Monday, 23 April 2012

A Late summer in the Great Winter mountains

The Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area is a protected water catchment area under management by CapeNature. The mountains range from 1000 to 2077 meters, and it has a high winter rainfall season (1450mm) starting in April. So I was expecting to get wet and cold here, so late into the season.  I was in for a pleasant surprise.

We arrived late Thursday afternoon, a bit too late for me to get underway. Although one is allowed to camp almost anywhere in a Wilderness Area, there are no designated camp facilities. This means that while I was out surveying, Chris would be sitting around. As a compromise we backtracked 15km or so to Beaverlac, a private campsite where at least warm water and toilets could be found.

I set out early Friday morning into the Wilderness area, towards ‘Kliphuis’. It was soon quite warm, with temperatures ticking into the twenties. The reserve map states the distance to Kliphuis is 16km, so I was pleasantly surprised to arrive after completing only 11km. With the name Kliphuis, I had been expecting a mountain cottage, but the name refers to a cave, with some rock art and annoying 20th century graffiti.

I set up camp near some oak trees, having learnt from my experience at Sandrif that camping under oak trees at this time of year is not a good idea, unless you are a squirrel – in which case lunch will be falling into your lap. In the afternoon I hiked further into the mountains, recording a couple of Cape Rockjumper families, and a surprise – a Sentinel Rock Thrush.

In the evening I watched a couple of satellites glistening their way across the sky like voyaging stars. The sounds of Cape Clapper Larks gave way to a distant Cape Eagle Owl. There is nothing quite like being alone in a wilderness area.

Saturday was Protea Seedeater day, with several groups foraging on the seeds of a yet unidentified weedy looking member of the Aster family. It was yet another warm morning, as I surveyed down a valley to De Tronk, but a cold mist started to roll in over the Swartland in the afternoon, reaching me asI headed north back to the parking area where I was to rendezvous with Chris. It being Saturday, there were several hiking groups heading down to De Hel, which is advertised as South Africa’s largest rock pool. My 15km round trip hike led me through more amazing Table Mountain Sandstone rock formations and restioid dominated veld, with occasional blushes of pink Erica to liven the landscape.


This Protea Seedeater was not enticed by his perch - some old Protea seeds

The birds were generally relaxed, not flushing very far away.

 I can’t wait to get back here for my winter/spring survey – the Fynbos flowers must be amazing (if not covered in snow). This was a taste of what I saw, which included my first Red Disa.

Red Disa - usually flower around January and February, so I got lucky with this late bloomer.

Southern Double Collared Sunbird on Wild Dagga


  1. I really like that flowering protea shot

  2. When we hike up there, I am so engrossed in the flowers, and the view, that I tend to miss the birds. Very quiet, just the sharp sand crunching under your boots.


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