Rockjumpers on the moon.

On March 19 a runaway fire tore through the dry Fynbos vegetation around the village of Rooi Els east of Cape Town. Two homes were destroyed in the blaze, and the area still resembles a moonscape as the scorched earth awaits much needed rain. Into this lunar-like scene we stepped on the afternoon of Saturday 6 May in search of the endemic Cape Rockjumpers – one of the region’s most sought-after birds. The wind was howling, as it often does, and the comments from the two American photographer were understandably negative in terms of the chances of seeing anything, never mind the Cape Rockjumpers.  Still, as their guide I thought it was worth some effort at least, and managed to stretch it into a 45-minute search, which proved to be fruitless, so they returned to Cape Town empty-handed but not quite defeated. The Sunday was taken up by a pelagic birding trip and thus Monday morning was dedicated to giving it another shot – reports from another guide indicated that they were seen on the morning of the 6th, so it was perhaps just a matter of timing. Eventually we spotted a pair moving high up on the slope below the massif known as ‘Hangklip’, or ‘Hanging Rock’, despite the lack of anything resembling a food source. The advantage of the recent burn was that it was easy to move up the slope towards the birds, which we duly did. We managed to move in carefully enough that the birds weren’t disturbed and soon were sitting down with two males and a female jumping around on the rocks within 20 feet of our position. Believe me when I say that Gorges, with his 500mm f4 Mk11 with converter and Canon 1DX, got some absolutely cracking images! As the Rockjumpers moved off a flock of Cape Siskins moved through right past us, followed by other species such as Cape Bunting, Grey-backed Cisticola and Cape Rock Thrush. Talk about a high-5 moment!  Back at the car we had a well-needed cup of coffee and some food while photographing sunbirds before heading off to Stony Point for some more Penguin shots. What a great day in the field!

Male Cape Rockjumper, Rooi Els.
Male Cape Rockjumper, Rooi Els.
Female Cape Rockjumper, Rooi Els.
Female Cape Rockjumper, Rooi Els.