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)
Tuesday 12 June 2018 S 29° 16.62’ E 21° 06.77’
It was cool and windy. I reached the junction with the Kenhardt/Keimoes tar road, turned towards Kenhardt and then turned off westward on the dirt road to Kakamas. I stopped wherever there were ribbons of woodland along dry watercourses, and found birds there, but I was less successful on the open plain, with the wind blowing. When the wind picked up, I sat still and sheltered behind my vehicle for a while. It died away again in the late afternoon, when I made camp in the midst of a patch of light woodland. The night was alive with the sound of crickets chirping, until the wind picked up again (the previous two nights had been silent).
Wednesday 13 June S 28° 44.72’ E 21° 01.89’
It was cool and windy. I returned to the main Kenhardt/Keimoes road and turned towards Keimoes. I stopped and walked and cycled about from time to time, but mostly just sheltered from the wind behind my vehicle. I eventually scraped together a barely adequate grid-cell bird-species list. A sighting of a pair of Black Eagles (Verreaux’s Eagle, I hate these new names) soaring made the effort seem worthwhile.
Driving on through rocky hills, I noticed some substantially wooded valleys, which would be productive on a calmer day. The road verge was wide, as if a double-carriageway had been planned, and I was tempted to stop and camp there, but decided that this road was too busy for that. I pressed on, hoping to turn off on a side road, but there were none until I reached Neiler’s Drift, which is across the river from Keimoes. There I turned off on the road to Louisvale, and drove a short way along a steep winding road through spectacularly rugged rocky hills, before stopping to camp in a quiet place, sheltered from the wind. I fell asleep to the sound of the river roaring over rapids nearby.
Thursday 14 June S 28° 42.96’ E 20° 57.36’
It was mild and windy. At daybreak I cycled to the river, or at least the bank of its outermost channel, along a road that I had not explored before because I had thought it was private.
Later, I drove a little way back along the Kenhardt road, to cover some of the ground that I had skipped yesterday. There was some light woodland among rocky outcrops, but again the wind made it difficult to compile an adequate bird species list.
I turned around again and headed for Keimoes, crossing several channels of the river. I stopped at the ‘Ou Skool’ guesthouse, which has a used-book stall, and replenished my supply of reading material. I went on into town to buy supplies and then set up camp at the Kalahari Water campground, to stay for 10 days.
The campground is surrounded by vineyards and trees (mostly Pigeonwood I think), so that one has to climb the steep hill alongside to admire the view. The bank of a main channel of the river is a short cycle ride away. There are several cats about, and they are a nuisance, begging and stealing. They are here to keep rats and mice out of the vineyards. They look well-fed, and I guess they have become a nuisance because soft-hearted campers have pampered them in the past. There were now no other campers.
Friday 15 June
It was mild overnight. The day started with a very light drizzle, lasting only a few minutes and after that it was cloudy and cold. The grid-cell which includes Keimoes has already been fairly well bird-atlassed, but noting that previous visits here had concentrated on the river and its immediate surroundings and that birds of the open plain were poorly represented on the grid-cell list, I set out by bicycle through town and out on the main Upington road, heading a little way away from the river, and then meandered about on some side roads. Coming back through town, I stopped to buy a loaf of health bread (cats had destroyed the loaf which I bought yesterday).
On my way to town and back, I noticed houses for sale, and in town some businesses had closed. At ten in the morning, a homeless person was still asleep on a sidewalk.
In the afternoon, feeling the cold, I lacked the energy for another excursion, and stayed in camp to get on with data capture.
Saturday 16 June
It was mild overnight but cold in the morning. Impatient to get going, I set out by bicycle earlier than I needed to, and my hands froze inside their gloves.
I cycled to the Tierpoort Nature Reserve, which consists of the high hill on the outskirts of the town. I cycled most of the way up the steep road to the top, and dismounted and walked the last bit. The view from the top was just a little hazy in the distance.
Coming back through town, I got take-away fish-and-chips from the corner cafe for my lunch. Later, I climbed the smaller hill by the campground. The air was drier by then, and the view was crisp all the way to the horizon.
Sunday 17 June
It was a mild day, but cold at first. I saw a Peregrine as I set out by bicycle, but could only make a note of it a little later when my hands had thawed.
I crossed one of the main channels of the river, and then meandered about among vineyards, canals and ribbons of riverine woodland on Rooikop Island (the island is more than 10 km long), and was occasionally harassed by dogs when passing labourers’ cottages.
While working on data capture in the afternoon, I had to put down my laptop and get out of my chair from time to time in order to chase cats away from my campsite. Later, I cycled down to the riverbank. That was a pleasant ramble, but it only added one bird to the species list. Perhaps that was because I was already tired, and not fully alert.
Monday 18 June
It was a mild day. I had chores to do. I washed clothes and then packed up my rooftent in order to drive my vehicle to town, to have work done on it. A grommet had broken in the door-lock so that the door could not be locked or unlocked from the outside. I had a spare grommet, and had that fitted, and had wheel alignment done.
Before returning to camp, I drove northward out of town to do some observation on the open plains. My legs still hurt from Saturday’s hill climbing, and in the afternoon, I rested.
Tuesday 19 June
It was a cool day. Once the sun had risen and the air had begun to warm up, I climbed the steep hill by the campsite, and then took a leisurely cycle ride to the river bank, and saw a Goliath Heron.
In the afternoon, I cycled through the town and out on the main Upington road, passing some light woodland, and then mostly scrubby grassland.
Wednesday 20 June
It was cold overnight, with a touch of frost. Once the sun had risen, I first took a walk through vineyards to a narrow stream near the campground (a minor channel of the river), so that by the time I mounted my bicycle my hands did not freeze. I cycled along the main road and over the first main channel of the river, and then cycled about on Rooikop Island.
In the afternoon, I was tired, and I rested.
Thursday 21 June
It was a mild day. The first half of winter is now over. The second half is generally colder, and I will seek relief from that by moving farther down-river for a bit.
I walked about among rocky outcrops near the campground before mounting my bicycle and heading east. From town, I continued past the big hill at Tierkop and meandered about between minor channels of the river.
I spent the afternoon in camp. For dinner, I prepared rice and lentils in the hotbox and fried a chopped onion with turmeric, to which I added a layer of spinach. I combined all with pilchards and covered it with a tomato and chilli pasta sauce. I generally do not pay any attention to the appearance of a dish, but this one was eye-catching, with layers of bright red, green and yellow.