Gubu Dam Reflections -February 2013
The members of the Stutterheim Fly-fishing Club don’t rush to Gubu in January, February and March because the fishing is at a low point. The water has warmed up and the fish stay deep to find the cooler currents. To catch anything you have to fish deep and slow with a sinking line and even then it is hard to hook an elusive Trout.
This suits me as I enjoy having the clubhouse to myself. Last night as the sun went down it was overcast and so I did not add to my portfolio of Gubu sunsets but this morning the dam was at its glorious best. As I sat in front of the braai area overlooking the dam I mulled over the birds I saw yesterday and added new ones that came out to explore the cool morning air after light showers during the night.
Rowing out into the inlet to the left of the clubhouse in my small boat I did not produce any fish but did add six new birds to my list that I will send in to the South African Bird Atlas Program 2 on the completion of the visit. As one of the 1000 plus birders who regularly send in lists of birds for specific areas known as pentads this is one of my areas. This information is then used to update trends in bird movement and to prepare statistics for handbooks, etc.
The recording of a Yellow-crowned Bishop added a new species to my personal list of South African birds that now stands at 530. In my boat I seemed to be able to get closer to the small LBJ’s that live in the Fynbos (mixed shrubs typical of the Cape and Eastern Cape) next to the dam. This gave me an opportunity to photograph some of these birds that are not only elusive to get near to but also to identify.
A slow drive on the track around the dam used by the forestry workers also proved very rewarding. A pair of Grey-crowned Cranes often seen in this area but always a pleasure see again had me grabbing for my camera and I managed a photo or two as the moved away.
An African Fish Eagle sitting in a tree across the dam called out and a group of Little Grebe fussed over food as they explored the weed banks in the part of the dam known as Doctors. A Raptor flew out of the reeds on the edge of the dam and disappeared into the forest. Probably an African Harrier Hawk but I could not be certain as I just caught a glimpse. On a previous visit I had photographed one in this area.
The colorful Black-headed Oriole called from the forest and then I was treated to an aviation display by the two larger Kingfishers found in the area. Firstly a Pied Kingfisher hovered over the water looking for a meal and then to my amazement a Giant Kingfisher swooped into the water and came out with a sizable fish. Sitting on a branch hanging over the dam he proceeded to beat the fish into submission against the branch, before swallowing it. Who says the fish are only to be found deep?
My final sightings as I made my way back to the clubhouse for lunch was a Reed Cormorant that arrived suddenly at the causeway and began sunning its wings, a Green-backed Camaroptera next to the road and a beautiful, regal Jackal Buzzard watching proceedings from its perch in a dead tree. This completed my list of 44 bird species recorded in less than 24 hours.
Gubu Dam is a great place to visit if you are interest in nature and birds in particular. You may even see a family of Otters patrolling the water, a Bush Buck coming to drink water and catch a Rainbow Trout or two if you are lucky.
Today I go back to East London and this morning I am having a “sound bite” for breakfast. As I sit on a chair in front of the clubhouse I am treated to the sounds of African birdlife. The Fish Eagle calls from his perch in a tree across the water. In the large tree next to me a colorful African Black-headed Oriole calls in its liquid voice as it explores the leafy branches. A couple of Grey Crowned Cranes fly across the dam with their honking call while a noisy group of Hadeda Ibis leave their roosting place and follow them in search of their morning snack of worms. An unknown call comes from the Fynbos nearby and I will have to get help in identifying the “wip, wip, wip” call.
The Cape Otters did not disappoint as they passed the slipway in front of the boat house in a joyful celebration of water life. A group of Vervet monkeys explored the trees towards Home Creek and the Water Bailiff returning from a morning outing on his canoe told me he saw, close up, a beautiful pair of Bush Buck coming to drink. A last minute paddle on my small boat resulted in a beautiful Rainbow trout and so my pride as a fisherman was at least partially restored.