Monday, 16 June 2014

Saturday Walks

Scott waiting for his Saturday walk

On Saturdays, if I am not out looking for vultures, I normally take the dogs for a walk on Rookwood.   

Sometimes my walks are relatively short (approximately two hours) or else I go for a pleasant long walk.  Rookwood, being diverse, allows me a variety of different routes. As always, our paths could cross the stock on the farm, who just watch us pass by from a distance

Merino sheep at Rookwood

Cattle on Rookwood watching us passing by


a stone in the river at Rookwood

During the winter months it can be very windy so I then choose the more sheltered options like down or up the river or up the kloof.  On the calmer days, I then head for the higher ground to get the view of the stunning countryside in which I live. 

The Border Collies just love this, and as soon as they see I pick up my blue backpack, it is a clear sign for a ‘trip’ into the countryside for them.  The number of dogs that accompany me depends on various factors.  If Jack and Sam are out working stock then I will only have Oz and Scott however, if Kevin is visiting then normally Angie and Buksie will also be part of the walking party!!  

Sam 'talking' to the Hamerkop in the river



A trip up the kloof means we will first walk past the dam that is at the base of the kloof. 

Egyptian geese and Yellow-billed Ducks on the dam
The dam is inhabited by lots of Yellow-billed Ducks, Dabchicks and Red-knobbed Coot and sometimes a pair of African Shelduck.  They are a quite distinct copper colour with the male having a white head.  Their call is a magical honk, which travels far when they are flying.  I just love their Afrikaans names’ – Kopereend or Berggans, which literally translated could mean copper duck or mountain goose!


Jackal Buzzard nest in Common Cabbage tree

Once we walk past the top end of the dam, we then head up into the kloof.  In the kloof we find a number of trees and the White stinkwood (Celtis africanus) and Buffalo thorn (Ziziphus micronata) are dropping their leaves and still show the colours of autumn.  The two Cussonia species – Common or Mountain Cabbage  (Cussonia spicata) and Highveld Cabbage (Cussonia paniculata) can be seen on either side of the kloof and are often used by the Jackal buzzards as a suitable nesting site.

As we climb up in the kloof, we come across the numerous aloes (Aloe ferox) that flower from the end of May through to August. This plant is a huge source of food for many birds during the dry winter months on Rookwood. 

Cape Weavers feeding off the aloes

One just has to look at the heads of the Cape, Southern-masked Weaver, Black-headed Orioles, Red-winged starlings and Dark-capped Bulbuls to see the tell-tale signs of pollen stuck to their feathers, to understand how much they utilize this source. 

Black-headed Oriole with the tell tale sign of Aloe pollen

The one bird of course that thrives off these aloes is the Malachite Sunbird.  The males are very distinctive with their long tails and brilliant dark green colours.  In Afrikaans they call him the Jan Groentjie, which is very apt.


Once at the top we get a panoramic view towards the Windvogel Mountains near Cathcart.

a view towards Cathcart

Verreaux Eagle

Overhead the skies are sometimes filled with a pair of Verreaux Eagles, which breed in the area or a group of Cape Vultures searching for food. 

Near the kranzes I will normally find the Rock Kestrel and in the river will come across the African Harrier-hawk and African Fish Eagle.    The Jackal Buzzard with its ‘jackal-like’ call is the most often seen as there is more than one breeding pair on Rookwood.  Sometimes we unfortunately disturb the Spotted Eagle owl but move on quickly to leave it in peace.

a pair of young Rock Kestrels

Porcupine activity at the base of a Buffalo thorn tree
a porcupine 'disappearing into its hole

On a walk like this it gives me opportunities to notice the presence of various animals.  It is not often I physically see a porcupine, (they are generally nocturnal) but one just has to look for their droppings or how they eat the bark at the base of a tree or dig up young thorn trees (Acacia karoo). 


We often will disturb a group of Kudu, which then move off quietly, compared with the Mountain reedbuck that will give a warning whistle before bouncing off with their tails lifted showing a flash of white.  On odd occasions we will find a Genet (Small spotted or large) or other mongoose.  Warthogs have increased over the years and will snort and disappear into their holes for protection.

Brown-hooded Kingfisher

Fairy Flycatcher

Blue-eyed pansy a relatively 'new butterfly for Rookwood

Black-crowned Night Heron in the river

I find various different plants – some I can identify while others I will photograph to be able to do research on, to identify.  Fortunately the plants do not all flower in spring, so I am privileged to a magical ‘show’ at different times of the year.  If I walk down the river, I will pass numerous cycads (Encephalartos friederici) and one can only admire their resilience over all these years – they are the most primitive living seed-bearing plant.

The cycad 'hiding' behind the aloes with its seed-bearing cones

So on Saturdays when I pick up my blue backpack with my binoculars and camera to take a walk, the dogs jump for joy as we are about to be given a sneak preview of the wonderful world in which we live.

A typical scene for a Saturday walk at Rookwood

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