SPRING FLOWERS & BIRDS – TOUR WEST COAST TO NIEUWOUDVILLE 2013: FROM GAZANIAS TO GANNETS

Just back from a fabulous tour to see the Spring flowers and birds on the West Coast &  inland to Nieuwoudville. After picking up our group, we left Cape Town and headed straight for the West Coast Park.

Field of mixed flowers in West Coast Park in Spring 2013

West Coast Flowers in Spring 2013

By the time we got there at around 11 AM the fields of orange and white flowers were opening up to the sun and we ‘oohed’ and aahed’ our way to Postberg where we had our picnic lunch perched on some rocks, feasting not only on the delicious spread but also on the exquisite sight around us –  pristine blue and white of the bay and the oranges, yellows and whites of the daisies surrounding us.  The display of flowers in the West Coast Park all the way to the Seeberg Hide exit was wonderful and there were many stops to take photos or simply admire this splendid sight. The equally spectacular 5 sightings of Black Harrier almost went unnoticed!

Moraea, West Coast

Moraea mixed in with fields of white Dimorphotheca, West Coast

Our overnight stop was in Paternoster. We walked across the beach to our restaurant as the sun was setting, feeling very lucky that we had not done the trip in the previous week when it rained and snowed in many parts of the Western and Northern Cape.

Taking flower photography seriously

Taking flower photography seriously

Continuing further north we took a number of beautiful back roads through the mountains to get to Clanwilliam for our picnic lunch stop in the Ramskop Flower Reserve – this is always spectacular in the Spring and this year was no exception, with many different daisies, and a good mix of geophytes which are both a delight and a challenge to identify. We were fortunate that the Clanwilliam Flower Show held annually in the church hall was still open and every bulb and protea in the area is displayed here by name! We then headed for Nieuwoudtville, a tiny village in the Bokkeveld mountains of the Northern Cape,  internationally acknowledged as the bulb capital of the world, for a 2 night stay….and we were not to be disappointed.

Babiana found along roadside outside Nieuwoudville

Babiana found along roadside outside Nieuwoudville

Gladiolus watermeyeri

Beautifully marked Gladiolus watermeyeri

After breakfast we set off to see how full the waterfall was – this is a wonderful reserve for birding, and we ticked off Black Eagle, Banded Harrier Hawk, Lanner Falcon, Black Stork and Alpine Swift as ‘mega’ highlights amidst a host of smaller birds active in the area. We also found Blue Crane and Ludwig’s Bustard in the area. Nieuwoudtville really enters wholeheartedly into the spirit of the flower season. At the entrance to each reserve there is a braai stand where ‘roosterkoek’ and ‘boerewors’ is being cooked over an open fire (barbequed bread rolls and farmer sausage), in the village there is info available as to which farms and areas are best for the flowers. Some of the farms in the area (Papkuilsfontein and Matjiesfontein)  offer lunch only during the flower season, which gives you free entry to drive or walk around their farm.

Bulbinella in Neiuwoudville

Bulbinella in Neiuwoudville

'pride of Niewoudville' Geissorhiza spledidissima

The ‘pride of Niewoudville’ Geissorhiza spledidissima

The flowers, both the variety and the splendour of the display, were absolutely magnificent in the surrounding farms and reserves. We searched for and found many of the specials of the area i.e. the ‘pride of Niewoudville’ Geissorhiza spledidissima, the ‘cup and saucer’ Colchicum coloratum,  several of the Babiana, Moraea and Romulea species, the afternoon-opening Hesperanthas, the diminutive Nemesias and so many more. When I finally got to bed and closed my eyes all I could see was orange, pink and yellow for ever….

Fields of colour, Spring Flowers 2013

Fields of colour, Spring Flowers 2013

 

Fields of afternoon flowering Hesperantha (pienk aandblom)

Fields of afternoon flowering Hesperantha (pienk aandblom)

On our way back to Cape Town we stopped off at Lambert’s Bay to see the gannet colony which has recovered so well since its collapse in 2008 due to predation by seals. There are now over 8000 pairs with about 1200 Cape fur seals hanging around – but Cape Nature has the measure of them and keeps them away from the gannet colony by diligent monitoring.

Cape Gannet, one of the West Coast's iconic birds

Cape Gannet colony at Lambert’s Bay, West Coast

After a delicious meal of fresh hake and chips at Isabella’s we head back down the coast, making a few stops here and there for special birds or flowers. The scarlet Babiana Thunbergii proved to be by far the most captivating, ahead even of the Lesser Flamingos dotted about the salt pans, for the grand finale!

Babiana Thunbergii found on sand flats of West Coast

Red flowering Babiana Thunbergii found on sand flats of West Caost

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