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Birding the Fragrance route

This is the second article in my series of Birding the... following Birding the Brak. The reason for my visit down to George was two-fold. My daughter was on a netball tour and I was asked by the marketers of the newly promoted Fragrance route between Great Brak River and Friemersheim to assist them in identifying bird species one could expect to see on the route. My time was a bit limited, but on Sunday the 20th of March I embarked along this lovely and very scenic route, looking for birds.

(Hover over the map to enlarge)

My first stop was Brothers Coffee Roastery at The Pink House (point 3 on the map). I arrived there at 5 a.m. and was met by the owner Ben Ferreira who greeted me with an awesome cappuccino in the coffee shop, made from the beans of his roastery.

We took position on the lookout deck overlooking the indigenous forest below and the Outeniqua mountains beyond. We enjoyed a second cappuccino whilst listening to 3 Fiery-necked Nightjars and a Spotted Eagle-Owl calling as dawn was threatening to break.

The sunrise was spectacular and more and more birds announced the break of yet another stunning day along the Garden route. Knysna Warbler, Sombre Greenbul, Cape Sugarbird, Victorin’s Warbler and Chorister Robin-Chat were all adding their repertoire to the wonderful dawn chorus. A Karoo Prinia posed and Southern Double-collared, Greater Double-collared and Amethyst Sunbirds were fluttering around the proteas. Orange-breasted Sunbird called somewhere further up the slope.

We descended down towards the small forest where we encountered Cape Batis, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler and Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher.

Time for my next stop was fast approaching and I was hesitant to leave this piece of paradise behind. I greeted Ben and made my way to Die Tuinhekkie at Loch Broom (point 4). Here you have various options of accommodation and the view on to the Outeniqua mountains is just breath taking. If you love raptors, this is a place to be on the lookout for them, during my short stay I encountered Peregrine Falcon and Jackal Buzzard and was told by the owner Mariana Stadler that African Fish-Eagle bred down at the river below. I left for my next stop at the Hakuna Matata game farm (point 5) with Cape Longclaws calling in the meadows.

Unfortunately I could not get access to the game area, but the farm alone boasts some interesting dams which hosts Levaillant’s Cisticola, Purple Heron, White-backed Duck, Black Crake and various other species of waterfowl. There are lovely self-catering chalets next to another gorgeous patch of indigenous forest which holds a plethora of forest specials including Knysna Turaco, which I unfortunately was too late to see by mid-morning.

The fields resonated with Zitting Cisticola calls and Cape Crows patrol the sky line. In the distance I could see a pair of Blue Cranes in the game section.

Time to push on as the wind started to pick up to the Santa Bonnè protea farm (point 6). Unfortunately I was too early in the year to see proteas in bloom, but I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of sunbirds and sugarbirds it must attract! Victorin’s Warbler was calling from the slopes in numbers.

Unfortunately the wind was turning against my favour and I decided to head to the town of Friemersheim and down into Butterfly creek (turn off right just before point 7). This is one of the most best kept birding secrets and an early morning start here is bound to blow your hair back. It was my second visit here and again I was not disappointed with what I came across. Hundreds of Alpine Swifts were swooping overhead and Forest Buzzard glided below them. The stream is lined with trees which holds amongst many others, Forest Canary, Swee Waxbill and African Dusky Flycatcher.

I decided to call it a day at lunch time and headed back to Great Brak River for an amazing lunch and a lovely locally brewed Glenhoff beer at the Pepper Tree restaurant, sponsored by Nelma Ruschioni, one of the marketers of the spectacular Fragrance route (map and more information on her website www.proemb.co.za).

I recorded the following 83 species during the morning:

African Darter, African Dusky Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher, African Sacred Ibis, African Stonechat, Alpine Swift, Amethyst Sunbird, Barn Swallow, Bar-throated Apalis, Black Crake, Black Saw-wing, Black-headed Heron, Black-shouldered Kite, Blacksmith Lapwing, Blue Crane, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Burchell's Coucal, Cape Batis, Cape Bunting, Cape Longclaw, Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Sparrow, Cape Sugarbird, Cape Turtle Dove, Cape Wagtail, Cape Weaver, Cape White-eye, Chorister Robin-Chat, Common Moorhen, Common Ostrich, Common Starling, Crowned Lapwing, Egyptian Goose, Fiery-necked Nightjar, Fiscal Flycatcher, Forest Buzzard, Forest Canary, Fork-tailed Drongo, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Greater Striped Swallow, Grey Heron, Grey-headed Gull, Hadeda Ibis, Helmeted Guineafowl, Jackal Buzzard, Karoo Prinia, Knysna Warbler, Kurrichane Thrush, Laughing Dove, Levaillant's Cisticola, Little Grebe, Little Rush Warbler, Olive Bushshrike, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Peregrine Falcon, Purple Heron, Red-eyed Dove, Red-faced Mousebird, Red-winged Starling, Reed Cormorant, Rock Martin, Sombre Greenbul, Southern Boubou, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Southern Fiscal, Southern Red Bishop, Speckled Mousebird, Speckled Pigeon, Spotted Eagle-Owl, Spotted Thick-knee, Spur-winged Goose, Swee Waxbill, Terrestrial Brownbul, Victorin's Warbler, Western Cattle Egret, Whimbrel, White-backed Duck, White-faced Whistling Duck, White-necked Raven, Yellow-billed Duck, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Zitting Cisticola

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