An alternative lifestyle and a bird survey of the southern Kalahari and parts of the Karoo. Data are shared with the southern African Bird Atlas project (http:\\sabap2.adu.org.za)
Wednesday 26 July S28° 22.88’ E 21° 09.35’
The morning was cold and misty, and the afternoon sunny and cool. I had a mostly restful day in camp. I did some data capture, re-organised the load area of my vehicle, took a slow cycle ride out along the main road, and prepared to go back out into the wilds tomorrow.
Thursday 27 July S28° 30.16’ E 21° 20.81’
It was very cold in the morning once more, and I got up and got going before sunrise to get my vehicle back to the workshop to have its extraneous noises diagnosed. I had to stop on the way into town to clear ice from the windscreen, and I was rubbing away at it for a while before I realised that the ice was forming on the inside. The noise in the engine compartment of my vehicle was caused by a fuel filter banging against the bodywork, and was soon remedied.
I headed east out of town, and then south on a dirt road that I had not previously explored. Stopping by a thicket along a dried up stream, I saw a great number of Wattled Starlings, some in breeding plumage, milling about. I stopped to camp on a hillside, with a view of the town in the distance, in very dry and stony scrubland.
Friday 28 July S28° 45.30’ E 20° 50.66’
The morning was cold, but for the first time since my return from Howick, not freezing. It got windy later. I was not in a hurry, and got going once the sun was up. I went back through Upington, and continued downriver (westward) through Keimoes, turning off at Freiersdale, to check in at the campground ‘Die Punt’, to camp for four days.
Die Punt is on the point of an island between two channels of the Orange River, so that my campsite is surrounded by water on three sides, and sheltered from the worst of the wind by big indigenous shade trees. I expect it to be warmer here, having dropped 200m in altitude since Upington, and it is.
In the afternoon, I cycled about on various islands, crossing the narrow fast-flowing channels of the river on narrow bridges. The islands are mostly covered by vineyards, with ribbons of natural woodland along the channels and canals.
Saturday 29 July
Though cool at first, it was a warm day. I cycled on to the mainland, and meandered among vineyards, and then found a track along a high bank, following the river westwards. Returning from that, I followed the main road away from the river for a while, to add some of the dry-country birds to the list for the grid cell. Towards midday, midges became a bother.
In the afternoon, I set out cycling upstream among the islands again. I twice passed farm workers lying fast asleep at the roadside, and then a saloon car came speeding, swerving and bumping along the narrow track, and narrowly missed me – Saturday afternoon in the Northern Cape.
In the evening, I watched the light fade over the water. The sound of the river running by mingled with some awful music from a nearby beerhall. The music soon stopped. The night was mild, and crickets sang.
Sunday 30 July
The morning was mild and the day was warm. I cycled a long way out on the road to Kakamas, passing the ‘7de Laan’ turnoff and reaching the pass through the orange hills. There was a great noisy throng of birds at a depot , where crates of fruit were stacked up waiting to be loaded on to trucks (Wattled Starlings, Glossy Starlings and Red-eyed Bulbuls). The crates had air vents, through which the birds could reach the fruit. The road runs well away from the river, through open, dry, grassy terrain. It was noisy, with many bikers going by, part of a local breakfast run, I guess.
In the evening, a swirling, twittering mass of Little Swifts filled the sky (more than 100 birds). They nest under the narrow bridges, and are present throughout the year.
Monday 31 July
It was a warm day, and windy in the afternoon. I cycled about among the islands again, and then out to the main road, and a short distance eastward, to take coffee and a pie at the very rustic and cluttered Akkerboom Padstal.
In the afternoon, braving the wind, I cycled a short way westward along the high bank that follows the river (or rather its outermost channel).
Tuesday 1 August S28° 31.37’ E 20° 22.73’
It was a warm day, and windy at times. I packed up and got going early, driving towards Kakamas. I stopped among the orange-coloured hills that lie to the east of Kakamas while the sun was rising., then made another stop among vineyards and smallholdings near the river to the north of Kakamas, before crossing the long river bridge into town to take coffee and a snack at the Yanuck coffee house. From there, I headed north, and jolted along the badly corrugated road towards Riemvasmaak, stopping to look around in very desert-like conditions, with plains of reddish, sun-baked earth interrupted by rocky hillsides. Midges were bothersome. I stopped to camp among rugged-looking rocky hills, next to the northern border of the Augrabies Falls National Park.
Wednesday 2 August S28° 40.52’ E 20° 34.52’
The morning was cool, otherwise it was a warm day. I went slowly back to Kakamas, in time for lunch at the Yanuck coffee house. In the afternoon, I meandered about near the river on the north side, before heading out northwards on the dirt road to Lutzputs, passing a large area of vineyards and orchards that was entirely covered by shade cloth (and no chance of finding birds there). Beyond all that, I stopped to camp on a clearing on top of a rise, with a fine view of open plains and distant hills.
Thursday 3 August S28° 31.37’ E 20° 33.16’
It was a warm day. I progressed slowly northward, through open plains that were sometimes grassy and sometimes stony, and always very dry, with few birds, or any other signs of life, to be seen. I made camp on a clearing by a dried up water course, lined with bushy vegetation and occasional trees.
Friday 4 August S28° 29.72’ E 20° 47.08’
It was a warm day, with some light cloud about. I drove on to reach the gorge through the hills at Biesjespoort, and paused there for a while to admire the gorge, and record Black Eagles, among other birds. Beyond the gorge, it was grassier, and there were flocks of Grey-backed Sparrowlarks and Stark’s Larks. Apparently, the summer rains fell more generously on this side.
I turned south on the road to Keimoes, which was in an awful condition, bumpy in parts and very soft in others. I got bogged down in a drift of soft sand when I drifted too close to the verge, but managed to get going again by reversing out of that.
It was difficult to make stops, because the road verge was steep, and I managed a just adequate bird species list for the targeted grid cell. This has always been a difficult one, and previous species lists here have also been barely adequate. I stopped farther on where I found a large clearing on which to camp.