It's always special to see a flock of Cape Parrots feeding in the treetops. In fact, these endangered birds were even named the BirdLife South Africa Bird of the Year for 2023! With a remaining population of fewer than 1,800 individuals due to habitat loss, it's no wonder many birders still haven't added them to their life lists.
But fear not, fellow birders! In the spirit of giving, I'm sharing a secret spot where you can catch these feathered friends in action. Consider it your early Christmas present from your birding buddies.
Last week, I embarked on a birding adventure to Underberg. As I made my way there along the scenic Ixopo Road (R613), I stopped at dams and even a church graveyard to enjoy the countryside and the birds along the way.
One of my main goals was to visit Gqumeni Forest, as I had read about its impressive biodiversity on the Gobirding website. Species like the Bush Blackcap, Chorister Robin-chat, and White Starred Robin were listed, but the one that truly piqued my interest was the Cape Parrot. I had only seen them once before, years ago near Zach Simpson's farm, and I was eager to see them again.
Upon arriving in Donnybrook, I confidently set off for the forest, following the directions I had found online. However, my confidence soon turned to confusion as I realized I had driven far past the forest's supposed location.
A U-turn and a bit of backtracking were needed, and I was thankful when traffic police stopped me for a license check. This presented a perfect opportunity to ask for directions to the elusive Gqumeni Forest. With their help, I was back on the right track.
Since I was already in town, I decided to explore Donnybrook. This charming rural town buzzed with activity, with people and even goats sharing the busy main street. To cool down in the scorching heat, I stopped at a small garage and enjoyed a refreshing iced coffee.
As I sat at the T-junction, preparing to head back to the R613, a distinctive call filled the air. It was unmistakable - the Cape Parrot!
Excitement surged through me as I confirmed the call with my bird app. Across the road, I noticed Mgabhi Lodge, and an employee working at the gate. I approached him and, after showing him a photo of the Cape Parrot, learned that they are frequent visitors to the lodge's trees!
With the help of the employee and a security guard, we scanned the trees and, after a moment, spotted a small flock feeding in the high branches. For about half an hour, we watched them move and feed, captivated by their beauty. While the light made photography challenging, the experience itself was truly rewarding.
According to the lodge staff, Cape Parrots visit the trees almost daily, making Mgabhi Lodge a fantastic place to see this endemic species.
I encourage all birders to visit this small lodge and support its business. By demonstrating the value of birds to local communities, we can contribute to the conservation of endangered species like the Cape Parrot.
Listen to our podcast episode on the Cape Parrot - https://www.thebirdinglife.com/podcast/episode/1c47f338/season-5-episode-6-the-cape-parrot-project
Contact details Simphiwe 0780897614 (this is the number we were given)
Co-ordinates -29.923418, 29.877254