23 September, 2016

Rocher Pan hiking with flowers and birds

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

2016 has been a good year for our spring flowers up the West Coast. This September we booked two nights at RocherPan Nature Reserve. Our cottage was called Oystercatcher - when we walked along the beach we saw the birds that inspired the name.

African Black Oystercatcher at Rocher Pan

The original four cottages sleep two, with room for two more on a futon. Nicely spaced apart so you 'have' neighbours but such peace and quiet that you hear the birds. We passed this tall shrub, a succulent vygie, with a butterfly.

Vygie bush with butterfly

The West Coast is short of water and they use composting toilets here. An interesting learning curve - not to flush - but a better solution than wasting all that precious drinking water. Tap water comes from rainwater tanks. Electric lights, kettle, fridge and fan for the loo. A gas stove. Solar powered hot water. He enjoys sitting in the sun, while I seek out the shade. Delighted to find four field guides to West Coast flowers, birds, reptiles and mammals!

Oystercatcher cottage at Rocher Pan

Composting toilet
at Rocher Pan Nature Reserve

From Porterville we came to Rocher Pan for the day. Staying over we had time to enjoy the Guarrie Trail. A long and leisurely walk which starts at our cottage. Wind along thru the flowers till we cross the Soutrivier edge of the pan near the dunes. That river of yellow along the tracks of a former 'road' to the sea is all tiny yellow daisies Cotula coronopifolia! We saw lots of tortoises.

Guarrie Trail around Rocher Pan

A river of tiny yellow daisies
Cotula coronopifolia

Four new cottages are family sized and wheelchair accessible. The second half of the trail follows the jeep track back to Papkuilsrivier - easier going for tired legs. Three large new bird hides (could see 183 species of birds! Not us) The elegant red legs belong to a blackwinged stilt. A solitary lesser flamingo in carnival pink, with a crowd of greater flamingoes in a quieter pink.

Blackwinged Stilt
and flamingoes at Rocher Pan

It took us much longer to walk the first half, as I kept stopping for flowers! Melianthus elongatus is a smaller plant with commonorgarden red flowers unlike the Melianthus major  in our garden. Albuca is also different to the small plant I grow in pots, this one stood shoulder to shoulder with me! Daisies, bulbs, succulents and annuals - flowers everywhere, for caterpillars and flying beastlies, and happy birds.

Flowers along the Guarrie Trail at Rocher Pan on the West Coast
Middle right red Melianthus
Bottom left tall Albuca

In the afternoon we drove thru the gate that I always remember as LOCKed. A very short section of 4X4 brought us to the long wide beach, looking at seals. This time we truly had it all to ourselves! We watched gulls and oystercatchers. He picked up some pale grey pebbles, disconcertingly light. Pumice, coral? Smells very fishy. Ambergris from whales! I admired Grielum up close and personal, and discovered those lemon butter flowers open from bronzy green buds. Dotted across the sand dunes are spikes of flamboyant red flowers Babiana hirsuta.

Yellow Grielum and red Babiana on the Rocher Pan dunes 

We journeyed up via the West Coast National Park circling the crowds at Skilpad.

West Coast National Park
Top left Satyrium orchid and blue Moraea 

We came home via Darling with a brief stop at Tienie Versfeld Wildflower Reserve before the cold front caught up with us.

Tienie Versfeld Wildflower Reserve at Darling

My spring wildflowers are triple hand sorted as it says on the lentil packet. I remember my mother tipping the rice on a plate and sifting thru it for tiny stones. I chose the flowers, the camera makes its choices, and half of my blogging time is spent picking over the photos so that each one tells its own particular part of the story.

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Pictures by Jurg and Diana Studer
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