Frog Mountain, Swellendam

The Buckham family was again travelling some of the more beautiful parts of the Western Cape over the last extended weekend. We visited a wonderful self catering spot about 20 kilometres east of Swellendam called Frog Mountain. It is set approximately 8kms off the N2 on a dead end gravel road which makes for a very peaceful weekend. Aside from it being an absolute haven for young kids it is well situated for some exciting birding. The cottages are set between grassed paddocks, an unfortunately wattle choked river and aloe covered hillsides with some thickish inidigenous forest in certain pockets. There is also plenty of fynbos covered slopes nearby for the fynbos endemics. Aside from the birds on display at Frog Mountain there is spectacular birding nearby with Grootvadersbosch no more than a 25 minute drive away and some Agulhas plain birding even closer.

IMG 4818

Frog Mountain

Over the weekend we didn’t see anything that spectacular at Frog Mountain itself but there is plenty to keep one occupied. It has without a doubt the highest concentration of Swee Waxbills I have ever encountered and along with the Swees there are thicket birds such as Terrestrial Brownbul, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Sombre Greenbul, Olive Woodpecker, Knysna Woodpecker, Olive Bush-shrike, Brown-hooded Kingfisher and Brimstone Canary. The river and small farm dams host Malachite Kingfisher and African Black Duck whilst birds such as Fiscal Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Drongo, Black Saw-wing, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Amethyst Sunbird and Southern Boubou are ubiquitous. Victorin’s Warbler is also vocal all day but would require some adventurous hiking to get a view

Swee Waxbill - 20100424a

Swee Waxbill (male)

Swee Waxbill - 20100424c

Swee Waxbill (female)

Brimstone Canary - 20100427

Brimstone Canary

Common Waxbill - 20100424a

Common Waxbill

Cape Batis - 20100427

Cape Batis

Fiscal Flycatcher - 20100426

Fiscal Flycatcher

Greater Double-collared Sunbird - 20100426

Greater Double-collared Sunbird

Neddicky - 20100427

Neddicky

Karoo Prinia - 20100424

Karoo Prinia

On one of the mornings we took a drive towards Malgas on one of the well known Agulhas spots and most of the endemics were easily available. The best spot in the world for Agulhas Clapper Lark never fails to deliver the goods whilst Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Large-billed Lark and Red-capped Lark are everywhere. The plains also support Karoo Korhaan which we heard calling at just about every stop as well as giving us a great view of a pair in flight, whilst a good scan almost always produces several Denham’s Bustards. The acacia lined river beds were good for Acacia Pied Barbet, Chestnut-vented Titbabbler, Fiscal Flycatcher and Cape Weaver.

Agulhas Clapper Lark

Agulhas Clapper Lark

A highlight of the weekend was a lengthy mountain bike ride from Frog Mountain to Grootvadersbosch. A few months back Dave Winter mentioned flushing a covey of Red-winged Francolin within the reserve itself up on the fynbos covered hillsides. This is an exceptionally tough bird in the Western Cape and I personally had not heard of a record of these birds for a long time before Dave managed to find a population. We did not hear them in the fynbos but soon after traversing a grassy hillside within a farm boundary I flushed three birds literally under my wheel. It was in very different habitat to where Dave had seen them and unfortunately on private land but it is good to know that there are some scattered groups in this area. I would be interested to know if anyone else has had any luck with this species in the Western Cape.

Frog Mountain can certaainly be recommended as a place to recharge batteries and to catch up on some of the special birds the Western Cape has to offer.

Mike Buckham

April 2010

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