No mink, but plenty of manure

The green belts of Constantia are fondly known as the Mink and Manure trails. We saw no mink (or even squirrels) but many mounds of manure, left by a couple of magnificent horses who were being exercised up and down the wide sand track up the Klaassenbosch trail. Surely one of life’s great privileges to ride your horse in the middle of suburbia and be unaware of nearby roads and traffic.

The humidity was high ahead of tomorrow’s cold front – fingers of fog crept over the Nek and covered the South Peninsula, Table Bay and Cape Flats, but the Southern Suburbs had clear blue skies and an almost imperceptible breeze. It was considerably warmer than our recent climb up Devil’s Peak even though we were mostly under the lush canopy of the oaks and yellowwoods. The Cecilia stream flowed strongly after the heavy rains of the weekend, bringing music to our ears as we crossed the water a number of times on the way up towards Cecilia forest. Birdsong caught our attention once we left the relatively bird-free zone of pine trees, and we were lucky to spot a male and female Paradise Flycatcher chasing each other through the branches, alighting too briefly to focus the camera on them, but catching the flash of russet feathers. They were not alone – there were probably two more nearby but out of sight, giving alarm calls. Hopefully they are all on nests or feeding young. Birdlife has proliferated over lockdown and the ongoing rains have been a blessing.

A steppe buzzard gazed haughtily from his perch high on a long-dead giant of the forest, and later soared lazily on the thermals overhead, treating us to a clear view from below, although still no photo! Dusky flycatchers hunted from the branches nearby as we lounged on a fallen log to enjoy a break from the heat. These confiding little birds can best be enjoyed by sitting quietly under a tree and waiting for them to come and look down at you, head tilted as if to say hello.

The heat made it an easy decision to turn down Hohenhort Avenue rather than continue up to Cecilia forest and this detour afforded an opportunity to admire the greenery on the verges, the massive trunks of old oaks and the size of the houses lining the avenue, beautifully maintained and quite subtly blending in. We rejoined the Alphen trail and finished an almost 7km walk in a little under three hours. Pretty good for a hot day and a group called Slowly Up the Hills.

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