Over the last three months I have been making regular trips to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and each time I’ve gone there has always been something to surprise me. One time it was a group of lemon doves skulking through the trees right past my feet. Another time it was watching my first ever boomslang gliding through the tree above me. Yet another time it was my first cuckoo sighting in the gardens, which was a juvenile klaas’s cuckoo, and my first sighting of one of the Kirstenbosch owls in four months. And there were always the stunning orange-breasted sunbirds and Cape sugarbirds around to give me spectacular sightings and photographic opportunities.
And of course, Kirstenbosch is world famous for its plants. Agapanthuses, plectranthuses, king protea’s, golden pagoda’s, almond trees and king proteas are just some of the extraordinary plant species that grace the gardens. But the ones that fascinate me the most are the host of endangered species that the garden protects. From local rarities like the pearl heath to globally endangered species like strawberry spiderheads and species that are extinct in the wild like the silver-leaf wheel-pincushion, these species all find some level of sanctuary here where they are being bred in captivity to ensure their survival in the wild. It’s already for some species like the whorl heath, perhaps my favourite fynbos plant.
For this blog post, I’m going to let the photos and their descriptions tell their own stories. Enjoy and keep an eye out for upcoming posts!
Orange-breasted sunbird amid a bed of critically endangered whorl heaths (Erica verticillata), two of my favourite things about Kirstenbosch.
Hunter from the mountain: a rock kestrel scans the flower beds for the skinks and striped mice that thrive there.
Danger from above: a highly venomous Cape boomslang (tree snake) glides through the branches above my head on New Year’s Eve. These dangerous but beautiful snakes are very hard to spot so i can count myself extremely fortunate to have been part of the group of people that spotted it.
A lemon dove framed by the trunk of a tree in the fynbos gardens
The iconic Cape sugarbird, with his tail blowing in the wind
An old leopard tortoise approaches the camera head-on.
An orange-breasted sunbird shows off his striking glistening colours, his beak dusted with the pollen of erica’s which he will unknowingly deliver to another plant and thus pollinating it.
Spotted eagle owl framed by the leaves of his roosting tree. Photographed from the Boomslang walkway.
A shaft of afternoon sun strikes the bright red flowers of these red stonecrops perfectly
a real surprise; a juvenile Klaas’s cuckoo perches on top of the protea bushes. This was my first cuckoo sighting in the gardens and it happened barely a month ago.
A flowering pincushion juxtaposed next to a pair of daisies.
The striking eye of this Cape batis is dramatically displayed here.
A southern boubou perches out in the open, unusual for this bird which prefers to clamber through the thick bush.
Backlit brimstone canaries
Female orange-breasted sunbird
Cape canary in the daisy beds
A shining light: a pale plectranthus among its purple companions