Garlington has surprisingly, and much to my delight, proven to be an excellent birding location. Since we moved into our home in mid September, I have personally seen 129 bird species on or from the estate, despite having been away travelling most of the time since I took up residency.
Rockjumper House is slightly different to the rest of the development in Garlington Estate, as it “green” building.
The brand new triple-storey office building in Garlington, “Rockjumper House”, uses mono-crystalline high-efficiency solar panels (the best on the market) and a temperature-controlling network of hidden water pipes. The pipes move heat in and out of the walls, floors, and ceilings through what is known as a “Thermally Activated Building System”. Furthermore, the air extraction system provides fresh, filtered air from the outside, while reducing dust and allergens. Two lithium iron storage batteries, known for their ability to quickly receive and release energy, are also recharged for our future energy needs. This system provides energy for hot water and electricity, significantly reducing noise and emissions.
A particularly lovely feature of the building’s system is the rooftop garden. This garden not only assists in damp-proofing but also in heat protection. Plants have an ability to absorb and disperse infrared rays from the sun, which concrete doesn’t. So, when normal buildings absorb these heat rays, they depend on high-powered air-cooling systems. However, this garden prevents a portion of that heat from affecting the building’s internal temperature in the first place.
Although green, eco-buildings are becoming more popular, Rockjumper is privileged and proud of Rockjumper House, which reduces our carbon footprint and serves as a model for other offices, locally and beyond.
My favourite walk on the estate begins at the northern end of UMgenyane Road, following the fenceline towards Mount Verde, passing first a small marsh, then a forested gully, open fallow fields (since the timber was felled) and finally another gully, more weed-choked than forested, but still supporting some interesting birds, and then finally back up through a Garlington greenbelt to Ingwe Road.
The marsh just beyond the end of the road has Little Rush Warbler, nesting Fan-tailed Widowbirds and Grosbeak Weavers. Residents nearby report Striped Flufftail calling in the evenings which is a very rare and sought-after species. The rich grasslands beyond the marsh and outside of the estate have a healthy population of uncommon Broad-tailed Warbler and on the estate itself, the grasslands here have Wing-snapping (previously Ayre’s), Wailing, Levaillant’s and Croaking Cisticolas, Cape Canary, as well as a few pairs of Dark-capped Yellow Warbler. Both Yellow-throated and Cape Longclaw and Rufous-naped Lark occur. One of the residents even has a pair of Corncrake visiting their garden. This very rare and sought-after European migrant usually spends its non-breeding time skulking in dense grasslands but these birds even come out into the open lawn of their garden! A very special sighting indeed and the 2nd year they have appeared in this particular garden.
Moving on to the forested gully which is quite rich despite its small size; species I have recorded include Terrestrial Brownbul, Southern Boubou, Brown-backed Honeybird (previously known as Sharp-billed Honeyguide), Olive Sunbird and Bar-throated Apalis. Red-chested, Black and Klaas’s Cuckoo all call from this gully. Nearby residents have reported quality forest species including Tambourine Dove and Chorister Robin-chat from their gardens. A late evening visit has produced Spotted Eagle-Owl flying out of the gully over the fields and nearby residents report Fiery-necked Nightjar. Pressing onwards the recently cleared fields on Mt Verde support a different set of birds including African Hoopoe, Black Sawwing, Neddicky, Lazy Cisticola, Drakensberg Prinia, African Firefinch and Golden-breasted Bunting. Currently a few White Stork are roosting in a tree in the valley visible from this section of the fenceline. Both Jackal and Steppe Buzzards enjoy perching here and hunting for rodents. The final bugweed-choked gully has nevertheless provided some good birds including Natal Spurfowl, Southern Tchagra, African Paradise Flycatcher, Collared Sunbird and Cape Batis.
Please note that this walk requires sturdy footwear and is at times uneven and follows the fenceline rather than a trail.
Another good birding site is the Wedgewood boundary where their lake can be scanned. Its best with a telescope but good birds can still be found with binoculars. Some of the birds that we have found here include the uncommon White-backed Duck, Hamerkop, African Jacana, African Rail (heard only), Pied Kingfisher and African Marsh Harrier.
Keeping one’s eye on the skies overhead at Garlington can always be worthwhile and its recommended to always keep a pair of binoculars nearby. Raptors are frequently seen, from the common Yellow-billed Kites, to such sought-after species as Martial, African Fish and Long-crested Eagles, Western Osprey, African Harrier-hawk (previously Gymnogene) and Little and Black Sparrowhawk. Others have reported Verreaux’s and Black-breasted Snake Eagle, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk and both Peregrine and Lanner Falcons. Other interesting flyovers seen from my garden include Blue and Grey Crowned Crane, Woolly-necked Stork, Spur-winged Goose, European Bee-eater, Common Starling and a variety of swifts and swallows such as African Black Swift and Common House Martin. Gardens can attract some interesting species. Besides the common Cape Sparrows, Cape Robin-chats, Common Fiscals, Amethyst Sunbirds, Pin-tailed Whydah and Village Weavers, regular visitors to our garden include Malachite Sunbird, Familiar Chat, Willow Warbler, Cape Grassbird, Southern Black Tit, Red-collared Widowbird, Red-billed Quelea and Southern Red Bishop. If you have proteas growing keen an eye out for the sought-after Gurney’s Sugarbird and I have encountered an out of range Arrow-marked Babbler in Saxony Avenue gardens. Bokmakierie was also a surprise around the restaurant, where Red-throated Wryneck also occurs.
many other interesting birds and I’d love to hear of your sightings so that we can build up the Garlington list. Its currently at 167 and I am sure we can get it to 250 without difficulty. If anyone would like a copy of the list just drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll gladly send it your way. I am also planning on starting a Garlington bird sighting WhatsApp group so we can share interesting sightings. If you are interested, please send me a WhatsApp message on 0829224773.