25 September 2009

Wildlife Bonanza on the Western Cape...(South Africa): September 25, 2009

If you're after animals in South Africa then the Western Cape is not ordinarily the place that you would pick to go. However, on this day at least we jammed into a few animal "crackers". Our first wildlife surprise came in the form of a Cape Grysbok sneeking off into the brush at Koeberg Nature Reserve, shortly after a Common Duiker had also been in the same area. Then just after we started rumbling down the Darling Wildflower Route (where the flowers themselves were an immediate distraction from the blooms and birds), a shuffling awkward looking lump of hair scrambling off the road got our attention: a Cape Dune Mole-rat (family spalacinae) , a strange, blind and ungainly looking mammal, that by all rights should have been well below ground at the time. The things went up a whole 'nother notch when we tried to negotiate our way around a car that had seemingly rather annoyingly randonly stopped in the middle of the road at West Coast NP. Cursing their bad driving and angling our way around them we were immediately hit with the object of their distraction (and hence unpredictable driving behavior), a deep chestnut coated animal was humkering down in the grass playing with some unseen prey below. It took a few moments to click but once this slick cat raised its head, revealing its distinctive pointy ear tufts we were in no doubt that we were coming face to face with the scarce Caracal, a rare sight indeed in broad daylight. Having revelled in this as quickly given it the title of "bird of the day" we headed out to the rocky shores of Yzerfontein where African Black Oystercatchers could not distract us from a massive Southern Right Whale lingering at the surface off shore, while a number of playful Rock Hyraxes jumped aroundon the rocks beside us. A smart end to a day with over 100 bird species seen, that were undoubtedly overshadowed at times by the wildlife on offer.

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