WITZENBERG WEEKEND AWAY REPORT 

by Bryan Butler

No less than 26 of us met up at Witzenberg Cottages for our “weekend of birding” starting on 16th November. The lovely cottages tumbled down a small slope, ending in a communal area where we all met for the evening braai.

The wind was fairly strong. Some members braved the Bain’s Kloof Pass en route and their bird list was already impressive! The braai, as all our braai’s seem to be, was excellent with two Peters (Horne and Mason) stepping up to get the fires going and a tempting array of salads graced the table for all to share. But soon the wind turned cold and we all headed to bed.

It was an early start the next morning as we were due at the Bergsig Winery by 07h15, where we were met with hot coffee, rusks and friendly faces. Owner brothers Louis and de Wet Lategan, both keen birders, had agreed to take us on a birding tour through the vineyards in two separate groups. We were with de Wet and spent a most rewarding wander through the vines and on the banks of the Witrivier. Our “tick” of the morning had to be the Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, but we had good sightings of Cape Canary, Rock Kestrel, Fish Eagle, etc.

Our walk ended after about two and a half hours but the second group went way past that time and they were enthralled – Louis turned out to be a very knowledgeable birder who knew precisely where to find the “specials”! We went on to have a look at Tulbagh (most enjoyable) while others went on to a fascinating spot closer to Worcester. And yet others stayed at Bergsig for lunch.

Sonja and daughter Kirsten had done all the arrangements and that afternoon we were due to visit a nearby attraction called the Fynbos Guest farm. The owners have huge hearts and have taken in any animal or bird that needs rescuing.

None of us are too fond of cages but the aviary they have built is huge and the rescue birds within have plenty of room. We went on to feed pigs, Emu’s, turkeys, and a whole lot more! Finally it was back to the cottages where some had a nap, while others birded around the environs.
That evening we held another braai and the weather was a little more kind.

During the proceedings John Magner led us through the bird list, noting every bird so far identified, among some shrieks of excitement and some sighs of envy. This was followed by a hilarious quiz designed by our organisers.

Are birders like golfers? It’s hard to say how much “less-than-perfect” scoring was done but it didn’t matter – it was great fun! We ended with a promise to go to the Wolseley sewage works in the morning, on our way home. And so to bed.

Regrettably, the wind was howling the next morning but a fair number set off for the sewage works and the bird count was subsequently increased. With very dusty vehicles but happy hearts, we returned home after a thoroughly enjoyable weekend outing – one of our best in my book!