The genus Erythrina contains over a hundred species in different regions of the world. Six of these are indigenous to South Africa and two of them are common in the part of the Eastern Cape where I live. During our recent trip to the Western Cape and back, I was struck by the number of Erythrinas that are still in bloom. The smaller Erythrina lysistemon is probably the most widespread and was commonly seen at various places along our journey. This tree is growing next to the N1 just outside of Grahamstown:
These trees flower prolifically during the winter and early spring and brighten up the countryside:
The scarlet flowers are very eye-catching with their relatively long petals that enclose the stamens:
Growing next to this was an example of the other fairly common species, the Erythrina caffra. Its flowers are more open and have an orange hue. Note the backward curving petals and exposed stamens:
Three of these trees grow in my back garden, their pretty blossoms also appearing during winter and into the spring:
The flowers of both these trees attract a variety of insects and birds, providing much-needed sustenance during these ‘lean’ seasons of the year.
We started too late in the afternoon to reach the end of the trail – and progressed slowly because there was so much to see! The Half-collared Kingfisher Trail is well maintained and includes sandy paths, boardwalks as well as wooden steps, such as these, to help one over the steep sections:
From time to time I would find myself looking up to spot a bird or simply to enjoy the tree canopy above us:
There is a lovely smell in the forest, of damp leaves, herbs, and decomposing logs:
Some of the older trees are quite hollow:
While in several places are thickened vines that have twisted themselves around the vegetation:
There are several places along the trail from where one can get a view of the Touws River that flows alongside it. This is a view of the opposite bank:
What does not show up well in a photograph of this size is that most of those bushes in the sunlight are bitou (tick berry), which are covered in yellow blossoms.
I introduced the Half-collared Kingfisher Trail after our stay-over at Ebb-and Flow earlier this year.
What follows is only a glimpse of the experience:
View of the rest camp from the path.
Bracken growing in the shade of the forest.
An example of fungus – we saw a great variety growing on decomposing wood.
A very old tree.
Touws River seen through a gap in the trees.
One of the many positive aspects of spending time at Ebb and Flow is the opportunity to hear the rasping korr-korr-korr calls of Knysna Turacos in the thick forest lining the Touws River. These very beautiful birds abound in this region and it won’t take long for a pair of them to fly across the open lawns of the rest camp either to perch in one of the nearby trees or to disappear into the forest canopy.
This one perched in a Cape Fig (Ficus sur) and appears to be perusing its options – while I admired its striking features.
It did not seem to mind me pointing my camera in its direction – although its mate chose to hide among some higher branches.
The figs were definitely on the menu.
Once the Knysna Turaco had eaten its fill, it wiped its beak carefully on the branch.
It was a most satisfactory meal.
How can one resist the opportunity to photograph such a handsome bird! It certainly was a real thrill to have such a close view of this one for they can be rather elusive.
We so enjoyed our rather serene stopover after Easter at the Ebb-and-Flow Rest Camp which forms a part of the Wilderness Section of the Garden Route National Park that we broke our journey here again.
Our rondavel was situated in tranquil surroundings next to the Touws River among many beautifully shady trees.
While we had been entertained by a flock of goslings during our earlier visit, this time we were kept company by a pair of Egyptian Geese that were quite at home on the lush lawns.
Later in the afternoon, a small flock of Helmeted Guineafowl picked their way across the grass. They are obviously used to having human visitors around and were not at all perturbed by our presence.
We wondered about the litter lying around – very unusual for a national park – and assumed monkeys had been responsible for tearing open the garbage bags that had been put out for collection. How wrong we were! A pair of White-necked Ravens could be seen pecking and pulling at the plastic bags – one even using its foot for extra leverage – in order to tear them open and inspect the contents. They were engaged in this messy activity for a while until one of the Egyptian Geese bore down on them and chased them away!
Another bird we were privileged to see and hear a lot of was the very beautiful Knysna Turaco. It, however, deserves a post on its own.
So does our walk through the forest.