The lure of nature

Saturday must surely go down in the weather records as being one of those days when a walk in Cape Point is essential for one’s existence. With the gentlest drift of air from the south keeping the temperature at a chilly 15 degrees to counteract the clear blue skies, the opportunity to ramble along the coastline in the windiest place in South Africa was not to be missed. Without the foreign visitors, the Reserve has been almost deserted throughout the summer, an ideal situation for those who wish to drive slowly i.e. the 40km/h speed limit and look at the plants, animals and birdlife. With no shoulder along the narrow road and most visitors in a hurry to get to the actual Dias Point lighthouse rather than drift around in a nature reserve, it can be difficult to stop for photographs or just open your windows and listen to the silence.

However, with most of the traffic being cyclists, there was little to be concerned about as we frequently ground to a halt and did a quick reverse, as birders do. It was a little strange to hear a woman cyclist pronounce loudly as she passed that ‘it’s not the best place to park’ on a deserted road in a nature reserve. She must have thought it was an exercise park. The long lenses aimed at the Cape sugarbirds gathering nesting materials could have been a hint of motive.

A small herd of eland was grazing on the grassy slopes near the Cape of Good Hope and the back lighting from the early morning sun made for interesting photos, but it seems that there is frequent horn deformity in the herd, as they should be spiralled and slightly tilted backward. The photo shows flattened, curved horns. Another also had a malformation, and a bontebok frequently seen up on the plateau has a horn missing.

Nearby three young ostriches were strutting with tails held high, a sign of dominance and perhaps cheeky teenagers. Ostriches live up to 40 years in the wild and, while being too heavy to fly, can cover long distances at a steady 50km/h on legs that can cover 3-5m in a single stride. A well-aimed, powerful kick can kill a predator and they should not be approached, particularly in breeding season. A raised arm or stick will indicate your dominance and deter them. As with all wild animals, a respectful distance should always be maintained.

Down at the tern roost, there were none! Perhaps they had all gone fishing. The small seal colony on the rocky outcrop was seething with adolescents testing out their sparring skills with aggressive grunting and flashing of teeth while the older gents preferred a little sunbathing.

Speaking of sunbathing, there is barely a rock in the Reserve without a lounging lizard! This fine fellow displaying his striking colouration had a chunk missing from his lower lip. Life is dangerous out there. Camouflage is a wonder of nature – only the scurrying movement of these rock agamas gave them away. They are to all intents and purposes invisible in this environment.

A small flock of Red-billed queleas paid their first visit to the Reserve in the last 11 or so years, having stopped off in our garden with a larger flock the day before. The sightings of rare birds in the Western Cape as a whole has become remarkable, and one can only speculate as to the reasons, but we are all enjoying them!

No visit to the Reserve would be complete without the sighting of a baboon troop and we were pleased to see a large and relaxed group sitting in the protea bushes, foraging in the veld and grooming on the roadside. As all good baboons should, and without the temptation of the constant availability of the food that accompanies large-scale tourism.

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