Sunday, 18 May 2014

Outing report- Cape Parrot Count 17th-18th May 2014

Text & photos by Andy Ruffle

Asothie & Stanley Gengan at Ingeli Forest Lodge 

Volunteers: Stanley & Asothie Gengan; Erik Kok, Herbie Osborne & Andy Ruffle.

Herbie, Eric and Andy arrrived at Ingeli Forest Lodge at about midday, on Saturday, to meet up with Stanley & Asothie who were going to monitor the area close to the lodge.
After briefing them on the plan of action, we left the happy couple and set off on the 40km drive to our Eastern Cape lookout at Mpur.

The road from Ingeli to Mpur

Guided by a trusty red rag tied to a tree, we soon found the access to our temporary camping site.
Three years ago we had needed to search for a new vantage point, as our original location was infested with American Bramble. To ensure we would find it again, Herbie had tied the rag to the sapling pine. Thankfully, it is still holding strong, albeit somewhat faded now.

The trusty 'flag' (circled) guides us to our camp

Base camp for the night

Weather conditions, on the mountain, were ideal with fairly clear skies and not a breath of wind. We had high hopes for the afternoon survey.

Unfortunately, due to the date change for the count this year, we were unable to cover our second lookout point at Mpur, which we had found last year (circled in photo below). Hopefully next year we will be able to muster enough volunteers to man it.

View from our lookout point,
with a second vantage point circled

At about 16h00, we positioned ourselves on the rocks overlooking the forest and waited with great anticipation. Sadly, not one parrot was seen or heard. This did not bode well for the morning count.

Perfect weather, but not a parrot in sight (or sound)

Dejected, we returned to our camp for supper and warming drinks.

Not exactly Mount Everest conditions,
but certainly not the coast either....brrrrrrr!

As morning broke, with a chill in the air and a beautiful sunrise, we prepared ourselves for the Sunday morning count.

A crisp clear morning with a beautiful sunrise

By 06h30, we were perched on the cliff, with hot coffees in hand. A frost could be seen on the distant veld and plenty of bird calls emanated from the forest below.

Frost on the distant veld

07h30 came and went, with no signs of parrots. 08h00 came and went and still no signs of parrots. African Olive-Pigeon, Knysna Turaco and Cape Canary were everywhere, so surely our birds were awake by now.
Then at 08h15, ''PARROT'' Herbie cried. ''That was a parrot calling''. Well it certainly sounded like a parrot, but by this time, a mooing cow would also have sounded like a parrot, so desperate were we to see one.
About ten minutes later, sure enough we could hear more parrots calling below. Then to our delight, two birds flew up out of the trees and towards us. They settled in the canopy a short distance from us and had no intentions of going anywhere in a hurry. They were soon joined by another 'pair'.
We sat for over an hour, watching as these stunning birds foraged  and flew around close by. It was now difficult to safely determine whether we were hearing anymore parrots, so we conservatively estimated that there were at least five birds.
It was interesting to note that these birds were remaining in this patch of forest. The conclusion we came to was that there must be yellowwoods fruiting here.

Eventually, we tore ourselves away to pack up camp and head back home.
Our luck was not over yet though. We negotiated the dirt tracks out of the forest, birding on the way, and soon hit the main tar road.
Just a few kilometres down the road, we turned a corner and there on the top of an embankment was a family of six Southern Ground-Hornbill happily marching along.

Southern Ground-Hornbill close to Mpur
Juvenile on the left hand side

What a perfect end to a very satisfying trip. We look forward to next year's count.

Sadly, Stanley & Asothie didn't see any parrots near the lodge this time.

Many thanks go to everyone who volunteered this year, including those who were subsequently unable to make it due to the date change.
A huge thanks also to Ingeli Forest Lodge for offering a preferential rate for the night.

Birds recorded during trip: Jackal Buzzard, Cape Crow, Hadeda Ibis, Cape White-eye, Sombre Greenbul, African Harrier-Hawk, Dark-capped Bulbul, African Olive-Pigeon, Cape Turtle-Dove, Forest Buzzard, Southern Boubou, Black-headed Oriole, African Crowned Eagle, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Knysna Turaco, Cape Canary, Bar-throated Apalis, African Goshawk, Grey Crowned-Crane, Cape Robin-chat, Cape Batis, Red-eyed Dove, Grey Cuckooshrike, Collared Sunbird, Black-backed Puffback, Ashy Flycatcher, Cape Parrot, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Streaky-headed Seedeater, Southern Black-Tit, Olive Thrush, Red-necked Spurfowl, Speckled Mousebird, Speckled Pigeon, Southern Ground-Hornbill, Amethyst Sunbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Common Fiscal, Long-crested Eagle, Cape Wagtail, African Fish-Eagle, White-necked Raven, White-breasted Cormorant, Egyptian Goose, Red-knobbed Coot, African Stonechat. (46 species).

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