The Cape Parrot, Poicephalus robustus robustus, is endemic to South Africa. It only occurs in the afromontane yellowwood forests found in KwaZulu-Natal, the eastern cape and Limpopo. These trees are utilised by the cape parrot for food and nesting sites, but due to habitat destruction, these forests are becoming more and more fragmented, leaving the parrot with less and less place to live.
Illegal trade in the species, as well as diseases, are also taking their toll on the Cape parrot, and populations are declining. A Cape parrot Big Birding Day takes place each year in May, when volunteers count the numbers of these parrots at certain sites in the three provinces where they occur. These counts have been taking place since 1997, and are helping to form a good picture of the conservation status of these birds, as monitored by the University of KZN.
From May 9 to 11 this year, the Phalaborwa Bird Club arranged for volunteers to visit Magoebaskloof, to assist with this monitoring programme. A number of the club members and other interested birders from the area, including representatives from the Kruger to Canyons Birding Route, Sandra Hedges, and bird guide Thabelo Sekome, braved the cold, misty mornings and wet wintry evenings of the mountains to scan the horizon for even a glimpse of these rare birds.
The two afternoons and first morning sadly produced no sightings, but on the second morning, 35 were spotted flying high. This made it all worth it, this, and of course, the fun fire-lit evenings shared at the forest hut with birds of a feather, no mind the weather. For more information on future bird club outings, you can contact Chris Sewards on 082 885 0888. The Kruger to Canyons Birding Route is a project supported by the Palabora Foundation, Rio Tinto and the European Union.