumper
(Photo Barry Porter)

Sunday morning's outing took us to local farmer Rassie's property, where we were extremely priviliged to see exceptionally well preserved examples of San Rock Art. A very special excursion indeed. Thank you Barry.

(Photo Lennart Eriksson)

They all look happy now,
but wait until they see the climb that looms ahead:)

''Now which way do I go? GERTRUDE!''

(Photo Lennart Eriksson)

(Photo Barry Porter)

San Rock Art beautifully preserved.
 Thanks Rassie for allowing us to visit this special place.
(Photos Andy Ruffle unless otherwise credited)

1 comment:

  1. Possibly the best weekend away I've been on so far.
    Great crowd, great birding and perfect setting.